South London best food markets

In the northern hemisphere, summer is joining us in a couple of days, which means it is officially food markets and rooftops season in London! If you have been hanging around my little corner of the internet, you will know that there is nothing I like more than good street food and a drink with a sunset view. So I thought I would share with you my favourite street food markets in South London! No obvious ‘it’s in all the guides’ addresses here, only Londoners approved places to grab a decent plate of food while hanging out in the sun.

“And why South London?” you may ask, simply because it often gets less attention than its northern or eastern counterparts, so let’s give it a bit of love!

Flat Iron Square

Flat Iron Square

Flat Iron Square is part of London’s Low Line project aiming to open South London railway arches to local businesses. Hidden under some of London Bridge’s train tracks, it is an indoor/outdoor food market, and only opened in 2016 so a bit of a newbie on the London street food scene.

Grab a sandwich, coffee and one delicious cinnamon roll at Burnt Lemon Bakery if you are visiting for lunch. If you are heading there in the evening, take a seat outside with a fresh beer and nibble on some fried chicken from Mother Clucker!

Flat Iron Square

Maltby Market

Maltby Street Market

Squeezed between a railway and some residential buildings just south of London Bridge, Maltby Market isn’t the easiest place to find. Luckily, once you have been you will always find your way back!  There you will find everything from rice burgers to mini doughnuts. I recommend the hotdogs from Herman Ze German, Da Ja Chicken, and anything sweet (they are all good!).

The great thing about Maltby Street Market is all the breweries and distilleries hiding under the arches of the train track. Hiver Beers is great if you are a beer lover looking for a local drink. If like me you love a good gin and tonic, make sure to swing by the Bermondsey distillery for a taste of Jensen’s Old Tom and Bermondsey Dry.

Maltby Street Market

Mercato Metropolitano

Mercato Metropolitano

One of my favourite food markets in London and probably one of the most famous on this list, Mercato Metropolitano is also the biggest food market in London. Set up in a big warehouse in Elephant & Castle it is the perfect market to go to on a raining or cold day.

Explore the Italian Deli where you can buy food and wine to enjoy in the market. Browse all the different food stalls before selecting your lunch or dinner. Finally, grab a table inside or outside in the huge patio area.

Mercato Metropolitano

Model Market

Model Market Lewisham

People will know you are a local or London connoisseur if you refer to Model Market! This one is further away but a real gem if you want to adventure where us Londoners really hang out. It is one of the Street Feast food markets you can find around London and is only open Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 1am so make sure to plan a visit not to miss it!

There you will find intoxicating rum punches (in a good way!), delicious steamed buns, burgers, fried chicken, gin and tonic, and any good street food classics!

Model Market Lewisham

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Glossier versus Nars concealer

I am no professional makeup artist, far from it! I mentioned it before but I use about 6 products in my routine and rely solely on concealer to make my face look decent. A quick makeup routine with little products means that I have no time to lose applying and reapplying throughout the day, everything I use needs to do the job easily, quickly and last most of the day. When it comes to concealer my whole face relies on it, so as much as I love to try new products there are only a very few that make the final cut.

Today I am talking about the two most famous and popular concealers of the past year or so – Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer. All the bloggers and beauty editors talked about them when they came out. You know me, I like to thoroughly test products before giving my opinion and I have been using Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer for months now, and here is my verdict.

Packaging

Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer packaging

Both Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer are pot concealers so the shapes and sizes of the packaging are pretty much identical. Glossier’s pot is made of glass which makes it a bit more fragile but better to recycle when finished. Nars’ pot is in plastic making it lighter to travel with.

Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer packaging

The pots may be the exact same size but the quantity they contain isn’t! Nars has 6.2g of product whereas Glossier only has 4.8g. An almost 2 grammes difference which, when the product is under 10g, is pretty significant.

Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer packaging

Winner: Nars with more product and a travel-friendly packaging.

Price

Nars Soft Matte concealer is priced at £24 so £3.8 per gramme. Glossier Stretch concealer costs £15 which is £3.1 per gramme. Glossier is therefore cheaper even with the quantity difference.

Winner: Glossier which is simply cheaper.

Colours

Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer colours

For this post, I compared Nars Vanilla to Glossier Light, as you can see on the picture Nars come out a bit pinkier than Glossier which looks more neutral.

Glossier Stretch concealer exists in 5 shades whereas Nars Soft Matte concealer has 16 shades which makes it a lot friendlier for all skin tones.

Winner: It’s a tie! I like Glossier more neutral tint but Nars is the only one catering for all skin colours.

Textures

Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer texture

Just looking at the pots you quickly notice that Glossier Stretch concealer is much sheerer and dewier than Nars Soft Matte concealer which looks very matte. Once on the skin, Glossier remains very dewy which for a combination skin like mine can eventually turn into a rather oily effect. Nars looks matte on the skin but not drying or cakey at all. It melts into the skin very nicely and gave a soft-focus finish.

Winner: Nars. Its soft matte texture makes it look natural without any shine. Glossier may suit better dryer foreheads but not my mildly-oily one.

Lasting power

Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer

I carried multiple tests to evaluate the lasting power of both products and give them a fair chance, including months of wear. For this post, I challenged the products even more by wiping them gently with my finger. At that point, the products had been on my hand for a good few minutes and had time to set.

Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer

As you can see on the picture above, Nars Soft Matte concealer did not move at all whereas Glossier Stretch concealer was wiped away (middle section of the swatch). You can also see that both original textures remained with Nars staying on the matte side and Glossier retaining its dewiness.

Nars Soft Matte concealer and Glossier Stretch concealer

I took the following picture about thirty minutes later. I also added Nars in Custard on my hand. Glossier retained its neutral colour and dewiness, however, it started to fade and crease (lower section of the swatch). Nars concealers stayed put and retained their matte finish without creasing, however, the colours definitely oxidated both turning a bit orange and pink.

Winner: Nars! I am typing this about three hours after I took the initial pictures and while Glossier is long gone, Nars is still firmly on my hand. Even though Nars oxidise a lot more, with 16 shades to pick from you should be able to find one that suits you well even oxidised.

***

You have probably guessed that my favourite is definitely Nars which I have in two shades to fit the different areas of my face. I have already re-purchased both Custard and Vanilla multiple times. I also know that some people swear by Glossier and I understand why! It has a dewy finish which dry skins may really benefit from and the colours are perfectly neutral. I think my skin is just a bit too oily for it.

I hope this detailed review will help you make an informed decision when purchasing either Nars Soft Matte concealer or Glossier Stretch concealer or even both!

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A weekend in Shakespeare Country

Each year, we use the excuse of our wedding anniversary to escape somewhere nice for the weekend. Lucky us, we got married on a May bank holiday weekend which means we don’t have 2 but 3 days to enjoy the seaside or countryside’s fresh air. We also use our anniversary as an opportunity to slowly but surely explore the whole of England! Last year we hiked along the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast and this year we decided to get lost in the cobbled streets of Shakespeare Country’s towns.

Where is Shakespeare country? And why is it named this way?” – you may ask. Shakespeare Country is an area in the Midlands which was the famous playwright’s birthplace and where he grew up before finding success in London. He then divided his time between London and Stratford-upon-Avon until his death.

I hope you enjoyed that little history lesson, now let’s move on to the weekend itself!

Day 1 – Royal Leamington Spa

We headed to the countryside on Saturday morning to avoid all the bank holiday weekend Friday evening traffic. It took us about three hours to reach our first destination – Royal Leamington Spa.

Royal Leamington Spa avenue

Having worked up an appetite we grabbed lunch first in the city centre before starting exploring.

Royal Leamington Spa street

We strolled around the centre’s streets. The town is very charming and has some lovely avenues to walk along.

Royal Leamington Spa street

It was getting very warm so we sought for some shade in Jephson Gardens. The park is very pretty. We ran into many people enjoying the sunshine, a picnic and even a wedding party.

Jephson Gardens in Royal Leamington SpaJephson Gardens in Royal Leamington Spa

We then looped around crossing River Leam a few times and took a moment to appreciate the local architecture.

River Leam in Royal Leamington SpaGoose in river Leam in Royal Leamington SpaRoyal Leamington Spa

The most wonderful surprise waited for me on the common, a French market! French food, music and people included. I felt right at home in Royal Leamington Spa!

Royal Leamington SpaFrench market in Royal Leamington Spa

In the late afternoon, we headed to The Stratford Park Hotel where we stayed for our two nights away. The hotel is fine and the rooms brand new. Maybe not the most charming place but it also has a bar and restaurant on site so it was the perfect base to stay at after busy days spent out and about.

The Stratford Park HotelClaire Imaginarium in The Stratford Park Hotel

We spent the evening there relaxing in the peaceful surroundings and enjoying a glass of wine or two.

Day 2 – Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick

Our second day started with the loudest thunderstorm in the early hours of the morning, so we got a little bit worried we would end up having to spend the day inside because of the rain. We got lucky though and the weather stayed dry, albeit EXTREMELY humid, until late afternoon.

River in Stratford-upon-Avon

We headed to Stratford-upon-Avon, not expecting to run into buses of tourists. Stratford-upon-Avon is very popular, to say the least, and rightly so. The town is very pretty!

Stratford-upon-Avon

We walked around the centre for a spot of sightseeing, starting on Henley street to see Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon

We then headed toward the river Avon for a very picturesque walk by the water.

Boats in Stratford-upon-AvonStratford-upon-Avon

We looped back toward the centre via the Holy Trinity Church.

Holy Trinity church in Stratford-upon-AvonHoly Trinity church in Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon is really pretty and everywhere we looked was ridiculously quaint!

Stratford-upon-AvonStratford-upon-Avon

Even the banks are photogenic there!

Bank in Stratford-upon-Avon

We ended our visit with a light lunch before heading to Warwick.

Warwick

Warwick is famous for its castle but the town itself is lovely too.

WarwickWarwick

On the day we visited, we weren’t aware that there would be a major street party. The city centre was packed with people. There were food stalls and mobile bars everywhere!

St Mary church in Warwick

We found our way through the crowd to St Mary’s Church, which offered a welcome and cooling break away from the people and the humidity.

St Mary church in WarwickSt Mary church in Warwick

We then headed to Warwick Castle through little back streets.

Warwick CastleWarwick

The visit of the castle is a bit pricey and we arrived there a little late so we skipped it and headed for a refreshing drink instead at the Snitterfield Arms, a pub closed to The Stratford Park Hotel. I guess that just gives us an excuse to come back to visit another time!

Claire Imaginarium in Shakespeare Country

Day 3 – Bidford-on-Avon and Chipping Campden

On our final day, we started our descent back toward London with a first stop at Bidford-on-Avon a very small village toward the Cotswolds.

Bidford-on-Avon

The town had not really woken up when we arrived so we quickly moved on to the next stop.

Bidford-on-AvonRiver in Bidford-on-Avon

Now deep into the Cotswolds, we visited Chipping Campden which truly is one of the prettiest English towns I have ever visited.

Chipping Campden street

Again, everywhere I looked was photogenic!

Chipping CampdenChipping Campden

Our final stop of the trip was at The Ebrington Arms for our anniversary meal. It was delicious and you should absolutely eat there if you can!

The Ebrington Arms

Another lovely time away from the Big Smoke getting lost in the British countryside.

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Machiya – London

Since visiting Japan, I am always craving a good ramen or tonkatsu. Having developed a taste for Japanese variety of food I am always looking for a good and authentic experience away from the sushi conveyor belt restaurant chains. So walking pass Machiya a few months ago and seeing the queue of people, a lot of them being Japanese (always a good sign), I knew I had to try it!

Machiya London

I used the excuse of a girly-date with a friend to head there. Being aware of how long the queue could get, we got there for an early dinner and lucky us, we got the last table before the queue started to form itself.

Machiya London

The restaurant is compact and simple, very much like the small eateries you find in the streets of Tokyo. Machiya menu consists mainly of simple traditional dishes such as tonkatsu, noodles and donburi. Everything is also very reasonably priced so Machiya is a great place to eat out if you are on a budget!

Machiya London menu

I loved how they have on their menu the green tea which is served as a default drink (often instead of water) in most restaurants in Japan. It felt right, authentic and reminiscent of my days in Japan so I ordered it!

Machiya London

To start, my friend Ras and I decided to share the handmade gyoza filled with Australian wagyu beef. They were very tasty and fairly spicy. It was a little eye-watering for someone who doesn’t handle spice well, aka all French people me included, but I still enjoyed them very much. All those years in England eating and crying over spicy curries seem to finally have paid off!

Gyoza Machiya

Ras ordered the chicken katsu with shredded cabbage, served with tonkatsu sauce and mustard. The meat serving is generous so it is a good thing that it is served with cabbage. If you are a small eater you probably won’t need a side of rice.

Chicken katsu MachiyaMachiya sauces

I went for the tonkatsu, chicken and egg with sweet and savoury sauce and steamed rice. It was very good and the addition of the egg reminded me of a lot of dishes in Japan served with an egg on top. A nostalgic gourmet trip back in time…

Tonkatsu donburi in Machiya

The serving was very generous and I actually struggled to finish it!

We were so full that we actually had to skip dessert which is my biggest regret. They all looked amazing and I will definitely be back soon for a matcha roll cake!

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Brickfields – London

Many bars and pubs concentrate their effort on their drink menus, while they still serve food, it can sometimes be a bit disappointing as it isn’t their main trade. In some very rare occasions, you go to a bar for cocktails and end up coming back for the food! This was the case for us when visiting Brickfields, in Lewisham, for the second time.

Brieckfields London

The first time we went, we enjoyed many of their cocktails. Brickfields originally advertised themselves as a cocktail bar but have since started to emphasize their food offer. So the other night, Andrew and I were planning to grab an after-work drink at a place which happened to be closed. We looked on the street to see what was the closest alternative and Brickfields was just 5 minutes away, so we headed there instead.

**** Apology for the not so high-res photographs, I wasn’t planning to document our visit and had to do so using my slowly-dying iPhone****

Brieckfields London

We took a table at the back of the place, which (side note) is big time interior design inspiration! Emerald green, mustard yellow, moody tones and mirrors, it feels glamourous in there!

Brieckfields London

Having planned to originally go to a wine bar, we both skipped the cocktails and opted for a glass of rose and a pint. I guess I will have to go back to give you a tour of the cocktail menu!

It was getting late and we were getting hungry so we decided to order some of the small plates to share. We didn’t really have any expectation, Brickfields is a bar first and foremost and all their mains are burgers, so if anything we assumed it would just settle our appetite. As your best friend would say when you are single “it is when you will least expect it that it will happen!”. That best friend is right! We had no expectation and the food really took us by surprise in the nicest possible way.

Brieckfields London food menu

The flatbread was delicious, it had the taste of good bread you can get in Greece just fresh off the oven. The aubergine was fresh and filling and the chickpea dip tasted like a chunky humous. Simple yet very well done!

Brieckfields London flat bread with aubergine and chickpea dips

The arancini – stuffed fried rice balls – were satisfying and the aioli so delicious that we had to wipe it off the pate with our fingers!

Brieckfields London arancini

The greatest surprise of all was the calamari! Andrew and I love squid, but too often in England, they are served too fried or too breaded so you end up with flavourless, greasy, chewy bits of beige food. For each good ones I mention on this blog there have been 20 very disappointing ones. Not at Brickfields though! The calamari was really good, not too fried and not covered with batter. The teriyaki sauce was a welcome change from the usual mayonnaise or tartare sauce. One very nice dish!

Brieckfields London calamari

So if you are looking for good cocktails and some tasty food to keep you sober(-ish), make sure to swing by Brickfields!

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The Ebrington Arms – Cotswolds

Andrew and I got married on a May bank holiday weekend, which means that each year we plan a weekend away to celebrate our anniversary. We also make sure to book a nice restaurant on our anniversary day and this year was no exception! We headed to the English countryside and had our anniversary meal at The Ebrington Arms in the Cotswolds.

The Ebrington Arms

The Ebrington Arms is in the middle of small Cotswolds village. Looking like the quaintest country gastropub from the outside, we were excited to eat there!

Claire Imaginarium at The Ebrington Arms

We had a light breakfast that day and spent the morning exploring the countryside so we were hungry.

The Ebrington Arms

It is very unusual for us but that day both Andrew and I ordered the exact same starter and main. So I won’t be able to showcase the variety of the menu, but if everything holds to the same standard than what we had you want to keep reading!

We ordered the tomato to start. A fantastic medley of heirloom tomatoes with the main one presented as an apple and filled with burrata and a pepper terrine. It was fresh, very tasty and a great way to appreciate the different flavours of the tomatoes.

The Ebrington Arms tomato starterThe Ebrington Arms tomato starter

My favourite were the green ones!

The Ebrington Arms tomato starter

Moving on to the main, we opted for the vegetarian dish, a mac and cheese bake served with mushroom ‘ketchup’, truffle oil and fresh British asparagus. It was delicious, satisfying and not too filling. A gastronomic take on comfort food!

The Ebrington Arms mac and cheeseThe Ebrington Arms mac and cheese

For dessert, Andrew chose the ginger cake, with pineapple and ginger icecream. He loved it!

The Ebrington Arms ginger cake

I picked the white chocolate mousse, slightly worried that it may be too sweet and a bit sickening, but not at all! It was light, sweet but not too much, and the combination of the textures and flavours with the praline and peach made it a real anniversary treat.

The Ebrington Arms white chocolate mousse

The staff at The Ebrington Arms also worth a special mention. They were all lovely, funny and made the experience even more enjoyable. The Ebrington Arms is definitely a must to put on your list if you are exploring the Cotswolds.

Unfortunately, we missed the Asparagus Feast, but if you are around the area on June 5th (2018) you should definitely check it out!

The Ebrington Arms asparagus feast

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Santa Cruz and Ericeira – Portugal

After spending 4 days in Lisbon, Andrew and I based ourselves in Estremadura for the remainder of our week in Portugal. We wanted to enjoy the sunshine while still have places to go to and visit if we fancied. When exploring the south of Europe this is often how we structure our vacations: half a day to explore and half a day to relax, so Santa Cruz and Ericeira were the perfect half-day outing destinations.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz sunset

Santa Cruz is a beach town on the Atlantic Coast. Within easy reach of Lisbon and with dreamy vast beaches, it is very popular among vacationers and surfers. We stayed at Vila Louro in Santa Cruz and spend an afternoon cycling around the town.

Santa Cruz cliffs

The views of the beach are beautiful from the quiet city centre.

Santa Cruz beach

The town has also plenty of nice restaurants and cafes so you can easily spend a couple of days in Santa Cruz spending the day at the beach and the evening enjoying Portuguese food at places like Restaurante Noah.

Santa Cruz sunset

I also really recommend grabbing a glass of Vinho Verde at one of the beach bars while watching the sun go down.

Santa Cruz beach barSanta Cruz sunset

Ericeira

Ericeira street

Ericeira is a fishing town just north of Sintra with spectacular ocean views. It is very popular among surfers and you can quickly understand why when visiting.

Ericeira

Ericeira has the charm of a small village, the architecture of beautiful Lisbon and a lively nightlife with plenty of amazing restaurants and bars.

Ericeira houses

We headed there late afternoon as we had a booking for dinner at Restaurante Funky. We enjoyed the last rays of sunshine while grabbing a drink at one of the bars you can find along the ocean cliff.

Ericeira beach

Make sure to be in Ericeira to admire the sunset. The views are great and there is something extremely charming about being surrounded by the music of the bars and the laughter of the locals and tourists mixing and enjoying a pre-dinner drink.

Ericeira street

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Bucket list destinations 2018

We all have a list of things we would like to do by the time we are 30, 50 or before we leave this world. On my bucket list, you will find very various things such as buying a Chanel Classic handbag (regular size not a small one) on my own, watch Daft Punk in concert, get a rescue dog and many more. However, most of my bucket list items are travel related.

True story: a few years ago I did a list of all the places I wanted to go to before having children and assuming that I would visit 2 a year, I could get pregnant at approximately 39. Andrew wasn’t too impressed…

So today I thought I would list my ultimate bucket list destinations, and I am very lucky that at 30-something I have already been to some of these! So in the alphabetical order, we have…

Brazil

I always wanted to visit Rio de Janeiro in particular! Copacabana and Ipanema are names that made me dream of warm water, white sand, samba music and caipirinha. Lucky me, in 2013, we went to Brazil and absolutely loved it! Seeing the Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer in real life was magical. Still one of my favourite trips to date!

Claire Imaginarium in Brazil

Cuba

Cuba has been on my list for so long. The charming streets of La Havana, the vintage cars, the cigars, the music, the landscapes – I really want to get there before it gets ‘spoiled’ by the increasing among of tourists. My main challenge at the moment is to get Andrew to add it to his list, I will get there I am sure!

Cuba
Source – Sebastien Mas Photography

Island hopping in Greece

Visiting the Cyclades had always been a dream of mine and in 2016 this dream became reality! Andrew and I decided that rather than going somewhere very far on our honeymoon, we would stay in Europe, spend our money on outrageously good hotels and island hop in Greece. It was amazing! I have never felt that spoiled in my entire life!

Claire Imaginarium in Santorini

Iceland

Now this one is hopefully happening this year! Seeing the beautiful landscapes of Iceland and the Nothern Lights has been in the top 3 on my bucket list for a good 2 years now!

Iceland
Source – Sebastien Mas Photography

Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Bosphorus separating Europe from Asia… Istanbul is almost a mystical destination. We went in 2015 and it was even better than what we expected! The sights are breathtaking of course, but the people and the food of Istanbul make it a fantastic destination.

Claire Imaginarium in Istanbul

Japan

The Land of the Rising sun is pretty much on everybody’s bucket list. Once a very far away destination, modern transports and flight frequency make it now a fairly easy to access and reasonably priced destination. We went in 2017 to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka, and we loved it so much that we know we will be back there within the next 5 years max! It is also good to note that it is a fantastic travel destination for children as Japan is extremely safe and clean!

Claire Imaginarium in Japan

Jordan

As a child, I always associated Jordan with Indiana Jones! I desperately wanted to join his adventure in the Lost City and, in 2012, I did! It was one of our favourite trips ever! Petra is just insanely beautiful and another real highlight for us was Wadi Rum, probably the closest I will ever get to feel like I am on Mars.

Claire Imaginarium in Jordan

Patagonia

The Torres del Paine mountains, the Perito Moreno glacier, Ushuaia, Patagonia is just insanely beautiful. Part of me is hoping that one day someone will pay me to hire a camper van and go film and photograph it all for a month. Dear potential sponsors, I am working on my followers’ numbers I promise, now can you work on the budget to make it happen? Pleeeaaase!

Patagonia
Source – Michael George for National Geographic

Machu Picchu

Visiting the Machu Picchu is again a very popular bucket list item and for obvious reasons. Everybody I know who has been loved it and Peru has a great reputation for being beautiful and the locals lovely. One day…

ancient-architecture-city-259967.jpg
Source – Pexels

Maldives

Turquoise water, white sand, pure luxury hotels, Maldives I am so ready for you! I bring the snorkelling gear, you bring the sun? Great! It’s a date (hopefully) soon!

Maldives
Source – Maldives.com

Norway

I have always been interested in the Scandinavian way of life – the food, lifestyle, aesthetic, everything seems so well thought and pleasant. If I had to choose which country to visit, my heart would pick Norway! The Fjords, breathtaking landscapes, beautiful architecture and the bonus of potentially seeing the Nothern Lights put Norway very high on my bucket list!

Norway fjord
Source – Sebastien Mas Photography

The Seychelles

Like the Maldives, the Seychelles are for me synonym of idyllic islands. I imagined turquoise water, white sand, delicious fresh fish and a lot of honeymooners. I can confirm that the cliches are true! Andrew took me there in 2011, after 3 months of us dating, and let’s say that we felt slightly out of place surrounded by all the newlyweds!

Go on a Safari

Like many Millenials I grew up with Disney’s Lion King, I also happen to be a true animal lover (I am that person who will walk out of their way to get a snail found on the pavement to a nice green space, no shame!) so watching wildlife has always been fascinating to me. In 2011, 6 of us headed to South Africa and did a safari in Kruger National Park. Safaris are known to be expensive but Kruger offers much cheaper options where you can drive your own car and stay in hostels like camps. It was great for my young professional salary, we didn’t see lions but we saw many other wonderful creatures. My favourites remain zebras!

Claire Imaginarium zebras in Kruger

Tuscany

If you close your eyes and start thinking of Italy chances are you are picturing the hilly, cypress-lined country roads of Tuscany. I am very fortunate that it has been a family vacations destination since I was a child. I have been there many times and started to take its beauty for granted, that is until I took Andrew there in 2015. Using his own words: “Claire, everywhere I look is ridiculously beautiful“. Yes, it is indeed… Siena, Florence, all the villages, I like it all, and I feel so fortunate to know that maybe one day this will be where we will take our own children on summer vacations (or maybe retire!).

Claire Imaginarium Tuscany

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Maltby Street Market – London

I have been based in London for more than seven years now so one would think I know the city pretty well, which I do, yet every now and then I make an amazing new discovery. That is the beauty of London, it never ceases to surprise you!

This brings me to today’s venue: Maltby Street Market. I only discovered this place last year when Andrew took me for my birthday. One of our favourite things to do in London is exploring a new spot so we make sure to do it for every birthday.

Maltby Street Market

Maltby Street Market is squeezed between a railway and some residential buildings just south of London Bridge, so it isn’t the easiest place to find. Just walk along the railway arches and you will know you are getting close when the density of people increases.

Maltby Street Market

Once arrived walk along the food stalls to pick your lunch. Andrew and I have been there multiple times and tried everything from rice burgers to mini doughnuts.

Maltby Street food stall

Last time we went I opted for one of the giant chilli beef hotdogs from Herman Ze German.

Maltby Street Herman Ze German hotdog

Andrew got some delicious Asian fried chicken from Da Ja Chicken.

Maltby Street Da Ja chicken

Then if you fancy, why not ending the food-part of the afternoon (you just wait there is more coming!) with a sweet treat from Bad Brownie. Gooey, naughty and selling fast as you can see!

Maltby Street Bad Brownies

Now let’s head to my favourite part of Maltby Street Market, the drinking part! Who’s in with me for cheeky G&T?

Maltby Street Market

Head toward the south end of the alleyway where you will find Hiver Beers and the Bermondsey distillery.

Maltby Street Jensen's Gin

Playing slightly on the gender cliches, Andrew opted for a beer (well, a lot more than one but that is another story) and I opted for a delicious gin and tonic from Jensen’s, my favourite London gin!

Maltby Street Jensen's Gin

I recommend you ask to try their two signature gins – the Old Tom and the Bermondsey Dry – before to order. My favourites you ask? I love the classic Dry with a regular tonic and the Old Tom with the rhubarb tonic.

End the day chatting away in the sun, the head spinning a bit because of one too many drinks. We only live once, right?

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Brunch at Norbert – London

Last weekend my mother was in town, and as you always do when a relative comes to visit London, you go for brunch. Most 20 or 30 something Londoners’ weekend life revolves around Friday evening drinks at the pub, Saturday morning brunches, Sunday roasts and ‘today I will eat healthy’ Mondays. Basically, brunch is an institution in the Big Smoke and a lot of places do it really well so competition is high.

We decided to go back to Noak in Brockley which we very much enjoyed! Upon arrival, we discovered that 1) the restaurant had been repainted and 2) the name had been changed to Norbert. Wait, what?

Norbert Brockley London

Noak was no more and had been replaced by its British brother Norbert. We headed in anyway as we were hungry and a bit curious. The interior remains very similar to what Noak’s used to look like. The waiters were with us straight away and efficient to take our orders and serve food, which in full honesty is where Noak wasn’t great. The previous team was on the slower and more disorganised side, so there have definitely been improvements there!

The Nordic-inspired breakfast platters seemed to have left with Noak but Norbert brunch menu looked promising, British classics made with local products.

We ordered coffees which were good! (not always the case in London)

Norbert coffee

My mum went for the vegetarian full-English served with halloumi and avocados. It was tasty and filling, just what a full-English breakfast is supposed to do!

Norbert vegetarian full-english

Both Andrew and I went for the poached eggs served on sourdough bread with wild mushrooms and Bayonne ham. It was really good! I was genuinely impressed, the products were flavoursome and fresh.

Norbert wild mushrooms eggs

What struck me too is how good the plates looked. You can tell that the people in the kitchen have some sort of gastro/fine-dining experience. So I googled them and discovered that the head chef has worked at Michelin starred The Galvin Brothers at La Chapelle. Not bad at all!

So for those of you who knew Noak and have yet to try Norbert, I can confirm that it is a bit of an upgrade! Noak had that lovely little local coffee eatery atmosphere, Norbert offers a more elevated restaurant-like experience but still at a decent (London) price.

Norbert restaurant indoor London

My only regret? The cinnamon rolls are gone! People of Norbert, if you read this post, please, please, please consider bringing the cinnamon rolls back!

A great unplanned (re)discovery and a new potential favourite local brunch spot!

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