A weekend in Rome – part 2

On the second day of a long weekend in Rome, head to the Vatican. A true architectural wonder and a place filled with masterpieces.

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The Vatican’s queue is notoriously long and bad, so make sure to beat it by ordering your tickets online. I got ours there and we walked pass the 500-meters long queue and went straight in there with very little wait at security.

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The place is huge and filled with pieces you probably first saw in your history books at school.

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‘Ohhhhh’ and ‘Ahhhh’ in the Sistine chapel (but don’t take any pictures, you’ll be told off! Trust me, I tried!).

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Wander for a couple of hours and end your visit in the huge Basilica St Pietro.

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Once out, head toward Piazza del Popolo, on the way you will find plenty of delis and bakeries where you can find delicious sandwiches.

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On Piazza del Popolo grab a gelato and people watch.

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Rome is a very lively city and Piazza del Popolo a great place to see it happen.

Done with your gelato? Good! Now let’s walk it off! Head uphill to the Villa Borghese park, wander along the cypress trees alleys and enjoy the views of Rome’s roofs.

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Have a siesta on the grass and when it gets closer to ‘Aperol o’clock’ head down back into the city via the Spanish Steps and take a sit at a terrace for an aperitivo and more people watching.

End the day with a dish of pasta or a delicious pizza and go to bed for some sun filled dreams.

Part 1 of our weekend in Rome is here!

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Back from Japan!

I am back beautiful people!

Landed yesterday evening in London after 2 amazing weeks in the land of the Rising Sun.

Japan was beautiful! I loved every minute of it and I am having a serious case of holiday blues as I type this post at 5 am (jet lag!) on this rainy morning day in London.

I will share all my addresses and recommendations on the blog, and maybe a video or two! I have so much content though, it may take me a little while to go through it all, so in the meantime here are some Japan highlights taken on my good old iPhone 6s.

Glad to be back and see you very soon for more!

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Tokyo – Shinjuku
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Tokyo – shrine
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Tokyo – tea house
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Tokyo – Park Hyatt view
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Tokyo – Wagyu beef
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Tokyo – bento box
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Nara – kimonos
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Kyoto – Fushimi
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Kyoto – bamboo forest
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Osaka – by night
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Hiroshima
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Hakone – Mount Fuji

 

A weekend in Rome – part 1

Rome… Ahhhhhh, Rome… I love you so much! You are like a summer flirt – seducing, warm, interesting and beautiful. I have been to Rome several time and I just fall in love more and more each time. It always delivers!

The great thing with Rome is that it is only a short flight away from almost everywhere in Europe so going for a long weekend is fairly easy!

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A quick flight across the Alps and you will be there for dinner on a Friday. Find a nice little restaurant not far from where you’re staying and unwind to the sound of Italian voices.

On the Saturday, head to the Colosseum.

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Yes, it is cliché, but it really worth visiting. You will feel like Russell Crowe in Gladiator for a couple of hours. Note that it is important to buy your tickets in advance to beat the queue.

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Rome offers also plenty of touristy photo opportunities. So go on, be a tourist and proud of it!

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Now is a good time to grab a late lunch. All places around there will be quite touristy so don’t desperately look for something special, just pick between panini and pasta. Or even better, pack a sandwich, from a local baker, so you can enjoy it at our next stop, the Roman Forum!

From the Colosseum, just head to the other side of the street and enter the Roman Forum. The site is mainly in ruin, but it really give you a great idea of how the Antic Rome must have looked like. You can imagine the little food markets, the shops, the temples and all the activity in the very old streets.

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From the Forum, head uphill to what used to be the ‘posh’ neighbourhood of the antic Rome. The Palatine Hill is were the emperors and the cool-kids lived. I did Latin for 2 years, I don’t remember any of the derivatives but I do remember this! My parents would be proud…

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The views of Rome’s roofs are wonderful from there.

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At the top of the hill you will find Emperor Augustus palace. You will also see on the other side of the hill what remains from the Circus Maximus (drop movie reference here: Ben-Hur)

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After the Palatine hill, head toward the Piazza del Campidoglio, where you will find the famous Capitoline wolf statue. You can then head downhill to the Piazza Venezia and the high street area.

By now it should be late afternoon, perfect time for a gelato or an Aperol spritz! When in Rome…

Part 2 of our weekend in Rome is here!

 

 

Cul de Sac, Rome, Italy

Looking for a nice little spot for a refreshing glass of wine in Rome, away from the touristy crowd? Follow me!

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There is that little spot I know, right off Piazza Navona.

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Head south of the Piazza. Walk past the touristy restaurants and head to the tiny Piazza di Pasquino. This is where you will find Cul de Sac (‘dead-end’ in French). The name may be French but the products are very Italian!

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The wine bar is not huge but it has a lovely terrace. We decided to grab a bite inside as it was pretty hot on that day and we could do with an hour in the shade.

Grab a sit a choose from the thousands of bottles of wine surrounding you! We went for rose (of course!).

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Once the beverage of your choice on the table, order as many sharing platters as your belly can handle! Everything is delicious!

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Nothing fancy there, just very high quality products.

Where to eat in Puglia?

Food is delicious everywhere in Italy! In Puglia you have the added bonus of the extremely good value for money, hello 2.5 euro prosecco glass!

If you are planning to spend a little bit of time there this summer and are looking for tasty seafood and filling lunches, look no further and keep reading.

In Gallipoli, I highly recommend Al De Pace, their speciality is seafood. You enter the place and the theme is set with a very simple interior decor yet very sophisticated.

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The dishes reflect the overall atmosphere, simple plates and sophisticated flavours. Everything was delicious.

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My favourite, favourite, FAVOURITE dish was the il polpo, la sua acqua, il limone… It was to die for! Some sort of octopus version of spaghetti carbonara, as delicious and as comforting. I am still drooling looking at the picture.SONY DSC

It was difficult to top the pasta dish but the ‘secondi’ dishes didn’t disappointed and we ended with a safe Tiramisu.SONY DSC

Another great place for delicious Puglia food and completely off the beaten track is Sciamu Moi. The place was empty when we arrived but Italians eat late and we were off-season so don’t be deceived by the empty dinning room.SONY DSC

They use only local ingredients and everything was a discovery! Pick the thing you are the least familiar with on the menu and enjoy!SONY DSC

Pugliese food involves a lot of seafood, with the Mediterranean sea a couple of kilometres away, it will never disappoint.
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We were less adventurous with desserts and pick some classics, yet the presentation surprised us in all the right ways!
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Finally if this is a lunch spot you are looking for? And if you happen to be in Lecce, I just know the place!

L’Angolino di Via Matteotti serves one of the best puccia in the whole of Lecce, and probably in the whole of Puglia.

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Pick your toppings and take a sit on the comfy terrace. SONY DSC

Bite into the most delicious ‘sandwich’ ever!SONY DSC

The Mr went for the meat version with meatballs, I went for the vegetarian one. Both excellent.SONY DSC

I hope I gave you enough reasons to go to Puglia! Now book that flight, you know you want to!

Buon appetito!

A week in Puglia, Italy

Starting to plan your summer vacations and thinking about Italy? Want try something a little off the beaten touristic track?

Puglia may just be the place! The ‘heel of the boot’ is a real little rustic wonder. Excellent food, turquoise waters, look no further!

Now grab an Aperol Spritz or a glass of rose because it’s a long one! If reading isn’t your thing, check out our trip highlights video!

We landed around lunch time in Bari and headed straight South-West. We checked-in at Tenuta Yala, a wonderful agriturismo which I highly recommend!

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We relaxed for the rest of the day, enjoying a glass or two of wine and a filling dinner at the place.

We woke up bright and early the following day and headed South to Tricase Porto and Leuca. The drive by the coast was just fantastic!

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Tricase Porto is teeny tiny, so you will only need an hour there. We walked by the harbour and the seafront and took a minute to appreciate the turquoise water.

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Next stop was Leuca. It is not the prettiest city, people mainly come there for the beach. So we just walked around the town grabbed a bite to eat and a gelato.

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We then headed back and had dinner in Gallipoli at Al De Pace. It was one of our best meal there, the octopus pastas were to die for, and the tiramisu was just delicious! Well worth a visit! SONY DSC

The following day we headed West to Otranto. It was one of our favourite villages in Puglia, full of history and surrounded by turquoise water. A medieval gem in a paradise setting!

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We then thought it would be a good idea to head to Galatina for lunch… It is good to note that on Mondays most restaurants are closed in Italy. The town is beautiful but it was completely dead! It may worth going on another day as we ended up having a very unsatisfying sandwich from a local shop.

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We ended the day enjoying the sunset at Baia Verde with a glass of Aperol and a new friend! A glorious sunset on the Mediterranean sea followed by a delicious dinner at Sciamu Moi.

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On our third day  we headed to Porto Cesareo, a very rustic village with a beautiful beach.

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After a quick lunch we headed to Gallipoli old town and got lost in the little cobbled streets. The city is very charming and extremely lively in the evenings!

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The following day we started our exploration of the central and east parts of Puglia, starting with Lecce. It is called the ‘Florence of the South’ and you can really see why. The town is beautiful and very grand!

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When you are there, make sure to grab lunch at L’Angolino di Via Matteotti for the most delicious puccia, a traditional sandwich people have for lunch.

We then headed to Brindisi, which to be honest, didn’t really worth a stop. The town is pretty but there really isn’t much to do.

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Thursday was one of our favourite day! We headed to Ostuni, Cisternino and Alberobello which were all beautiful!

Ostuni is a true vision! Rising from the top of the hill like a white gem.

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Cisternino is a smaller version of Ostuni but still worth a visit!

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Alberobello is magical with its streets of trullos, the traditional Puglian houses.

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We ended the day at a once in a lifetime restaurant. Grotta Palazzese in Polignano A Mare. The venue is insane, but the food wasn’t the best we had. Also it is EXPENSIVE so only go there if you really want to tick it off your bucket list.

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Looking familiar? Probably because its pictures are all over Pinterest!

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Our second to last day was dedicated to relaxation (finally!). We went for a little walk around Martina Franca and Locorontodo followed by an afternoon on the beach in Monopoli.

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For our last day we went to explore Monopoli, Polignano A Mare and Bari. All beautiful! All very Pinterest-able and Instagram-able!

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Hope you enjoyed this very long but summery post!

10 minutes in Puglia, Italy

Well 11 minutes and 33 seconds to be precise.

Something very different today on the blog! I am a little scared to put this out there, but I thought you guys would be the best placed to let me know what you think. I am a beginner at this but making movies has always been a passion of mine, I just never shared them with anyone and thought it was about time to change this!

That’s it people I am officially a vlogger! And the worse vlogger that is, as you will see at 9:44 !

Enjoy the highlights of our trip to Puglia, Italy. And please let me know if you want to see more little movies like this!

Agriturismo Tenuta Yala – Italy, Puglia

I have been going to Italy for years, and every time I go, I make sure to stay in an Agriturismo.

Agriturismos are family owned farms transformed into B&Bs and they really never disappoint! It is usually great value for money, you have the opportunity to try local cuisine and spend time with the family who will give you all the area insider tips! It is like stepping into a movie.

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When we planned our trip to Puglia, I immediately went on the Agriturismo website and it didn’t take me long to find this gem.

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Tenuta Yala is lost in the middle of the vineyards and only a 15 minutes drive into Gallipoli which offers plenty of entertainment and restaurants.

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The place is just dreamy…

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It is good to note that the family doesn’t really speak English or French, so a lot of comical miming was necessary at times. But you will still make friends!

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The rooms are big and beautifully decorated.

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The swimming pool is the perfect place to make the most of the sun.

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And the flat roofs of the farm are the perfect spot to enjoy the sunsets!

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They also have a restaurant which offers simple but delicious local cuisine. Unfortunately I didn’t take any picture as I was too busy stuffing my face with pasta.

Thailand – Koh Phi Phi, Ko Lanta & Krabi

After an eventful few days in Phuket, we were ready to relax for bit.

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Leaving Phuket on a boat arranged by our Koh Phi Phi hotel, we enjoyed an almost private cruise between the Thai Islands.

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It is good to note that all Thai hotels will help you with transportation, just give them a date and time and they will arrange boat/vans/ferry for you!

The first sights of Koh Phi Phi were magical, the island is very grand and beautiful, everything you would imagine it to be!

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Our hotel, Zeavola, was located on Laem Tong beach, the most quiet part of Koh Phi Phi. We weren’t aiming to do much over the next 2 days, so we are very happy with that. If you are looking for more activities, an hotel closer to the town centre, south of the island, may be a better choice.

The greatest surprise was waiting for us when we arrived, we got the best upgrade we ever had! We originally booked one of their simple bedroom cabins by the beach and got upgraded to a private villa with swimming pool in the heights of the island.

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We spent the next 2 days enjoying our private pool, our almost private beach, napping when it was raining, eating the local food and making new friends!

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After 48 hours of pure laziness we were ready for a little more action and headed to the lot more rural Ko Lanta. We were hoping to go on a few adventures there, but unfortunately I won’t have much to report on Ko Lanta as we had the worst weather once there, over the 2 days we had about 3 hours of sunshine and the rest was monsoon…

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We stayed at the Chaw Ka Cher hotel which was really nice and great value for money!

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After 2 days reading in our room or at the local cafe, we were seriously hoping to be more lucky  with the weather and headed to Krabi.

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We arrived around lunch time to our hotel, the Amari Vogue, and spent the next 2 days relaxing in this luxury resort.

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Krabi has some of the most beautiful sunsets! Make sure to grab a cocktail, enjoy the moment and take a million pictures!

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Once again, we spent our time napping during the hour of rain each afternoon and making the most of the last rays of sunshine before heading back to cold London.

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Planning a trip to Thailand?

Check my other guides on Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket!

 

Thailand – Part 3 – Phuket

The last leg of our Thai adventure was a week of island hopping in the south of the country.

After an early flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket, we arrived at our hotel around lunch time where we met some friends. We stayed at the B-Lay Tong Phuket, it is a nice place, the only downside is the road that separates the swimming pool from the beach.

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Following a light lunch by the pool, some of our friends headed to the beach to chat to the local longboat owners and arrange an afternoon escape. The great thing about Thailand is that you can ask almost anything to the locals and they will happily organise it for you! One of them, arranged for us to be picked up at our hotel one hour later to head to the harbour where we sailed off on an afternoon mini-cruise.

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I don’t recall the exact price, but for the transport, a private boat and beverages it was between 40 and 50 GBP per person, knowing that we were 5 people.

We loved every minute of it, swimming with fish and enjoying a fresh beer on our private little-yacht.

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Back at the hotel, we had a couple of hours to refresh a little before a night out on Patong Beach.

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It is good to note that we purposely stayed in the most lively part of Phuket, as we knew we would hang out with friends and go out. If you go on a romantic holiday, you may want to consider somewhere a little more quiet than Patong.

On the second day in Phuket, we decided to take it very easy and spent time by the pool and walking on the beach.

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We also had an amazing Thai massage (one of many!) in one of the spas in Patong. In the evening, we met some friends for dinner and then headed to watch Thai boxing in Patong Boxing Stadium.

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I very rarely experience homesickness or cultural shock. I seem to very easily adapt to culture in a country, however Thai boxing was one step too far for me. First of all, I have no interest in boxing, I just don’t like seeing people hitting each other, secondly live boxing is something else, the noise of hits on someone’s skin, the sweat, sometime the blood, it is a lot… Finally, I had NO IDEA that Thai boxing matches included some 7-years-old and 10-years-old, very young athletes fighting in front of you. So overall I would rate this experience as ‘interesting’, if you are like my husband though you can consider it as ‘exciting’.

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After an eventful stay in Phuket we were ready to move on to a calmer land, so early in the morning we packed our bags, drove to the harbour and hopped on a boat. Direction? Koh Phi Phi!

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Planning a trip to Thailand?

Check my other guides on Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the islands!