Out Of the Office

Hi guys,

Heading to Japan tomorrow! So I apologise in advance if I am a little less active for the next 2 weeks. Follow my Instagram stories for some Japan videos!

See you in 2 weeks!

Claire

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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!

Thailand – Part 2 – Chiang Mai

For the second leg of our trip in Thailand we head north to Chiang Mai.

On our first evening and after dropping our bags at The Grand Napat (great value for money!) we headed to the night bazaar for some refreshing beers and tasty street food. We liked the night bazaar so much that it is where we had dinner every night during our stay in Chiang Mai.

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The following day we woke up bright and early for a full day with elephants!

I did a lot of research  as I wanted to avoid the awful touristy places where you see drugged tigers and ride on sits attached to the back of abused elephants. After hours on the internet I finally found Baan Chang Elephant Park, their main objective is to rescue and protect the local elephants. They also make sure that the experience they organise for tourists are authentic. No comfy sits there, you will experience the real mahout life for 6 hours. The cost of our experience was a little less than 100 GBP, it included transport, lunch and clothing so overall pretty good value for money.

They came and picked us up at our hotel in the morning and it was honestly the most magical experience! We fed elephants, ride them, kiss them and bath them!

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The bath part was my favourite. After hours in the blazing sun, you cannot wait to jump in the water with them, and you can truly see the joy in their eyes when they are finally in the refreshing water.

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Baan Chang Elephant Park offers various experiences, so if you are not too confident riding you can also spend the day caring for them instead. You will be given a set of clothes there so you only have to come with a towel and a swimsuit. Showers are available on site so you will drive back to your hotel as fresh as a daisy.

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On our second day in Ching Mai, we explored the city. We dedicated most of the day to the city centre, going from temples to temples.

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Of course a mandatory mango and sticky rice was in order! (I lived on this while there! Sooooo good!)
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We then headed toward the Ping River for a walk by the bank before heading back to our hotel for a quick shower and then back out for a delicious dinner at the night bazaar.
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I can honestly say that Chiang Mai was the favourite part of our trip to Thailand! I know, controversial, but the city is buzzing with energy, the food is amazing, you can go on millions of adventures in the jungle and it is extremely good value for money!

Planning a trip to Thailand?

Check my other guides on Bangkok, Phuket and the islands!

Thailand – Part 1 – Bangkok

After an eleven-hours flight from London we landed in Bangkok at mid-day.

We headed straight to the Hilton Millennium where we were staying for the next 3 nights. It isn’t in the most charming area but the view from the bedrooms is insane and well worth it!

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To celebrate our first night in the land of smiles we headed to the rooftop for some cocktails (Thailand is heaven for cocktails aficionados). We then went to The Never Ending Summer, which is walking distance to the hotel, for the most delicious dinner!

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Still euphoric to be in Thailand and completely jet lagged, our final stop that night was at Maggie Choo for some jazz and more cocktails! The place is surreal and well worth the trip if you like a little bit of partying.

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On day two of our trip in Bangkok, we headed by boat to Wat Pho.

It is good to note that boats are a very efficient way to travel to the most touristic sites in Bangkok. You avoid the dreadful Bangkok traffic, it is cheap as chips and it stops about 100 meters from all the main sites!

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Wat Pho is just beautiful, it is a gigantic temple complex in the centre of Bangkok. The architecture is breathtaking and the Reclining Buddha is the biggest statue I have ever seen.

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Get lost in the parks and people watch while sipping on A LOT of water.

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Know that there is a strict dress code when visiting temples and official sites in Thailand, not too much legs or shoulders. The Thais are very organised and tourist-friendly and all sites will provide appropriate clothing if needed. It makes for very interesting outfits of the day!

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After wandering in the Buddhist sanctuary, we headed out to get lost in the little streets of Chinatown.

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A lot of people warned me about Bangkok’s smell. I was told it was very strong and quite fishy. Well… During the 3 days we spent there, I can only remember of once where there was a very bad street smell. Yes it smells of food, yes it is very warm and humid, but no you won’t faint or gag when walking around the less touristy streets. So go ahead, don’t be scared and explore!

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After checking a few landmarks off the list like the Giant Swing and some beautiful squares, we headed to Wat Arun (by boat) for another beautiful wander.

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On our third and final day, we visited the Grand Palace which is grand to say the least. Rooms after rooms of wonders, manicured gardens, everything shine and sparkle in this place. It also really highlight the importance of the Royal Family for Thais, they have so much love and respect for them.

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Going from luxurious estates to rougher surroundings, we headed to Khaosan Road for a little bit of shopping and some food.10900009_10152969799185090_2333088027602327895_o10924214_10152969799040090_1590788645738493730_o1622411_10152969799695090_6872950983001824442_o

It was a wonderful 3 days in Bangkok and I would absolutely recommend visiting the city. One regret for us was not to have enough time to visit the floating markets

Planning a trip to Thailand?

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

 

Where to next? Travelling plans for 2017

Travelling is a serious business in my household, so as you can imagine the travelling planning for 2017 is already in full swing!

We got married and bought a house in 2016 so our travel plans were more restrained than previous years. We still went to Greece, Italy, France, Ireland and Norfolk, so all in all it wasn’t too bad.

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From left to right: Puglia, Paris, Ireland, Greece, Norfolk. More pictures here

For 2017, I have already 3 destinations on the list: Japan, Portugal and Iceland. We are also planning a couple of weekends away in England, maybe the Costwolds and the Jurassic Coast? Bear in mind that it doesn’t include all my trips to France as I don’t really consider these adventures, I simply ‘come home’ when I am there.

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Portugal sourceIceland sourceJapan source

What about you guys? Where are you off to in 2017?

Also please drop me a note if you have recommendations for Japan, Iceland or Portugal!

 

A weekend in Norfolk

That’s it folks, 2016 is gone, 2017 has arrived and with that is now time to plan for your next adventure!

And if you are looking for an escape by the sea, long walks on the beach, tasty sea food and cosy pubs, I happen to just know the place for you!

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Norfolk is the perfect  balance of countryside and seaside and the perfect place for a breath of fresh air.

We left London straight after work on a Friday evening and arrived at the Dabbling Duck where we were staying around 9pm. I would highly recommend this place, the rooms are cosy and the breakfast beautiful. If you are staying somewhere else I would still recommend you have lunch or dinner there! I had the duck breast (duh!) which was beautiful and the banana sticky toffee pudding is to die for (and I don’t even like sticky toffee pudding!).

We woke up bright and (not too) early on the Saturday and after a huge breakfast, we headed to Norwich. It really worth visiting the city, the cobbled streets are full of lovely little shops and if you like flea markets make sure to give yourself time to explore St. Gregory’s Centre for the Arts, a paradise for vintage fans.

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Unfortunately I took very little pictures on that as the weather was terrible, which brings me to my packing recommendations, wellies and brollies are a must in Norfolk!

We headed to Great Yarmouth in the afternoon, which, to be honest, we really didn’t like… If you like arcade games you may enjoy it but if like us you were looking for seafront charm, I would pass.

After a slightly disappointing end of the afternoon, we went back to the B&B to quickly change and headed back out for a very satisfying dinner at Stratton’s. Perfect place for a romantic dinner!

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On the Sunday, we woke up early to make the most of our last (and sunny) day in Norfolk.

We headed first to the beautiful village of Burnham Market for a little walk. This place is exactly how I pictured Norfolk to be.

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After a countryside walk we thought a beach walk was in order and headed to Wells-next-the-Sea. Once there, make sure to park in some of the back streets as the harbour car park is ridiculously expensive. Then walk along the East Fleet, you will end up on a beautiful beach surrounded by colourful beach cabins.

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Working up an appetite, we stopped by one of the numerous seafood joints by the coast somewhere between Wells-next-the-Sea and Blakeney. The waitress was very rude but the crab was delicious!

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We stopped in Blakeney for a digestive walk and then headed to our final destination, Holt. Both villages worth a stop to enjoy the local architecture (flint anyone?), little boutiques and a cup of tea and slice of cake.

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We headed back to gloomy London our lungs full of fresh air and our heads full of ideas for our next trip to Norfolk!

The castle at the top of mountain

Wondering if it worth paying to visit Edinburgh Castle? One hundred percent! It’s a beautiful place and the views are amazing!

Edinburgh – 2013

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My camera

If, like me, you like to take pictures but have no technical understanding of how a camera works, this post is for you! Mostly if you are looking for a new camera for your next vacations!

If you know a lot about camera you can probably skip this post. 🙂

‘Capturing moments’ is the best way I would describe my method. I see something or someone, think it is very pretty and take a shot. I do not think much about exposure, aperture and all these fancy and techy settings I do not understand. I just snap it while it’s there!

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So now that you understand how I work, let me introduce you to the best camera for people who-are-not-technical-but-like-to-take-nice-pictures (quite a mouthful I know).

My Sony Nex 5 has been my travelling partner for 6 years now! I met this little guy before I met my husband! (Hence why it looks battered on the pictures)

Rainy days, hikes in the desert, days on the beach, boat rides, camel rides, it has seen it all! And last through all! So definitely a good investment. I was also very fortunate to receive it as a graduation present from my parents, and it was love at first sight.

Side note – My dad on the other hand is an excellent photographer who knows what he is talking about. He was therefore the best placed to pick a camera knowing my limited skills. J

Now let’s go a little more into details.

I have two lenses, an E 18-55mm which I use 95% of the time, and a E 55-210mm perfect for landscape details and safaris for instance or anything that may be a little far away (at least that’s how I use it, I told you I wasn’t technical :P).

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I have 4 favourite modes.

  • Intelligent Auto which I use 80% of the time. It’s just soooo good, it detects the scene like a dream and switch seamlessly to the appropriate mode. The autofocus is also excellent!
  • Scene-Sunset makes everything looks better! I start using it at golden hour and until the sun is gone. Also great for sunrises!
  • Scene-Macro, because I love shooting details and playing with the focus is really easy.
  • Manual Exposure ‘M’ which I use when taking interior design pictures. It makes the rooms look brighter and the furniture pop.

 

Finally I have a few accessories, a hood to avoid reflects when very sunny, a flash (unfortunately they seem to  have discontinued mine but here is another option), an extra battery pack and a screen protector.

So as you can see, I am not a genius photographer. If I can do it, you can do it! You just need the right tools! 🙂