La Boqueria, Barcelona

La Boqueria is one of Barcelona’s many fresh produce markets. Barcelona appears to have a deep rooted market culture, a culture we are slowly losing in London. You can find pretty much everything you’d need for your kitchen at La Boqueria, from vegetables to locally sourced fresh fish, dried fruits, nuts, oil and yeah, pretty much everything you’d ever need. As a vegan and supporter of fresh produce, this market was like a giant toy shop for me.

 

Fresh Fruit at La Boqueria

 

I recon these tomatoes would be perfect with a bit of salt and olive oil…

Ripe

 

Love

Love

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers

All the Pretty Things

All the Pretty Things

Fresh fish, some of these babies were still moving and one of the crabs tried to escape 😦

Cod Lips

Cod Lips

Run Forest, Run.

Run Forest, Run.

Sweets for my Sweet

Sweets for my Sweet

Orangettes are my absolute favorite, and I’m sure these are soooooo much better than Leonidas ones… I didn’t, I resisted!

Orangettes

Orangettes

Okay you get the idea, you can eat like a king in Barcelona in the comfort of your own kitchen. One last thing, after looking at all of this fresh produce, don’t miss out on lunch at Bar Pinotxo. The bar is conveniently located at the entrance of the market and here you can eat comfortably for less. Don’t eat at a tourist trap ‘tapas’ restaurant on La Rambla, eat here!

Bar Pinotxio, La Boqueria

Bar Pinotxio, La Boqueria

For more info on La Boqueria Market see here.

For more info on Bar Pinotxo see here.

Oh and…

Smooooooooth

Smooooooooth

 

 

 

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Barcelona – Del Mar – Gothic Quarter

Back from my Barcelona research trip with heaps of information and photographs taken for my dissertation. I’m so glad that I took the extra two days to look around the city as the last time I was there was back in 2008, and things seem to have changed since then. I stayed in the Del Mar region “The Sea”, close to the church I am writing on Santa Maria del Mar. It is part of the Bairro Gotica of Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter, though slightly distanced from the general throngs of tourist (I do have my way of avoiding the masses).

First things first, Barcelona is packed full of tourists. When I say packed I mean PACKED. It’s not the biggest city in Europe yet somehow they manage to squeeze in visitors from around the world and you can really feel the strain when walking around the Gothic Quarter, which is the one place all tourists expect to tick off of their to do lists. Del Mar is slightly removed from the heart of the Gothic Quarter, which makes it a nice place to find a hotel/hostel, though it is equally as expensive as say La Rambla (argh tourist trap hell!).

Regardless of how expensive it can be, Del Mar is a stunning neighborhood, full of little bars, cafes and fashion boutiques. It is also closer to the beach, which can come in handy on a hot summer’s day, which was clearly not the case during my stay. Yet Del Mar is beautiful come rain or shine.

Del Mar "The Sea" Barcelona

Del Mar “The Sea” Barcelona

 

Catalan Pride

Catalan Pride

 

Well behaved tourists at the Picasso Museum

Well behaved tourists at the Picasso Museum

Things to do and see in Del Mar:

1. Get completely lost a la Venice style as you walk down little alley ways

2. Visit the Santa Maria del Mar church (I shall discuss this in my next post)

3. Picasso Museum – FREE for university students (imagine my surprise…) – Picasso’s collection is safely stored away in a magnificent Pallazzo style building

4. Boutiques – lots of boutiques selling all sorts of clothes and custom made goods

5. The beach – a five minute walk away

6. Ciutadella Park – it has a lake and you can hire a little boat to go round and round in

7. Montaditos – lunch time goodies – mini sandwiches filled with all sorts of good stuff, these reminded me of Venetian cicchetti, which was fitting considering the medieval backstreets. However they don’t come cheap at approx. 1.30E per pop. I’ll write a little more about these in another post

8. Best bar in Del Mar region – El Born on Passeig del Born, no. 26. It’s behind the church to the right. This is a quaint little alternative artsy bar with cheap wine and snacks including montaditos and empanadas. Go there. Go.

 

Warnings:

1. Be careful when choosing restaurants as many will rip you off

2. Don’t eat anywhere that has an English menu and laminated images of dishes

3. Breakfast – you can grab a coffee/cappuccino/tea and croissant for 1.80E – much more than this and it’s a rip off. There are a couple of good cafes in the Santa Maria del Mar church piazza that offer a cheap breakfast deal

 

Nearest transport links:

1. Jaume I (metro)

2. Barceloneta (metro)

3. Estacio de Franca – for trains to and from Barcelona El Prat airport and surrounding areas

Oh hi sun! Santa Maria del Mar as seen from heaven

Oh hi sun! Santa Maria del Mar as seen from heaven

Cookies and Scream, Vegan Dream

For those of you who think that being a vegan is no fun, think again. Believe it or not, these delicious treats are all milk, egg and wheat free (yes I’m talking to you too gluten free folks), and best of all they taste just as amazing as they look.

You can find these (and plenty more) hidden away at Cookies and Scream in Camden Lock Market, London.

From peanut butter and jelly cookies to marshmallow brownie goodies (ask the staff to warm these up), you won’t be a able to tell the difference between these babies and any other baked goods, well except that these taste sooo much better!

Oh and did I mention that they also do vegan milkshakes?… Yep.

Go check them out at Camden Lock Market, last orders are at 17:30 so get there quick and nab yourself some vegan friendly treats! For further details click here. Enjoy!

Competition Time at Barneys!

Dear art lovers,

If you’d like to win a year’s subscription to Ideal Home Magazine, head over to the Barnebys Auctions Facebook page to enter the competition. Good luck!

 

All the pretty things 😉

xoxo

Spring is here!

Spring has definitely come to London and with the cherry blossom blooming, I decided to step away from the books and head out into the sunshine.

Of course my little walk had to include some architecture/educational element 😉

This is St. Mark’s in Primrose Hill. It looks like a little chapel on the outside but is quite spacious inside. The local community host regular classical music concerts here, and there is a beautiful eighteenth-century Italian organ inside. I like.

St Mark's Church, Primrose Hill

St Mark’s Church, Primrose Hill

St Mark's Church, Primrose Hill

St Mark’s Church, Primrose Hill

 

The Lion of St. Mark

The Lion of St. Mark

This picture takes me back to Venice, with its Lion of St. Mark symbolism scattered all over the city.

Lotta from Stockholm

Lotta from Stockholm

Sun’s out and so are the toes. Ripped jeans and Lotta from Stockholm’s Swedish clogs.

Pastel Primrose Hill

Pastel Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill becomes a world of its own in the Spring with its paint pastel houses. Regent’s Park Road is probably one of my favorite streets in London. Often walk towards Regents Park daydreaming, in another world where I’m a millionaire, which one of these houses would I call my own?

Juliette Balcony

Juliette Balcony

Walking down Chalk Farm road, towards Camden Market from Chalk Farm, on my right was Harmood Road. What might appear to be just another street, in another town, happens to be a lovely little road with probably one of the best second hand bookshops I have seen in London. These guys have a phenomenal selection of second hand Philosophy books from Socrates, to Descartes, Aquinas and Kant. They also have impressive poetry, fiction and arts sections. I got myself a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy (seeing as my tutor has mentioned it on numerous occasions now). Don’t go anywhere else, come here!

Walden Books

Walden Books

 

 

Check out Walden Books here

Lotta from Stockholm here  (In serious need of a third pair…)

 

Countdown to Barcelona!

Assignments handed in, seminars (almost) over and a dissertation to think about… It’s two week’s away but I’m already preparing for my research trip to Barcelona! Here are a few places that I’d like to visit when in Spain.

Barcelona

Bairro Gotico

Bairro Gotico

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

Architectural geek-fest! I think it goes without saying that I shall be visiting Barcelona Cathedral (again).

Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar

And my study project: Santa Maria del Mar, a 14th Century Catalan church. I personally feel that it out does Barcelona Cathedral for its simplicity in its austere forms. I cannot wait to get all Gothic crazy on this baby.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia. I’m not even sure if there is a technical term for those types of springing and vaulting.

Gerona

Gerona

If I haven’t completely overwhelmed myself by this point, I would like to visit Gerona, a small Catalan town north of Barcelona. Reason for visit: of course its beautiful architecture including the Gothic cathedral which boasts an aisle-less, single nave plan. I am yet to see exactly how that works.

 

Aljaferia

Aljaferia

Aljaferia

Aljaferia

No it’s not Aladdin’s palace, the Aljaferia was once a Moorish fort, prior to the re-conquest of Zaragosa by Christian kings. The exterior is typically Moorish, with its understated military-esque appearance, It reminds me of the beautiful Saladin citadel in Cairo, how I wish I could be back in that Oriental dreamland! I absolutely love the intersecting polylobed arches and the extravagant sebka motif, which is so typically Moorish. The whole complex looks like a giant fantasy palace. It’s close enough to Barcelona to pay a respectful day trip to Zaragosa.

 

Toledo

Toledo

I’ll probably be pushing it but if I can get myself down to Toledo… Though it was one of the first regions of Spain to be taken back from the Moors, there are still hints of Islamic architecture, hidden here and there, which for me makes Toledo one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.

 

Of course there is much more to Spain (and Barcelona in particular with this trip) than architecture so watch this space for my general ramblings, reflections and obsession with foreign food, all the way from sunny Spain!

Got British Gothic

Though I haven’t been posting as regularly as I have in the past I’ve spent a lot more of my time looking at art and architecture and specially British Gothic churches over the past couple of months, more than I ever have before.

My recent studies have really opened up my eyes to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages and how universal it was. Previously I had thought of Gothic architecture as something dark occurring at some point after the Glory of Rome and before the the rebirth of classical ideals during the Renaissance.

Little did I know of the architectural complexities and technological achievement of the so called ‘Dark Ages’ which appear to have not been so dark at all…

My favourite British Gothic:

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Temple Church, one of the earliest examples of Gothic in England, it’s origins are still a mystery to me, much more of a mystery than the Knights Templar for whom the church was commissioned. Henry III originally chose to be buried here.

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Salisbury Cathedral, I finally understand what is meant by architectural ‘plasticity’. One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, the sun reflecting on the brilliance of the white stone is stunning.

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Westminster Abbey (not to be confused with the cathedral) is the final resting place of Edward the Confessor, Henry III and a long list of British monarchs including Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Though we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside I will never have my experience erased from my memory. The Gothic construction was commissioned by good old Henry III (I really like this guy) as a giant reliquary for Edward the Confessor, the saintly king of England. Some say it was a rip off of the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, others say it is quintessentially British, I am yet to decide for myself…

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My Favorites: Vintage Shopping in Paris

Why is it that the French are painfully stylish? Every time I visit Paris (which is often) I learn something new about how to dress well and yet when I’m back in London I simply cannot replicate what I’d learnt in the city of light. The answer is simple, scattered around Paris are the most amazing vintage shops, vintage shops that are far and few in London. They’re not your typical second hand shops but true vintage boutiques. Quality items of clothing are sourced (and God knows from where because I am yet to figure out that little secret) and sold at affordable prices. By affordable I don’t mean £20 for a pair of vintage high-waist denim shorts (a la London Portobello Market) but five Euros for a pair of leather shorts or 15 Euro for a faux fur jacket. I once even scored myself a pair of cowboy boots for 5 Euro! This is why the French do fashion better.

I’ve even started doing most of my vintage shopping in Paris as it’s still much more affordable to look good on the other side of the river.

Here are my top Parisian vintage shops:

 

Free’P’Star

Everything you can possibly imagine, Free’P’Star have it. With two branches in Le Marais, you will be sorted for all of your vintage shopping needs. This is where I source out most of my vintage goods from leather satchels to faux fur coats and battered converse high tops. They also do summer discounts on winter clothes and vice versa so you can always stay ahead of fashion for half the price.

You can find Free’P’Star at these locations:

8 rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie

61 rue de la Verrerie

20 rue de Rivoli

nearest metros: Hotel de Ville and Saint-Paul

check out their website:

http://www.freepstar.com/

Free'P'Star

Free’P’Star

 

Kilo Shop

Vintage Kawaii  as they call it at the Kilo Shop in Paris. Does exactly what it says on the box: choose, weight and wear. With an array of summer dresses, autumn jackets and winter boots, the Kilo Shop has various branches scattered around Paris from Le Marais to Saint-Germain and Beaubourg.

Check out their website and look book here:

http://kilo-shop.fr/fr

 

Vintage by Ramin

Another little vintage beaut in the heart of Le Marais. Check out their fantastic stock of accessories and be sure to visit the shop on a Thursday when shop ‘muse’ Yva of Paris offers her services as personal stylist to customers. If you are keen to be spoiled by your very own personal stylist for the day make sure you book in advance.

Vintage by Ramin can be found on at no. 17 rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie.

Check out their rather enticing website here:

http://www.vintagebyramin.fr/

 

Chine Machine

Slightly pricier but definitely worth a visit, Chine Machine at the butte of the Sacre Couer in Montmartre houses some fantastic vintage designer goods at a decent price. The staff are super friendly and sweet too 🙂

 

You can find them hidden away on rue de Martyrs, take rue la Vieuville and follow it up on the right side.

Nearest metro: Abbesses

Check out their blog here:

http://www.chinemachinevintage.com/

 

And there are plenty more to discover, especially in Le Marais. Enjoy!

 

 

Why I always choose AirBnB over hotel rooms

Airbnb

Most of us aren’t quite fortunate enough to stay in five star luxury hotels. The cheaper alternative surely then is booking with Airbnb…

Airbnb is a virtual space in which hosts can advertise their spare rooms/studios/entire apartments or houses to travellers across the globe. The company started off small but now have an international following of hosts and guests, a community of like minded people who would pick staying among the locals over a centrally located hotel any day.

So how does it all work? The host posts a space on the Airbnb website, with pictures. Guests select their preferences using the search engine by price, size, location and appearance, contact the host, arrange suitable dates and time, book and pay. Simple as 1,2,3.

I have been using Airbnb for the past couple of years and since I started I haven’t looked at another cheap hotel room. Here’s why:

 

1. I can select the exact location that I want to stay in

Whether I want to wake up at the foot of Montmartre, opposite the Colosseum or a brisk walk away from the Empire State Building I have that choice. Most hotels are based around the centre of town or near busy train stations which makes it noisy and expensive (which I will get to in my next point). I’d much rather be settled in a communal area where I can have my morning coffee in a local cafe or have a glass of wine in a bar locals head to after work.

 

2. Price

It is much cheaper to rent through Airbnb. This summer I rented an entire studio apartment a stone’s throw from the Sacre Coeur with a friend. The cost… something along the lines of £15 ($25) per night for an apartment in which we had our own space and privacy with a kitchen where we could cook our own dinner (which really helped to save on eating out).

 

3. Host

How nice it is to have flexible check in and out times, not having to wait or rush and to have a host who’s prepared an itinerary for you. In Copenhagen I was very kindly given guide books, a map and some really good advice on what to do and what to not bother wasting my time with. My host understood my passion for architecture and instead of suggesting Contemporary Art galleries or designer shops he pointed me towards vintage markets and churches, neat.

 

4. Honesty

No more false advertising only to find that my hotel room has cockroaches, no windows or a broken shower. Hotels can put you in any room they want to, not necessarily the one you looked at on their website. With Airbnb you get what you pick. Reviews by previous guests also helped in the selection process. If you don’t like the reviews, you don’t book.

 

5. Little treats

Hosts always provide little treats, it is sooooo nice to turn up to chocolates, cheese, nutella, champagne, good coffee etc. Of course I either bring small gifts from London or restock the fridge as a thank you in return. This is a little extra touch you don’t get at a cheap hotel.

 

6. Friendship

It’s nice to make friends with the locals – your host is the locals. I’ve made friends with the hosts of the places I’ve stayed in. When I visit Paris I make sure I pop round to Matthieu’s flat to say hello. He introduces me to new bars (though recently I’ve been introducing him to a few) and this just starts a chain reaction of meeting new people.

 

Of course, as with all things in life, you have to be wise when using Airbnb. The website offer plenty of advice on how to travel safely and how to pick the right place to stay as unfortunately there is always be one not so nice person who spoils all the fun. So some words of advice to those considering using Airbnb for their next trips:

 

1. Select wisely

Take your time to carefully look through your options. Look at the images carefully, make sure they are all of the same place. Do some background research on the neighborhood (Airbnb even help with this), don’t pick a cheap room in the middle of nowhere just to save on a couple of Euros.

 

2. Reviews

Read the reviews. If the person has a lot of negative reviews (broken toilet seats, not hospitable, no towels etc…) think twice. If the person do not have many reviews and you are traveling on your own then use your head. When traveling alone I make sure I stay at a place owned either by a woman or a couple, or somewhere that has plenty of reviews by women.

 

3. Contact

Do not just book in a rush. Contact your host first. I always throw a few messages back and forth asking my host questions about their life, job, hobbies etc. This builds up a bit of a relationship, especially if you are renting a room within a house and not the entire apartment on your own.

 

4. If you don’t feel right, don’t do it.

Use your instincts people.

 

And there you have it. I hope you consider using Airbnb after reading my review.

 

For more information on Airbnb visit here.

 

South of the River – the 6eme

I have never been a south of the river kind of girl. I grew up in north London, I have family in north-eastern Italy and I dream of planning a road trip around Scandinavia. For a girl who regularly visits Paris, I have hardly spent time further south than the Ile de la Cité. Last week I decided to give a little TLC to that which is south of the Seine. I always knew that the south of Paris, the 6eme and surrounding areas, were ‘a little bit posh’ and maybe this is why I prefer to spend my time in areas such as Montmartre, Le Marais and Oberkampf.

The beautiful thing about Paris for me is its subtlety in architecture, uniform white lines and blocks which seem to run for miles. Walls appear clean and light reflects givings the impression of sheer scale even on the most overcast of days.

Pretty Streets of Saint Germain des-Prés

Pretty Streets of Saint Germain des-Prés

So I began my south of the river adventure in at St. Michel, from the metro stop I followed east towards Saint Germain des-Prés where I encountered pretty backstreets with even prettier boutiques, including the regulars: Petit Bateau and Louis Vuitton and, some independents too. M. Poncini Arts et Bijoux’s beautiful display windows caught my eye. The boutique can be found at 147 Boulevard St. Germain

All the Pretty Things. M. Poncini Arts et Bijoux.

All the Pretty Things. M. Poncini Arts et Bijoux.

And I got a little church action when accidentally bumping into the absolutely beautiful Church of Saint Sulpice in the Luxembourg Quarter.

Saint-Sulpice

Saint-Sulpice

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And of course the beautiful Jardin Luxembourg which astonishes me whatever the weather. I shall definitely be crossing that river again soon…

Jardin Luxembourg

Jardin Luxembourg

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