Istanbul

For our annual getaway, Cat and I headed to the Far East for a weekend. The far East of the West, that is.

Istanbul is a perfect city break. It’s far enough from the comfort zone, but close enough to warrant an extended weekend trip. After all, who doesn’t like popping over to Asia for the weekend? Or for a couple of hours, as was the case with us since we were staying on the European side of the Bosphorus.

IstanbulI’d been to Turkey before, but never to the former capital of the Ottomans and Romans. The relevance of this city across histories of empires is what initially attracted me to Istanbul. But this sprawling metropolis is as cool as it is historical. Continue reading

Stockholm

Stockholm StockholmI went to visit my lovely friend Samanta in Stockholm this June. We met three years ago when she was visiting Toronto, and I’ve  been promising her a visit since. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I didn’t make it to Stockholm until this summer. It’s especially noteworthy how long it’s taken me to get to the Swedish capital considering I used to live in Denmark.

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The Bay Area

Time for some throwback Thursday. #TBT to this May when I was in San Francisco with my childhood sweethearts for our friend’s wedding. The five-day long wedding celebration may have been the reason for our visit to the Bay Area, but we definitely managed to find time to enjoy the NorCal lifestyle.

San Francisco San Francisco San Francisco San FranciscoWith our base camp in Fremont, the BART became our trusty chauffeur, lugging us from East Bay to Alameda to the SF piers. Continue reading

Prague

Prague was the first European city I ever visited on my own. One summer, many years ago – when I was 18 – I did a travel writing course in Prague. It’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be a hobbyist travel blogger without that trip. But then again, Prague will turn anyone into a travel blogger.

Prague PragueWhen my friend Shanelle told me that she’ll be visiting Prague on as a part of her annual European adventures, I decided to crash her trip. And Rema decided to crash ours.

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Viennese coffee houses

It’s no secret that I love a good cup of coffee.

It’s also no secret that when it comes to cafes, Vienna has a special league of its own – the Viennese coffee house.

The Viennese coffee house culture is listed as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” as per UNESCO. It’s a concept I recently became familiar with my friend Melissa went to Marrakech and told me that the markets were listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage. While the more well-known concept of World Heritage sites refers to tangible – or touchable – buildings, monuments, places etc., this particular categories refers to song, music, drama… overall vibes that you can’t replicate elsewhere in the world.

And surely, I’ve never been to a coffee joint quite like the Viennese coffee house. I liked them right away, and went to several during my trip to Vienna. They all have different decors, moods, menus, but what remains the same is the hushed banter, the elegant service, melange on the menu and delicious cakes served with silverware.

The first coffee house we went to – literally within two hours of arriving in Vienna – was Cafe Hawelka. It was on the very top of my list for all the historical significance it boasts of – opened by Leopold Hawelka (who passed away in 2011 at the age of 100) in 1939, the interior of the establishment has been fully preserved, from its marble table tops to elegant lace curtains.Cafe Hawelka Vienna Cafe Hawelka Vienna Cafe Hawelka Vienna Cafe Hawelka Vienna Cafe Hawelka ViennaI ordered my first Wiener Melange, literally translating to “Viennese blend.” It’s something I’d describe as a cross between a cappuccino and a latte. And I liked it!

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Vienna

Since my Mom’s visiting me from Canada, I decided to take a couple of days off work to hang out with her. But, considering how sacredly I treat my days off work, I couldn’t just spend them hanging out around London (no disrespect to London). If the point was just to spend quality time with Mamma Gill, why not do it in different city?

Vienna has been sitting on my bucket list for a while. Given everything I’d heard about it, it seemed like my the perfect city-escape for a super long weekend.

After spending four days in the Austrian capital, here’s my verdict: Vienna is a great city to go with your Mom. And I mean that in a good way.Vienna Vienna ViennaIt’s beautiful for starters, and completely unapologetic about it. The physical beautiful of Vienna’s buildings is borderline pompous. The imperial architecture oozes elegance, class, and a timeless beauty. I’ve never walked past so many buildings with picturesque facades in one day. Continue reading

Cambridge

One of the perks of having an international group of friends is that they are always keen to travel, even if it’s just a day trip. So when I floated the idea of visiting Cambridge one weekend, no one complained.

Six of us picked a random Saturday in January, got on to the train, and in less than two hours we were in picturesque Cambridge.

Cambridge Cambridge Cambridge Continue reading

Christmas Markets in Hamburg

Ze Germans certainly know how to put on a good Christmas market. At least the Hamburgers do.

One of my best girlfriends, Jasmin, hails from Hamburg and has been wanting to show off her city to me for a while. I have a soft spot for the festive season (mostly thanks to the Christmas I spent in Scandinavia). So we decided the best time to check out Hamburg would be when the Christmas markets were on.

Thus ensued a weekend of huddling around Christmas markets with friends, eating all kinds of German goodies and drinking too much gluhwein.

Hamburg Hamburg Hamburg

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Budapest

Budapest was the best. And I am not only saying that because it rhymes.

It was probably my favourite new city that I visited in 2014. It’s been on the wish list for a while but I haven’t gotten around to checking it out. I’d kind of been saving it for the right time and the right company.

A group of friends from Canada and I decided to meet up in Budapest for a long weekend. Even though it was the middle of October, we were blessed the most stunning summer-like weather. I actually spent some time getting my tan on!

Budapest St. Stephen's Basilica Budapest Danube FountainSo here are some quick reasons why Budapest is so awesome: 1) It has every single type of architecture you may be into – baroque, neoclassical, Secessionist – you name it! 2) It is two cities in one, split by the mighty Danube in the middle 3) The city has a rich history and you don’t have to dig deep to see it 4) The thermal baths 5) Ain’t no night out like the parties in Budapest’s ruin bars.

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Oktoberfest in Munich

Since I moved to Europe, I told myself every year, “I’m gonna go to Oktoberfest this year.” But something came up and I didn’t go. Either I thought of it too late and flights were too expensive or I didn’t have a travel companion.

2014 was the year to stop making excuses, find a dirndl and get down to Munich for Oktoberfest.

Along with the dirndl, I managed to find a lovely travel companion as well – my trusted permanent plus one, Catherine.

We landed in Munich on a crisp Saturday morning, made our way to our airbnb, changed, took some shameless selfies and headed straight down to the festival.

I have to admit, I thought Oktoberfest was going to be a collection of beer gardens and tents in the middle-of-nowhere. I was bracing myself for a barren wasteland brimming with drunk tourists. Boy, oh boy was I pleasantly surprised to see a bustling, colourful carnival decked with rides, food trucks, games, shops and both tourists and locals rocking some sexy dirndls and lederhosen.

We indulged in the festive spirit for two days of the closing weekend of the festival and embraced everything German – from the dresses and hairstyles to the food and beverages.

Munich19 Munich2 Continue reading