Parga, GR

Parga, GR

If you fear that you have read the title of this post wrong or that is has been somehow misspelled, rest assured, it is not the case. Parga really does exist, and it is a charming seaside town in the North-West of Greece. And when I say “charming”, I do not take the term lightly; this little gem will surprise you whether you are the “sun, sea and sand” type or, on the contrary, nothing of the sort.

And just to set things straight from the very beginning, I am not this type and I will always prefer a city break to a seaside one. More than 2 days on the beach are too much for me, and I must confess that this was my first trip to Greece. After years (literally😊) of avoiding it, we’ve finally decided to spend a week here and the actual destination, after extensive research, was done by choosing Parga out of a random Google search. But hey, now you know that you should always trust Google!:)

You can reach Parga by plane, the nearest airport is in the city of Preveza, or by car. We chose the latter and that meant a 14-hour drive from Bucharest, with minimal stops. Too minimal, if you’ll allow me a bad speech construction just to make a point… Upon arrival, it is totally worth the drive, the views are breathtaking, and the city will definitely remind you of Cinque Terre. Actually, that is not surprising at all, as Parga was at some point under Venetian rule. A very distant point in time, around 1400, to be exact. This is truly showing in the architecture, colors and overall setup.

On the practical side, you should know that the city is built on a hill, so lots and lots and lots of stairs are waiting for you. If you don’t fancy going up and down all the time, make sure to enquire also about altitude, not only distance, when you choose your hotel. We’ve randomly chosen Alfa Hotel and got totally lucky. Not only it is situated on the lowest level, relatively close to the waterside, but it was also recently renovated, boasting a super clean and minimalist Nordic design. Which is right up my alley, of course😊, but quite unexpected for a Greek destination. The mystery didn’t take long to uncover itself – it seems that Parga is a very popular choice for Scandinavian tourists.

Being all set up, here’s a short account of what I liked the most in Parga.

The hiking trail to Lichnos Beach. Yes, I know that sounds twisted, but although I liked the beach itself, the hiking trail was the highlight here. From the hotel to the beach, there was a 10 minutes drive. But there is also the possibility to go there through a hiking trail, which basically crosses over a hill. A big hill, that is, and it takes around 1 hour of walking. It’s totally worth it, because you get to go through an olive tree orchard and come across a little church, and the sun is shining, and….you know, all those things that scream vacation. The only word of advice I would give here is to wear proper shoes, I actually managed to get a toe infection because of several calluses due to…well, cute but unpractical white canvas snickers.

The food. OMG, delicious. Let me write that again, with caps: DELICIOUS. I haven’t known until now that I like moussaka, but it turns out I do. Minus the béchamel sauce that they put on top, but that can be easily scraped.

Every place where we ate served absolutely gorgeous foods, but there were a few that stood out. The first one is Arkoudas, located in the marina, where the main specialty is…the owner😊  The food was great, but it was an absolute treat to talk to the owner of the restaurant, who was welcoming guests, serving at the tables, who knew and talked to everyone, absolute delight. If you happen to go there, you’ll get what I’m talking about.

Also liked a lot Krioneri Taverna, ate there several times and discovered a dish called buyurdi, cheese cooked in the oven with tomatoes and onions, wonderful. Another great place is Sakis, located uphill and absolutely worth the walk.

Running on the waterside. Well, I hate running, but took this up around the time we went to Parga as a way to boost my energy during the day. So I made a point out of running at least 10 minutes every day and I usually hate it. But in Parga I loved it. Because it meant running on the waterside, exactly when the city was starting to awake, the sun not shining too bright. Didn’t make me love running per se and forever, but I do recommend to try it here.

Sarakiniko Beach. There you have it, there’s a beach on the list. But it must be noted that to get there you need to drive on a somehow offroad route, so what you get in return is a very scenic small beach, with that kind of water that you only see in pictures, nested by cliffs and really quiet and relaxing. We were welcomed by a very nice host who was running a small business there and I was really impressed by how comfortable and simple everything was. There were beach beds, a changing cabin, there was a small bar there and a restaurant up the hill – basically, everything you needed, but very low key and understated. And that made the place even nicer and complemented the raw beauty of nature.

All in all, this was a surprise trip. Wasn’t really sure that I would like it, but it turns out I loved the city.

The views are of course beautiful and everywhere you turn there’s something that just feel cozy and simple and gives you that soothing vacation feel. So you might want to put Parga on your travel list, it might turn out to be an unexpected excellent choice.

How about you? What place you weren’t so keen on going to and proved to be a game changer?

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A day at the seasidse

A day at the seasidse

 

If you’re in the mood for a quick getaway and you happen to live relatively close to the seaside, I would suggest to go for it and take a one-day trip to say hello to the sea.  This works especially well when you’re not really the type to soak in the sun all day and prefer enjoying some good food and a walk on the sea shore.

 

 

In all fairness, this trip was not really planned, but if we happened to be there, just though that it would be great to walk a bit around Constanta and take some photos. And, of course, to stop and have a seafood-loaded lunch. I mean, seaside without a giant dish of mussels doesn’t seem like a done deal, doesn’t it?

 

 

All in all, this was a great day, a bit tiring, but I would say these photos were really, really worth it. I had some ideas for the photos and took props from home (hello, cute yellow lamp!), but not the whole story in my head.

So, I guess this could the story of a summer evening, plain and wonderful like that.

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Barcelona, ES

Barcelona, ES

Barcelona has been on my “to visit” list for a long time. It’s definitely safe to say that I had great expectations from visiting the city and I was quite looking forward to it. Yet, while I cannot say that I didn’t enjoy my time here, I can neither say that this was the love story I was expecting. And I’m thinking that this happened because I had a projection in mind and…well, you know, maybe this is not always a good thing, be it when we talk about travel or maybe anything else in life.

Quite honestly, I think I was expecting Italy. That feeling for which I will come back again and again in Tuscany and in Rome …well-being, stress free living… Barcelona has it and doesn’t, I would say.

It did feel more like a CITY. A beautiful one, with great architecture and history and places to emerge into tradition. But I would say it was not quite as relaxed as the Italian cities. Or maybe I wasn’t…there’s always the other side to the story, too.

That being said, I would for sure come back to explore more and get a chance to actually fall in love with Barcelona. Nevertheless, even for now I can list a few mini love stories.

La Boqueria was definitely one of them. It has the vibe of food markets such as Borough Market in London or Mercato Centrale in Florence, but somehow more functional. The social side is not that developed, although there are places where you can sit and eat in the market. For me, the number one attraction here were the freshly squeezed juices. Totally amazing. And even this might be some kind of an understatement😊 Well, the best fresh juices I have ever tasted and I’m standing by this.

La Sagrada Familia. Of course, food before spirituality, but what can I do? Now, it might be completely stereotype to equal Barcelona to La Sagrada Familia, but it is one of a kind and you cannot deny this even if you hate it and the whole idea and hysteria behind it. Whatever one might say, Gaudi was a genius and his mind worked in ways completely different than the average. What he envisioned here is really outstanding and the level of detail is amazing. The shapes, the corners, the way the light falls, everything is so unusual, you cannot say it’s not a masterpiece. Also, it’s the most optimistic church I have ever seen. No gloomy feelings or cold arches, just lots and lots of light and colours. It’s no doubt a celebration of life.

Casa Mila. Looking from the outside, hard to imagine that the primary function of the building is to actually be lived in. And thinking about the time it was built, it seems even more spectacular. But no form without function, no beauty just for beauty’s sake – that’s what Gaudi did and advocated for and this is a great illustration of this belief. On the inside, everything speaks comfort and does just what is supposed to be. The apartment that is open for visitors is quite charming and it’s really an immersion into another age, another world. So definitely go visit it.

The streets and all the buildings. A mere walk, not visiting anything in particular, is a great experience. It’s true that we kept manly in the city center (the extended city center😊), but buildings in Barcelona are a piece of art in themselves. Barri Gotic gives you that mysterious feeling and the more recent buildings bring what lies beyond that feeling into today’s reality. I believe they speak about the people of Barcelona, of them being proud of who they are and of the care they put into their everyday life.

And speaking of this, at some point we came across a folk group, dressed in period costumes. It was great to see how proud they and the people on the streets were of their traditional values and it’s clear how that translated over time.

So, if you’re wondering – is this a positive text or not? – the answer is yes.

But, probably, as I’ve said, I had a set of expectations in mind and I must continue to make friends with Barcelona.

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Stockholm, SE – Part 2

Stockholm, SE – Part 2

Welcome back to the second article about Stockholm. Didn’t really plan to write a 2-part piece on this, but when I started writing, I just realized that there are too many things to include, hence the decision not to cram them all in a long text. Today we’re talking about places to visit here, using the word in its very broad definition.

List #2: places

This was a tourist trip, so let’s get as touristy as possible.

Vasa Museet. The museum is built (literally) around Vasa, the great ship that sank after only 1.5 km at sea and was retrieved after 300 years of being under water. At first sight, when you enter, the museum is a bit underwhelming. I mean, yes, there is the ship there, in the middle, but you circle it two times and that’s that, right? Well, not quite. You get to know how the ship was built, then how it sank and was rescued, all that in a very captivating way of displaying the events. Just as an example, on the second level of the building, there is a real size replica of a cabin, giving you a sense of how it felt to be on the ship.

There are also a lot of objects rescued from Vasa and, most captivating – albeit in a slightly creepy way – the skeletons of some of the people who drown with it and the very realistic reconstructions of their faces based on the bone structure. These were creepier than the skeletons, to be honest, but amazingly well done.

Skansen. This was not part of this trip, but I went there last winter, during a work trip, and loved it entirely. It’s basically a village museum, showing you how people lived throughout Swedish history. My favorite was a house dating somewhere around 1950s, where you could see the household prepared for Christmas, as all of them were in fact, given the time of the year. I would say this is a place to put on your list of places to visit in any season, but if you happen to be there around Christmas, make sure not to miss it. It is indeed delightful.

One particular thing that I liked is the similarity of some of the motives in the tapestries and other objects to such Romanian motives. Haven’t researched this at all yet, there must be some anthropological influences happening at that time, but surely it was a nice thing to notice.

Nordiska Museet. This was the biggest surprise of them all. Because I was expecting lots of history, and Vikings and such, which would not have been a problem at all – I’m sure I would have loved it. Except that what I got was so much better – an exhibition on Swedish customs and civilization. Super realistic or creative reenactments of Midsummer, Christmas, Easter celebrations and such, what you would find on the table at, let’s say, a birthday celebration, how a wedding would look like… I know I used this word before, but it was all utterly delightful. And the level of detail with which food was reproduced is fantastic; you knew very well that what you saw was not real food, but you couldn’t help yourself craving it. I, for one, couldn’t.

Fotografiska. I knew I would love this, just didn’t know I would love it that much. In my book, Nordics are best when it comes to design and visuals, so I expected this museum to be great. But in all honesty, although I do enjoy seeing museum when abroad, there’s a degree of boredom attached to this. Don’t know if you can relate, but yours truly got tired and a bit bored of the Louvre at some point. Well, guess we’re just not perfect 😊 Anyway, I didn’t get bored here. Main ingredient for this is, I think, that the size of the exhibition was just enough to let you enjoy it. And that it was current, with contemporary artists whom I just loved to discover. Chen Man was my favourite, a Chinese fashion photographer with stunning visuals, but also loved Nick Veasley’s use of X-Ray to create super captivating photography.

Also, this museum ranks a solid ten on the comfort scale, if this is even a thing. You have everything you need to make your visit enjoyable, including cloth towels at the bathrooms. Hey, it’s a small thing, but such a nice touch, pun intended.

Espresso House. Any of them, as there are so many. This might be the Swedish equivalent of Starbucks (with better coffee, though) and it’s quite mainstream. I usually like smaller, specialty coffee places, but in Stockholm this is the place I loved the most. Probably because it’s cosy, welcoming, always a good choice for a fika (which is the best excuse for us who don’t have such a concept for indulging in sweets, pastry and coffee). And because it’s such a good sensation to get out of the cold and spend some time here. You actually get to kind of love the cold a bit, if that makes any sense.

Aaaand….I’m gonna stop here, because otherwise I might decide for a 3rd part of the article and who knows when I’m going to stop? But, mind you, the list of words, or places, or wonderful things about Stockholm isn’t by any means complete. Of course, I’m biased and, of course, there are aspects that you’ll probably not like there, but no doubt it’s worth visiting this city.

Hope you’ll enjoy it, with its windy and cold wonderfulness! 

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Stockholm, SE – Part 1

Stockholm, SE – Part 1

Having worked for a Swedish company, I have traveled to Stockholm on quite a few occasions, but never had the time to see the city as you do it when you are a tourist. I mean in that relaxed, “don’t care what time it is and have no schedule” way. Of course, I took advantage of each travel to walk around a bit, see some places, fall in love with the city at the end of office hours, but it was about time for a full-blown romance.

Stockholm waterfront

Enter Winter of 2018! Just a 3 days trip, but more than enough to confirm that despite its cold weather and (moderate) darkness, this is a feel good and comforting city that, maybe unexpectedly, gives you a sunnier outlook on things.

And because I have a thing for lists (guess my colleagues know that😊), I have not one, but two for you and I hope that they will come in handy when planning your trip to Stockholm. To keep the article to a decent size, will cover the first list in this one and come back with a second part.

Enjoying a walk in Stockholm
One of the many boats in Stockholm

List #1: words that describe the city

Cosy. And terribly so. I’m not kidding. Yes, this is a place where you do need to wear something under your jeans (hello, trusty leggings!), layer up heavily and expect low temperatures and early evenings in the cold season. But it is also the place that will give a lesson on good living at literally every corner.

Since I’ve mentioned the weather, let’s spend a few words on that. Yes, it is cold. But I would say that winter is actually the only time when your expectations will be met. It wasn’t colder than at home, it was just windier, which might feel colder. So no fuss about this, you’re already prepared to freeze a bit. Not the same in other seasons… May – my first time in Sweden, I was totally frozen and drenched. September – never mind that it was practically still summer at home, here it was a total different story. My point is, in winter you get winter. Period.

Closing this bracket, Swedes master the art of counteracting the cold climate with warm interiors. Swedish design, as I see it, is all about enjoying the indoors. You get warm textures, good lightning, simple and comfortable furniture, yummy smells (imagine the smell of crusty bread. And coffee. OMG). And there is an easiness and non-fuss to everything that you actually realize that you don’t need much to be comfortable. Well, the famous lagom.  You’ll feel it, no doubt.

Sorry for the long ode to cosiness, but this is my main word for Stockholm and I just had to grant it some space. But, of course, some examples are in order. Where will you feel it? Well, everywhere.

Starting, for instance, with the airport train to the city, Arlanda Express. Clean, fast, comfortable and with a great design. At your hotel, certainly. Even if it is a small one, you’ll probably get a nice lobby/bar and an even nicer breakfast room. With crusty bread, included, of course. Then, in the coffee shops, no doubt. And also in shops, and in the museums. And the list could go on and on.

Gamla Stan
Another street in Gamla Stan

Stylish. With a sworn love for COS and Nordic furniture, I’m totally biased here. But really now, what’s not to love about understated and comfortable glam? You know, that kind of everyday luxury. I’m definitely sold for life, but if you need further preaching, just go to Stockholm and look at the people in the streets. They are so well dressed! And, very important, they feel at ease and comfortable in their clothes. No heels that are too high, so they hurt when walking, no clothes too tight, no colours too bright. Everything is just about right.

Stockholm city center
Beautiful building in Stockholm
Stockholm architecture
Walking Stockholm

Optimistic. Days might be short (especially the shortest day in the year, in December, when the sun sets around 14:30 or something), the cold might “bite” a bit, but the city itself oozes well being and optimism. And when it’s sunny, it’s sunny. Just imagine the sun glazing over the vast array of water in the centre of the city. And the short days in the winter are counterbalanced by the long ones in the summer. By the way, do you know about Midsummer? I do suggest to Google it, otherwise this text will never get to an end😊

Stockholm architecture #2

Beautiful. Streets, buildings, views, people. They are beautiful. Yes, I must admit publicly that I would simply stare at people. I mean, they kind of won the genetics lottery, haven’t they? Tall, fit, blonde, healthy looking. Yeap, they’re straight up beautiful.

The city itself is scenic. Wherever you look, there’s a great view. While meeting a friend that recently moved there, he said that – unlike other cities where you would take a picture, apply some filters, post it and get a lot of likes from friends – in Stockholm you can turn around anywhere in the city centre, take a picture, post at it is and the people will be wowed. That was quite funny, because the first picture I posted from the trip was a #nofilter one and it was great.

Cruise boat docking in Stockholm

The list of words can go much longer, but, let’s leave it to this for the moment. Otherwise, really, this text will never ever end.

As promised, List #2 will come soon, in the second part of the article about Stockholm, stay tuned for that.

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Weekend lunch combo: Energiea and Origo

Weekend lunch combo: Energiea and Origo

Actually, this is valid for every day, but if we’re going for full disclosure, this is where my weekend lunches are most likely to happen: super good food at Energiea, topped by super tasty coffee at Origo.

And if this means that I’m super extra boring, well …I admit and proudly so😊

First thing first: both places are located in Bucharest, one next to the other. So, one trip, double gain. If you live here, you probably already know them; if not, and you’re planning a visit, make sure to put them on the list.

Second first thing, if you’ll allow me this wacky figure of speech: your taste buds will thank you. Of course, food preferences are extremely likely to differ from one person to the other, but I can say that, for me, Energiea is the place with the best food in town. Not the most cuisine or the most sophisticated, but definitely gourmet and everything that I’ve tasted here was excellent. And, very important, it remains so over the time, meaning that the quality stays the same and you’ll be guaranteed the same experience over and over again.

My personal favourite is the goat cheese salad, which works really well with the Artisan burger or with their signature fries. And a note of caution here, if you make either of these combinations, make sure that’s a meal for two, because the dishes are quite large in size.

The place itself looks very good. Again, this is a matter of preference, as what you will find here is an industrial design, kind of shabby and run down at first sight. Not the glamour kind of place, but definitely designish and cozy and I’m sure that the eclectic mix of elements will appear as at least interesting to everybody.

Another aspect that ranks high on my list of reasons to love Energiea is that the staff here is really nice. Being asked whether you would like your usual table sure sounds good to me, even if – once again – that might show just how boring I am😊

Last item I’ll add here, so that this post won’t get too lengthy, is that this is one of the most kids and dogs friendly place I’ve ever been to. Everybody is welcome and no, until now, I’ve never heard any kid screaming his or her lungs out or any dog making trouble. What I’m saying is that even if this is not your piece of cake, you’re going to have a good time.

Moving on to Origo…well, for this you only need to go next door. Or almost. Anyway, if you see a place where a party seems to just go on and on, that’s the one. When you enter, you’ll for sure be greeted by one of the baristas and you cannot fail to notice the good mood of everyone around.

The place is small and it feels like a community. Also, the baristas tend to remember you and what you like to drink and, really, what’s not to love about that?

To my knowledge, this is the first specialty coffee place in Bucharest – or, just to make sure I’m accurate here – the first I heard of. The design remained the same over time and it’s still fresh and modern. You may call it cliché, but the coffee cups decorations are done in a really smart way and still don’t look outdated to me.

Not to miss the most important aspect, yes, the coffee is great. And you can have it on site, to go or to prepare and enjoy at home. Either way, make sure to spend at least a few minutes in the coffee shop…I’m telling you, the good mood here is contagious…

And yes, if you had lunch next door with your kid and dog, bring them for a coffee break too. There’s a Babycino and a bowl of water waiting, so you’re all set to extend your weekend lunch a bit more.

Enjoy!

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