Rome, Italy

We drove from Florence down to Rome, stopping in beautiful Siena and then the Abbey of San Galgano (a gothic roof-less church – great pit stop!) en-route. It’s a nice leisurely drive with stunning scenery if you get off the main roads.

Olive Groves

Olive Groves

Abbey of San Galgano

Abbey of San Galgano

We stayed in a lovely AirBnB just off the Spanish Steps and the Piazza di Spagna; it was a wonderful location – walking distance to everything!! We headed straight for cocktails on our first evening in Rome. The Hassler Hotel has a great garden bar called the Palm Court. It was very quiet so we just had some cocktails and played our first game of backgammon. Hooked…

Babingtons Tea Rooms (so English in the middle of Rome) sits right next to the Spanish Steps and is a great (albeit with a saucy price tag) place for afternoon tea or a light lunch. I opted to go all Audrey Hepburn and chose their Vacanze Romane tea…all about those little roses.

Spanish Steps with the Babington Tea Rooms on the bottom left

Spanish Steps with the Babington Tea Rooms on the bottom left

Babington's tea choice

Babington’s tea choice

Babingtons

Babingtons

Just down the street, on Via Condotti, is Antico Caffe Greco, Roma’s oldest cafe – established in 1760. Wowsers! Make like a local and grap a cappuccino in the morning standing at the bar. Apparently it was quite the spot for the literary crowd back in the day. It’s dark, with red walls adorned with art, absolutely worth a look. There’s plenty of shopping around this area. & Other Stories was hit up 😉

Caffe Grecco

Caffe Grecco

We did a lot of meandering around Rome’s streets; taking in many, many gelato spots. We happened upon the Trevvi Fountain on numerous occasions, a nice little treat. It’s jammed packed with people 100% of the time – coins are flying left, right and centre and there are police screaming at tourists not to touch anything. Not a relaxing spot but beautiful all the same.

Trevvi Fountain

Trevvi Fountain

This car needs to be in my life

This car needs to be in my life

We happened upon the Pantheon a few times – it’s absolutely worth a wander in – it’s beautiful (and free). The doors are amazing – they’re bronze and mega #doorsoftheworld. It’s a good stop en-route to La Gelateria Frigidarium. Must visit. We tried a few but I’m a stracciatella lady all the way. Dipped in chocolate. Oh yeah. There’s a stunning square called Piazza Navona just around the corner from here, it’s probably the world’s most beautiful square. The perfect location for a romantic evening stroll (with gelato dripping down your arms)…

Pantheon

Pantheon

The oculus or roof of the Pantheon

The oculus or roof of the Pantheon

Pantheon entrance

Pantheon entrance

Those doors!

Those doors!

You can’t go to Rome and not visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum area. The queues and heat there are INSANE. Pre-book so you don’t have to queue and definitely bring water. Sorted!

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Surprises around every corner

Surprises around every corner

Walking away from the Colosseum we came across a Botero exhibition at Museo Central del Risorgimento, on Piazza Venezia. We first came across Botero in Colombia so we’ve been admirers ever since.

Botero's bronze horse

Botero’s bronze horse

Forgotten Rome

Forgotten Rome…beauty

 

The Vatican

We got up bright and early to go visit the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel on our last day in Rome. Got there and turns out the Sistine Chapel was closed!! There are a few odd dates in the whole year when it’s closed and pretty typically we picked one of these dates haha. I had seen it on a school tour a while back but it sucks that John didn’t get to see the Sistine Chapel. Guess we’ll have to go back!

This way!

This way!

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

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Modena, Italy

It’s a pretty long drive from Zermatt, Switzerland to Modena, Italy, taking approximately 5 hours…maybe a little longer with food stops. It’s just over an hour to the Italian border (although there are no border checks) and the scenery around the border area is absolutely stunning – snow capped peaks and plenty of switchbacks to keep the driver awake 🙂 You could just go straight to Milan and it would be a relatively quick trip but we were keen to stay away from big cities for a little while and as the weather was temperamental we skipped the Lake Como area too. Next time! We really did plan our honeymoon on the fly!

Fidenza Village

We had a little stop en-route at Fidenza Village Outlet Village. I kind of assumed the shopping in Italy would be great and this place would be amazing but I’m not sure I’d really recommend it. Dolce & Gabbana have a pretty nice store but all the rest are the same outlet stores you get in all these villages – the Calvin Klein store had exactly the same stuff as the Kildare Village in Ireland…although they’re both run by the same company. You can visit on a day trip from Florence but I’m not sure if I’d go out of my way to go back to be honest…

Shopping at Fidenza Village

Modena

We arrived in the early evening and all of Modena was on holidays so we had the whole place to ourselves! We stayed at the Best Western Premier Milano Palace – it was maybe a 7-10 minute stroll to the centre of Modena. We decided to visit Modena as we’d seen it on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None show on Netflix (which is awesome). Massimo Bottura runs a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Modena, Osteria Francescana, which obviously we were dying to try…but they were closed for holidays so we’ll just have to go back! Massimo also has a more informal restaurant, Franceschetta58. We ended up at a fantastic little spot called La Bicicletta – and what a charcuterie board we had. SO GOOD! Our gelato fix was had at Gelataria Bloom, delish!

The romanesque Duomo di Modena (cathedral) is well worth a visit – it towers over Piazza Grande, a huge square brimming with wanderers. It’s a striking cathedral, founded in 1099 and consecrated in 1184 – it’s also a UNESCO site of universal outstanding value. After our dinner at La Bicicletta we wandered past the Ducal Palace of Modena and eventually found ourselves at a summers evening concert in the Parco Giardino Ducale Estense – how random! The whole city was there relaxing, dancing and checking out the art exhibition indoors. It was a lovely end to our evening in Modena.

Our hotel

Getting the lay of the land

Modena’s streets

Modena

Duomo di Modena

Duomo di Modena

La Bicicletta

Duomo after dinner

Modena street details

Ducal Palace of Modena

Palazzo Ducale di Modena

Art exhibition at the park

Some dark stuff in here too…

Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland

The most colourful shop in the land!

The most colourful shop in the land!

Ah the good ol home town. I suppose I should write something about Ireland’s prettiest town! So obviously it rains a lot but when the sun shines you just can’t beat Ireland. It’s gorgeous and we’re a pretty friendly bunch 🙂

St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral

Hotels and Food

I haven’t had to stay in any of Killarney’s hotels but there’s a fantastic selection. One of my favourite places for afternoon tea is the small Royal Hotel in the centre of town. It’s where my parents had their wedding reception and we’ve had a fair few more family occasions here so it definitely holds a special place in my heart. Sitting by the open fireplace on a rainy day with a pot of tea is just bliss! Don’t get me started on their crab and avocado sandwich. Delish. The Killarney Park Hotel also holds a prime location, pretty much in the middle of town but set back from the road so you won’t have noise at night. It’s olde-worldly and the food is pretty good but their spa is probably the selling point for me – their Elemis and Eve Lom facials are divine. The relaxation suite is great and comes complete with a starlit ceiling and huge fish-tank. Proper relaxation. The Brehon Hotel is home to Europe’s only Angsana Spa. The place to come for a massage. Although the spa is in the basement of the hotel you might be lucky and be taken to one of the treatment suites on the top floor overlooking the Lakes of Killarney. The Europe is undoubtedly Killarney’s most lavish (albeit not the prettiest architecturally) hotel. It’s built lakeside with beautifully manicured gardens and the absolutely stunning ESPA. You can relax in their outdoor heated vitality pool or lunch (although the food isn’t overly impressive for what you’re paying) overlooking the lakes. Yes please! They’ve got hands down the best vitality suite facilities in town. Well, outside of town. You’ll need a car here. The Aghadoe Heights Hotel is built overlooking Killarney, and therefore has spectacular views over the Lakes. The staff here are really lovely and they do a ridiculously filling afternoon tea.

John relaxing on the Europe's dock

John relaxing on the Europe’s dock

We’ve recently gone all cosmopolitan and recently acquired a Starbucks. Well, half a Starbucks, it’s basically just a Starbucks counter at the back of a pub. HA! Quinlan’s Seafood Bar is a huge hit in Killarney – for all your fish and chip needs! You could feed a family of four with one plate from here. Expect queues out the door. Lir Café does a pretty good hot chocolate. It’s located across from the cinema. Noelle’s is one of my favourite little spots in town. The staff are lovely, the quiches are tasty and the cakes are worth trying too 🙂 Jam is up the street from Noelle’s; it’s always busy and it’s not a bad spot for a scone or soup. DYNE is a great spot – they’ve got a fabulous soup and sandwich deal every lunch (like €8) and really nice thin crust pizzas in the evenings. Gaby’s Seafood Restaurant has been around forever and is a pretty solid choice for a relaxed evening meal. Ain’t cheap though. Outside of town, Avoca at Moll’s Gap (a beautiful viewpoint on the Ring of Kerry – a drive you absolutely positively HAVE to do!) is a great spot for homemade soups and lovely gifts too. Actually, if you’re looking for goodies to bring home then the Kilkenny Shop is a good spot to check out. You’ll find pottery, jewellery, glassware and aran sweaters and scarves here. Keane’s is a great local jewellery shop. There’s also an excellent Penneys/Primark in the town centre. Did you know that Primark was established in Dublin back in 1969? Claim to fame!! For cocktail-time you’ll want to try the Lane Bar in the Ross Hotel.

Market Cross

Market Cross – AKA the epicentre!

If you find yourself wandering around down by St. Mary’s Cathedral then pop across the road and you’ll find yourself in Killarney National Park – hands down one of Ireland’s most beautiful places. Below is Deenagh Lodge, a café run by the wonderful folk at the Kerry branch of Down Syndrome Ireland.

Deenagh Lodge

Deenagh Lodge

Strolling around the National Park with the parents

Strolling around the National Park with the parents

Moll's Gap

Moll’s Gap

On the Ring of Kerry

On the Ring of Kerry

More of the Ring

More of the Ring

Back to Killarney’s and the jewel is without a doubt Muckross House and Gardens. 6km from the town centre and completed in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert, the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the UK Parliament, you could walk or cycle out here (there are paths) or hop on a jaunting car for the princely sum of €10 per person. You can wander around the gardens and lakes for free but if you want to take a tour of the house you’ll need to pay €9. Who wouldn’t want to live here?

Muckross House in all its glory

Muckross House in all its glory

Relaxing with my Dad

Relaxing with my Dad

Side view

Side view

View of the Lakes from the house

View of the Lakes from the house

Gigantic, eh?

Gigantic, eh?

Some secret gardens

Some secret gardens

Pretty well manicured

Pretty well manicured

What a glasshouse!

What a glasshouse!

Inside this behemoth

Inside this behemoth

A beautiful edged lily

A beautiful edged lily

A bit more prettiness

A bit more prettiness

Dripping with wisteria

Dripping with wisteria

Possibly the oldest glasshouse in the world

Possibly the oldest glasshouse in the world

Another fabulous piece of Irish history is 15th century Ross Castle. You can walk to Ross Castle from Muckross or vice versa. It’s 2km from the centre of town but it’s also a lovely walk within the National Park (€4 entrance). You can take boat trips around Lough Leane from here.  I won’t share a photo because this aerial footage of Ross Castle by Killarney cameraman Marek Hajdasz gives you an idea of how amazing this place is. Also, I have no photo. Haha!

You can see news from Killarney at KillarneyToday.com or try to get your hands on a Killarney Advertiser or Killarney Outlook free publication to see what’s going on.

Bordeaux, France

We stayed in a lovely apartment we rented on Airbnb about a 15 minute stroll from the centre of the city. Airbnb really is awesome – you definitely feel like you’re living in the place you’re visiting. We had 2 days here and honestly one of them was pretty much dedicated to perusing the ol’ shops. The streets of Bordeaux are perfect for ambling around, stalling for a vino and photographing doors…haha I can’t stop taking pictures of doors and windows. They’re just so bloody awesome sometimes!

Chateau en route to Bordeaux

Chateau en route to Bordeaux

Our street

Our street

One of the most beautiful places we saw in Bordeaux was the St. André Cathedral at night. It has been here since 1096 (yep! ok, only one wall is around since then, the rest since the 13th and 14th centuries) and is an absolutely stunning building (currently undergoing some renovations). It’s absolutely worth strolling in here – it’s a behemoth of a building and the internal architecture is amazing. The 66 metre high Pey Berland Tower adjacent to the cathedral is a tourist attraction all on its own; you can climb 200-odd steps to get a view over the city. Randomly, the tower was home to residences and a lead factory prior to getting its bells. It was built separate from the cathedral so the (eventual!) bell vibrations wouldn’t damage the cathedral. Just next door is the beautiful Hôtel de Ville or Town Hall.

There seems to be a hell of a lot of places to eat in Bordeaux – plenty of cafés with outdoor seating for people-watching. We stopped in at a few cafés but none of major noteworthiness – we did have cocktails one evening in Cafe Brun, a pretty cool music bar on Rue Saint-Rémi. The main shopping street here is Rue Sainte-Catherine. Bring your flats – it’s suuuper long. There are plenty of high street stores here;  Galeries Lafayette is pretty large, Sephora is here (yay!), Mango, 7000 or so shoe stores, Zara, H&M etc. etc. – it’s not a bad weekend shopping destination.

One place I couldn’t find in Bordeaux was Ladurée. Can’t a girl get a damn macaron?

St. Ándre Cathedral

St. Ándre Cathedral

Little sculpture outside the Cathedral

Little sculpture outside the Cathedral

By moonlight

By moonlight

Hôtel de Ville

Hôtel de Ville

There are lots of little windy streets in Bordeaux and a wealth of architectural surprises at every corner. The French know how to pretty concrete up you know! The 18th century Place de la Bourse is probably Bordeaux’s most beautiful spot. Designed by Jacques Gabriel and his son, Ange-Jacques for King Louis XV and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a glorious square with a stunning water mirror across the street which reflects the image of the building…not that we got a picture of that. Pat on the back for that one…

Pont de Pierre

Pont de Pierre

Place de la Bourse

Place de la Bourse

Fountain of the Three Graces

Fountain of the Three Graces

Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux

Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux

Bordeaux's adorable carousel

Bordeaux’s adorable carousel

Honestly, such a random sculpture - it's completely flat

Honestly, such a random sculpture – it’s completely flat

Oh the loveliness!

Oh the loveliness!

You're coming with me!

You’re coming with me!

Typical Bordeaux buildings

Typical Bordeaux buildings

Street scene

Street scene

Pretty details everywhere

Pretty details everywhere

Just delightful

Just delightful

Lovely streets

Lovely streets

Cocktail hour?!

Cocktail hour?!

Little glimpses :-)

Little glimpses 🙂

Colour in the city

Colour in the city

Rustic :-)

Rustic 🙂

 Porte Dijeaux - the gate in to the heart of the city

Porte Dijeaux – the gate in to the heart of the city

Since when?!

Since when?!

The coolest cinema in the world?

The coolest cinema in the world?

John carrying Mum's shopping :-)

John carrying Mum’s shopping 🙂

Local life

Local life

Eglise Saint-Pierre

Eglise Saint-Pierre

Too true lads

Too true lads

 

Dordogne Region, France

We (along with my lovely Mum) just took a little trip to the Dordogne region in South West France to have a look at a place for our wedding…in 2 years. Oh so organised I know but since we’re moving back to Australia we need to get these things in motion. Yay! Anyhoo, I won’t mention the place as it’s not set in stone just yet but here’s a little looksie at the surrounding areas – Poitiers, La Tour Blanche, Verteillac, Brantôme, Excideuil, Ribérac and Saint Émilion. Phew!

imageFields and fields! 🌻🌻🌻

Fields and fields! 🌻🌻🌻

We flew in to and out of Poitiers…which I believe is just a Ryanair airport – pretty small with absolutely nothing to do…except rent a car – which we did – a teensy little Toyota Yaris but it was perfect for buzzing around the countryside. I felt just like Russell Crowe in ‘A Good Year’ AKA Best Film Ever (although that was filmed in the Luberon region down near Avignon). We did take a quick tour of Poitiers in the rain – their cathedral is an absolute work of art. Stunning. We did visit on a Sunday and every single place was closed. Mainland Europe still does it’s own thing on a Sunday 🙂

City Hall in Poitiers...on an exceptionally grey day

City Hall in Poitiers…on an exceptionally grey day

Checking out Cathédrale Saint-Pierre

Checking out Cathédrale Saint-Pierre

From the front

From the front

La Tour Blanche

We used the little hamlet of La Tour Blanche as our base for exploring a few villages in the Dordogne region and stayed at Le Patio Chambres d’Hôtes – honestly the nicest B&B I’ve ever come across. It’s run by the friendliest couple from Scotland who provide the most amazing breakfast. God and the bathrooms are the size of studio apartments! There’s little to do around here except hop in your car and explore the surrounding sunflower fields. Um, yes please!

Verteillac

We came to this little village and its restaurant Le Perigord Vert for dinner 2 nights in a row. The menu is pretty much choc-a-block with a duck and even though we were 3 non-duck eaters we were looked after. They happened to have a night food market on our second evening so the whole village was buzzing – it’s so nice to come to place which is so neighbourly!

That would be some sunset to watch from the top of the church

That would be some sunset to watch from the top of the church

Lost in conversation with Mum outside the restaurant

Lost in conversation with Mum outside the restaurant

Preparations for Verteillac's Night Market

Preparations for Verteillac’s Night Market

Just like little hearts - adorable!

Just like little hearts – adorable!

Brantôme

The medieval town of Brantôme was about half an hour from our B&B so we took a little wander around here one afternoon. It’s just so beautiful. It’s situated on the River Dronne and you can rent a canoe or a little boat and take in the sun. Brantôme has been likened to Venice but I’m not entirely sure about that one… Brantôme’s Abbey is probably the epicentre of all things tourist and you couldn’t miss it towering over the river. Just across the street, Le Moulin de l’Abbaye, is a hotel on the site of an old mill which sits right on the river. It’s definitely going on the ‘have to stay here’ list. There wasn’t much happening around the town on our visit, it was oddly quiet actually – but Friday is market day so I think on our next trip I’d like to get that in.

Walking into Brantôme

Walking into Brantôme

The prettiness!!

The prettiness!!

Brantôme's streets

Brantôme’s streets

Brantôme's Abbey

Brantôme’s Abbey

Inside the Abbey grounds

Inside the Abbey grounds

Pedestrian bridge and the Abbey

Pedestrian bridge and the Abbey

Perfectly manicured town

Perfectly manicured town

Wouldn't say no to this hotel

Wouldn’t say no to this hotel

Perfect hotel location

Perfect location

Don't know what my act should be...

Don’t know what my act should be…

Excideuil

We visited Excideuil on a Thursday and just missed their market – which seems to be totally over by about 1pm. God damn it! None of us are early-risers by choice but I think that needs to change 😦 We had some food at Kitsch Kafé, a really cute English-run café with seating on the sunny street and a cool courtyard too.

Some homes in Verteillac

Some homes in Excideuil

Just gorgeous

Just gorgeous

Up close! 🌸🌹🌺🌻🌼🌷

Up close! 🌸🌹🌺🌻🌼🌷

Ribérac

On the drive down to Bordeaux we took in Ribérac on a recommendation from our B&B hosts since Friday was market day. Thank Jesus. Needed a market fix. This was a typical French market brimming with flowers, local honey, awesome straw baskets and bags, hats, teas, cheese, breads and obviously the quintessential French fare that is escargot. I wouldn’t say it’s the prettiest of towns but the market is a saving grace – definitely worth a stop off for a potter around.

Riberac's market

Riberac’s market

Tea all round

Tea all round

That's some POTENT bee pollen

That’s some POTENT bee pollen

Saint Émilion

Well this place was an absolute find! The sunflower and corn fields on the drive from the Dordogne give way to rows and rows of beautiful vines and chateaux en route to Bordeaux (which I’ll write about in the next post). The town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sits on a hilltop which allows for the most beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Mum went a little crazy in a handmade soap shop so we definitely won’t be running out of soap ANY TIME soon. There are plenty of wine stores here with lots of different offers making this a great place to stock up 🙂 The Hostellerie De Plaisance looks like it would be an amazing place to stay right in the centre of town, just next to the hill-top monolithic church. Saint Émilion is only about a 30 minute drive from Bordeaux.

Wine hugging. All the rage.

Wine hugging. All the rage

Vines and the village

Vines and the village

La Tour de Roy

La Tour de Roy

A hilly spot

A hilly spot

Sometimes older is better

Sometimes older is better

Poser

Poser!

St. Emilion from above

St. Emilion from above

Walls around the town

Walls around the town

Up close of the Tour de Roy

Up close of the Tour de Roy

How nice would it be to come home to this?

How nice would it be to come home to this?

Ivy clad everything

Ivy clad everything

Step 1 to owning your own vineyard 🍷🍷

Step 1 to owning your own vineyard 🍷🍷

Touristy bits and bobs

Touristy bits and bobs

St. Emilion's monolithic church

St. Emilion’s monolithic church

Hello lovely garden

Hello lovely garden

St. Emilion from another angle

St. Emilion from another angle

 

Ooh a secret garden!!

Ooh a secret garden!!

Oh the beauty

Oh the beauty!

London, England

Walk London Tube Map from Ary & Joe

Walk London Tube Map from Ary & Joe

So we had a grand plan to move to London but since fate sometimes has other plans we’re actually heading back to the balmy Aussie climate and Sydney. Yay! We did however, manage to do a little touristing about in London so I guess that’s worth a post!

One of the nicest walks we took in London was down along Southbank to Tower Bridge. We happened upon the Southbank Centre Market next to the Royal Festival Hall (Waterloo underground stop) just in time for lunch one afternoon. Handy! There are so many places to eat around here and plenty to see so it’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon. There was a really cool book market on this walk and you pass by the Tate Modern too. We happened upon Borough Market (London Bridge underground) around here and must have revisited 3 or 4 more times in a number of days. Worth it! The sweet potato fries from Scotchtails were delicious and John’s coffee fix was had at the awesome Monmouth Coffee (the original is on Monmouth Street in Covent Garden) – queues out on to the street but worth the wait. Since we’re on coffee – in a world a million miles away but still on the tube was Brickwood (just across from Clapham Common) which has some seriously tasty banana and walnut bread with espresso butter (who knew?). Anyhoo…back to Borough Market and let’s just say some chocolate was had at Rabot 1745. Awesomes! The Shard is around this area and that’s one building definitely worth checking out.

Southbank Centre Market

Southbank Centre Market

The coolest book market

The coolest book market

Reminder

Reminder

Borough Market with the Shard in the background

Borough Market with the Shard in the background

London baby!

London baby!

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Reminder

Reminder

Notting Hill and Portobello Road are definite must visits in London. We unfortunately didn’t make Portobello Road for the infamous Saturday market so I guess I’ll just have to sit and watch Notting Hill again. We stopped off for some Pimm’s on a Sunday afternoon instead. Tough life!

So yes, I would live here!!

So yes, I would live here!!

Shopping in London

I’d probably say that my favourite shop to visit in London is Harrods (Knightsbridge tube) and that’s honestly fully because of the Food Hall. First stop Harrods, next stop Hyde Park to enjoy the food haul. We came across Park Close, a cute little alleyway to get you across to Hyde Park and you’ll pass by the trés cool Bvlgari Hotel on the way. Nice! Since we’re on food I’d have to say that Fortnum and Mason (Piccadilly Circus or Green Park tube) AKA mecca for tea and coffee lovers comes a close second. Amazeballs. They sell overpriced everything but it’s worth meandering here anyway. Their hampers are absolutely beautiful and they’ve a great range of tea and biscuits too. Selfridges (Bond Street tube) needs a mention. I’m currently obsessed with the Mr. Selfridge show so it was pretty cool to wander around this store. It has everything. Everything. Topshop (Oxford Circus stop) is probably worth a visit since it’s so gigantic and Liberty a short walk from here is housed in the coolest building in London. Forget Buckingham Place/may as well be an office building. Liberty is where it’s at. Just around the corner from Liberty is Regent Street – probably my favourite street for shopping in London. All the shops you could need are lining up for you on Regent Street. There’s a lovely Anthropologie which is really good for gifts and homeware. This is also where Hamley’s Toy Store is; enter at your peril… We were wandering around SoHo feeling hungry one evening and came across a place called Spuntino – I guess you could call it a bar/diner hybrid that sells some full sized meals and tapas. Pretty damn good tapas at that. And the staff were very friendly.

Hello Harrods!

Hello Harrods!

Goodies from Harrods

Goodies from Harrods

Selfridges

Selfridges

A whole block!

Selfridges – a whole block!

Loving Liberty

Loving Liberty

In all its glory

In all its glory

Regent Street

Regent Street

The Ritz, by Green Park tube stop

The Ritz, by Green Park tube stop

The Covent Garden area seems to be where every single tourist congregates in London. It’s mayhem, particularly around the Covent Garden Market. Maybe because Shake Shack is here?!! Oh and Ladurée is too – they actually want £5.40 for ONE macaron. Eh, WHAT NOW?!! They’re nowhere near that price in Sydney and that’s a damn long way from France. Just across from the market lies St. Paul’s Church with the most peaceful garden in the middle of the city. Such a nice place to chill out in the sunshine. Neal’s Yard is also around here and of course Neal’s Yard Remedies, the natural beauty/apothecary emporium.

I took in the National Gallery, just off Trafalgar Square one morning (free entry) and got to see some Van Gogh and my favourite, Monet. So lovely. It started to get unbelievably busy about 11.30am so I definitely suggest getting here as early as possible. Although everybody seems to hang around the Van Goghs and Monets anyway! The National Portrait Gallery is just behind here and they’ve an Audrey Hepburn exhibition until 18th October. Tickets were all sold out for the time we were there, sadly 😦 You can easily walk from the National Gallery down to see Big Ben and Westminster.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

Entering the market

Entering the market

Inside the market

Inside the market

Old school shop

Old school shop

The garden in St. Paul's, Covent Garden

The garden in St. Paul’s, Covent Garden

Locating Neal's Yard

Locating Neal’s Yard

Neal's Yard Remedies

Neal’s Yard Remedies

Van Gogh's Sunflowers

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

Monet's Japanese Bridge

Monet’s Japanese Bridge

Westminster and Big Ben

Westminster and Big Ben

The London Eye

The London Eye

Camden

We took a little trip to Camden Market and obvs it rained and rained. Not that that has ever stopped an Irish person in the history of ever. Honestly, we went to Camden because I wanted an açai bowl from Samba Swirl. I’ve been researching açai bowls outside of Brazil since we went there and I haven’t been able to find one that didn’t taste like bananas or water. Unfortunately this one didn’t live up to Brazilian standards either. God damn it!! It’s a problem of an obsession 🙂 Camden Market is ridiculously busy at the weekends so we also went during the week and had a lovely potter around. The surrounding area is really cool too; lots of pretty houses, small cafés and awesome graffiti. Ooh and a Whole Foods. Awesome.

Getting to Camden Market

Getting to Camden Market

Camden Lock

Camden Lock

That famous entrance

That famous entrance

Game Plan

Game Plan

Within the Market

Within the Market

Obviously had to get this pic :-)

Obviously had to get this pic 🙂

Fair enough

Fair enough

Horsing around

Horsing around

Colourful streets around Camden

Colourful streets around Camden

It's Emily!

It’s Emily!

Nothing to see here

Nothing to see here

Artland Road

Artland Road

Day dreaming

Day dreaming

New York…below Central Park

Ok, I know I went on about some of this stuff in another NYC post but that was like a year ago and some of it is STILL worth going on and on and on about!! So this is basically a post detailing our favourite haunts in New York and pretty much covers everything south of Central Park! In true us-ness (got to be a word, right?) this one’s mostly food. A girl’s gotta eat.

Firstly though, on a non-foodie note we went to see On the Town on Broadway. Some pretty cool songs but Jesus it was a long show. At least John didn’t fall asleep…unlike our trip to San Francisco’s Christmas Nutcracker performance. Nope, he shall never live that down. Pup.

Times Square

Times Square

Times Square

Times Square at night

Helping you find your way

Helping you find your way

Broadway, baby!

Broadway, baby!

Pretty sunsets

Pretty sunsets

Chelsea/Meatpacking/SoHo/Little Italy

The Chelsea Market takes up an entire block of the Meatpacking District. There’s a really good Anthropologie store and a sister Artists & Fleas Market to the one in Brooklyn; there’s a lot of lovely delicate jewellery on sale here. Visiting the Chelsea Market is all about eating though. The Lobster Place is my favourite spot in the entire market. Crab clubs, lobster rolls, even whole steamed lobsters to chow down on – yes, please! It’s always packed full of people and always awesome. Lucy’s Whey has really tasty cheese toasties and lovely, friendly staff. Buon Italia has got lots of food options from Italy at really good prices. More so foodstuff for cooking yourself though so it’s really only good if you’re in an Airbnb. Chelsea Market Baskets sells artisan food, gifts and eh, baskets. A good perusing spot. Away from food again and Posman Books have a fantastic selection of New York themed books, cookbooks and beautiful cards too. I could spend HOURS in here! Once you eventually decide on a place to eat within the Market you could hop up to the High Line (if you visit New York and you don’t walk the elevated park that is the High Line then you’re missing out) and find a bench between the trees or overlooking the street to devour your haul but if you don’t fancy total strangers staring your food down then I suggest crossing the street to the 14th Street Park for your very own table for 2.

Chelsea Market entrance

Chelsea Market entrance

The prettiness!!

The prettiness!!

Up on the High Line

Up on the High Line

Empire State from the High Line

Empire State from the High Line

Street Art from the High Line

Street Art from the High Line

14th Street Park - free wifi!!

14th Street Park – free wifi!!

One of my favourite cafes in New York is Maman. It’s right across the road from the beautiful old Police Building (which is now a seriously luxurious apartment block – we’re talking Net-a-Porter delivery vans constantly arriving at the door). I just cannot explain the deliciousness of the hot chocolate at Maman, the prettiness of their coffee cups or the awesomeness of their bathroom. They’ve a lavender hot chocolate too. They can do no wrong. No wrong. They just opened in Toronto too.

Since our visit to Brazil I’ve developed a bit of an addiction to açai bowls. I’ve tried to recreate them with the frozen pulp from Whole Foods (crap) and the açai powder. My skill level isn’t there yet either. Liquiteria does them but they just taste like bananas and although they’ll make them without bananas they’re just not right. Whatevs! Two Hands does their own version; super pretty but again very banana-y. Damn it people!

Maman

Maman

Aw, they're a friendly bunch

Aw, they’re a friendly bunch at Maman

Old Police Building

Old Police Building – fantabulous apartments these days

Around the Police Building

Around the Police Building

Liquiteria's açai

Liquiteria’s açai

Two Hands

Two Hands

Gansevoort Market is a cool, industrial style market in the Meatpacking District, which is easily accessible from the southern end of the High Line. We had awesome pizza from Luzzo’s here. It’s not a huge market but there is plenty of choice so it’s definitely worth a look. Another market similar to this is Gotham West up in Hell’s Kitchen (near Times Square). It’s a down-with-the-cool-kids sort of spot. They have a Blue Bottle Coffee Bar; we’re talking coffee for serious coffee lovers. They even have their own book. Oooh, very fancy!! There’s also a Blue Bottle across from the Chelsea Market. Since we’re on coffee I guess I should mention Joe Coffee (various locations), which, according to the coffee connoisseur that is John has the best coffee in New York. So there you go!

Gansevoort Market

Gansevoort Market

Gansevoort Market

Across from Gansevoort Market

Up close

Up close

Back to NoLita and the Little Cupcake Bakeshop still reigns supreme as one of the cutest bakeries on the planet. Just look at it. Black and white tiles inside with red velvet and coconut cloud goodies. Adorable.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop

Little Cupcake Bakeshop

Harney & Sons Tea Blenders in SoHo. Oh the Paris tea. I don’t even need to say more.

The BEST street to wander in New York is Bleecker. It’s full of great boutiques (hello MAJE), a lot of beauty stores (MAC, Fresh! and Marc Jacobs Beauty) and lovely eateries such as the Magnolia Bakery (yes, that of Sex and the City fame). Need I say more? Get them and pop up to Washington Square Park to people watch. Perfection! Across the street from the Magnolia Bakery is Bookmarc NY, a small bookstore by Marc Jacobs. It’s small enough and sells mostly fashion books but they also have cute gifts and book bags. If you’re down around this area then you shouldn’t miss a trip to 64 Perry Street AKA Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment. Molly’s Cupcakes way down Bleecker street is a cute little spot to grab a hot chocolate and some sweeties. They have indoor swings! Right next to Molly’s is Winston Churchill Square – a cherry blossom filled haven in the city! Just across the street from here is the Porto Rico Importing Co. which is, it seems, a mecca for coffee and tea lovers. It’s been around since 1907 and is just a lovely store to wander around. Back up near Washington Square Park is probably one of the coolest old school pharmacies in the world – C.O. Bigelow is just special.

In Winston Churchill Square

In Winston Churchill Square

Porto Rico Importing Co.

Porto Rico Importing Co.

Flatiron District

Eataly in the Flatiron district is perfection. Their meat and cheese plates with a glass of vino or a craft beer makes for a splendid evening 🙂 A stroll in Madison Square Park after a feed here and you’re sorted. The Lego store is right next door and it has the most amazing creations of New York scenes. Some people have talent. Toby’s Estate coffee in the Club Monaco flagship store around here is pretty good for a coffee to go. There’s a well curated Strand Bookstore within Club Monaco too. The destination with a destination in a destination!! The main Strand Bookstore is at 12th Street and Broadway – if you’re in to books then it’s absolutely worth a visit here. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Shop does an amazing cheese and fig toastie. DEFINITELY worth some pennies!

A 'flat' side of the Flatiron!

A ‘flat’ side of the Flatiron!

The Flatiron's behind that!

The Flatiron’s behind that!

Lego creations

Lego creations

A glimpse inside Eataly

A glimpse inside Eataly

The Strand within Club Monaco

The Strand within Club Monaco

Greenwich Village

We were very well advised by our Airbnb hosts that Mamoun’s is THE spot to come for falafels. It’s tiny and the decor looks decades old but that just adds to the experience. It’s right next to the lovely Café Reggio which incidentally houses the coolest coffee machine on the planet. Oh and they served the first cappucino in the US. No biggie. Tea & Sympathy is a great (albeit teensy!) spot for British style afternoon tea, it’s actually run by Brits so you can’t go wrong with the scones here. They’ve got a store next door selling British goodies too.

East Village

We hadn’t spent any time in the East Village on previous trips to New York to be honest but we were keen to try out Jennifer’s Way – the cutest little bakery specialising in gluten-free goodies. Actor Jennifer Esposito owns it. HA and OWNS IT, go Jennifer!! You could pick up some goodies and enjoy them in Tompkins Square Park, just down the street. This park was a great find for us – there was a market around the edges, some cool music and lots of beautiful flowers. A little oasis in the city. Ninth Street Espresso is a block away from the park and although it has a few outpost  John liked this one best. A very chilled out spot to grab a coffee. Since we’re on food…the Clinton Street Baking Company. Sweet Jesus, just go there for brunch.

Jennifer's Way

Jennifer’s Way

East Village residents

East Village residents

Keeping the East Village nice and cosy

Keeping the East Village nice and cosy

Battery Park

Battery Park, waaay down the southern tip of Manhattan (Bowling Green subway stop) is a lovely place for a walk, it’s also where you get the free ferry to Staten Island or have a stare at the Statue of Liberty. You could walk from here up to the 9/11 memorial and the World Trade Center. We happened upon the Irish Hunger Memorial around here, it’s uncanny how like Ireland they managed to get a spot in the middle of Manhattan. I’d continue up to TriBeCa to the adorable Tiny’s bar then.

Freedom Tower

Freedom Tower

Irish Famine Stone

Irish Famine Stone

John's home county

John’s home county

Ireland's most important county

Ireland’s most important county

Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

image image

Tiny's

Tiny’s

Here’s all of our favourite New York spots!

Upper West Side, New York

If I could live anywhere I’m pretty sure it’d be New York. Such an awesome city. We stayed just over a month and based ourselves in Harlem in an apartment we rented on AirBnB. Honestly, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about staying in Harlem because of its reputation but we were pleasantly surprised – the locals up here (we stayed on west 126th street) are really friendly and there are plenty of cafes to sit in and relax. I’m not saying there weren’t any psychos roaming the streets – there were plenty but you know, it didn’t seem as dangerous as one might be led to believe.

Jacob's Restaurant, Harlem

Jacob’s Restaurant, Harlem (not UWS, I know!)

We got ourselves a monthly unlimited subway card for $116.50 as we knew we’d be using the subway a lot (I think John worked out if you’re going to use it something like 4 times a day then it’s worth getting the unlimited card. It’s also nice not to be fumbling with change and queuing for ticket machines with oh so patient New Yorkers on your heels!) I’m going to concentrate on the Upper West Side (UWS) in this post.

We hadn’t wandered around this area on previous trips so we decided to do it some justice this time and absolutely fell in love with it. Perhaps because of the food up here…

Ok, so I found a great article on Buzzfeed pinpointing all the hot spots from my absolute favourite movie of all time, You’ve Got Mail so we got right on this on our first afternoon in NYC…and pretty much every afternoon after that… I think I could pretty much retitle this post as ‘Our You’ve Got Mail Days’…

We found ourselves in Zabar’s on numerous occasions – I have a slight addiction to their chocolate pretzels and John’s a fan of their chocolate croissants and in-house coffee blends. I think it’s best that it’s across the pond as I’m positive I’d be the size of a house if we lived anywhere near here. They have a pretty good homewares section upstairs, a good spot to pick up a useful souvenir like a tea-towel, mug or canvas shopping bag. Oh and Zabar’s sell Kerrygold butter therefore cementing its position as the best store in the US!

Zabar's baby!

Zabar’s baby!

Obviously we checked out the atmospheric Cafe Lalo complete with twinkliest of lights outside. It’s open until 2am and is one of the most perfect places for a date or a catch up with a friend. Pretty tight squeeze into the tables when it’s busy though, it’s definitely not as airy as portrayed in the film. We ended up here a few times – it’s just so damn gorgeous. I had the most random concoction one evening – steamed eggs with strawberries (huh?), mixed nuts, raisins and cinnamon. Totally worked. You can check our their menu here. Their desserts are absolutely delicious.

Café Lalo - oh so pretty

Café Lalo – oh so pretty 😍

Inside Café Lalo

Inside Café Lalo

The 91st Street Garden, where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meet at the end of You’ve Got Mail and she says “I wanted it to be you”. Such emotion! Such a pretty garden! It wasn’t quite as beautiful as in the film but you can tell a lot of hard work goes into it – I’m sure it’ll be lovely by mid-summer. This isn’t a bad spot to catch a sunset…although it’s anything but peaceful – there’s a highway underneath you. It’s still New York 🙂

The 91st Street Garden

The 91st Street Garden

It's a cat!

A cat!

A lot of work goes in to this space

A lot of work goes in to this space

Catching a sunset

Catching a sunset

Another UWS sunset

Another UWS sunset

We visited the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (89th Street and Riverside Park) , a commemoration of the American Civil War. It’s exceptionally quiet up here, a nice spot for an evening wander.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument

Gray’s Papaya (just at the exit of the 1/2/3 72nd street stop) is a great place to pick a New York favourite, the ubiquitous hot dog – and their fresh juices are amazing! We were routed here on numerous occasions by John since he has a bit of a thing for their chilli dogs.

Gray's Papaya!

Gray’s Papaya!

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions, decisions!

The triangular shaped Verdi Square (Broadway and 72nd) is a really nice place to sit and people watch. There’s even an artificial owl (check him out in the second picture below) up in a tree; designed to keep the pigeons away however that’s not working, they pretty much sit on top of him! The statue is Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi.

72nd and Broadway

72nd and Broadway

Verdi Square

Verdi Square

We did a lot of our food shopping at Trader Joe’s just across from here. It’s possibly the most manic supermarket I’ve ever been in – some evenings there was a queue outside the door plus a queue round the entire shop to pay for your goods. I’m pretty sure I’d go insane if I had to do my shopping here all the time. They’ve got beautiful flowers though. Worth queuing for! There’s a pretty good Urban Outfitters just across from here too. I hadn’t noticed before but URBO seems to have completely taken over NY – it’s like the Starbucks of the clothing industry.

The Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) (2220 Broadway) AKA shoe mecca is a danger to anyone in possession of a credit card. It’s a humongous store with rows and rows of oh so fabulous shoes from every designer imaginable (although they’ve a healthy sprinkling of Betsey Johnson and Birkenstock) and all the sizes are stocked up underneath them so you can go about your own business and nobody bothers you. It’s heaven. The one on the UWS isn’t the greatest but if the shoe fits… There’s one in Union Square (and one next to Macy’s too) and I must have tried on about 40 pairs of (please be mine) shoes one afternoon. Again, heaven. Down a few more blocks there’s a Century 21 (1972 Broadway) which is way less crowded than the one by the Freedom Tower. Oh the Burberry trenches!

The American Museum of Natural History (81st Street) is definitely worth a wander around. I’d been wanted to visit the museum for aons so was delighted when we got to visit. There are exhibitions within the museum which you have to pay extra to visit so it’s worth taking a look at the website before you go to see if any tickle your fancy. We decided to add on a space show, Dark Universe, which is on in the Hayden Planetarium adjoining the museum. Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates the show on dark energy and dark matter. You’d need days to do this place any justice. We managed a few hours and then needed a caffeine hit so have left some areas for another visit. The Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs has an amazing fossil collection, including a T-Rex with 6 inch teeth! It brought us back to South America when we saw actual dinosaur footprints in Sucre, Bolivia. Pretty cool. The blue whale in the Hall of Ocean Life is spectacular – and at 94 feet long absolutely monstrous!

Subway stop

Subway stop

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Tyrannosaurus Rex

I think John preferred them alive in the Galapagos!

I think John preferred them alive in the Galapagos!

It's a party!

It’s a party!

Cheetah

A pretty startled looking Cheetah

Elephant City

Elephant City

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle – the backgrounds here are amazing

Lions!

Lions!

Gigantic Jack Rabbit!

Jack Rabbit – these guys are gigantic

Alaska Brown Bears

Alaska Brown Bears

Massive Blue Whale

Mahoosive Blue Whale

That's one old tree

That’s one old tree

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Good Morning Philadelphia!

Good Morning Philadelphia!

Just two hours from the bustling borough that is Manhattan lies what has to be one of the prettiest cities in the world. Philly is awesome. We bussed it from New York to Philladelphia with Megabus ($24 return for 2!) and arrived at 7.30am. We lucked upon Green Eggs Cafe (212 S 13th street), a typical American neighbourhood cafe serving pancakes, eggs cooked in myriad ways and randomly, absolutely delicious quinoa porridge. We hadn’t really read much about Philly so didn’t really have any expectations but seriously, this city of Brotherly Love made us want to stay forever. It seems like a very livable city. We tend to walk and walk and walk in a new city but you can get a metro or SEPTA card for $8 (8 rides – very good value) if you’re not that into walking.

The streets of Philadelphia have the pretties names – Chestnut, Cypress, Spruce, Walnut…although there was Locust St. too… Speaking of Spruce Street, I feel it’s necessary to immediately share Green Street Coffee Co. (1101 Spruce St.) with you – the best chai latte I’ve had in so long. It’s a tiny little spot but there’s some outdoor seating (however, contrary to popular belief I can attest that it is not always sunny in Philadelphia…) and the staff are really friendly.

On to Philly’s attractions, and there are many. Probably the most important attraction (for tourists and history buffs alike) is Independence Hall and its Assembly Room; the site where the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed. Lincoln’s body lay in repose here after his assassination; George Washington’s Rising Sun chair is still here and the Assembly Room is pictured on the back of the very rare $2 bill. You need to pick up tickets to visit Independence Hall at the Independence Visitor Centre (1 N Independence Mall W; opens at 8.30am). Tickets are free but there is limited availability so you’ll need to get there early enough to choose a time that suits you. Across the street from here (between the Independence Visitor Centre and Independence Hall) lies the Liberty Bell, which used to ring in Independence Hall but cracked after an unsuccessful repair job on an initial crack. Just across the street from here is the Dream Garden in the Curtis Center – worth a quick visit to check out the 49 foot glass mosaic. 

One of Philly’s most famous buildings is the Philadelphia Museum of Art ($20 entrance), with those steps from the Rocky movies. We were there about 11am and it was getting really busy so if I’d definitely advise trying to get there much earlier in the morning if possible. You’ll obviously need to run around up here and throw your arms in the air. There’s a bronze Rocky statue at the bottom of the steps which you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan. We walked from the city out here in about half an hour. On the walk back in to central Philly is the Rodin Museum, complete with a monument sized version of ‘the Thinker’. It’s amazing. The cherry blossoms are framing the statue perfectly at the moment; I think it was my absolute favourite part of Philly. Aren’t cherry blossoms the most beautiful part of Spring?

It happens to be Jazz Appreciation Month in Philadelphia now and we came across a free lunchtime jazz session within the beautiful building that is City Hall. It’s that stunning steepled building in all the Rocky movies. God, free stuff is awesome. Very close to City Hall lies JFK Plaza or LOVE Park, named after the red L-O-V-E sculpture by Robert Indiana. You can see the Rocky steps way up Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the background. There’s not much in the park; it’s just a lovely place to chill out and take in the scenery.

Macy’s (1300 Market St.) has the largest working pipe organ in the world and as luck would have it we got to hear it!! It’s called the Wanamaker Court Organ and was built for the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis (which celebrated the Louisiana Purchase 100 years earlier. Excellent background story available here). The organ is beautiful, takes up 7 (!) floors…I think it would be awesome for aisle music! Honestly though, it would be a beautiful place to do Christmas shopping; they put a 3 story Christmas tree there every year. Awesome. If you’re visiting Macy’s don’t forget to bring your passport to the Visitor Centre on the ground floor to get 10% off.  There’s also a pretty new Century 21 if you need an designer outlet shopping fix (821 Market St.)

A few blocks from Macy’s is the Reading Terminal Market (51 North 12th Street) – the perfect place to pick up lunch. Philly Cheese Steaks, pretzels, lobster, sushi, sausage sandwiches, salads – pretty much anything you could want will be packaged up for you to scoff down. Even if you’re not hungry it’s a great place to wander around. No way you’re leaving without a chocolate pretzel though.

A bit of a walk from the Reading Terminal Market lies Christ Church (entrance by $3 donation), possibly the most famous of all America’s churches. Also called the Nation’s Church, it’s here that people such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin worshipped back in the day. Franklin and a whole host of other famous people are buried in the two acres adjoining the church. Just a few blocks from here is Elfreth’s Alley, America’s oldest residential neighbourhood and what has to be one of its prettiest alleyways. 32 picture perfect houses complete with shutters line this cobblestoned street – reminiscent of old London. There is a museum here but it’s only open at the weekends ($5 including tour of the Alley).

Note: If you’re travelling with Megabus and they say your bus is leaving from 30th Street Station then you need to walk through the back of the station on to John F. Kennedy Boulevard (under the bridge).

Witherspoon Building

Witherspoon Building

One of Philly's 3600 murals

One of Philly’s 3600 murals

And one more...

And one more…

Philly's Subway

Philly’s Subway

Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square

They should open this again!

They should open this again!

Cute Café

Cute Café

How beautiful is this building?

How beautiful is this building?

Yes, I would live here!

Yes, I would live here!

Possibly my next home...

Possibly my next home…

Another contender!

Yet another contender!

The Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the background

The Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the background

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

Dream Garden in the Curtis Center

Dream Garden in the Curtis Center

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

In Rocky's Footsteps

In Rocky’s Footsteps

Rocky's View

Rocky’s View

John and Rocky

John and Rocky

Rodin Museum

Rodin Museum

Oh the blossoms!

Oh the blossoms!

Chilling with The Thinker

Chilling with The Thinker

Obsessed with these blossoms!

Obsessed with these blossoms!

A pink carpet!

A pink carpet!

The end of an awesome dance move?

The end of an awesome dance move?

Walking to LOVE Park

Walking to LOVE Park

So pretty!

So pretty!

LOVE Park

LOVE Park

Macy's and the Wanamaker Organ

Macy’s and the Wanamaker Organ

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

Cool signage

Cool signage

Inside the Market

Inside the Market

Can't pass up a flower pic!

Can’t pass up a flower pic!

Pretty pretzels!

Pretty pretzels!

Ok...

Ok…

Makes total sense

Makes total sense

Hahahaha!!

Hahahaha!!

Christ Church

Christ Church

Inside Christ Church

Inside Christ Church

Elfreth's Alley

Elfreth’s Alley

More of Elfreth's Alley

More of Elfreth’s Alley

An alley of an alley

An alley off an alley!

Sydney’s Best, an A – Z Guide

As we lived in Sydney for over 3 years and I only managed one post (ridiculous) I thought it was about time to share our favourite spots of this oh so beautiful city. Ya so it’s mostly food because apparently that’s what our lives revolve around.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Vivid Sydney Festival

Vivid Sydney Festival

Sydney’s Best…

A

Afternoon Tea. I definitely consider myself a connoisseur of Afternoon Tea. It’s my absolute favourite thing in the world. After shoes, obviously. The Langham in the Rocks area of the city does a pretty good afternoon tea. I also love the Tea Cosy in the same area, an Irish themed tea spot located in a lovely building (with a balcony) and the scones are delicious. They even have lamington (chocolate and coconut sponge cake) scones in celebration of Australia Day (January 26th). The best afternoon tea isn’t actually in the city though, it’s in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, in Lilianfels Resort and Spa. Glass of champagne in hand, fire crackling in the background and live piano music. Perfection in the winter. Yes, Sydney gets a bloody cold winter. Not Ireland cold but definitely scarf and woolly hat cold.

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B

Beach. Obviously need to include a beach in a Sydney post. There’s no situation where Palm Beach doesn’t win this medal and it’s less than an hour from the city. Don’t miss brunch from the Boathouse. Bondi Beach is obviously world famous, and it’s great for people watching but if you’re looking for a city beach then I’d go for Maroubra. It’s way quieter than Bondi so you’ll always get a spot to yourself, although there aren’t many food options at the moment so it’d be a good idea to bring a picnic. It’s up and coming though so there’ll definitely be more foodie options in the next few years. Bookstore. Another B I know but I have to share! Hands down, the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya in the city for choice – they stock everything but it is a little pricey. Berkelouw in Paddington has a nicely curated selection as well as a cafe. Sappho Books (and cafe and wine bar!) in Glebe is a little like Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, a warren like maze of a store brimming with secondhand and rare books.

Palm Beach

Palm Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Maroubra Beach

Maroubra Beach

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C

Coffee. No joke, John has actually sampled every single coffee shop in this city. Morning coffee was had and loved from MLC Grind in the MLC Centre in the CBD. Weekend brews were most enjoyed from the tiny Reuben Hills in Surry Hills.

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D

Drinking Spots. My absolute favourite bar is Grandma’s in the city. It’s a tiny basement bar (and well hidden) but the cocktails here will knock off any cobwebs. John loved the Button Bar in Surry Hills and the Barber Shop in the city. The Wild Rover, actually a small bar in Surry Hills and not a crazy college scene Irish bar like the name would suggest, is a pretty nice spot too. Shady Pines Saloon is hilarious and located in Darlinghurst. What you see in movies and expect a bar in the Wild Wild West would have looked like.

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E

Eggs. It’s really easy to find fantastic breakfast spots in Sydney – you’ll find poached eggs with avocado on sourdough toast pretty much any time of the day. Our favourite hang out was Baffi & Mo in Redfern. God, their sweet potato hash browns. Unbelievable. VargaBar Espresso in Newtown used to have the most delicious eggs benedict but they went and changed their menu. Rude. They can still cook an egg though. Surry Hills is your best bet in terms of breakfast in general. Plenty of places to choose from.

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F

French Fries. Although it’s a hotdog spot, Snag Stand has the tastiest fries made with Tasmanian potatoes no less; an Irish girl championing potatoes that aren’t from Ireland? Yes! Also Fish and Chips from Doyles on the Wharf in Watsons Bay is really tasty and is the perfect place to watch a Sydney sunset.

View towards the city from Watsons Bay

View towards the city from Watsons Bay

G

Gelato. Actually this one’s a tie – Gelato Messina (a few locations) or Anita (Chippendale). Both heavenly.

H

Hot Chocolate. I’d probably have to say the mint hot chocolate in the Hyde Park Barracks Cafe but I’ll give Max Brenner second place since you get it in a hug mug. Aw. Hair Salon probably needs a mention here too – Renya Xydis in the city is bliss.

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I

Italian Food. One of the cheapest and tastiest places you could eat in Sydney is Bar Reggio in Darlinghurst. They can do no wrong. No wrong. Jamie’s Italian in the CBD is pretty good – there’s always a queue though. Unless you go on December 26th. Random.

J

Jewellery store. Lovisa. They’re everywhere and super cheap.

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K

Kept Secret. The Golden Age Cinema and Bar in Surry Hills is a tiny cinema, which was the former screening room of Paramount Pictures in the city. Pre-cinema cocktail? Pretty cool spot.

L

Lunch Spot. Most of my beautiful Sydneysider ladies adore Din Tai Fung (plenty of locations but we frequented the one in Pyrmont) but I’m not a dumpling lover so I generally favoured a hole in the wall sushi spot closeby. My actual favourite place to grab a sandwich is in the Met Centre/Wynyard train station in a hole-in-the-wall spot called La Petite Expresso. Fantastic chicken and walnut sandwiches. John’s favourite spot was pretty much anything from the David Jones Foodhall or steak from the Fairmont Restaurant in the Occidental Hotel.

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Not the Food Hall but David Jones in the Spring

Not the Food Hall but David Jones in the Spring

M

Market. I love love love the Flower Market in Flemington. A pain in the ass to get to for sure – and you’ve got to get there early but waaay cheaper than stumping up CBD prices. The Rocks Market probably needs a mention if you’re looking for an Opera House Christmas bauble or any form of souvenir you could possibly dream up. Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont is also great; this is where you’ll find most of Sydney’s population on Christmas Eve stocking up on prawns for Christmas Day barbecues (the market has a 36 hour marathon (opening hours) to keep up with demand).

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N

New Year’s Eve Spot really depends on how much you want to cash out. Observatory Hill is a fantastic free spot for a view of the fireworks behind the bridge and the suburbs up along the harbour (you can’t see the Opera House from here though). Lawn with the View within the Royal Botanic Gardens is located on a hill just behind the Opera House so you see the Opera House and the front of the Harbour Bridge (the epicentre to be honest). Tickets are close to $300 per person which is ludicrous but this is Sydney. The good thing about a ticketed event is that you don’t have to get there super early but honestly we loved the atmosphere at Observatory Hill and we didn’t get there until about 10pm. The water around Pyrmont would also yield some good free firework watching spots of the Harbour Bridge.

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New Year's Eve view at Observatory Hill

New Year’s Eve view at Observatory Hill

New Year's Eve view at Lawn with the View

New Year’s Eve view at Lawn with the View

O

Oatmeal or Porridge. Served at the always delicious O Organic Produce cafe in Surry Hills. Everything they serve is amazing.

P

Pizza. Ok there’s a little contention over this one. John adores Lucio Pizzeria in Darlinghurst and Pizza Mario in Surry Hills and I’d likely give up my first born for Il Grappolo in Rozelle.

Q

Queen Victoria Building (QBV). The architecture, shopping, those beautiful clocks, Santa. Wonderful.

R

Rainy Day Spot. Time spent in the Art Gallery of New South Wales is time well spent. Free entry, a cafe with lovely scones, a great museum shop and jazz evenings make this the perfect spot to spend a rainy day in Sydney. And that does happen more than you might think!

S

Suburb. No question here – Surry Hills. Where you’ll want to roam every Sunday. Beautiful tree lined streets, fabulous people, shops and cafes. Whilst we’re in Surry Hills, I’ve got another S for Supermarket. Thomas Dux is a great place to find things not readily available elsewhere like CoYo or baking ingredients. They have lovely homemade chocolates and beautiful fresh bouquets too.

T

Tea. The Tea Centre in the Glasshouse Shopping Centre. So. Many. Options. Delicious soups too.

U

Utterly Awesome Experience. The Moonlight Cinema in Centennial Park every summer is a fantastic evening out – black and white movies and a bottle of vino under the stars. Perfection.

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V

View. This isn’t a difficult decision at all. Walk aross the Harbour Bridge and set up shop beneath same. If you take the train you’ll need to get off the train at Milson’s Point. Take a wander around the very residential Kirribilli for views like this:

Wowsers!

Wowsers! Also a good New Year’s Eve spot…

W

Wandering Spot. One of the most beautiful places you can take a stroll in Sydney is within the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Rose Garden is a beautiful place to chill out with a book, watch a wedding (yep) or catch a glimpse of the Opera House. You also cannot go to Sydney and not walk from Bondi to Coogee along the coast. It’s stunning.

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View of the city from the Botanic Gardens

View of the city from the Botanic Gardens

Coogee Baths

Coogee Baths

X

What the hell am I, Scrabble Champion? Nope.

Y

Yogurt Spot. Frozen yogurt spot to be precise. George St. is yogurt avenue. Yogurt everywhere. Yogurtland was my favourite, the perfect post-power-yoga stop off (and they always had discount deals for some reason or other).

Z

Zoo. One of the most spectacular locations on earth. Good for you Taronga Zoo! Bring the credit card though – a $46 admission price ain’t cheap ($23 for kiddies).

Note: You can hop on the 555 bus for free up and down George St., this will take you from Central Station all the way up to Circular Quay/The Rocks area.

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