Friday, 29 June 2012

Tennis, Royal Rowing & Pimm's

This week has been a long one, even though I had Monday off. For some reason – and maybe it’s the crazy humid but rainy weather over here – I've just felt so exhausted and busy, hence the lack of posts this week! I’m so glad it’s Friday and I can’t wait to relax tonight and get to bed early ahead of this weekend’s festivities. Jim and I have quite the adventurous, sporty weekend planned...first up is Wimbledon! We don’t actually have tickets, but word is you can go day-of and wait in a queue for ground passes which get you into the Wimbledon area so you can walk around and feel the excitement. The downside is you have to get there super early (we’re talking between 6 – 7 a.m.) but I’m willing to do it for the love of tennis! The ultimate goal for the day is to be lounging on the lawn watching a match with a Pimm’s and strawberries & cream (a traditional Wimbledon dessert that’s bound to be delish). Wish us luck!

On Sunday, we’re headed out of the city to the Henley Royal Regatta (note the beautiful photo above from the package our tickets arrived in last week!). I hadn’t really heard of this until I moved to London, but the Henley Royal Regatta is the best known regatta in the world – a real highlight in English summer sporting events and social calendar. It attracts thousands of visitors over a five day period (which started earlier this week) and there are over 200 rowing races. I’ve heard from my friends and co-workers that the best part is hanging out in the Enclosures (or viewing areas to watch the races) where you can enjoy a Pimm’s and finger food in the sunshine (well, hopefully if the weather holds out)! Our tickets will get us into the Regatta Enclosure, which is a step down from the Royal Regatta (we weren’t posh enough for that). My biggest dilemma here is what to wear – apparently people get pretty dressed up so I’ve got to find the perfect dress and heels for the occasion. I just wish I had a fascinator! I’ll share photos from the events next week – along with pictures from our weekend in the Cotswolds.

Happy Friday everyone!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Around Sorrento and Pompeii

If you’re headed to the Amalfi coast, definitely think about making Sorrento your ‘hub.’ Along with being a gorgeous beach town, it's also really close to the other surrounding coastal towns like Positano and Capri. Our hotel (Grand Hotel De La Ville) was excellent and had the most relaxing, tranquil rooftop terrace and pool to unwind at the end of the day. Heaven!
There was the most beautiful lemon grove right next to our hotel that we’d walk through it each day on our way home. The highlight was seeing the cute little Italian lady selling limoncello in the middle of the grove from a makeshift wooden bar. Limoncello is a hot commodity in Sorrento since the lemons are so plentiful – in fact, they make lemon anything – chocolate candy, lemon butter, lemon soap, you name it!
In the end, we didn’t end up spending loads of time in Sorrento besides our dinners out and a few afternoons, but we did love strolling down the little cobblestone streets surrounded by the honey-coloured buildings, eating gelato and soaking in the sun. If you’re in Sorrento, make sure to stop by the famous Gelateria Primavera where they’ve got to-die-for flavours like Snickers, Bounty Bar and Mars!
On our last day in the Amalfi Coast, we took a trip to the infamous Pompeii. Ever since studying Latin and learning about Mt. Vesuvius at school, I’d always wanted to see the lost Roman city up close. For about €10, you can walk around the ruins which are remarkably well-kept and see how the people of the town used to live (and also how they perished). There were tons of people there on the day we went, but we still managed to see all the important parts like the old brothel, the amphitheatre and the old shops. Highly recommend for the history fans.

That's all for the Amalfi stop: Florence!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Cotswolds Getaway With My Parents!

My parents have just arrived in London and I couldn't be happier! It’s been so long since we’ve seen them and I'm so excited to catch up and relax this weekend. We're heading to the Cotswolds tomorrow, a charming area in southwest England filled with quaint little villages amongst sprawling hills. It’s meant to be beautiful – a real throwback to the old English countryside. We'll be driving out there in a rental car in the rain, so wish us luck! And yes, it's mid-June and horrendous weather, but on the upside, I've heard it's unseasonably cold for this time of year. I know we'll make the best of it and have a lovely time exploring the villages and popping into cosy pubs along the way.

Any suggestions for rainy day activities in the Cotswolds?

[Image via Conde Nast Traveller]

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Views from Capri

After a day of sunning ourselves in Positano, we headed to the Capri, a little island about 30 minutes off the coast of Sorrento. When we arrived by ferry, we paid for a little boat to take us around the island and the into the famous Blue Grotto. We cruised down around the island admiring the gorgeously clear turquoise water and coastline dotted with colourful villas and yachts.
Once we got to the Blue Grotto, we had to wait about 20 minutes to be transferred to tiny row boats which took us inside. The entrance is so small that you have to lie down in the boat to get through! Once inside, all the Italian men rowing the boats sing and chant which echoes throughout the grotto and actually sounds pretty cool. Look at that water!
Once out of the slightly clausterphobic grotto, we hopped back on the boat and toured the rest of the island, ending up at Marina Grande. From there, we took a little tram up to the main town in Capri, where you can shop the designer stores and maybe spot some celebs! Unfortunatley no such luck for us, but the views of the ocean made up for it. While in town, we had the most amazing coconut gelato in a hot waffle cone – sounds a little iffy, but it was so darn good. 
 We’d heard good things about Anacapri, a little town on the island that’s further up than Capri, so we took a short bus ride to check it out. By the way, the buses are miniature – like half the size of normal buses – and of course, I loved them! Anacapri is filled with tiny winding streets and white-washed buildings – just so picturesque. We grabbed a fresh caprese sandwich from a little deli near the bus stop (only 3!) and spent an hour walking around the town. 
If you make it to Anacapri, I'd recommend the Monte Solaro chairlift ride from Piazza della Vittoria, which takes you up to the highest point of the island. It's about 10, so a little pricey, but worth it for the incredible views!

Next up on the Italian tour: Sorrento & Pompeii!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Lululemon in London!

Like many of you, Lululemon is my go-to store for the best fitting, stylish workout clothes and loungewear. I constantly wear my Lulu workout pants to the gym, and I'm obsessed with the adorable pink and white track jacket my sister gave me for my birthday in April. For some reason I definitely didn’t think they existed over here in the UK, but last week I was browsing one of my favourite UK blogs (American Girl in Chelsea) and she happened to post about the Lulu Lemon Chelsea store. Beyond excited! I cannot wait to head on over and browse their amazing collection. 

One of my favourite things about the San Francisco store was the mid-week yoga & wine night, which I seriously hope makes its way over here. It was the perfect way to unwind with friends while also getting a good workout. I saw a few yoga classes on the website, so if wine’s not on the menu maybe I’ll just bring my own!

Happy shopping :)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Picturesque Positano

Our first day on the Amalfi coast involved a relaxing day trip to the stunningly posh town of Positano. We took a bus ride which was a little scary but allowed for incredible coastline views along the way. Afer just 30 minutes we were dropped off on a cliff overlooking the town...the only question was how to get down there!  
We had to walk what seemed like a million steps to reach the bustling little town, but the views made up for our aching feet. It actually looks like a postcard. Naturally, we rewarded ourselves with a beer once we made it down, and just watched the tourists flow in and out of town. There are loads of cute little touristy shops and more upscale clothing stores that you could browse – but since it was in the 80s, we couldn’t wait to take our pasty English bodies in the sunshine and get a proper tan! We skipped the pricey lounge chairs and sat on our hotel towels just watching the waves come in – I never knew how much I missed the sound of the ocean! Living in London, you forget how lovely it is.
We lounged and read just long enough to build up an apptetite for gelato (obviously!) and then indulged in ultra creamy strachiatella and coffee cones for our walk back up those million steps. We spotted the cutest a vintage pink Fiat driving by when we reached the top – which is of course good luck! 
 Once we were back at our hotel in Sorrento (Grand Hotel De La Ville), we made our way to the rooftop terrace for some more sunbathing and cocktails overlooking the coast – it really doesn’t get better! For dinner, we stumbled upon an amazing restaurant right in the centre of town which I would definitely go back to, called La Laterna. The service is so friendly and they really know how to make good Italian. We had a vegetable pizza with a luscious chewy crust, a fresh caprese salad and a bottle of Chianti – my idea of the perfect meal and the perfect way to end another night in Italy. Next stop on the Amalfi tour is Capri, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Hummus & Avocado Crostini

Back when Myriah and Corey were in town, I wanted to make a quick and healthy appetizer to go with some chilled champagne. At the last minute, I whipped up some hummus, avocado and basil baguette slices which ended up being really good. Here’s how to make them...

Buy a fresh baguette and cut into ½ inch slices on the bias. Drizzle olive oil on each slice of baguette, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. At this point, you could toast the baguette slices, but they still taste delicious without. Spread some a good amount of your favourite hummus on each one and top with a few pieces of sliced avocado. Then julienne some fresh basil and sprinkle on top.

And voila, a quick and yummy summer treat!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

La Bella Vita in Roma

Lovely colourful buildings near the Pantheon
Gourmet pizza at Vineria Chianti
A view of the Pope's processional from our hotel
Our fave hangout, the Spanish Steps
The crowds at the grand Colosseum
My dream wedding car, a vintage Fiat 
Touring the Roman Forum
Amazing gelato from Il Gelato di San Crispino
The Roman Forum ruins near the Colosseum
Fresh flowers at Campo di Fiori
My new favourite pasta dish, spaghetti cacio e pepe
The gorgeous Trevi Fountain
After our last dinner in Rome
Our Italian holiday totally lived up to my expectations of good food, sunshine and relaxation – it was a perfect trip, just long enough to feel like you’d really gotten away from it all. I have so many memories and photos to share, so I’ll be blogging about each stop on our trip starting with Rome, and working our way through the Amalfi coast and then back to Florence! I’d been to Rome before with my sister before I started my study abroad programme in Barcelona, so I knew it would be fantastic. Everything about Italy is so vibrant...the people are loud and dramatic, the food is bursting with flavour and the sites and history are astounding. Luckily the weather was in our favour – even a little too hot at times – so we were in shorts & tanks the entire time. 

Our first night in Rome happened to be Jim’s birthday and surprise, surprise, the Pope just happened to be holding a massive processional down the street our hotel was on (no, unfortunately I didn’t magically orchestrate this!) We were able to peer out our window to look down the street as the priests and nuns came down the street by the hundreds holding was such a beautiful sight to see. And then the Pope drove by in his special white car and held a small service on the cathedral steps before going inside for mass. After the festivities, we ate a super late (but really good!) dinner around the corner from our hotel at a little family run place and then called it a night. Our little inn, Hotel Amalfi, was cute and comfortable, as recommended on TripAdvisor – but if we went again I'd stay somewhere a bit more central. 

On Friday, we headed to the famous Trevi Fountain to marvel at its sheer size and beauty. It was really crowded there, so we moved onto the Spanish Steps where we soaked up the sun for a while, surrounded by the uber-swanky designer shops from Salvatore Ferragamo to Hermes. We’d booked ahead for the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel so we took the metro over there a bit beforehand. One of my favourite parts about Rome was seeing Jim’s reaction to the sites since I’d already seen some of them...he’s so into history and ancient architecture, so obviously loved the Vatican. Once we'd seen enough art, we stopped by St. Peter’s Basilica for a quick tour and then headed back to our hotel to put our feet up. Since we loved the Spanish Steps, we headed back that way for dinner to a little restaurant I’d researched called Il Gabriello. I had spaghetti cacio e pepe (pasta dressed in olive oil, cheese and pepper) and Jim had the carbonara (this one was delicious and authentic with thick pieces of pancetta and a thick cream sauce) – both traditional Roman dishes were recommended by my fave chef, Giada De Laurentiis (who happened to be in Italy at the same time!). Surprisingly, we didn't have gelato this day, but we made up for it on the next!

We slept in a little on Saturday and made our way to the Colosseum, which I hadn’t been inside on my last trip. It’s such an impressively huge structure with so many stories to tell. After walking around and snapping tons of photos, we made our way to the Roman Forum ruins and then onto Piazza Navona for lunch. There are lovely grand fountains in the middle of the piazza and cafes dotted all around the perimeter – but we opted for pizza at a little street pizzeria – a great idea for lunch in Italy as sitting down to eat for every meal can get very pricey, especially with the comperto (service charge). We sat on the fountain's edge and enjoyed the sun with a couple of Nastro Azzurro Italian beers (our beer of choice throughout the trip). For something sweet, we stopped by Il Gelato di San Crispino, a famous gelato shop near the Pantheon that serves up unique flavours like honey, cocoa and chocolate meringue. So so so good – a must try! The rest of the day was spent wandering around Campo di Fiori, where they have a huge open air market set up with fresh pasta, flowers, olive oil and even clothes. 

At this point our feet were killing us – there was so much walking involved, in part because the metro system was so limited (well at least compared to London). Our final meal in Rome was at Vineria Chianti near the Trevi Fountain – we sat at a table on the patio in the midst of the hustle and bustle, but still secluded by a few plants. It was so relaxing to just enjoy the warm weather with a buttery bottle of Chardonnay. We had a caprese salad (one of my very fave dishes) and a crimini mushroom pizza with cherry tomatoes which was quite delicious as you can see from the photo.

Sunday was a lazy day...we were a bit tired from all the exploring so just took our time shopping around by the Spanish steps and then strolling through the Villa Borghese park. By the end we were ready to come back to London...but I will have you know that I could still eat pasta all day, every day!

Hope you enjoy the photos, and until the next post, ciao!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Ciao Italia!

Tomorrow we’re off on what promises to be a relaxing, sun-filled holiday in Italy! First we’ll stop in Florence for some culture, pizza and pasta and then move on down the coast to Sorrento and Capri to admire the amazing views and bask on the beach. We’ll end up in Rome for the last few days, where we’ll celebrate Jim’s birthday (what a lucky guy!). See you when I return – with a tan and good photos, I hope!

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