Just a few photos of a beautiful sunset when I was in Santa Monica a few weeks ago. Thinking of all of those affected by the fires.
I could not be happier that summer has come to an end and fall is finally here! We spent 3 amazing days in the US Capitol of Washington DC. My husband had a conference in Charlottesville so we decided to fly here first. Our whole trip was quite the whirlwind, we ended up spending the night at 3 different hotels in DC! The first two nights we stayed at the Kimpton Mason & Rook. This hotel is a small modern boutique hotel near the 14th street area with great restaurants and shopping. The first day we ate at Commissary for a late lunch and walked around the area. Then we went to Ghibellina for dinner. The next day we walked around the National Mall and stopped at the National Geographic Museum and the Smithsonian American History Museum. For dinner we stayed in the area and yet again went to an Italian restaurant called Lupo Verde.
After our stay at Mason and Rook, we headed over to the Kimpton Monaco. This hotel was incredible and definitely my favorite one of the trip. After we checked out the beautiful hotel we walked over to the CityCenter. This upscale area had a new Umbrellas Sky Installation so of course I had to check this one out. We also did a little( a lot of) shopping at the stores over there and then headed to the National Portrait Gallery. At night my husband wanted to watch the McGreggor/Khabib fight so we went to a bar to spend the night watching it. To our surprise, right before the fight started, right where we were sitting Dave Chapelle walks in with his crew and ends up drinking right next to us! It was quite the night, we didn’t end up talking to him but we did talk to his friends.
After a super fun night we got up the next day to take the train to Charlottesville. I love going through Union Station, they just finished restoring the ceiling. Even if you are not taking the train it is worth a visit. After our train ride we took a car to Lexington (quite the change of pace). Lexington is where my husband had his conference. It is probably the smallest town I have ever been to but it was really very historic and beautiful ( more about that in next post). After that we went back to Charlottesville for a night before heading back to DC. I really did love Charlottesville. The campus is beautiful and the downtown mall promenade is very quaint.
Our last day in DC we stayed at the new Line Hotel located inside of an old church. This is in Adam’s Morgan which is a very cool hipster/hippie area. This was again a very different hotel than the rest, obviously a lot more hipster than the other hotels. We walked around the area and then ate dinner at Iron Gate. All together we stayed at 5 different hotels in one trip, definitely a record for us indeed.
I have a serious thing for photographing umbrellas and before our trip to Miami, I saw that Coral Gables now has an amazing umbrella sky project. This first time I saw an umbrella sky was from photographs of a street in Agueda, Portugal. I honestly wanted to go all the way there just so I could see and photograph this one street. I obviously did not go all the way there but years after I saw more umbrella skies popping up around the world. The first time I got to see an umbrellas sky was actually in Belgrade, Serbia.
We had this trip planned to Miami for a few months and before I go on a trip I research heavily on Pinterest, Instagram, etc. I freaked out when I saw that Coral Gables recently installed an umbrella sky and was so excited to photograph it. The drive from downtown Miami to Coral Gables is about 20 minutes. My husband jokes about how I always drag him to the most random places for photos and something always goes awry, well he is right. We got to the umbrellas and about 5 minutes after a huge storm rolled in with a lot of lightening. We waited under a canopy along with tons of other people who were there to take pictures under the umbrellas. When the rain let up a bit we ran into The Bar for a drink, a great local Coral Gables spot. After we finished our drinks the sun same out. I am actually very happy that I got to photograph the umbrellas in both clouds and sun, so it was really turned out to be a good time!
One of the many special things about the Mandarin Oriental hotel group is the location of their hotels. The properties are always hidden away in an otherwise very busy city. The Mandarin Oriental Miami is located on a private island near downtown called Brickell Key. We stayed here for a few nights and even extended for a night because it was so cozy and relaxed. Our room had a fantastic balcony with a view of Downtown Miami. In typical Mandarin Oriental fashion, the services and amenities were incredible. The infinity pool was beautiful and right next door was a small man made beach. I also spent time at the spa and received the most amazing facial complete with a rose quartz treatment. A short walk from the Mandarin over the bridge and you hit Downtown Miami. We took advantage of this and ate at both Zuma and Boulud Sud. Overall our stay at the Mandarin was as always such an incredible experience.
Two months ago I moved to Dallas with my husband after living in Fort Worth for over 3 years. As a born and raised New Yorker, I actually adapted to moving to Texas quite well. The quality of life here is honestly overall so much better and so is the weather. Fort Worth was such a nice relaxing change from NYC, but after a while it got very mundane because it is such a small city. We always knew we wanted to be in Dallas since coming to Texas. It is the perfect happy medium between New York and Fort Worth. We finally took the plunge this Summer and bought a place in downtown Dallas.
Milan is an avid swimmer and I am, well an avid photographer. We love spending time at the pool and I decided to whip out my camera and get a few snaps of the pool in our new condo. Milan was also nice enough to snap a few photos of me. I am always behind the camera and never in front but it is nice sometimes to have photos of myself (especially because I have been going so hard at the gym!)
After New York, we stopped in Philadelphia for a few days for a quick trip. My husband used to live here and we never went here together as a couple. Philadelphia is so much fun, a great mix between New York and DC. Every time I go on a trip I always look up the best things to do and this time I found out there was a Rodin Museum in Philadelphia! The only other Rodin museum that I have heard of is the one in Paris which my husband and I have both been to together. We of course had to check this out, being both francophiles and lovers of Rodin.
The museum itself is very small but makes up for that with it’s beauty and sculptures. I find that I love going to smaller museums better than very large museums. They can be just so overwhelming. When you go to a smaller museum you can appreciate every piece and for longer. For a little slice of Paris, I highly recommend checking this out in Philadelphia!
Let me start off by saying that I grew up in New York, born and raised on the Upper East Side. I didn't leave New York until college and afterwards I came back to live in Hell's Kitchen on my own for the next 4 years. I left New York to move down to Texas for my then boyfriend, now husband. Before we moved down to Texas we spent a summer living together in New York. I have not been back to NY since to live, only to visit friends a few times a year. My husband and I decided to live in New York for the Summer, something that we have been wanting to do since we left New York in 2014. We finally were able to do it this Summer of 2018.
I was so excited that I think I was just plain blindsided by this city again. It hits you right across the face when you land and leaves a lasting bruise until you leave again. We got a very nice sublet right in my old neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen on the 34th floor of a doorman building. The apartment had great natural light and beautiful views of the city- the complete opposite of my former apartment here. For the first few days I was very happy to be back. I missed the energy of the city, and forgot just how many people were around. I noticed things that I never really saw before, like how everything operates in the city as controlled chaos. I just don't get how so many things go on at one time but they all work in a noisy but perfect harmony. My dog's reaction to the city is pretty much how I felt after a few days- a scatterbrain.
New York is the kind of place where you never want to leave your apartment, but once you do, you want to do anything and everything. Truly the best things about this city are the restaurants and bars. No city in the world has the diversity of cuisine and cocktails as New York. Below are the list of restaurants and bars we were able to check off our list rated from best to worst. Some are restaurants/bars and some I did not include because they were take out/more casual. I wish I had more photos of the food to share, but most of the time we were dining at dimly lit restaurants.
1. Asiate- Located inside of the Mandarin Oriental. One of the best meals I have ever had!
2. Method- We became obsessed with Izakayas this trip. Izakayas are Japanese tapas. I highly recommend the eggplant and Ramen here.
3. Cocotte- One of the best traditional french restaurants in the city! Almost everyone speaks French here. We ate at their only outside table and I felt like we were in Paris.
4. Bar Goto- Another Izakaya, Get the Okinomiyaki, best you will ever try!
5. Batard- Incredible french restaurant in TriBeca. Everything from the food to the service was top notch, plus they have corkage.
6. Temple Court- A beautiful restaurant inside of the Beekman Hotel. It is worth it to go just to check out the historic Beekman. On Sundays they do free corkage, and it makes sense considering we were the only ones in the restaurant. FiDI is dead on the weekends, but because of that we got excellent service and an amazing meal!
7. Marea- This place is on the top of every "Best in NY List" We went here and got their two course lunch. Honestly didn't love it or hate it. It was very solid and tasty but I would not say it is up there with the best Italian I have ever had.
8. Davio's- A fantastic steak house with a million menu options and half price wine on Sundays. Love the popovers to start.
9. Harrow- A gem of a restaurant in Hell's Kitchen. Great food that tastes like home cooking with a relaxing ambiance.
10. Jean Georges at the Mark- Food was great and I love The Mark Hotel. A little stuck up though and terrible Sommelier.
11. Gallo Nero- We had our first dinner date here- classic Italian place but always delicious!
12. Pylos- One of the best greek restaurants in the city, literally everything is delicious and fresh.
13. The Drunken Horse- A wine bar/Italian Tapas. Best Flatbread I ever had!
14. A slew of wine bars in Hell's Kitchen with Italian Tapas: Ardesia, Wine Escape, Medi Wine Bar, Bricola, Bocca di Bacco- All fantastic and some we have been before but wanted to go back to.
15. Stanton Social- Always delicious, loved the arepas. The french onion soup dumpling were good but too heavy for the Summer time and smelled heavily.
16. Azasu- We looked up Best Izakayas in NYC and this was number 1. I enjoyed Bar Goto and Method a lot better but this place was very authentic. The food was very good and I enjoyed the decor and Sumo Wrestling theme.
17. Casa Mono- Great Spanish Tapas, always very unique.
18. Yefsi Estiatorio- Another really great greek placeon the UES.
19. Racines- At the bottom of our list. It got great reviews on yelp, but was not all it was hyped up to be. Limited menu- I mean there were only like 3 or 4 choices. Tasty but not too memorable.
20. Buddakhan- We stopped there for late night drinks and a snack. I actually have never been here and always wanted to try it. I got the Edamame Dumpling, basically tasted like mashed potatoes in a dumpling but so good! Probably would not go back to eat though, too touristy now.
21. Bistro Burger- Great burger when you are drunk/ the only burger I have eaten in a few years.
1. Fig 19- The coolest speakeasy I have been to, it is actually hidden unlike some of the popular ones. I will not tell where though!
2. Garfunkel's- A bar within a bar inside of a vaulted door. This quiet LES speakeasy is a great date place plus live music on Tuesdays!
3. Aviary at the Mandarin Oriental/ The Office- Some of the most creative cocktails I have ever had, with of course an amazing view and our server looked exactly like Ryan Gosling. After we had drinks at Aviary we went to their own bar within a bar speakeasy called The Office. Amazing drinks, although we spent a fortune all together.
4. Amor y Amargo- Great places if you love Bitters!
5. Raines Law Room- A nice speakeasy in Flatiron with beautiful decor and strong drinks.
6. Death and Co.- Been here many times but always solid and a place I like to go back to.
7. Sugar Momma- Honestly best hummus I have ever had and awesome drinks! Weird fact, we went here right after we landed in NY. I was watching Red Sparrow on the plane, and they were actually playing the movie when we walked in!!
8. Blue Ribbon Bar- Great little spot in the village. Loved the white asparagus.
9. Mark Bar- A beautiful bar on the Upper East side where you may or may not see a celebrity. We did not this time, but who knows maybe we did?
10. Blue Bar- Algonquin- A classic bar in NY. Everything is blue of course and they have pictures done by Al Hirschfeld on the walls. I suggest getting the Dorothy Parker.
11. Bowery Bar- A classic bar that is a must do in NY. We went here on the late night. It was very busy and were already way too far gone to enjoy it, oops!
12. The Royalton Rooftop- Nice rooftop with a great view of the Empire State Building. Drinks were okay, it is more for the view.
13. Lela Bar- Great wine, a little overpriced.
14. Randolph Bar- Had some refreshing drinks after a hot walk. Yummy empanadas.
15. M1-5 Lounge- not great drinks but good music and they have an awesome bottle chandelier.
16. Attaboy- Ugh so disappointing. We went to Lela bar to wait to get into Attaboy for about 45 minutes, which was fine. The worst part was I told the bartender I do not like sweet drinks at all. My first drink was fine but then he made the worst Negroni I ever had. How do you screw up a Negroni? Then he made me another one, it was again terrible and too sweet I could not drink it. I told him it is okay you do not need to make another one, and he says snarkly " Well I wasn't going to". We got up and left with a full drink on the bar.
In terms of other activities:
- A stroll through my favorite areas of Central Park twice. Starting at 79th street and walking down to Bethesda terrace to the Bow Bridge, then back again through the Mall and then ending at 59th street near the Gapstow Bridge.
- A visit to the Met and the Met Breuer. I got to see the Heavenly Bodies exhibit before it closed, plus an amazing human sculpture exhibit at the Met Breuer (The old Whitney space).
- A visit to the MOMA, two fantastic exhibitions by Bodys Isek Kingelez and Adrian Piper.
- Strolling around Brooklyn Bridge Park. It is SO different than the last time I was here. Everything is incredibly manicured and bougie now. New condos, storefronts, and restaurants are up.
- Walking the Manhattan Bridge for the first time. This was so great and not touristy at all. You get amazing views that most people do not every see!
- Went to La Duree on the Upper East side after the museums. I sat down for table service and ordered the biggest pastry on the menu and had some tea. For $15 it was well worth the time off my feet indulging.
- Strolling through the High Line, West Village, and East Village. I suggest touring the High Line on a weekday after it just rained. There are hardly any tourists and it is peaceful and beautiful.
This July, Milan and I celebrated our 5th anniversary of meeting in Vegas. We met July 4th weekend in 2013 at Wet Republic in the MGM. Since then Vegas has been out home. We met there, got engaged there, and got married there. We go at least once or twice a month and stay for a few days to a week at a time. We owned a place at the Palms Place and now own at the Mandarin Oriental which we are now renting out. It is the one place in the world that no matter how often we go we always have an amazing time and a unique experience. No trip is similar to the last.
To celebrate our anniversary, we decided to first check out the new Palms Renovations. We had our wedding reception at the former Alize space. I am obsessed with the new remodel. The Palms now has a very up to date Millennial feel mixed with an art gallery. My favorite part is the Unknown bar designed by artist Damien Hirst with a large shark installation. The photos I took really cannot do it justice. We ate dinner at the new Scotch 80 restaurant, inside the old Nine steakhouse space. Barry is still the executive chef there, and has revamped the menu with some of the old favorites. On the walls there are millions of dollars worth of art. I was also told by my hairdresser to check out the middle bathroom stall in the ladies restroom. The middle stall is completely decorated like a cake, not my thing but definitely worth a look. It was a very busy night because of the reopen and we waited about 45 minutes for our dinner. At the end, our waiter actually comped our entire meal because it was so late, what a treat!
After the Palms we decided to stay in a suite at the Bellagio where we got engaged. I love the suites/penthouses in the Bellagio, probably my favorite rooms in Vegas. Our suite had a beautiful view of the fountains, a steam shower, and hot tub. We love having the steam shower because it is just so dry in Vegas! At the Bellagio we got some happy hour drinks at Spago. We were having a great time until I bit into their chip and there was huge piece of plastic in it...ew. We again got our drinks/food comped. I was honestly very surprised by this at a place like Spago, but now we refer to it as the Chipcident. We will give Spago another shot in the future. Moving on after we ate dinner at one of our favorites Jean Georges Steakhouse which is always amazing.
Our last day there I got a call that my grandmother had passed away. I knew it was coming as she went hospice a few days before that due to her Alzheimers. We honored her by having a few drinks, and honestly I cried before coming back home to My Hear Will Go On while staring at the fountains. Even though it was a sad day, I wanted to remember the great times I had with my grandmother.
P.S. I have still been using my amazing FujiFIlm mirrorless camera and I love it! I am so sick of seeing the same old DSLR looking photos, I can now really see a difference between my FujiFilm an Canon photos. The Canon photos are obviously very sharp, clear, and hyper realistic. I find that there is just no creativity in those kinds of shots anymore. I am very happy to mostly be using a Fuji to creating my own style.
Milan and I were recently invited to a wedding on Lake Travis with unreal scenery. His two students from law school asked him to officiate the wedding. I had been to Austin many times but never to Lake Travis which is about 35 minutes from downtown. I really did not know what to expect but I am so glad I at least brought my Fujifilm Camera with me! Not only did it take great shots, it was not intrusive at all. The family's estate was just jaw dropping. I felt like I was on the coast of Italy.
My husband and I got to spend two wonderful days in San Antonio this past week. He is a law professor at Texas A&M and has a wonderful travel budget. We were in San Antonio this time for him to teach a class at the A&M sector. I had never been to San Antonio yet so I was very excited to check it out. We stayed at The Westin Riverwalk. The hotel, like many others in San Antonio was right on the RiverWalk. You just have to walk downstairs and you are there! I adored the Riverwalk so much. It can be a little touristy with some chain restaurants and tour boats, but it is still such a beautiful part of the city.
The first day we were there we explored the River Walk. Right by our hotel on the river was a small little shopping village called La Villita. The best thing about it is that there are so many exits and entrances. You can go down or up at any time you wish, from downtown and back to the river. It is easy to see all the big sites in San Antonio in just a few hours. Along the riverwalk we exited to check out The Alamo. It is a lot smaller than it looks in photos but still very impressive. For dinner the first night we went to Bohanan's Steak House. This was probably one of the best steakhouses I have ever been to. The steak and sides were perfect. I also highly recommend the chicken tortillas soup. The service was incredible too.
The next day we got a quick breakfast and I ventured off to the San Antonio Central Library. I know it sounds weird to visit a library on a trip, but this was one the coolest libraries I had ever been to! I have been working on a kind of Pop Art Minimalist Photography for a while and this was the perfect spot to practice. You will see in my next post.
For lunch we went to Ocho which is on top of the River Walk. This was a beautiful open air cafe with Cuban/Mexican tapas. The food an ambiance was good but the service was not great. There was one person working there and she had an attitude and as soon as I snapped a photo she told me I could not take photos with my DSLR only my Iphone. OH WELL I got the photo anyway! I am going to go on a rant about this... This makes me angry because honestly, why? What is the difference these days? People make a ton of money off of Iphone Instagram images, and I am literally just taking photos for my blog without monetizing it. I just prefer using a DSLR because of the quality. I respect people's wishes and their privacy but I just don't get it. I would understand if they said no photos in general, that makes sense. Maybe the owner had one too many bloggers taking photos with DSLR's, I have no idea! OKAY DONE!
Later evening after my husband's class was over, we met up for drinks at Haunt in the St. Anthony's hotel. After that we checked out Esquire which has the longest bar top in Texas! It was late so we just ate there but it was very good bar food. After that we ended the night at Last Word, a nice cocktail bar.
Here we are in beautiful Sonoma again. We have now spent three amazing trips here since it was part of our honeymoon last year. After spending a night in San Francisco, we took an UBER back to this gorgeous paradise for just two days. Believe me just two to three days is enough when you are drinking wine all day and night. The first day we ate some lunch at the pool, and I got to have some of my favorite fish tacos ever! After lunch we headed up to Repris Winery. We became wine club members here last time and did another tour.
Repris is probably my favorite winery in Sonoma because of the wines and the privacy. This is NOT a touristy spot at all. Our wonderful tour guide led us up to the vineyard in an ATV and then we tasted wine overlooking the beautiful hills. Unfortunately a lot of the land around it was burned from the wildfires but Repris was barely touched! We headed back down the hilltop to once again explore the most amazing wine cave. We ended the tour with a private tasting of the wines accompanied by charcuterie. After our wine tasting we ate a light dinner at Tasca Tasca which has delicious tapas and you can bring your own wine with no corkage fee. We wanted to eat light because the next day we had an Easter brunch booked at Sante in the Fairmont.
On Easter Sunday we started the day at the incredible Fairmont Spa. All of the water in the spa part of the Boyes Hot Springs- natural and healing hot springs that appear just in that area. Included in the spa is an outdoor heated pool and a quiet pool where you float on noodles and dip your head into the water to hear music. The inside of the spa includes a hot tub, warm tub sauna, steam room, and sprinklers/ ice bucket. After relaxing at the spa we enjoyed our buffet brunch at the Fairmont's restaurant Sante. We ordered some champagne and enjoyed a ton of food including unlimited caviar, seafood, cheese, breakfast, and dessert. By the time we were done with brunch and the spa we went back to the room and passed out.
From Paris of the East to Paris of the West. I just learned via a crossword puzzle that San Francisco is referred to "Paris of The West" and it is easy to see why. I have been to San Francisco many times now but it is always different each visit. This trip we stayed at the classic Palace Hotel. This hotel very much reminded me of being back in Paris from the architecture to the Garden Court to the Parisian balcony we had in our room. Outside of the hotel I noticed some 1950's style trolleys. I usually notice the older ones but this was my first time seeing those. San Francisco can bring you back in time at every corner. Sometimes I feel like I am in a Hitchcock movie, or sometimes I feel like I am in Paris in the 20's.
In a stark contrast to the beauty of San Francisco, there is a huge wealth disparity. It pains me to see so many homeless people and it is really apparent here compared to many other cities. I recently watched a documentary called San Francisco 2.0 and this film shared the growing gentrification of the city. This documentary was made in 2015 and you can see an even bigger contrast now in 2018. There is no middle class here anymore, just rich Silicon Valley kids and people who were forced out of their homes due to high cost of living.
Before my trip to Europe I was looking into getting a different kind of camera. I was SO sick of lugging around my bulky DSLR that makes everyone look like a tourist. I also feel that DSLRs can be very intrusive especially when photographing in a quite place, shop, or restaurant. I googled mirrorless camera and the best reviews and results came from the Fujifilm x100 series. I decided to buy a used one in great condition, an older model the x100s for $489 at Adorama. The new version is the x100f which retails for about $1300.
I was a little reluctant to just rely on this camera at first, so I still brought my DSLR with a 24-70 lens with me on my trip. I also didn't get the camera shipped to me until about 2 hours before my trip so I did not have a lot of time to mess with it. I was quick to learn the new settings on the plane ride and eventually got used to the dials. They are pretty easy to use.
In Paris and Belgrade I used a mix of both of my cameras. When I knew I would probably be photographing something I needed to get closer or wider, I took my DSLR. When I took it out though I really hated using it. My shoulder started hurting yet again. I still had my Fujifilm on me at all times because it easily fit into my purse. I was even able to take photos at night with it, and I do not like to take my DSLR out at night.
A few notes about the Fujifilm x100 series:
- Love the vintage look of this camera, yet it is still digital.
- Super light weight! Fits in a small to medium purse.
- Fast focusing and shutter.
- The aperture knob was fun to use but sometimes it got stuck, I think just because it was older and used.
- It has one fixed focal point of 23mm. I think it is great for travel photos, the perfect distance!
- The photos are very sharp, and the aperture goes down to 2.0 which creates a nice blur!
- Indoor shots are not as great as my DSLR's. The ISO obviously has to be raised so the image of course looks grainy.
When I got home, after loading and editing my photos I realized I could not tell the difference between a lot the photos I took with my DSLR and my Fujifilm. The only ones I could tell a slight the difference was that sometimes the coloring was more bluish/green on the Fuji. That is easily fixed in Lightroom.
After using a DSLR for years I think I have almost converted to a mirrorless camera person! I am still going to use my Canon for professional work such as events, portraits, etc. For travel photography though it really does the job. The most important thing to know about photography is that it is not what kind of camera you use, it is the person behind the camera that creates the photo.
After Paris, my husband and I took a short flight to his native country Serbia. I adore Serbia and this is now my third time in the capital city of Belgrade! I love it here for many reasons. One of them is that it is unspoiled by tourists and instagrammers (although probably not for long). Yes, Belgrade can be dreary and less attractive to the eye because of the brutalist architecture. Aside from that it has some of the most beautiful architecture along with the famous Saint Sava Cathedral and Kalamegdan Fortress. Belgrade also has an amazing coffee/cafe culture. Similarly to Paris, everyone sits outside and enjoys a coffee with friends. Another reason to love Belgrade is it is SO cheap! You can have dinner for two at the best restaurant in town for the equivalent of $50-60. The only downside I find is that people smoke everywhere! It is hard to find a bar or restaurant that is non smoking.
We stayed this time at the Square Nine hotel which is the top hotel in Belgrade. During our time we visited with Milan's Baba (grandmother) and his aunt and uncle. She is almost 93 years old but looks fantastic! I think it is a mix of good genes and fresh food.
Places to Eat and Drink:
Ambar: It is right on the Danube River along with a lot of other great restaurants. There is actually also an Ambar in Washington D.C. which we went to about a month ago! Great small plates and best cheese pie ever.
Franš: This place is an institution in Belgrade! It has a gorgeous outdoor seating area and the inside is just as nice. It reminds me a little of Tavern on The Green in New York but with better food.
Rakia Bar: This is THE place for Rakia in Belgrade! Rakia is a fruit brandy that is strong but delicious and low in calories. My favorite is apricot and raspberry but the quince is also nice.
ŠEŠIR MOJ: Meaning "My Hat" is located in the bohemian area of Skadarlija. Skadarlija is the Montmarte of Belgrade. This restaurant serves classic Serbian food and has a group of musicians come over to serenade you.
Little Bay: A wonderful little Serbian restaurant with a beautiful interior that resembles an Opera House.
?: Yes, Question Mark Restaurant. This is the oldest restaurant in Belgrade! If you want a really authentic Serbian experience, this is the place! Just be mindful of the smoking.
Klub književnika: AKA The Writer's Club is a beautiful and upscale restaurant. We ate a huge plate of meat here!
Sasa Bar: We found this place our last night and their ricotta gnocchi with beet sauce might have been my favorite dish of the trip!
Mali Kalamegdan: We drank some mulled wine here after a walk in the fortress. A beautiful place to sit outside in the park! When we were sitting here we started to see lanterns floating above our heads! No idea where they were coming from but it was magical.
One of the top items on my travel to do list is to photograph Paris in the Spring, notably the blossoms. Every time the seasons are changing it is always a mad dash to get the perfect photo of the season in bloom. Blossoms do not last long at all, maybe a week or two. I am so happy I got to check this box off my list by getting lucky and having some blossoms pop up in Paris on a cloudless day. It was a little early for them being that it was end of March, but there was so much rain in Paris the past few months. These beauties are all over the Champs de Mars. I saw a beautiful Magnolia tree about to blossoms, unfortunately it was a little too early. I still was able to get some amazing photos of these so I am very grateful!
For our one year wedding anniversary/my husband's birthday, we decided to take a trip to Paris and Belgrade. We have not been back to Paris since 2015 and were so excited to finally be back again. Paris is one of my favorite cities and the place I have been to the most outside of the USA. SInce I have been here a lot I decided to try and do Paris like a local. It is actually amazing what you can accomplish in just two days in a city (if you try).
For the first two and a half days we stayed in the Rive Droite this time at the W Hotel near the Opera. The hotel is just around the corner from a ton of shopping too. On the 8th floor of Printemps there is a beautiful and free view of the city with a great food marketplace. We also decided to try some of the smaller museums that are a lot less touristy like Musée Gustav Moreau and Musée Jacquemart-André. The museums are always wonderful in Paris, but strolling through the city is the best thing to do! As we were walking we stumbled upon an amazing Cathedral called Eglise de la Trinité and had the entire place to ourseleves!
After Belgrade we went back to Paris for just one day in order to catch our direct flight back to DFW. We stayed at the quaint Le Dokhan near Trocadero. The location was very different. It was in a local neighborhood even though it was so close to the Eiffel Tower. I liked this hotel and location a lot better than the W. The room was small but it felt like I was living inside a French novella in the 1600's. Another fun part was the Louis Vuitton elevator! It felt like you were being transported in a large Vuitton luggage.
Now on to the food and drinks:
Coquette- Inside of the W hotel. We ate there for lunch while waiting for our room. It was very solid but not amazing. I had the Coquilles Saint Jaques and Milan had the truffle flatbread. We also had the breakfast buffet here in the morning which was again good, but not great.
Comptoir de la Gastronomie- We sat outside here for lunch on the most beautiful afternoon. This is THE place to order anything with duck. I ate the fois gras ravioli and Milan had the duck. The ravioli was probably the richest thing I ever ate in my life, but wow!
Les Afranchis- We stumbled on this Michelin Star restaurant near Pigalle. It was superb french cooking! I had the fois gras, chicken, and for desert an incredible dish with wasabi. I never had anything like that! I also ate most of Milan's mashed potatoes. Oh my, they were amazing! I have a thing for french mashed potatoes. I especially love them at Joel Robuchon and these were just as good!
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon- Of course we had to go here to celebrate Milan's birthday! This is one of our favorite restaurants in both Las Vegas and Paris. The food at the Paris location is very different than the one in Vegas so it is worth checking out both. We ordered the eggplant, spaghetti, shrimp ravioli, chicken ravioli soup, le burger, and a side of the best mashed potatoes in the universe! When I describe the food in English it doesn't sound at all that interested or special, but just imagine the most amazing kind of dishes you ever had.
Le Dokhan's Bar- On our last day we spent a few hours at this amazing Champagne bar in our hotel. They have a Champagne Sommelier who brings you 3 different glasses to pick for your Champagne. I got the coup glass each time. They also have these amazing cheese puffs.
Restaurant Victor- On our last night we wanted to stay close to our hotel for dinner. We had reservations at another place but our hotel messed up the time. While looking for another restaurant stumbled upon this place and it had good reviews. After waiting about 45 minutes for a table on a Wednesday we got seated. The food was very good, but VERY traditional french. I had scallops with some kind of mashed side dish. I had the hardest time figuring out what it was because it was not potatoes. I found our it was actually mashed Jerusalem artichokes, how weird! They were very good but so different. Milan ordered veal but didn't realize they were veal hearts. They were not for him. This was probably my least favorite of the bunch but still good, and unique!
A few takeaways/realizations about Paris:
- I guess I forgot how busy a city can be! Paris has a ton of relaxing corners but it is still such a bustling city that it can be overwhelming. It reminds me so much of New York.
- When you speak French or at least try to, people are REALLY nice! The French in general are mostly nice polite people. They say Bonjour, Merci, etc. to everyone in a restaurant or shop. I feel that in the US people a lot of the time do not say hello, please or thank you.
- Even though you try to speak French ( My husband's French is amazing) They still know you are American. We got ripped off by a cab driver one night. It was our fault though we hailed a cab on the street which you should not ever do, but it started raining.
- Paris seems even more touristy than it used to. I know it has only been 3 years but even in low season it seemed to be bursting at the seams with tourists (Probably because of Instagram/Social Media) A lot of the lesser known spots a few years ago were now packed. I wanted to take Milan to the Opera and in the morning there was a huge line out the door! I remember walking right in three years ago and it was empty.
- I love Paris, but it will probably be a while before we return. We went very hard!
This past holiday I spent two amazing days in San Diego before celebrating New Years Eve in Vegas. We wanted to go somewhere warm and decided on San Diego because we had never been before. My husband and I stayed at the Kimpton Palomar in downtown with a beautiful terrace overlooking the city. One of my goals was to find the best fish tacos in the city. I am very picky when it comes to fish tacos but San Diego is probably the best place in the world to find them! We tried two different places, and while the tacos were good they were not amazing even though they had good reviews. The last place we tried was called Serrano's Street Tacos and bar- we hit the fish taco jackpot! I actually ate 5 tacos they were that good! The tacos themselves were perfect but also came with three delicious sauces.
In between our taco hunt, we explored La Jolla Cove and the sea lions that love to sleep on the rocks. We also of course went to the San Diego Zoo. The zoo was great but very crowded and expensive for a ticket. I am glad we went though. It was really a fantastic zoo that felt more like a safari than a typical zoo. There is so much to do in San Diego, I wish we had more time here but it was such an incredible experience.
Every year my husband and I love to go on at least one big Eurotrip, so the whole year we save up a ton of points to fly first class. We flew amazing British Airways First Class round trip to and from Europe. Just flying there is half the fun and you get the sleep that you need. I also hate flying and being in first class at least distracts me and puts my mind at ease. Located right in the nose, you don't even feel like you are on a plane. Leisurely you board the plane and the cheery British flight attendants welcome you. They immediately serve you a drink of choice as you settle in to your seat. Waiting there are noise cancelling headphones, magazines to choose from and my favorite, an essentials kit from Liberty London. The pretty pouch is filled with everything you need for the flight- eye mask, lotion, toothpaste, cleanser, pen, deodorant, cotton pads, comb, etc. By the time you get settled you are already in the air.
After take off, dinner is served. There is a full menu to choose from including amuse bouche, appetizer, main course, and dessert. Included is all the top shelf alcohol you can drink. Lately I have gotten motion sickness from drinking on flights so I just sipped on a glass of champagne while enjoying dinner. My favorite was the delicious pasta which was honestly just as good as pasta we had in Italy When you are ready to go to sleep they come over and "make your bed" for you. I didn't even watch a movie, by the time I woke up we were an hour out of London.I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on our connecting flight to Rome and enjoy the day. First class is truly an amazing experience and I am grateful to experience it.
Here we are at the end of our trip in last but certainty not least, Venice. This place is truly a dream, it feels like it just isn't a real place. Venice can get a bad wrap for being too touristy but again, not in November. I am still dreaming about being here and lusting over these photos. To begin our trip we took the Trenitalia from Milan to Venice in the business class. The train was empty and relaxing. As we got in we got to see the city on the water from the train windows. We left the train station and were immediately wowed! The hotel website said to take a boat from the train station but we decided to just walk as it was only 20 minutes and the most beautiful day. We got to see the real Venice, where people actually live and work on the way to our hotel across the Rialto Bridge.
We got to the Hotel Ai Reali and quickly freshened up before getting some lunch. We stopped at Cantina Do Mori, Venice's oldest bar founded in 1462. Similar to Rome where they have Apertivo, Venice has Cicchetti which is tapas and they serve it all day. Most bars you find will have tons of fresh delicious food to choose from including meats, cheeses, arancini, crostini, fish, etc. Our absolute favorite part of Venice besides seeing the sites, was enjoying wine and cicchetti. After that we went to a wine bar and did a tasting with a yummy pizza. A little tipsy, we stumbled upon the Peggy Guggenheim Collection which was such a treat! We finished the day at the beautiful restaurant Bistrot de Venise which has a Michelin star and 60 wines by the glass.
The next day as usual I woke up at 7am for sunrise and walked around St. Mark's square. I highly recommend doing this, you get to see the sunrise on the water over the gondolas. After we ate some complimentary hotel breakfast buffet and continued our day. We walked back to St. Mark's and kept going until we got lost in a few beautiful local neighborhoods. The best part of Venice is getting lost! Don't spend your whole trip figuring out where to go on your phone. We were pretty beat from the walk so I quickly went to our hotel spa which was very much needed! We continued to walk around for the rest of the day and enjoyed some mulled wine off the street vendors. After we got a gondola right from our hotel which was nice but underwhelming and so expensive! I am glad we did it though just once. Our last night we enjoyed more ciccheti and ate dinner at Cantina Do Spade where I had the most amazing ravioli and meatballs.
The next day we had to say goodbye to Venice, and did so in style with a private water taxi to the airport. Normally we would not have gotten a private taxi because it was very expensive but we had to leave at 5am. This was so much fun though having it all to ourselves and docking right at the airport! Till next time Venice... we will surely be back.
P.S. Thank you so much to my amazing husband for putting up with my photography OCD and taking pictures of me even though he hates it!