International Restaurant Review { The Elephant House }

There is a little child in all of us that likes to come out and play sometimes. That child gets excited and giddy at things that might seem mundane to others. The little girl in me still gets excited about anything even remotely related to Harry Potter. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a wizard or witch and be able to do magic?!

When my friend told me about The Elephant House in Edinburgh, I was so excited. The Elephant House is the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter books! It was quite thrilling sitting there, looking around and wondering what she was thinking while writing these books, not knowing how famous this character she created would become.

Allowing our inner child to enjoy these little moments are so important because it’s what will keep us grounded, and will make us enjoy life a little more.

There isn’t much to say about The Elephant House – a cozy little café with a great assortment of coffee & tea. True to its name, there are elephant decorations everywhere. If you visit but choose not to stay, please take a tour of the bathroom. Yes, the bathroom. The walls and ceilings are FILLED with the funniest comments by HP fans (I included a few pictures below).

What are some of the things that make you giddy like a child? Do you think it’s important to be able to ‘act like a child’ sometimes?

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International Restaurant Review { Zizzi }

I was lucky enough to have been able to travel a lot in 2013, and looking through my pictures, I realized there are still a lot that I haven’t blogged from my trip to the UK last summer.

I really enjoy travel posts on other blogs because I feel like I am able to get glimpses of other parts of the world that I hope to explore one day. What better way to spend a Sunday by escaping for a little bit before the beginning of the week? Let’s go back to Scotland today, shall we?

Zizzi is an amazing Italian restaurant that my friend had recommended before I left for Scotland. I still remember how delicious everything was, from the garlic bread and pizza to the salad dressing! Everything was incredible! We went to the one in Inverness, but we passed by another one in Edinburgh as well. Even though this is a chain, it’s still so delicious and really worth trying if you happen to pass by one!

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{ Zizzi’s in Inverness }

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{ The Menu }

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{ It was fun to see the chefs hard at work! }

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{ AMAZING garlic bread! }

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{ Close-up }

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{ Veggie pizza }

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{ Cheese pizza }

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{ Meat lover’s pizza }

Scotland Day 3 { City of Inverness & Drumossie Hotel }

One of the amazing parts of our trip was that we were able to see a lot of the East coast of Scotland. After a few days spent in Edinburgh, we made a 3-4 hour drive North to the city of Inverness and stayed at the Drumossie Hotel. We drove through beautiful valleys and enjoyed many stops along the way to take in the amazing scenery and the fresh air.

After a long day of driving, it was nice to arrive to a nice hotel where we had a really delicious dinner. This was one of the best meals that I had while in Scotland. I had sea trout filet, with crushed potatoes, buttered samphire*, watercress veloute, tomato and chorizo, topped with a white crab wonton. 

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{ Snapping shots through the window was challenging }

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{ We got to drive through quaint little towns }

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{ Couldn’t get enough of the breathtaking views }

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{ The land is lush with greenery and the air is incredibly fresh }

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{ A sweet treat from my thoughtful ‘sweet’ }

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{ Spacious rooms at the Drumossie Hotel }

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{ Amazing table set-up for dinner at the hotel }

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{ The menu }

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{ A delicious roll with sun-dried tomatoes and olives, warm from the oven! }

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{ The smoked salmon appetizer }

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{ Simple and refreshing salad }

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{ Pâté platter as an appetizer }

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{ Halibut filet, langoustine bisque, scallops, crayfish tails and asparagus }

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{ My dinner and it was divine: sea trout filet, with crushed potatoes, buttered samphire*, watercress veloute, tomato and chorizo, topped with a white crab wonton }

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{ A close-up. Samphire is the green vegetable which didn’t have much of a taste but was crunchy and worked well with the trout }

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{ Steak and fries. The fries (or should I say, ‘chips’) were really good }

Paris, je t’aime { Day 6 : Catacombs }

The last day was leisurely spent wandering around and taking in our last moments in beautiful Paris.

We first went to the Catacombs (I would recommend getting there early. We arrived 45 minutes before opening and there was already a long line-up).

The Catacombs were created in the 1780s when the biggest cemetery in Paris was closed and the remains of the people buried there were moved to this underground location. Until 1860, whenever a cemetery would close, the bones were also moved there where it is estimated that the bones of 6 million people can be found.

This experience was quite unique. After walking through dark, narrow and winding corridors, we arrived at the burial sites where bones and skulls had been stacked on both sides. Visitors walk through a passageway where the remains can be seen closely. At a medium pace, it took us about 30 minutes to go through the whole thing. It was both fascinating and creepy to realize how many people have been buried there, but it was quite unnerving to be that close to the bones. [N.B. there are a few pictures of the bones – view at your own discretion! ]

After we successfully emerged from the other side, we continued to walk around Paris, had a picnic by the Seine river, stumbled upon a fair in the Jardins de Tuileries, and picked up some Ladurée before heading back to the hotel to change for dinner. We went to the Indiana Café close to our hotel and had amazing burgers and fries, followed by gelato at Amorino. A perfect to end an amazing and memorable trip!ImageImageImageImage{ The entrance to the Catacombs after walking for 5-10 in the above hallways. The engraving that you see translates to “Stop! Here is the kingdom of death” }

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage{ How much fun does that look?! This was at the fair in the Tuileries. My sister and I sat there and watched these kids have fun for 30 minutes. They got in a deflated plastic ball, a guy would fill it with air and then push them in the water, and the kids would move around in their respective bubbles in that pool. I want to be a kid again! }

Image{ It wouldn’t be a Parisian fair without Nutella or macaroon filled pancakes! }

ImageImageImageImage{ This guy is amazing at what he does. With a simple pair of scissors and a black piece of the paper, he cuts the outline of your profile. He was doing my sister’s profile and you can see what the final product looks like on the right. It’s amazing! And it only takes about 10 minutes! }ImageImageImageImageImageImage{ Shout-out to someone special! }

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Paris, je t’aime { Sacré-Coeur }

I came back from the UK late last night and I already have so many ideas for blog posts! But before I get to them, I wanted to finish with my trip to Paris because I have still so much to share!

We spent a few hours exploring the Sacré-Coeur church and the surrounding area. The architecture of this church is quite different from others found in Paris, and the neighbourhood is perfect for aimless wandering. There are tons of small boutiques and chocolate shops, so you are sure to find a treat for yourself somewhere in there. I will leave you to explore the pictures because this area of Paris is best to be discovered through images. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Edinburgh Day 3 { Museum, Royal Mile, Hard Rock Café }

Another full and amazing day in Edinburgh! We spent a morning at ‘Our Dynamic Earth’, which offers an interactive tour for both children and adults to explore the evolution and current state of the earth. There was also a really interesting documentary about aliens (narrated by Rupert Grint!) that was projected in a 360° view where you are leaning back on your chair and can look above and in front of you.

After the museum, we walked on the Royal Mile, which is a long strip with boutiques and cafes where you are sure to find something unique to buy. I would really recommend taking an hour or two to at least walk down this street because it is really quaint.

We headed to the Hard Rock Café for dinner, which is a tradition that my boyfriend and I do whenever we visit a new city since he’s in the music industry. It’s fun to see his collection of Hard Rock magnets growing! We started with the jumbo combo, and for my main meal, I always order the same thing, the smokehouse chop salad: mixed greens, smoked chicken, spicy bacon, pecans, roasted red peppers, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo with smoky citrus vinaigrette dressing. It is so filling and absolutely delicious. I’ve had this salad in New York and Lisbon, and will probably have it in London next week too. Yes, it’s that good!

We are currently in Invergordon, which is North East of Scotland, and will be doing some more exploring the next two days, and then back to Edinburgh on Friday! ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

{ Edinburgh Castle – Day 2 }

The history found everywhere in Europe is enchanting. Wherever you walk, it is thrilling to think about the millions of people that have passed by the streets, and the thousands of years that have gone by.

We spent the morning going around Edinburgh castle, which dates back thousands of years (it was built in stages), and I find that it is always so magical to walk on cobblestone, look at old signs engraved in rock, while standing in the shadow of such a prominent building like a castle.

This castle is an important piece of history of Edinburgh so I would definitely recommend spending a few hours there, even just to walk around the grounds without necessarily getting a guided tour. It’s always important to take a step back into history and look at where civilization has come from to appreciate the life we are able to live today.

During the day, we also took a double-decker bus tour of the city, which took about an hour and highlighted the main historical and cultural attractions of the city. I would really recommend anyone travelling to find these ‘hop-on, hop-off’ (we’ve done them in Lisbon and New York) because it’s really worth the money. You can use these buses for 24-hours, and they run quite frequently during the day. It’s an easy and fast way to see the most relevant parts of the city, especially if you are limited in time.

For dinner, we headed to the Grassmarket district, which is the area where grass-eating animals use to be sold and traded. We had dinner at a little Italian spot, and had a delicious pizza topped with mozzarella, mushroom and ham.

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{ The castle was built on volcanic rock } Image

{ There are only two dog cemeteries like this in all of Scotland }

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{ Our gourmet burger for lunch (it was so bland, thank goodness for all that dijon…) } ImageImage

{ The start of Grassmarket }

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{ Beautiful Edinburgh! }

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{ It also happens to be the Fringe festival, where the population of Edinburgh triples in size. Music and theatre performances happen throughout downtown at different venues, and artists find creative ways to attract an audience (see next pictures) }

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{ Afternoon coffee – delicious! }

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{ Dinner at  Ristorante Gennaro – the starter }

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{ Gnocchi }

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{ Goodnight Edinburgh! Thank you for an amazing few days! We will be back! }

Restaurant Review { The Scotsman Edinburgh North bridge }

After an exhausting overnight flight and a quick layover in London, we safely arrived in Scotland and just spent a wonderful first evening in the amazing city of Edinburgh.

We first settled in our hotel, the Apex Waterloo, which is really beautiful, clean and welcoming. A shower and a short nap later, we headed off to explore the area and have dinner. We stumbled on The Scotsman Edinburgh North Bridge, where the menu offered traditional Scottish meals but more ‘gourmet’ than the typical pubs found at every corner (or like my boyfriend said, ‘there’s a corner at a every pub’). What I love about Europe is that you can see the history everywhere you go, and this restaurant was not an exception. The décor and the wood detailing was incredible.

As a starter, we had to taste haggis, which is a mix of different body parts of different animals (I’d rather not know the details so Google it!) Even though it did not seem appetizing, I was brave and had a bite: it was surprisingly not bad! Although it wouldn’t be the first thing I would order at a restaurant, I’m glad I tried it because it’s authentic to Scotland. The texture is very much like ground beef, but has a meatier taste, reminiscent of liver but the taste is not as strong.

As a main, I chose…fish & chips. I know, I know, a bit boring but 1) I was/am tired and did not want to over-think it, and 2) I was really happy with it because the fish did not taste too much like the ocean, while the fries were also delicious. The fish was perfect with the homemade tartar sauce, which has so much more flavor than what I’ve ever had before.

For dessert, I shared a dark chocolate mousse with marshmallow ice cream at the bottom, topped with thin short bread cookies. Although this satisfied my sweet tooth and chocoholic tendencies, I wouldn’t define it as quite a mousse but more of a pudding…very good nonetheless!

I’m already excited about exploring this beautiful country! Another full day tomorrow with many activities and sight-seeing planned so I will try and put up posts frequently!

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{ Haggis served with whiskey jelly & parsnip }

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{ Dark chocolate mousse with short bread crumbs and marshmallow ice cream at the bottom }

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{ Toffee cake with vanilla ice cream and caramel }

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{ Mini-matches!! }

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{ Mini-whiskey! }

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{ Loving my new leather converses, paired with dark wash Gap jeans and a black & white Zara knit }

Paris, je t’aime { Day 4 in Nantes }

While in Paris, my sister and I took a day trip to the city of Nantes, which is a three-hour train ride away. Not only did I get to see this beautiful little city where my sister studied for a year, more importantly, I was in the audience while she defended her Master’s thesis, which I am so proud that she got with flying colors! Even though we are in completely different fields, it’s really nice to have been able to share such an important moment in her career, and I couldn’t be more proud of all her accomplishments, past, present, and future!

While there, we were able to enjoy the city-wide exhibition, ‘Le voyage à Nantes’, where art pieces and exhibits are presented around the city in public venues. There is a colored line that is also painted throughout the streets as a route to follow to see all the art presentations. A really unique concept!

Since we didn’t do a lot of site-seeing, I combined the touristic and outfit pictures into one post this time.

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{ First time riding on a TGV! } ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

{ The lime green line that runs throughout the city } ImageImageImage

Paris, je t’aime { Day 3 }

The third day in Paris was spent with a lot more walking and visiting landmarks such as the Jardins du Luxembourg, le Panthéon, the Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame Basilica, Forum des Halles, and Galleries Lafayette. We also walked down rue Saint-Honoré, which is full of boutiques like Colette where you will find really unique fashion and random trinkets. I loved walking around everywhere because we saw a lot more of the city and discovered so many quaint streets.

My sister and I opted for lighter lunches every day. We would get veggies from a grocery store, various charcuterie and cheese from local shops, and of course baguette and pastries from a boulangerie. We had our daily picnics in different spots. Our picnic location today was outside of the Louvre where we sat for a while, soaking in the sun, the people and our amazing surroundings – a truly memorable moment to just sit and realize the beautiful city we were in, which was made even better because of the person I was sharing it with.

For dinner, we chose a restaurant close to our hotel, Le Plomb du Cantal, where we had an incredible meal. We shared a huge salad, delicious fries, and the pièce de resistance: partially mashed potatoes cooked in a pot with cheese, chopped onions and some garlic…drool. The waiter came to our table with the pot hot from the stove and poured it into our plate – so fun! I love a meal that comes with an ‘experience’. 

Image{ Jardins du Luxembourg } ImageImageImageImageImage{ Le Panthéon } ImageImageImageImageImage{ Notre-Dame Basilica } ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage{ The beautiful Galeries Lafayette } ImageImageImageImageImageImage