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 }

{ On the Quest for the Loch Ness Monster }

From a young age, I’ve been fascinated by anything supernatural, from ghosts, witches or monsters, I think part of me wonders what parts of these stories are true or false. When I was old enough, my older sister and I watched the X-Files together and I LOVED it. It’s really bit sick to be honest – I get SO scared, and yet I love the thrill of it. Weird? Yeah…so? I also have so many good memories of spending my Fridays with my sister, making homemade French fries, eating ice cream and watching the X-Files.

One of the myths that I’ve always been curious about is the Loch Ness monster, so visiting the Loch Ness was one of the most exciting and memorable parts of my trip to the UK. It was crazy to be in the place and on the lake where this internationally renowned story started. It was definitely a day filled with thrill, excitement, and mystery…

We first visited the Loch Ness exhibition where there is a walk through of different rooms with different exhibits and multimedia presentations. There were a lot of historical and scientific backgrounds of the Loch Ness river and the monster that (supposedly) lives in it.

We then went on an hour boat ride, which I was SO excited about because I knew that after all these years, I would finally be able to see the monster for myself. We also had a really sweet and funny guide who was so knowledgeable. He’s one of the rare people that has gone in a submarine down in the Loch Ness (there are less people that have done this then there are people that have climbed the Mount Everest!). An amazing day that I am never going to forget!

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Scotland { Town of Inverness }

I think that Sundays should be spent lazing around, resting, but most importantly, dreaming. Dreaming about the wonders that the world is waiting for us to explore, dreaming about the things we wish to accomplish.

Since I still have so many blog posts from my Scotland trip and my stint in London this summer, I will post ‘travel posts’ on Sundays because I think it’s a good time to spend a few minutes and let your mind wander away from life.

After a night at the Drumossie hotel, we went to the beautiful Kincraig Castle and spent a couple of days even closer to the city of Inverness, a lovely little town in the North East of Scotland.

I really loved Inverness: there are cute little streets to walk around with little boutiques, shops and bakeries, good restaurants to try, many castles in close proximity to visit, and a picturesque waterfront area.

We spent a nice morning strolling through the streets, visiting boutiques and walking on the beautiful cobblestone. We also visited the Victorian Market, which I would really recommend. Even though many of the shops were closed when we were there, I really enjoyed walking through it and seeing the different shops, from touristy stuff to a cute little bakery and candy shop, to jewelry store and an adorable accessories store.

While in Inverness, we also tried a few restaurants that are definitely worth mentioning.

Cinnamon is an Indian restaurant that had a really good mango chicken. I don’t usually like fruity sauces with my meals but I was pleasantly surprised with it. They also had an incredible coconut Naan bread that I couldn’t get enough of.

We also went to a Caribbean restaurant, Kool Runnings, which I would solely recommend based on the chef and owner – a super nice (and hilarious) Jamaican gentleman that had a Jamaican and Scottish accent (good luck imagining that, it was quite unique) The food was great and the place was packed.

My final recommendation for Inverness is Zizzi’s. This is actually a chain restaurant that I also saw in Edinburgh. One of my closest friends had travelled to Scotland a couple of months prior and had highly recommended Zizzi’s (they had gone to the one in Edinburgh). And I am going to say the same: you HAVE to go to Zizzi’s. It was so delicious I can’t even begin to describe the food we ate. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Scotland { Castles of the Highlands }

I still so many pictures to share with you from Scotland, and looking through them makes me wish I could back very soon. It’s such a beautiful country with rich history. Throughout our trip, we were lucky enough to have access to a car and were able to drive around and see many different cities and places. On one of the days, we saw two castles: Uruquhart castle and the oldest Viking castle. We were also able to stay at the Kincraig Castle Hotel, which was really beautiful.

I absolutely love castles and walking through them and imagining how people use to live and what use to go on between those walls. It’s such an interesting moment to just stop and realize how much time has passed in the world and how many people have walked and lived the different paths that you go walk through also.

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{ Never got bored of the pastures & greenery }

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{ There were lots and lots of photo-op stops… }

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{ The room at Kincraig was quaint & clean, and the staff was incredibly friendly }

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{ Amazing view at Uruquhart Castle }

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{ Uruquhart castle }

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{ Uruquhart castle }

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{ View from the inside of Uruquhart castle }

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{ The Viking castle }

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{ Amazing views surrounding the Viking castle }

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{ The view from inside the Viking castle }

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{ Breathtaking view from the Viking castle }

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! }