Postcards from Amorgos Greece

Postcards from Amorgos, Greece

Last month I had the opportunity to visit Amorgos island for work, but you know how the drill goes: spend half the day working and the rest sightseeing. Thankfully we had planned the trip after the daylight saving time date, so we had long afternoons to spend around the island.

The lowdown on Amorgos

Amorgos belongs to the Cyclades archipelago and is the easternmost island of the group, located almost in the middle of the Aegean Sea. It’s primarily a mountainous island, with raw beauty and whitewashed villages.  The island has two natural ports: Aegiali and Katapola.That’s where most of the accommodation can be found and of course restaurants, cafes and bars. Since I’ve visited off season, Amorgos was pretty quiet, but beautiful nonetheless!

Chora Amorgos, Greece

The island’s “capital” called Chora in built up on the mountain, for fear of the pirates. It is very picturesque, with whitewashed houses and shops, narrow streets and Instagram worthy nooks. Again it was very quiet as it was off season, but it will be bustling with people come July and August and you might even get stuck in “traffic”!

Now, Amorgos is famous for two things: the Chozoviotissa monastery and the place were the movie The Big Blue (Le Grand Bleu) by Luc Besson was filmed. Let’s start with the monastery: it is built literally in the rocks on the southern part of the island and houses an icon of Virgin Mary and Jesus which dates back to 7th century AD and was brought to Amorgos from Israel. The monastery’s location is breathtaking (as are the steps you need to climb to get there) and the view is amazing! Just see how blue the sea is (honestly I didn’t even pump up the saturation). A little further to the south is the place where The Big Blue was filmed, where also the sea color is amazing!

An FYI though: if you’re after sandy, long beaches then Amorgos isn’t probably the island for you. But if you love raw, unspoiled landscapes, picturesque villages and crystal clear water, then you have to visit!

How and when to visit Amorgos

Aegiali, Amorgos, Greece blue sign in Amorgos, Greece

Unfortunately the island doesn’t have an airport, so you’ll get there by ferry either from Piraeus or from Naxos (which is the closest island with an airport). High season in Amorgos is July and August and as always I suggest that you visit either before or after high season. June and September (especially the latter since the sea is warmer) are the best months to visit any Greek island!

You can combine your visit to Amorgos with visiting Naxos or the Small Cyclades as well. The latter is a group of 6 small islands (and even more islets and rocks but lets not count these): Ano Koufonisi, Kato Koufonisi, Donousa, Schinousa, Iraklia and Keros. They are very low key and untouched by mass tourism. Ano Koufonisi has beautiful beaches and I’m sure you’ve spotted one of them on Pinterest!

If you’re planning a trip to the Greek islands then check out my tips on choosing the ideal one for you as well as the essential guide to get around the islands!

on Blue Star ferry leaving Amorgos Greece

Packing my Suitcase

Cookie Land, Athens

Cookie Land patisserie cafe, Athens

I discovered Cookie Land some years ago, when a colleague brought cookies from this patisserie for his birthday. I recently realized that they also have a store/cafe in downtown Athens really close to my office, so a “dessert date” with my friends was in order.

Cookie Land has displays with the desserts and ice cream flavors so you can see what’s available. We were treated with a delicious butter cookie and then sat down to plot our order. One of my friends and I went for the rich chocolate cake (called sokolatopita, which literally translates to chocolate pie) topped with ice cream and my other friend went for the orange cake topped with ice cream.

desserts in Cookie Land, Athen

The hazelnut ice cream was delicious and the chocolate cake is made from bitter chocolate and its sweetness is very subtle! The butter cookie that we was treated was also very tasty and I’m still dreaming about it!

cookies in Cookie Land, Athens

Cookie Land is located in 3, Kapnikareas street, just off Ermou street, making it ideal for a pit stop while shopping or exploring Athens’ city center! More delicious creations from Cookie Land can be found on their Facebook page.

Cookie Land, Athens

The Essential Guide to New York City: Shopping, Dining &Exploring

The essential guide to New York City: Dining, Shopping and exploring

Welcome to the second installment of my essential New York City Guide. In this part I’m going over suggestions on where to eat (all tried and tested), shop and hang out in the city! So let’s hit it off!

Dining in New York City

Restaurant Row at W46th street

This street was an “insider” tip from a tour guide on a double-decker bus, which I cherish very much, since it’s a place full of noteworthy (and somewhat) budget friendly restaurants near Times Square. There are many restaurants you can try from, and the last few times I visited NYC I dined at Bourbon Street.

P.J. Clarke’s at E55th str&3rd Avenue

A classic and dare say cute restaurant in Midtown East, which operates since 1880. I totally love its burgers. Keep in mind that it doesn’t take reservations and you might wait for some time to be seated, depending on how busy it is when you show up.

Il Buco, 47 Bond street, NoHo

I thank the Internet (and blogs) for this little gem! Il Buco is one of the finest Italian restaurants you’ll ever visit outside Italy! It’s also very atmospheric and cozy. It is advisable to have a reservation, but I’ve walked in twice (during busy times) and both times they were able to accommodate me! So kudos to Il Buco!

Related: 3 restaurants in New York City worth visiting

Gansevoort Market

It’s located in the Meatpacking District and hosts various types of restaurants from pizza to sushi and macarons to cupcakes! You can even find real Greek yoghurt here (no I didn’t try as I don’t like any kind of yoghurt)! I’ve visited twice and both times ended up having a pizza slice from Luzzo’s, since I’m a pizza fan!

At the time of writing the Gansevoort Market is closed, as it is going to be relocated from Ganseevoort street to a new location. I’m keeping it on my list though because it’s a pretty little market and will add the new address as soon as it becomes known. Alternatively you can check out the Chelsea Market a few blocks north.

Buddakan, 75 9th Avenue, Chelsea Market

Another restaurant with Sex and the City connections (though I did not know that when I visited in 2010), as it was featured in the first SATC movie as the place where Carrie and Big’s rehearsal dinner takes place! It’s a fusion Asian restaurant and it’s only open for dinner (suitably enough as it is quite dark inside).

Café Lalo, W83rd&Amsterdam Avenue Upper West Side

Now this café was featured in the movie “You’ve got Mail”, but that’s not the reason I keep coming back here! It’s the food and more specifically the deserts!! I have to point out as well, that it’s a café with true Parisian flair in the middle of Manhattan!

Pershing Square, 90 E42nd str

I’ve passed in front this restaurant numerous times before I decided to get in for dinner and wasn’t disappointed! It’s conveniently located on 42nd street opposite Grand Central Station.

Noteworthy restaurants that I’ve found around the web, but haven’t visited myself:

Jack’s Wife Freda in Nolita (224 Lafayette str near Spring Str. Station) and Maison Keyser, JG Mellon, Mezzaluna (around E75th&3rd Av) and Farinella (1132 Lexington Av) in Upper East Side in case you want to pop for lunch or dinner after visiting the Museums!

Shopping in New York City

When I first visited NYC I did a lot of research because I wanted to make sure that I would visit all the cool shops that I’ve heard or read about (I missed a couple though, but what the hell). I’ve split up my shopping suggestions on to “neighborhoods” to make it easier to navigate and I made a big fat map with all my tips!

5th Avenue

In this street you’ll find everything from Louis Vuitton to Zara, so it really has something for everyone! Back in 2010 I visited Abercrombie & Fitch for the ambience (and snagged a hoodie and a pair of sweatpants) and Juicy Couture, which is now closed! Aldo  for shoes and accessories and Barnes & Noble for my book fix are two stores I visit all the time. The best (and inexpensive) thing to do on 5th Avenue is probably window shopping!

Other stores to pop in are Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman (love their window displays, which are a dream come Christmas time) and of course Apple Store near Central Park.

Bleeker Street, West Village

My favorite (window) shopping street in NYC for sure! There are so many stores I love in this street and I wish I had money to spend on all of them: Nars, Marc by Marc Jacobs (where I may or may not spent 160€ for 2 bangles), Coach and many many more! You can start your day with a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery and then walk along Bleecker street until it hits the Avenue of the Americas (6th) and then move south towards SoHo.

SoHo

SoHo for me is 5th avenue’s little hip sibling, as here you’ll find almost all the stores located in 5th and Madison Avenue and some more! For me it’s also an architecturally pleasing area with its iron cast buildings and cobblestone streets!

Favorite streets to roam around are West Broadway, Spring Street, Wooster Street, Greene Street and many more! If you walk further to the east you’re going to reach Broadway which is full with interesting stores as well! These include: Bath and Body Works at 693 Broadway for deliciously scented body lotions and candles. A|X (Armani Exchange at 568 Broadway. Armani Exchange is exclusive to the US and has nice and stylish casual clothes and very helpful staff. My grey coat is from A|X! Next stop is Bloomingdale’s, which has a very youthful vibe and  you can find brands like Free People and Elizabeth and James. Across the street there is a Guess store, which I particularly visited for their handbags! For skate lovers, there is the Volcom Store at 446 Broadway. And for the avant guard fashionistas, further down at Howard Street there is the Opening Ceremony store.

Macy’s

Unlike my other suggestions, which involve streets or areas, this is actually one (department) store. I’m a big fan of Macy’s and shopped a lot from there while I was in Boston, as they do have really good prices and almost any given time there is something on sale/clearance.

Madison Avenue

Madison Avenue is a renowned shopping street in the Upper East Side, one of New York’s poshest neighborhoods. Here you will come across the likes of Tom Ford, Gucci, Dolce&Gabbana and more. It is nice for window shopping (unless you can afford these brands of course) and get a glimpse of Upper East Side life.

Cool Neighborhoods to explore

I’m one of those people who believe that you should explore a city on foot and that by just roaming around you can suck in the vibe of the city. I prefer exploring a new neighborhood to visiting a museum any time! Here are few of the neighborhoods that I like exploring in NYC.

Meatpacking District

I wholeheartedly thank Samantha from Sex and the City for introducing me to this neighborhood, which has become one of my favorite places in New York City ever since.  To give you a quick rundown on the neighborhood’s history, the area operated as a market from the late 19th century, first for produce and after the development of reliable refrigeration, for meat. The area’s decline started in the 60s and continued on until the 80s. In the late 90s a lot of fashion houses started opening stores in the area and it became hip and fashionable: enter the opening of the Highline in 2009 and more recently the opening of Whitney Museum in the area (see Part 1 of my guide).

Greenwich Village

Moving on to my favorite neighborhood in New York City which I love exploring. Bleeker street is nice for window (and actual shopping) and Washington square park for people watching. I’ve written extensively about the neighborhood on my post: A walk around Greenwich Village. Check it out!

SoHo

Moving south (from Greenwich Village) we come across SoHo, a lovely shopping area in the city. As I mentioned above here you are going to find all major luxury brands (those who have stores in 5th Avenue), high street brands and avant guard stores. Lots of restaurants and cafes as well. If you’d like to walk further south, then my post about walking from SoHo to One World Trade Center is ideal for you.

Upper East Side

I admit that most of my knowledge about New York City’s neighborhoods stemmed from TV series, namely Sex and the City and Gossip Girl and that is the case with the Upper East Side too. When visiting any of the major museums located on 5th avenue, make some time to explore the city’s most affluent neighborhood. That would include exploring Madison Avenue, Park avenue and all the side streets for classy townhouses.

Upper West Side

Upper West Side, New York City

Moving on to the other side of Central Park we come across the Upper West Side. It is also an affluent neighborhood like the Upper East Side, but it is a residential area with no major shopping hubs. It is also the home of Columbia University and the cultural hub of Lincoln Center. It’s a lovely area to walk and explore and you can find all the details on my designated guide/walk.

Williambsurg

views of Manhattan from Williamsburg

Williamsburg is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It’s considered an “it” place to live/hangout as well as hipster friendly. During my last visit in NYC I spent a morning exploring this are and I loved the street art, the abundance of restaurants, cafes and bars and the views towards Manhattan. I was disappointed by the neighborhoods architecture, but it’s an interesting place to explore for all other endeavors nonetheless.

Related: A walk in Brooklyn and Williamsburg

Tips & tricks for visiting New York City

Closing up my guide to New York city, here are some tips if you’re visiting the city for the first time. For an initial introduction to NYC (the first full day you are going to be there) I highly recommend taking the double-decker tour buses starting from Times Square. During my first day I had already covered Manhattan by using a tour bus and thus knew which areas I wanted to explore more. I took the Downtown tour and roamed through Chinatown, the Financial Center, West and East Village and Midtown. Then I took the Uptown tour to see Upper West Side, Harlem and a glimpse of the Upper East Side before disembarking in order to see the Central Park. The other day I took the Brooklyn tour, as I wanted to get a glimpse of this borough, but not spend a whole day exploring it.

 Walk, walk, walk…it’s the best way to experience the city (this is a tip that applies to ALL cities). Yes, I know NYC is a laaaarge city, but you can definitely plan ahead and choose places that are worthy to walk, for example Central Park, Upper East Side, Greenwich Village, Downtown etc. (See also my recommended neighborhoods to explore above.

Last but not least, research online before visiting. Nowadays you will definitely come across a ton of interesting blog posts and guides (like this one), but that was not the case 6 years ago. My best “guide” for pinpointing walking routes and areas to explore is the blog “Walking Off the Big Apple” which is an absolute favorite of mine.

I hope you enjoyed my guide to New York city. If you haven’t read it, also check out Part 1 about sightseeing and museums.

 

Packing my Suitcase

The Essential Guide to New York City – Sightseeing & Museums

The Essential Guide to New York City: Sightseeing & Museums

Most of my travel tips posts (mini guides, exploring city X) come from my wish to share you with you the places I’ve been and things I’ve done either in my home country or abroad, so that you can take note and be inspired for upcoming tips. And then there is this type of lengthy “guide” type of posts (essential guide to X), which actually stem from emails and suggestions that I’ve written for friends.

Which is the case with guide to New York City as well; I’ve visited the city 3 times so far, covered the “basics” (twice) and then went out to explore lesser exposed areas of the city like the Upper West Side and Brooklyn (albeit a small part of it). When two of my friends visited the city last year I drafted an email with all sorts of suggestions about sightseeing, dining and shopping. Fast forward to today, I’ve gone over that email, added more details (and of course pictures) and I’m (finally) sharing with you my ESSENTIAL guide to New York City! This guide is rather huge (as is New York City) so it’s being split in two sections: Sightseeing & Museums, Shopping, Dining and Exploring.

Sightseeing in New York City

Times Square New York City

 New York City has so many sights and things to see and explore. To be honest in the eyes of a first time visitor, the whole city is a sight! I still have memories of the train approaching Manhattan (I got there from Washington DC) and seeing the Empire State building and Chrysler building all lit up in the distance (no One World Trade Center back then)!

Empire State Building (ESB)

Let’s start off with New York City’s trademark (along with the Statue of Liberty): Empire State Building. Built in the early 30s in a true art deco style, ESB used to be the tallest building in NYC until the original World Trade Center towers were built. The ESB observation desk provides beautiful views over Manhattan! Best time to visit is during dusk and during busy periods it is better to book your ticket in advance. You can find information about tickets prices (and of course book) right this way!

Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock

View from Top of the Rock, New York City

Fifteen (or so) blocks north of ESB, you’ll find (another) grand art deco complex of total 19 buildings making up Rockefeller Center. The tallest building in the complex (One Rockefeller Plaza) is also equipped with an observation deck called Top of the Rock (in lower height than the ESB one) ideal for 360 views over Mantattan! The Rockefeller Plaza gets super busy come Christmas time, as a grand Christmas tree is set up here along with an ice rink! Again, the best time of the day to visit the observation deck is at dusk and you will find all the information about visiting Top of the Rock over at their website.

One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial

In November 2014 One World Trade Center opened its doors for business. Reportedly the building’s first tenant is Conde Nast Publications. In May 29th, 2015 the One World Observatory also opened its doors to the public (unfortunately after my last visit). Next to One World Trade Center lays the 9/11 Memorial pools in the place that the original Twin Towers were located as well as the 9/11 Museum. Information about One World Observatory can be found here and about the 9/11 Museum right here.

 Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty, New York City

Statue of Liberty is yet another iconic NYC fixture, which I had the pleasure of visiting up close and personal during my first visit in the city. If you are short on time or don’t bother visiting the statue but would like to get close, you can take the Staten Island Ferry, which is free of charge and passes pretty close to the Statue of Liberty.

If you do plan to visit the Statue of Liberty (combined with a visit at Ellis Island), I suggest that you book tickets in advance. I opted for tickets up to the statue’s pedestal and I learned much about the statue’s construction history, Eiffel’s involvement in building it and the fact that the statue is a gift from France, but the Americans still had to pay for the pedestal! I would have liked to get up to the crown but those tickets sell out fast even in low season! P.S. The sightseeing tour companies include combination tickets that include visit at Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on top of their tours around NYC.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic feature of New York City and is accessible both on foot and on bike! If you are pressed for time, Brooklyn Bridge most probably won’t be on your list, but it worth to walk on it, as it provides marvelous views of Manhattan and you can get all the way to Brooklyn and explore this neighborhood as well.

Related: A walk in Brooklyn and Williamsburg

Times Square

Times Square New York City

I have a habit of getting to New York City late in the afternoon (all 3 times I’ve been there) and the first thing I do is go straight to Times Square!

The square is surrounded by buildings with countless LED displays featuring a variety of content (mostly advertisements) and It’s a place you’ll probably pass by, take some pictures, maybe shop and don’t bother again! My favorite stop in the area is the M&M’s world at Broadway and 48th street!

Central Park

Central Park is probably the most famous park in the US and a popular filming location. My favorite spots in the park that you shouldn’t miss are Bow Bridge, Bethesda Fountain and Underpass as well as Belvedere Castle, which provides a nice view to the northeastern part of the park!

Related: A walk in Upper West Side

Grand Central Station

Grand Central station, New York City

New York’s Grand Central Station is the largest rail station in the world in terms of platform capacity. It’s also famous for its exquisite concourse level (opening scene of Gossip Girl’s very first episode anyone?). It is located on Park Avenue and 42nd street and apart from admiring the architecture you can also visit one of its shops and dining options!

Museums in New York City

New York city caters for every art lover’s needs as it is home to hundreds cultural institutions. Here I’m presenting the city’s most famous museums, even the ones I haven’t had the time to visit yet (there’s always next time)!

Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

The MET is a must visit museum especially if you haven’t visited the Louvre in Paris and/or the British Museum in London. For me it’s the American equivalent of the Louvre and you can find pieces of art from all over the world. If you are a museums’ fan, you can literally spend a whole day here. If not, you better prioritize what you’d like to see. My favorite collections in the Museum are the Egyptian ones (especially the Dendur temple) and the American ones (especially Tiffany’s glasswork). The MET’s full price is $25 at the time of writing but keep in mind that you CAN pay as much as you like. Information about your visit can be found on the MET’s website.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

This has to be my favorite museum in New York City as I’m a big fan of modern and contemporary art. I also happened to study almost half of the museum’s exhibits as part of the history of art class I took in fashion school. I have been lucky enough to have seen Marina Abramovich performance “The Artist is present” a few years back and that was quite an experience. The museum has free entrance every Friday between 4 and 8pm. Full price is $25 at the time of writing and you can find more information at MoMa’s website.

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim museum, New York City

I’ll be honest with you here: I’ve visited the Guggenheim museum twice and both times I ended up spending much more time taking pictures of the atrium of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed building rather than seeing the exhibits! If you do like to visit, do so on a Saturday afternoon, when entrance is donation based!

Whitney Museum of American Art

I’m bummed that I missed the museum’s opening at the new building in the Meatpacking District, but if you do find yourself in the area do stop for a visit, as the museum includes over 22,000 works created by more than 3,000 artists in the United States during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries! If you are interested in visiting, the Whitney’s website will provide you with all the information you’ll need.

Neue Galerie

The Neue Galerie (meaning New Gallery in German) is located almost opposite the MET and houses early 20th century German and Austrian art and design. More information can be found at Neue Galerie’s website.

The Frick Collection

This was a suggestion from a family friend when I first visited New York City, but there’s only so much one can see in 5 days in NYC, so I never got around to visiting, but I’m do passing the tip along to you. As per their website The Frick Collection includes masterpieces of European painting, major works of sculpture (among them one of the finest groups of small bronzes in the world), superb eighteenth-century French furniture and porcelain, old master and nineteenth-century works on paper, Limoges enamels, and other works of remarkable quality” More information can be found at Frick Collection’s website.

New Museum of Contemporary Art

This was a suggestion as well, but haven’t visited yet! You see during my last visit in NYC last year I preferred to spent time exploring different neighborhoods rather than visit museums! The Museum was founded in 1977, as a leading destination for new art and new ideas. It is located in SoHo and you can find more about the museum and exhibitions on its website.

…and that’s a wrap for part 1 of my essential guide to New York City! Stay tuned for part 2 where I will cover shopping, dining and exploring cool neighborhoods in the city! Make sure you follow me on Follow so as not to miss it!

Have you visited New York City? Which are your favorite parts of the city?
Packing my Suitcase

Sunday in the City (and my new beige boots)

Grey cropped jacket and blue jeans

Hello friends! How are you doing? I’ve just come off a long weekend (Monday was a holiday) but very cloudy and rainy. That’s why I’m reminiscing of the previous weekend when it was pleasant and sunny, os I took out my beige boots for a walk. On that said weekend, my husband ventured out in Gazi neighborhood of Athens. The area took its name by the Natural Gas plant that operated in the area, which is nowadays used for various exhibitions (in the past it has housed an art exhibition and numerous fashion shows), but also houses the Industrial Gas Museum and a cozy cafe that I’ve placed on my mental to-visit list.

The area around the former plant (now known as Technopolis Gazi) is full of restaurants, cafes and bars. The fact that a metro station opened up in the area almost 10 years ago made it even more accessible and popular. My favorite cafe/bar in the area has to be Gazi College, but on this occasion we had lunch at Butcher Shop, which as the name implies is ideal for meat lovers.

After lunch we explored the area a bit more by walking down Pireos street towards Benaki Museum (Pireos str Annex), which houses modern and contemporary art exhibitions. Currently it hosts “As One”, a collaboration between Neon and Marina Abramovich Institution, which runs until the 24th of April and I’d like to visit!

Pavlides Chocolate Factory

Opposite the museum is a real life chocolate factory which belongs to Pavlides Chocolate company (part of Mondelez International), which produces a renowned dark chocolate bars for more than 150 years among other chocolate related products!

My outfit for the day included something old and something new! The old is this patent leather clutch by Louis Vuitton which was my first luxury bag that I got 12 years ago thanks to a scholarship I got at university! The new things are my beige boots by Call It Spring, which I got from Asos. The boots have a long and funny story because when they first arrived each shoe had a different size and none of them was the size that I ordered! Asos customer care was super helpful and sent a replacement pair while I sent the initial back! So today I’m happy to rock my beige boots!

Tell me how do you like to spend sunny (Sun)days in your city?

Little Kook cafe, Athens

Little Kook cafe, Athens

Little Kook is a quirky café in Athens that aims to transport you in a fairytale world. It opened its doors back in December and quickly created buzz thanks to its unique interiors (which changes periodically by the way). Such a place (especially as it serves desserts, hot chocolate and the lot) could not possibly fall off my radar, so I scheduled a visit a few weeks ago!

Little Kook is located in a quiet street in Psyrri neighborhood in downtown Athens. Two playing cards soldiers frame the facade of the building but the real surprise is a dragon sitting on top of the building; not a common sight for Athens! The interior is also peculiar, with a multi mattress bed hanging from the ceiling (from the fairy tale Princess and the pea) and a giant beanstalk ascending towards the ceiling (from the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk). The waitresses are dressed with jewel colored dresses, white aprons and fascinators adding to the unique atmosphere of the place!

Little Kook cafe, Athens Little Kook cafe, Athens

Now let’s talk about food! Little Kook’s menu is full of sweet options: cakes, cupcakes, crepes, hot chocolate, tea and coffee sum up your options! My friends and I tried on two cakes: a chocolate and hazelnut praline one and a key lime one. Each cake has 3 tiers, but the slice size isn’t huge, so if you’re hungry, you can easily manage one portion by yourself! I didn’t find the cakes overly sweet, which is a good thing, but I was a tad disappointed as I like richer cakes. Next time I’m thinking of getting a crepe, because of course there will be a second time!

Essential Information: Little Kook is located in Karaiskaki 17, 10554 Athens. More information in their Facebook page.

Little Kook cafe, Athens

The essential guide to Washington DC

The Essential Guide to Washington, DC

Washington DC is one of those cities in which I had no expectations at all, but proved an instant delight! Getting around is pretty easy as the city is very walk-able plus it has a metro system (best I’ve seen, architecturally speaking) and of course buses that will get you around town. Since many sites are concentrated in specific areas, walking is pretty much the way to go!

DSC_0112_1

Washington DC is a city that you can visit all year round, but I have to be partial here and say that Spring is the best time to be there! In April the cherry trees bloom and it is magical (see photo above as well as another one further below)! I admit I spent $300 for 24hrs in DC just to see the cherry blossoms (and catch up with a blogger friend) but it was all worth it. May-June is ideal as well but keep in mind that in May a lot of schools visit DC so it’s harder to get accommodation (been there done that).

Supreme Court of the United States, Washington DC

So to get on with this guide…here you will find everything you need to know about Washington DC: the major sights, the museums, cool neighborhoods to visit, where to eat (essential) and where to stay!

 Major Sights in Washington DC

 US Capitol

The Capitol is Washington’s most famous building and visible from all major avenues! I haven’t been inside (yet), as you have to book way in advance for a tour, but my exploration walks throughout the city start from this point. On the west side of the Capitol lays the National Mall which stretches all the way to Washington memorial (and further down to Lincoln Memorial). On each side of the Mall you’ll find the Smithsonian Institute museums, on which I’ll elaborate further on. Details about visiting the Capitol can be found on their website.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress, Washington DC

The Library of the Congress is my favorite building in DC. The interior is very elaborate and visually mesmerizing. Here you will have a glimpse at Jefferson’s personal book collection, the Library’s reading room and temporary exhibitions. Last year (2015) it was all about the first settlers in the US from Europe as well as the Equal Rights movement in the 60s.

White House

The White House, Washington, DC

The White House doesn’t need much introduction, does it? You can approach the White House from the south side and walk right by the fence. I’ve noticed that this walkway isn’t always open to the public so it can be a hit and miss situation.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial is located in the western end of the National Mall and honors the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Inside the Memorial you’ll see a sitting statue of Abraham Lincoln as well as inscriptions of two well-known speeches by Lincoln. In front of the Memorial lays the Reflecting Pool.

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC

When I first visited Washington DC I didn’t think much of this Memorial, but I have to tell you this: come Cherry Blossoms Season, this is the best place to be in the city. It’s also a very nice and romantic place to watch the sunset.

Washington Memorial

The Washington Memorial is the tall obelisk (pictured in the very first photo) located between the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. It looks solid, but there is an observation desk at the top and you can get there via elevator. I bet the view is amazing from up there!

Other memorials

World War II Memorial, Washington DC

South of the Reflection Pool you’ll find the Korea War Memorial, World War II Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. Nearby you’ll find the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which has to be my favorite one in DC.

Botanic Garden

I am a fan of Greenhouses and botanic gardens especially in winter time, when it is chilly outside and that was the case during my first visit in Washington DC! We escaped the cold weather by exploring the botanic garden’s orchids collection!

Arlington Cemetery

John F. Kennedy tomb at Arlington Cemetery, Washington, DC

I was familiar with the Arlington Cemetery through books and movies and so I set out to visit it when I first visited Washington DC. By reading the guide I found out that Arlington Cemetery is also the burial site of John F. Kennedy, his brothers Robert and Edward as well as Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The Kennedys’ burial site is one of the most visited places in the Cemetery, as is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (bonus points if you stumble upon a changing of the guards).

Museums in Washington DC

Washington DC is home to the Smithsonian Institute – the world’s largest museum and research complex – which includes 19 museums and galleries (2 of them in NYC) and the National Zoological Park. Out of the 19 museums I’ve only been to 5, as you need at least a week to explore all and I usually have 3 days at hand! The best part about these museums is that admission is free, so you can visit as many as possible and not worry about the cost! Below there’s a quick review of the Museums that I’ve visited.

National Museum of the American Indian

Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC

This museum houses exhibitions about the Natives’ beliefs and history, way of life and contemporary art. It has one of the most extensive collections of Native American arts and artifacts, but most of them are unfortunately not accessible to the public.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC

This is one of the most interesting museums for me, as it exhibits hundreds of aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, rockets, and other flight-related artifacts.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

The museum of American history is devoted to the scientific, cultural, social, technological, and political development of the United States. My favorite exhibits are the first American flag ever created and the dresses of the First Ladies throughout the years. My favorite dress has to be the Jason Wu dress that Michelle Obama wore in the 2009 Inaugural Ball.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Natural history Museum, necklace

In here can find exhibitions of the earliest human origins; development of world cultures; ancient and modern mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and sea creatures. My favorite part of the museum is the beautiful collection of gems and minerals, as well as the Hope Diamond, the world’s largest deep blue diamond!

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is housed in two buildings, plus a sculpture garden. The main building (west building) was designed in a classicizing style but built using the most modern technology of the time (1930s). The Gallery’s collection includes exhibits from Byzantine altarpieces to pop art, paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, and other works. I really loved the building and its atriums. If you’re into art, then add this on your list. If not, Washington is full of all kinds of other museums to visit.

Cool Neighborhoods to explore

Georgetown

Georgetown is a historic neighborhood, and a commercial and entertainment district located in northwest Washington, DC. It serves as a home to the main campus of Georgetown University, a handful of Embassies and is also the neighborhood where John F. Kennedy lived in the 1950s as both a Congressman and a Senator. You can also see the restaurant where he proposed to Jackie! That would be Martin’s tavern in N street and Winsconsin Avenue.

Georgetown, Washington, DC

Georgetown looks different than “downtown” Washington DC, since it’s mainly a residential area, full of colorful townhouses. The neighborhood’s main street (M street) is full of shops, cafes and restaurants! Georgetown used to be my favorite neighborhood in DC until I visited the following one.

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill neighborhood, Washington DC

I found about Capitol Hill neighborhood via Instagram. Up until then I believed that Capitol Hill was only the area that the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress were based, but thanks to Instagram I just discovered my new favorite neighborhood in DC and probably the world!

Capitol Hill neighborhood, Washington DC

Yes, the world! I loved the colorful row houses, the small yards and the plentitude of trees that this neighborhood has! So I declared that of all the cities and neighborhoods I’ve visited so far in Europe and the US, this is my favorite one and I could easily live here! *wishful thinking*

Washington DC Foodie Guide

Le Bon Cafe, Washington DC

And now the fun part! An essential city guide wouldn’t be complete without restaurant and café recommendations.

Ambar (Eastern Market)

8th street SE next to the Eastern Market station is full of restaurants, cafes and bars. We chose to dine at Ambar which is a Serbian restaurant serving traditional Balkan dishes, plus regional spirits.

Le Bon Café (near Library of Congress)

I discovered this café last year while researching a place for breakfast since our AirBnB didn’t have anything nearby. It’s a small but cute café near the Library of Congress with delicious dishes for breakfast, brunch and lunch (and my husband’s absolute favorite)! The photo above is from Le Bon Cafe!

Nando’s (near Verizon Center)

I’ve been a fan of Nando’s for years, as they have many restaurants in the UK, so naturally when coming across this restaurant (which was the first in the US) I was delighted. At this point I should mention that Nando’s specialty is chicken marinated in Peri Peri sauce (a type of pepper).

Good Stuff Eatery (near Library of Congress)

This was a Yelp discovery (love this website/app for finding the best places to eat in the US), while returning home one night. Good Stuff Eatery is a true American restaurant serving handcrafted burger and fries!

Red Velvet Cupcakery (near Verizon Center)

This was the first place I ever had cupcakes and got hooked! They are fluffy and delicious! Their red velvet is a must, but pretty much all flavors that I’ve tried are delicious!

Where to Stay

Tidal Basin and Cherry Blossoms, Washington DC

I admit that Washington DC is one of the cities where I had the best of luck as far as accommodation goes. One of my favorite websites for booking hotels in the US is priceline.com. I use their Name Your Price feature where you set your price, location of hotel and number of stars and you get allocated to a “secret” hotel, which you find out about after your bid is accepted. The two hotels you see listed below where booked using Priceline. On my third visit I couldn’t find a hotel, as they were booked by school groups visiting DC (mid-May) so I used AirBnb and booked a private room in Capitol Hill (surprise, surprise).

World War II and Lincoln Memorials, Washington DC

Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill

The hotel is conveniently located near Union Station and the Capitol. Since the booking didn’t include breakfast, we grabbed something from the Station’s food hall. The hotel is very convenient (we got a room with two queen beds) and the personnel was very friendly and attentive.

Courtyard Washington Convention Center

This hotel is more centrally located but it gets a bit lonely at night. Since it’s near the Verizon Center, finding a decent restaurant is not an issue. Plus Red Velvet Cupcakery is nearby!! The rooms are smaller than the Hyatt, but very convenient. Again the room I got had two queen beds and view over International Spy Museum.

Capitol Hill neighborhood, Washington DC

Private Room on Capitol Hill (AirBnb)

This was my first AirBnb experience and I admit it was a good choice, because the room was very convenient (we got our own bathroom as well) and the neighborhood was a dream. Surely it’s a 15-minute walk from the nearest metro station but it was all worth it!

Have you been to Washington DC? Do you have any more tips for things to do in the city?
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4 Street Artists in Athens you should know about!

Achilles street artist in Athens

Growing up in the late 80s and the 90s I was accustomed to see lots of ugly graffiti in the streets and walls. This sort of graffiti still exists, but within the last 10-15 years talented street artists emerged in Athens.

Yiakou street artist in Athens

The first one I noticed was Yiakou, who at created ethereal and powerful female figures. Unfortunately some of my favorite creations were covered up by posters or painted and became store window displays. Last year I noticed his new creations: pinkish deer that sprung out of fairy tales (the photos featured in this post).You can find some of Yiakou’s creations in Ermou (in the corner with Kallipou street), Athinas, Kalamiotou and Evripidou streets.

Sonke street artist Athens Sonke street artist Athens

Another street artist I come across rather frequently is Sonke. His black and white long curly-haired girls can be found all over Athens. A breakup was the cause for Sonke to turn from a graffiti artist to a street artist! You can find some of his creations in Stadiou, Klepsydras and Thermopylon streets.

If you like bright colors then you’ll love Achilles creations. A handful of his creations can be found in Sarri Street and its perpendicular streets. One of them was even featured in The Guardian!  Check out Achilles Facebook page to see more of his creations (some haunting ones as well).

Alex Kataras street artist in Athens

Last but not least there is Alex Kataras and his hybrid animals’ creations. I’m ashamed to say that a few of his creations are very close to my home and I only discovered them this year! The vibrant orange creation can be found in Doxatou street Kerameikos, while the Boa Flamingoraffe can be found in Skouze street near Ag. Eirinis square. You can check out Alex’s creations on Behance.

Let me know is there a particular street artist that you like??

Swarovski’s Sea of Sparkle

Swarovski Sea of Sparkle

Let’s start the week with a Sea of Sparkle shall we?! That is the name of Swarovski’s Spring Summer 2016 collection, inspired by the sea, the waves and the aquatic flora. In the words of Nathalie Colin, Swarovski’s Creative Director: “The sea is a wholly organic and endless source of beauty and the perfect inspiration for our spring/summer jewelry collection. As well as celebrating the beauty of nature, each piece offers a sophisticated, feminine elegance that is perfect for almost any occasion.

The new collection’s presentation took place at Athens’ Planetarium where we saw the inspiration film regarding the new collection in the Planetarium screen. Then we saw the jewelry nicely exhibited one by one and then we had the opportunity to try on any jewelry we liked (the fun part)!

The dominant colors of the collection are shades of turquoise, aquamarine and bold pinks. With dramatic hues and shapes emulating aquatic flora, the collection is beautifully daring and brings color and energy to any outfit. The collection also features both bold pieces (like the sea urchin inspired one on top) as well as more wearable ones, like the rose gold necklace I’m wearing, or the pendant featured in my ideal traveling outfit.

Swarovski Sea of Sparkle rose gold necklace

I was fascinated with all those rich colors and bold jewelry, but I admit that the rose gold pieces are the ones that stole my heart the most!

What Swarovski style would you choose? Bold colors or timeless elegance?

 

(Epic) Brunch at New York Sandwiches

Pancakes at New York Sandwiches, Athens

I came across New York Sandwiches as I was leaving work one day. You see they recently opened a new branch close to Syntagma square in downtown Athens. New York Sandwiches serve burgers and bagels during the week and brunch on weekends!

The place is minimal in white, beige and blue tones. One of the walls features a drawing of Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York, while the other features, cozy little booths ideal for couples!

Steak and Eggs at New York Sandwiches

And now I’m coming to the part explaining why brunch at New York Sandiches was epic. Let me start off by saying that everything we tried was delicious. I got Eggs Benedict with bacon and mushroom, my husband and brother got Steak and Eggs, while my brother’s girlfriend got Scrambled Eggs with melted cheddar cheese and bacon!

We didn’t stop there though…we decided to take our brunch into epic proportions and ordered pancakes: with Snickers, Nutella and Oreo, maple syrup and banana and caramel (pictured in the very first photo). The pancakes were delicious (I got the Snickers ones), but were to much for us and realized that we had to order less and share!

Despite the fact that I didn’t manage to eat all of them, those pancakes where delicious and very filling and I’m still dreaming about them (the Snickers ones, pictured above), so I’ll definitely return for brunch here!

Essential Details: You will find New York Sandwiches in two locations in Athens: Sinopis 3, Ambelokipi and Nikis 23, Syntagma. More details on their website and Facebook page.

P.S. They make delicious burgers too!!

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