Bucharest. Not Budapest this time! Europe. Eastern Europe! – There’s this exotic unconventional vibe you should try!

\There is this very interesting connection between Bucharest and me. In the past 12 years, I have lived in many cities and countries, more glam than Bucharest you would say (Milano, LA…), but somehow I feel a special bond with this city. And no, it is not exactly my home town ( I am born in the north of Romania), but I feel as it is my nurturing nest. There is this energy in it that actually always makes me feel good and alive. I simply reconnect to myself and to the important things in life. I have some friends that simply don’t get it, what could it be that I always return at some point in life in Bucharest and why I find ways to come back, but, believe me, there is a special vibe… that is unique. You should probably ask the expats that do not want to go home anymore. :))) Or maybe it’s time to book a trip and explore this part of Eastern Europe.

Bucharest is by far perfect, but that is the beauty of it. I mean, I like to say it is perfectly imperfect, and such things are the most beautiful in essence!  It is also one of the most vibrant cities I know. There is always something to do, every day of the week: be it an event, an art vernisaje, going out in bars, clubs, cinema, concerts, karaoke, do sports, walk in the park, roller skating and so on, you name it! Practically, you can never get bored and to be honest staying alone is a choice. And it’s safe too compared to many other glamorous European cities. It is very diverse in the people you meet, pretty international, I would say, and you easily make friends. Or at least I do, and no, not only Romanians :))). Most of my friends were international from Italians, Spanish, Americans, Serbians, Greeks, Germans and so on. I guess, this is one thing that I love about this city and keeps me hooked: the people…and the deep friendships that you can built here compared to other chaotic cities in the world.

And getting to the reason of why I am writing this…. every time I come back to Bucharest, I discover a new place that I like. It is almost like I rediscover the city every time. It never ceases to surprise me. I guess Bucharest can never bore me. And then there are those places that bare a special place in my heart… very special.

This post is not intended for those of you that live in Bucharest, as you may all have your preferences, and then we just get into debates:)))), but to those of you that do not live in Bucharest/ Romania, and that are flirting with the idea of visiting the city and would like to know whether its worth it…. and it is worth it! It truly is!

So given the above disclaimer, here are a few spots I would recommend (this season – summer is a different story) to those of you that asked me what to do in Bucharest in autumn/winter:

  1. Fav breakfast: Rue du Pain or Frudisiac – healthy amazing food… and then you just may meet the coolest people in town, chilling, enjoying the morning and some good coffee
  2. Fav Sunday brunch: Fratellini Bistro or Fiori di Latte – the salmon pouched eggs in both places are simply to die for :))) give it a shot! Plus the set-up in both places is very cosy and you may end up hanging around for hours
  3. Fav ice-cream: Cremeria Emilia – this is not even debatable and competes pretty well with the Italian Gelaterias – take it from a gelato freak and guru 🙂
  4. Fav place in the old city: Nomad – cool place, rooftop, cool people and good music – you can listen to my friend DJ-ing Gabriel Radu over there – you might just like it a lot
  5. Fav lunch: Casa di David, Fiori di Latte, Il Locale (these three if you are into great Italian food), Chefs Experience (if you would want to go for a sort of fusion), Adhoc (if you are into Romanian reinterpreted food) or Raionul cu Peste (if you like fish) – actually…this is just a short list…there are too many places I like.
  6. Fav sushi: Kanpai – it is more than sushi…it is a creative sushi place, the combinations just keep on surprising me really. there a sushi burger too 🙂
  7. Fav outdoor bar: Linea-Closer to the Moon – you may just see the best sunsets over here in Bucharest and the restaurant for dinner is pretty cool! Well, if you get to dinner that is, as you may be stolen by the rooftop view and continue with more drinks 🙂
  8. Fav lounge bar: Uanderful – I have a thing for this place. I just had a lot of fun here and they have great cocktails and good finger food… and one of the best lava cakes in town if you are into sweets. E3 by Entourage is another good choice. It gets pretty crowded from Thursday on and besides great drinks, great people, the bar turns into a party place, warming you up before a club night.
  9. Fav burger place: Flying Pigs – I mean you already get it :))); Vivo is another option….but go for Flying Pigs.
  10. Fav dinner place: NOR – this rooftop has amazing views, amazing food, amazing set-up and amazing drinks :))) Therefore, you also have to book before going there as it is so damn good! The Grill is another great place. Go on Thursdays for the themed night or Fridays for the live music.
  11. Fav Romanian restaurant: Caru cu Bere – this one is a must go if you are a tourist. It practically re-creates “the old” Bucharest atmosphere and together with the dancers, it’s simply an artistic show while you eat – all is about the traditional Bucharest high life in the past. You will love it!
  12. Fav social event: The Brunch Affair – party with the coolest people in town. You can follow their page in Facebook and see where and when the next party is as the place changes every time and so does the theme of the party! – this is the beauty of it!
  13. Fav club: Well, it depends what you are looking for – Gaia is the place to go if you want to meet the coolest people in town and great music/ if you are looking for techno/electronic parties – you can choose between Krystal (great sound and the setting is pretty cool too) and Guesthouse (more Berlin looking kind of partying scene). If you are into commercial dance music, there’s Nuba and a lot of beautiful girls.
  14. Fav book store: Carturesti in the old city center – this is just the Disneyland of books, so cosy, so amazing. Even if you are not into reading, it is worth a visit…for a coffee or tea. The café over there is really nice!

Well, I stopped at 14….as with Milano…I could go and on (Lebanese restaurants, meat restaurants, Spanish, Fusion….and so on) … but maybe on a different occasion….spring or summer! So have I convinced you, just a little bit, to put Bucharest on your go-to places for a city break? 🙂

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Take it from a sweet child of Milan: just when you think going to Milan is a cliché… reconsider!

Yes, I am subjective! Milano is my second home. But in this case, subjective is good if you want to see a place through “almost local” passionate eyes.

Let me give you a bit of a background story: Milano and I share a special connection. I regard this city as a sort of…mentor :). I moved to Milano 12 years ago with a university scholarship and my life took an amazing turn and totally changed from that moment on. I come from this medium size – small town in the north of Romania (a.k.a. Transylvania) called Baia Mare (yes, you may have never heard about it), and before Milan I cannot say I had any clue of real style, fashion, design or anything related to these areas. But I was 19 and open, receptive, so I let Milan shape my education, sense of style, taste (including food) and life perspective. So I am forever grateful… and hooked for that matter! 🙂

I moved out 6 years ago, but somehow, years later, the roads keep on taking me to Milan, more often than not, and honestly, I rediscover it every time: new places, new feelings, new people. So here I am sharing the excitement!

This is meant to be just one article of a few I may write about Milan, pointing out some of my favorite places to go (even if you go there for the first time or you are a regular visitor). Be ready to eat, drink, socialize, walk, shop (of course) and enjoy life – this is in a nutshell what Milano is about. For history lessons, there are a dozen of other cities in Italy, but save this one for living beautifully the Italian way.

I have tried a share of hotels in Milan, but my personal favorite is Principe di Savoia: the service, the breakfast, the people, the building – ahhhhh! I simply feel like a princess every time I step foot in this hotel. Another amazing one is Palazzo Parigi, but more on the pricey side. If you look for a modern stay, close to the city center, Boscolo is also a good option. Fifty House Hotel is a another good option if you are into boutique hotels, close to Piazza Cinque Giornate. But… really try Principe, you will not regret it!

Below there are 10 places I decided to recommend in this blog post (others will come in future ones):

  1. Café Napoli: One of my favorite cafes, on Via Turati 40, at walking distance from the hotel, on your way to the city center, if you want to have your second coffee in the morning (and I am the kind of little monster that needs it ). My boyfriend found it, exploring the area and maybe ways of making me happy – he loves me particularly after I drink coffee, and even more at my second one :)). Café Napoli is a small place, but with exquisite coffee really, and the design of the place takes you directly to Napoli… you should really see it!
  2. Motta Bar –  if you plan to take the city center shopping, and at some point in the hectic shop hopping you need a coffee, Motta Bar at the Vittorio Emmanuelle Galleries is the perfect choice: amazing coffee, great location, yummy snacks and you don’t pay over 5 euros for a coffee as in most of the tourist traps around. Save the rest for gelato or….and this takes me to the next place to MUST-GO….
  3. Luini Panzerotti – this is a must in Milano, it is very close to Duomo and the galleries, and you just cannot go to Milan and not eat a panzerotto. Order the tomato mozzarella one, and yes, the line you see in front of the place is totally worth it! Chill & Wait! Post some instaStories, leave your veganism or raw-veganism at the door in case you practice those and try one! Your body will greatly appreciated it…with a ridiculous smile after!​
  4. Tre Gazzelle – while there are hundreds of gelaterias in Milan, this one is my personal favorite and it is right across of Zara in Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle. Don’t go necessarily for Grom or Ciocolatti Italiani – everyone does that! They became too commercial. Try this place and you will not regret. It’s something really!
  5. Nobu & the black code – while you may think this is such a cliché – it is not. Besides the fact that it is a very nice restaurant, do try the Black code! Nowhere in the world you will eat a better one than in Nobu. Just try it! My boyfriend still thinks he can replicate it. I tell him I believe him. This is love :). Also try the scallops and the spinach salad! Particularly tasty! Try to book a table 2-3 days before going there.
  6. Langosteria – a friend of mine recommended this place and it is one of my favorite restaurants in Milan now. Amazing fish restaurant, romantic atmosphere, high end service, the music is just wow and the best oysters I ate. Take anything on that menu, it’s just amazing.  And of course you need to book in advance!
  7. Terazza Aperol – if you want great cocktails, a wonderful view of the Duomo, you must wait 10-15 min in line to get a spot on this terrace – it is in the Vittorio Emmanuelle Galleries and though it is overly touristic, it is worth it, especially towards the sunset. Go there, fall in love, and of course try the original Aperol Spritz!​
  8. LuBar – this is a cosy breakfast or brunch place. It is perfect for a date with the girls, while its location is really particular and architecturally worth to see.
  9. Straf Bar – if you are around the central area and you want to have a fast drink, Italian way, most locals go to Straf, right next to Rinascente. You avoid touristic traps, you have great cocktails and you get to actually experiment the Italian way of socializing and drinking in the street or on small low stools.
  10. Rinascente – 7th floor: Go til the end of the floor, until you see a terrace and exit. You will have a small “awww” moment, then look for a table and have a coffee or a glass (or bottle) of prosecco and just enjoy life and a wonderful scenery of the Duomo from above. This is one of my favorite places since I was studying in Milan, So trust my subjectivity and drop by! Judge me afterwards!

So… provided that you already think this blog post is really long, I will stop here and use another post somewhere in the future (I will be in Milan end of October again) to recommend you more things to do and try in Milan. I have soooo many more! I could write pages about the city, but I am sure I already over did it :).

 

Save September for a trip to Capri… and stay there!

If you are an incurable romantic, fool for beautiful sceneries, good food & wine, amazing people and in-need for sea, to die for sunsets and relaxation, you must find time for Capri!

I have been travelling quite a lot and I have seen amazing places, however, this island managed to win my heart from the start. It has this amazing vibe, good energy and simply awe-moments views. If you are with your loved one, you may fall in love over and over again at every corner. Oh well, I may be slightly subjective, as I also took part in a wedding at sunset over there, and I am dating a romantic soul myself, but still, it is a Lovers’ Paradise.

If you fully want to enjoy the beauty of this island, do the following two things any Italian resident person would recommend you:

  1. Do not go to Capri in mid summer. Try to do it in May or best, the second part of September. The weather is mild and amazing, and you avoid the touristic uber-crowded period…believe me! You want to enjoy your ice-cream strolling on the street, holding hands without bumping into herds of people 😀
  2. Stay on the island, as in sleep there! You make no justice to the island if you just drop by for a short visit…you do not get to feel it, enjoy it at its true worth… just saying :). I personally recommend the following options for staying: Tiberio Palace – if you want the full 5star experience; Hotel Luna – if you want an amazing view experience, Hotel Weber Ambassador – if you want a 4star with beach access, and waking up with the most amazing sunrise; or gather a gang of friends and take an Airbnb house with a terrace :).

I am a hopeless romantic, so for me this island was just a reason to feel butterflies at every corner. You don’t need a car there – the taxis or scooters are the way to go. And walk, as much as you can in Capri, Anacapri, every where!

Coming from a bohemian souls as myself, here are a few must-do things or must-go places (the rest you find on tripadvisor):

  1. Capri Rooftop – amazing cocktails and a to die for view over the Faraglioni :D. We got here by chance at our first bottle of Prosecco…we ended up drinking 3 of them, and ending the night on a high loving note!
  2. La Fontelina &  Faraglioni – La Fontelina is one of the best fish restaurants in the world at the bottom of Faraglioni. Take the boat from Marina Piccola, kiss at the Faraglioni (yes, that eternal love kinda blabla thing, even if you don’t believe it, fairytales are nice to live, and all girls dig it, let’s be honest!), and then drop by at the La Fontelina. Reserve a table first and choose whatever makes your heart tick as everything is delicious!
  3. The Blue grotto – I haven’t personally been, but a few friends have and I was so damn jealous of their videos, so don’t miss it! You get to go inside this grotto, swim and the scenery is just amazing – Google it if you don’t believe me! You’ll make your heart cry :)))
  4. Buonacore Gelateria – yup! Amazing artisanal ice-cream! They bake the cones there too, and if you want a proper Italian snack or breakfast and real, no-overpriced coffee – this is the place! You easily recognize it, as people cue over there during the day, so either go before 11am or after 5pm :). Get a Cannolli also – they have different types…yeah…I start drooling just thinking about them….and when I think I went there with a doctor’s recommendation not to touch carbs or sugar….but I could not refuse those! I like to believe Italian sweets are actually good for anyone’s health :)))
  5. Villa Margherita – for a nice romantic dinner and amazing food – the set-up in a villa with a garden overlooking the sea is amazing! The owner is so kind and the food simply perfect! I think I ate the best grilled octopus ever over there!
  6. Anacapri – get up the mountain in Monte Solaro and have a drink up there with the best view – besides the fact that going up is fun, you can also enjoy a great Aperol up there. Breath in and let the beauty take over!
  7. Villa San Michele –  I had no time to go there, but it is a must see I have heard for a brunch, just a perfect reason besides the rest to go back to Capri for me.
  8. Catch a sunset at the Faro – totally worth it…there is also a cosy bar with nice music there so you can stop for drinks and enjoy the wonders of nature 🙂

There are other cool places and amazing restaurants to visit. Google a bit so that you do not go to the tourist traps. As in any place, there are some of those too :).

If you have a late plane arrival or you need to stay one night in Napoli before getting to Capri, do it….for the food!!! Really! You can eat the best pizza ever (I mean they are the creators of it) at Gino Sorbillo – famous place in the world and then enter a traditional trattoria Napoletana and you will not regret. As for the best gelato I ever ate, try Casa Infante! I mean, I had a sweet heart attack! It’s like Disneyland…for unicorns! 🙂

So here it is, my little guide to Capri. I hope it helps…at least to those that asked! And, yes, I insist you do plan a trip there! For me, it is on my top 10 favorite places I have been to!

Airport: Napoli

Way to get to Capri from Napoli: Ferry from Napoli’s ports: Check http://www.capri.net/en/ferry-schedule

Getting around Capri: taxi or rent a scooter if you can ride it. It’s fun too!

For anything else: Google 🙂

P.S. If you are looking for the perfect wedding location, this may be one of them! 🙂

 

Belonging everywhere… and nowhere

When you live in different countries for several years and you get used to bonding with different cultures, learning to adapt to other ways of doing things, all of a sudden, you find yourself belonging everywhere…and nowhere.10388113_10154344439710624_2908008728183063952_n

After finishing high school, when I was 18, I started changing countries at least every three years. I moved from Romania to Hungary where I spent one year in Budapest, then I moved to Italy, Milan where I lived two years consecutively before moving to the US in Los Angeles for a while, and then back to Milan again. Three years later I found myself all packed up with a decision to move back to my home country – Romania, but to the capital city, Bucharest. I stayed there 2 years and a half, and just when I thought I have settled down, life decided to send me on one more cultural exploration: Switzerland (Lausanne), where I have been living for one year now.

I have for sure taken from each culture many positive aspects, and every country shaped me to eventually become who I am today. I have learned a lot of things all these years from different people with very different lives and backgrounds, and at the end of the day each of these cultures left a mark on me…which yes, makes me unique in my own way, but which also makes me fit everywhere…. and nowhere. I realize that understanding how life goes and feels in different corners of the world, makes me think that wherever I settle I have a piece of heart and mind somewhere else. I am not truly complete in any place anymore and there’s no way I will ever be, because there will be something of value I have left in another place: be it people, be it a way of living, be it a system, be it nature, and the list goes on.

It’s funny how living in many countries can be both a blessing and a small curse, allow me to be a bit dramatic (I learned this from Italy by the way:))) – drama is passion after all an Italian would tell you). The idea is that living abroad means living with a little compromise on something for the rest of your life. There’s always a some small thing that worked a bit better somewhere else. I am sure people who changed countries can identify themselves with that…

So, there you go, this is the epiphany I had today, living in the most civilized and organized place on Earth, surrounded by wonderful scenery and nature, where people live the good life (Switzerland), but missing crazy nights out from Bucharest, a “more accessible” health system where I could get priority like in Eastern Europe – I am a spoiled brat with that I know (call me crazy), missing the always good weather and sun from California, the real shopping streets of Milan, and the delicious Italian food and good sushi, the vibrant life of a Latin country, and of course people…people from all the other places I lived in…because in every place there were people settling in my heart…it always happened, and for that I am grateful. I have met so many wonderful people from so many different countries that are really close to my heart. Having lots of people I miss makes me think how lucky I am! 🙂 The destiny of a continuous traveler…

Yes, I am an Adrenaline Junkie!

I am a walking contradiction in the sense that I love both adrenaline, but also I fall fool for romantic things. It may be connected to the fact that I like living everything with passion and intensity, so then pumping up some adrenaline just comes naturally.

Therefore, I thought I would mark down my top five adrenaline sweethearts in Europe (subjective view of course, and also from what I have experienced and I am aware of). So here it goes:

1. Sky diving in Interlaken – the mountains and the lake view is absolutely breath-taking. I believe Switzerland is one of the best places to jump with the parachute if you ever want to do it or go paragliding because the scenery is something spectacular indeed. (pending for me)
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2. Ride Europe’s tallest/longest/fastest rollercoasters (completed all of them)
a) Shambhala coaster in PortAventura – Barcelona (tallest & steepest slope) – you just have to try this one! It is unforgettable – truly unique freedom experience!
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b) Silver Start Mercedes Benz in Europa Park (longest/steep slope) – breathtaking coaster!
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c) Blue Ride in Europa Park (fastest start: goes from 0 to 100km in 2.3 seconds) – simply awesome feeling I would describe it!!!
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d) Hollywood Tower in Disneyland Paris (best free-fall coaster)
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3. The 007 Golden Eye Bungee Jump in Ticino, Switzerland, next to Lago Maggiore (pending for me) – this is the one that I am most nervous about, but it is a must-do! My friend, Ella, told me about it and since then I am building up courage to do it 🙂
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4. Fly pulley/Zip line (pending for me)
There are two spots I would like to try: one is over a valley near Lake Como (www.flyemotion.it) and the other one is over a village/valley and it is 1440m long (it is called Volo D’Angello: http://www.latitudeslife.com/2011/11/volo-dangelo-adrenalina-pura/)
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5. White Water Rafting (pending for me)
Some people naturally feel more comfortable on the water than they do on land and that is me :), so white water rafting on fast flowing river rapids is something that I would really want to try. Some best fast flowing waters are in the Alps. During the spring, as all the ice starts to melt quickly, the rivers rapidly fill up creating quite a torrent. For some of the most breathtaking settings for white water rafting, Switzerland is no. 1 for sure:)
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So this is my short term adrenaline fav list so far! I hope to cross off the list what’s pending in max 1 year! 🙂 Would you be up to any of the adventures above?

Redefining unconventionally romantic places: the hidden chic village of Yvoire

I planned this summer to discover as many picturesque hidden places in Europe as I can. I have this guilty pleasure of drinking a coffee or sipping from a glass of wine somewhere with a breathtaking view. It just calms me down and makes me feel very peaceful.

Last weekend I went to Yvoire in France, at the Leman/Geneva lake, and I discovered this old small medieval city that seems like part of a fairytale. It has small coquette houses, chic little restaurants and cafes, antiquities shops, art galleries, a small castle and a beautiful lake side and port that simply took my breath away. It is something particular and honestly really romantic for a stroll or a romantic dinner. I was in love with the place, with the view and with the atmosphere, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for something different and particular.

Below there are a few photos of my day in Yvoire, mostly taken in the afternoon:

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A touch of a sandy beach and real waves… in the Alps!

Apparently the surroundings of the Geneva lake and Alps do not cease to amaze me in the French part of Switzerland. I honestly believed life in Switzerland is dull, especially in summer. Well, I am being proved wrong every weekend. Besides the fact that Cote D’Azure is reached within 5 hours by car, Provence in 3 hours by car, the Italian Riviera in 4 hours by car (and I refer to car rides as this is how you can leave unexpected somewhere), and besides the amazing views on the lake you have from Geneva and Lausanne, and Mont Blanc shining in the scenery, there is this mixture of Alpine and Meditarean climate, mountains, pine tress and palm trees, that makes life here simply…amazing.

I grew up with a love for the water, the sea, the beach and summer.  In fact once moving to Lausanne, in the Alps this is was on of my worries during the summertime – where would I enjoy on a weekend basis the sea, like I did in Romania. So imagine my surprise when we decided to go for a Saturday stroll on the French side of the Geneva lake, on a sunny day, and we spotted from the car a multitude of kites from kite surfers in the sky. So we followed the trail and ended up on a sandy beautiful beach, and a warm windy lake with…waves! – this is Excenevex Plage in France (a small town right before Yvoire – another wonderful place I will write about, on the Leman/Geneva lake). The scenery below made my eyes pop like a little kid’s in front of candy…or Disneyland. 

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The beach, the kites, the sand, the joyful chocolate Labrador I took care of these days…

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Towards the end of the day…

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I was hyped! This small golf mimics the seaside incredibly: a lot of young people, kite surfers, beach volley, football on the beach, beach bars, music. There are parts of the beach sectioned off for swimming as well as pedaloes and another one for other water sports, such as kite surfing. And what is particular and amazing is the fact that this all happens at the base of the Alps! I think nature was very generous on this area! So there you go, all I needed for summer, an hour drive from Lausanne, and 20km away from Geneva. 🙂

This pretty particular spot lies between Thonon les Bains (near to Evian) and Geneva.  It is close to the pretty village of Yvoire, a medieval coquet village, with a scenic port side and small chic restaurants perfect for a small romantic get-away… I will write about it soon because it deserves its own post!