That weekend I dreamt of Speculoos and ended it up in Belgium :)))

While I am sure you know where Belgium is, you also need to know, if you don’t by now, what Speculoos is. First of all, the critical aspect to remember is that it is in the category of “forbidden fruits” if you are a vegan or at least a healthy lifestyle oriented person. But if you have your cheat days of the month or week, I can assure you Speculoos is all worth it.

So the internet defines it like this: Speculaas or speculoos is a type of spiced shortcrustbiscuit, traditionally baked for consumption on or just before St Nicholas’ day in the Netherlands (5 December), Belgium (6 December), and around Christmas in Germany. Speculaas are thin, very crunchy, caramelized, slightly browned and, most significantly, have some image or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) stamped on the front side before baking; the back is flat. And I define it like this: little pieces of Heaven that come from Belgium:))). So now that you know one of my weaknesses, we can move on to the real reason I am actually writing this, which is not to define Speculoos, but more to tell you where it is worth paying a visit from my perspective if you happen to pass by Brussels or Leuven (yes, this is a cool city too).

Architecturally, Belgium is picturesque and impressive. The cute streets and buildings, the beautiful cathedrals and square, lot of green all around. On the other side, weather wise, I have the same struggle as with London – just a little bit too grey and too rainy. Food and restaurants wise, these guys do pretty well, and this is what led me to write this.

I started my day after I landed in the morning in Brussels, at this cute café in Place Brugmann, Gaudron, where I had an amazing breakfast. Probably the best salmon and avocado pouched eggs I ever ate… the second best actually – the best are made by my boyfriend and he is reading this :).

Then for lunch, as I am a big lover of brasseries anywhere I go, we went to Brasseries Georges Uccle. Here you can even pick your own oysters you want to eat, they have incredible fresh fish specialties and also very tasty meat (if you are a meat eater). Ask for the daily specials. They never disappoint. Also, the setting is really beautiful inside, traditional brasserie, artsy looking design.

Let’s say you did not buy into my Speculoos story and you are a chocolate lover. Well, in that case, Brussels is the Disneyland of Chocolate (sorry, Switzerland, but it is true, especially on how they package the experience!). There are two particular places that I would recommend: Wittamer and Pierre Marcolini. In these places you can experience chocolate at its finest. And then you should also see their Christmas decorations – pure festive art.

Touristic wise, there is also so much to see: Grand Place, the Mannequin piece (little boy and the girl in case you did not know – search for both), the Royal Galleries St. Hubert and the shopping that comes with them and so on. If you are looking for art, there is plenty, check this link and I am sure you will not miss out on anything important: https://cheeseweb.eu/2016/06/things-to-do-in-brussels-top-12-galleries-museums-and-art-events/

And as for dinner, oh well, I loved this place, L’Amousoir in Waterloo which is more or less the residential part of  Brussels. The food is amazing, and after dinner you can move to the lounge part, enjoy drinks and a cool setting for dancing. It’s commercial music, but it’s pretty cool and fun.

And then… it was Leuven that just surprised me. I had no idea it is so lively and beautiful. It is a young people’s town and a university center. Leuven is well known for its countless enjoyable bars and cafés, ranging from student drinking holes and boisterous dance cafés to trendy cocktail lounges. The Oude Markt is Leuven’s meeting place par excellence, where the numerous terraces quickly fill up. You can also sample the very tastiest local beers in unique, atmospheric surroundings (if you are into that). I tried my first beer our of red fruits and, yes, guilty, I loved it :).

But one of my favorite places in Leuven remains the place where I had breakfast, a cosy bagelshop called Nosh. I went there two mornings in a row. Last time I had this tasty bagels was in NYC. It is really worth a visit. Also the coffee is amazing, the place is really artsy like and always lively and full of cool people. A great way to start the day really.

And surprisingly for dinner, I had one of the most amazing sushi, in Wabi Sabi Sushi Bar. Besides delicious sushi, we got an even bigger surprise when the bill came… which was just really cheap for the quality of food, the place and everything!

So even though maybe Belgium is not on your top list when you think of a weekend escape, I encourage you to put it. It’s something else and it’s actually worth it! And, yes, I left with as much Speculoos as EasyJet let me fit in my carry-on :))).

The next stop in Belgium for me will be Brugge pretty soon! 🙂 I heard it’s pretty picturesque, so let’s see! In the meantime, enjoy St Nicholas eve and day! :)))

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? 🙂

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 :).