José, London

José, 104 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UB.

Tapas in London?  Sounds safer than fish and chips.  We went to dinner at José and sat at the bar, ordered tortilla, charcuterie, goat cheese with figs on toast, wine, and of course, dessert.  The food was good, but the decor and atmosphere did me in.  The restaurant had a really lively vibe, and everyone working there looked like they were enjoying themselves–which was really infectious.  Although I went with Jude, I felt like it was a place that could be fun alone, with friends, or on a date.

Timeout liked it, too.

© Sarah Milstein 2013

Advertisements

72 Hours in London

72 hours in London is just enough time to eat, drink, bike from Tower Bridge to Notting Hill, go to a carnival, eat, drink, drink some more, see some sights, and get lost.
London started off on a bad foot, really quite literally.  I couldn’t seem to figure out the tube or bus* and taxis wouldn’t stop for me, so I ended up walking 6 miles or so my first night, in flip flops (this is becoming a theme).  I did, however, have some killer Indian food with my cousin near Covent Gardens at Strand Tandori (45 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9HA).
***
Given that it was a Sunday, all the pubs closed early, so my attempt to get a drink with Jude ended in many bartenders telling us, “Sorry, we’re closed.”  That is, all but The Hide Bar (39-45 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF).  They had really nice cocktails and the waiter told us a bunch of cool restaurants and bars to check out.  He claimed that Bermondsey Street had some of the best restaurants in the city: José, Zucca, Pizarro, and Casse Croût.  He also recommended Happiness Forgets and The Zetter Townhouse in Shoreditch.
***
Monday morning, we returned to Bermondsey Street and I had my first proper latte in nearly a month at Bermondsey Street Coffee (163 – 167 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UW).  I also ate their yogurt and granola combo that was seriously amazing.  I generally am not that excited about yogurt and granola, but it was worth going back for.  (Unfortunately, they had a different one on Tuesday.)
Stay tuned for more about José, Zucca, the Notting Hill Carnival, the Borough Market, and how the London bike share program measures up to the vélib.
***
*For those going to London, download the “London Tube” and “Bus London” apps.  I would have been much better off had I had these the whole time I was in London!
 
© Sarah Milstein 2013

Taittinger, Reims

Champagne for days at the Taittinger Champagne House. According to the guide, there are over 3 million bottles currently being stored in Taittinger’s caves in Reims.  Apparently there is another 10 or so million bottles of Taittinger champagne being stored elsewhere.

Who knew it was being stockpiled?

© Sarah Milstein 2013

Paris Favorites

My friend just moved to Paris and I sent her an email with a parsed down version of the below list of my “favorites.”  I figured, maybe you’d be interested too.  Anything I should add?

Favorite Café Crème:

  • Loustic – 40 rue Chapon, 75003 Paris (Le Marais)
  • 10 Belles – 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010 Paris (Canal St. Martin)

Favorite Parks:

  • Tuilleries
  • Bois de Vincennes
  • Butte Chaumont
  • Luxembourg (St. Germain)
  • Place de Vosges (Le Marais)

Favorite “Trendy” and/or Pricey Places to Eat:

  • Le Perchoir (sunset dinner) – 14 rue Crespin du Gast, 75011 Paris (Oberkampf)
  • Derrier (dinner) – 69 Rue des Gravilliers, 75003 Paris (Le Marais)
  • Le Taxi Jaune (dinner) – 13, rue Chapon, 75003 Paris (Le Marais)
  • Café Charlot (for brunch, late night, afternoon, really, anytime) – 38 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris (Le Marais)
  • Rose Café (for brunch, lunch) – 30 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris (Le Marais)
  • Fish Club (for dinner) – 58 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 75001 Paris

Favorite Places to Wander:

  • Le Marais
  • St. Germain
  • Canal St. Martin

Favorite Paris Blogs/Guides:

Favorite Markets:

  • Bastille Marché – Metro: Bastille.  I usually go on Sundays.  This is where I discovered my favorite cheese and practiced most of my French! (Haricot verts, s’il vous plaît?)
  • Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen – Avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt, 75018, Paris

Go to Stores for Necessities

  • BHV (stands for Bazaar Hôtel de Ville) – 34 Rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris.  This store is like Bloomingdale’s, Barnes & Noble, an electronics store, and hardware store wrapped into one.  You can find anything from leather and fabrics, art supplies, and kitchen wares, to the latest trends from Iro, Kooples, and Chanel.
  • Monoprix – These are everywhere.  Good place for groceries and toiletries.  You can also buy clothes and other things.  It seems to be the French equivalent of Target.
  • FNAC – Galerie commerciale Forum des Halles, 1-7 Rue Pierre Lescot, 75001 Paris ‎(but there are lots of these in Paris).  Good place for electronics.  I left my adapter in Corsica and seriously went to 4 places to find one before finding one here.
Must have foods:
  • Tuks (not even French, but a delicious cracker).  I have a song and dance that goes with these.  They are just that good.
  • Compté cheese (my fav!)
  • Pain au chocolat
  • Baguettes (obviously)
  • Falafel from L’as du Falafel – 34 Rue des Rosiers  75004 Paris (Le Marais)
  • Empanadas from Clasico Argentino – 56, Rue de Saintonge, 75003 Paris (Le Marais)
  • Ice cream from Berthillon – 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île  75004 Paris (but you can find this ice cream in a lot of restaurants).  I can vouch for the moka, chocolat noir, abricot, and framboise.
  • Moules-frites
  • Foie gras (sorry, California)
  • Any and all wine (rosé is big here)
  • Yogurt – for some reason it is much better here than in the US.  Try weird flavors.  I liked the fig and rhubarb.
Shopping:
(Basically anywhere.  This is Paris.)
  • Rue Vieille-du-Temple (Le Marais)
  • Rue de Poitou (Le Marais)
  • St. Germain
  • Montmarte
For Overpriced (but Fun) Cocktails:
  • Experimental Cocktail Club – 37 Rue Saint-Sauveur, 75002 Paris
  • Little Red Door – 60 Rue Charlot 75003 Paris (Le Marais)
  • Candelaria – 52 Rue de Saintonge  75003 Paris (Le Marais).  They also have great tacos, but good luck finding a spot unless you go early!  (The bar is through a secret door at the back.)

Miscellaneous:

  • Detergent – Ariel.  I was an idiot and was using Soupline for 2 months before realizing I was washing my clothes with a fabric softener.  Good job, me.
  • Skin care products – Nuxe.  I went to buy lotion and after staring for what felt like 20 minutes ended up with makeup remover.  The pharmacist steered me in the right direction.  I love this line of lotions and skin care products – they are all “sans paraben.”

Favorite bookstores:

© Sarah Milstein 2013

Porto Vecchio, Corsica

We spent the bulk of our time exploring (okay fine, laying out on) various beaches in Porto Vecchio.  Seeing as the beaches are all blurring together for me, and I think Janine summed them up awesomely (yes, that’s a word) on her blog, I think you should check out her posts: here, here, and here.  But I will leave you with some photographs, obviously.

Plage de Tamaricciu and Plage d’Asciaghju.  These are connected and have several beach bars/restaurants connecting the two.  I ordered a Heineken at one and received the smallest beer I’ve ever seen.

Golfe de Santa Giulia.  There was a lot of woodsy debris on the sand, leaving a small strip for the beach.  However, the water was very clear and warm.

Cala Rossa.  This was our favorite beach–we came here twice.  For one, the beach itself has more room to spread out.  Also, the water gets deep-ish relatively quickly so you can swim and there are less naked toddlers running around.  This could be a pro or a con depending on whether you have kids.

The restaurant 37.2, which is on the beach, was great–good food and amazing location.  Also, the beer is a normal size.  However, I got chased down the beach for stealing a Magnum only to explain that I paid for it.  Word to the wise, if I were to steal your ice cream, I probably would not do it in a red hat.  Just sayin’.

© Sarah Milstein 2013

GR20, Corsica

I was thinking that we would do some hiking in Corsica other than our accidental hike in Bonifacio.  One quick search on Google* would have told me that the GR20 is not some path for sissies–it’s a 180 km trek beginning in Calenzana, which “traverses Corsica diagonally from north to south,” and ends in Conca, and is recommended as a 15-day hike.**

We decided to check it out, so we drove from Porto Vecchio to Conca in Sainte-Lucie de Port-Vecchio.  Really, this was a short drive (13 miles), but with the traffic, it probably took over an hour.  But we got to see things like this.

Once we got to Conca, we saw a sign for the GR20 and parked.  As it turns out, there were about 10 forks in the road after that sign, none of which were labeled with which direction the trail began. (Answer: Pick the path towards Radicali.)

We walked up each road to the end before finding the entrance (featured above).  In the heat, I was dying before we even found the trail.  Which by the way, was pretty awesome.  However, I can’t imagine doing the other 179 km of it, at least in that heat!

*Actually, I met two guys on the RER heading to the airport who told me this, since they had just done the trek a few days prior.  Who needs Google when there are cute strangers?

**For those who are curious, this website lays out everything you need to know about the GR20.

© Sarah Milstein 2013

I Want To Ride Your Bicycle / I Want To Ride Your Bike

I am in love with the Vélib’.  That’s a bicycle for those of you wondering what the hell I’m talking about.  Although it took me 2 months to muster up the courage to check one out, I am a wholehearted convert and think every city should have a bike share program.  For 29€ for the year, 8€ a week, or 1.70€ a day, you essentially get a license to rent a vélib’ for 30 minutes from any station in Paris, of which there over 1800.  Yes, 1800 stations.  That means you will find another station within 300 meters–that’s less than a quarter of a mile.

You can rent a vélib’  for longer than 30 minutes,* but will be charged a nominal fee.  But why would you do that when you can turn it back in at 29 minutes and check out another one, for free?  Plus, Paris is small.  You probably won’t even need a full 30 minutes.

Yes, riding on cobblestone and uphill is difficult.  Yes, there are times that I am terrified I will get taken out by a bus.  Sure I’ve had a dog jump out at me while I was riding and nearly been taken out by a scooter, but I’m less likely to be pick pocketed than on the metro.

Also, it is a fun, amazing way to see the city and to get to your destination, all while doing something that is good for you: exercising.  How else am I supposed to be able to eat all of these pains au chocolat and compté cheese?

I know that New York and Chicago recently implemented bike share programs.  What do these cities all have in common?  Good public transportation systems, but bad weather for a large part of the year.  (Sorry, but it’s true.)

Now why on earth does Los Angeles not have this?  LA has wide streets, no cobblestone, terrible public transportation, and year round nice weather.  I’m a convert and would gladly leave my car on the street (assuming it’s not a street cleaning day) and take a vélib’ / citibike / divvybike.  Come on LA, get with the program!

And now, a photo montage.

Disclaimer: Only the grey bikes featured above are vélib’s.

*”Vélib Passion” is 39€ for the year and allows you to check out a vélib’ for 45 minutes at a time.

© Sarah Milstein 2013

Le Mur des Je T’aime, Paris

Je T'aime

Le Mur des “Je T’aime” is a wall in Montmarte with “over 311 written declarations [of I love you] in 250 different languages.”  I overheard a tour guide telling her devoted clan that it was only 52 languages.  I suppose eavesdropping does not guarantee accurate information.

© Sarah Milstein 2013

Ajaccio, Corsica

Based on Garance Doré’s blog, we headed to Capo di Feno on the northern tip of Ajaccio on Sunday before our flight.  Who doesn’t like boarding a plane covered in sunscreen and sea salt?  Okay, maybe me.  But our flight was so delayed, I think I was actually clean by the time we boarded.

To get to this beach from the main road, you have to drive down a narrow, rugged path (it’s two ways, I promise).  You’ll pass some horses and barbed wire.  Keep going.  At the end, you’ll see a parking lot and an amazing view.  You’ve arrived!

Since you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s good they have a restaurant on the beach.  However, if you want prime front row seating, you have to make a reservation.  You should definitely come with an appetite as the portions are enormous.

This was one of the nicer beaches we went to.  The beach itself was very wide with tons of room to spread out.  The water was shallow for a long ways out and is perfect for swimming and/or paddle boarding.  Although you wouldn’t know from these photos, there were waves.  I swear.  Lots of people were surfing and body boarding.  The waves are fairly calm though, so don’t come expecting to catch a big swell!

We walked around Ajaccio after laying on the beach, but seeing as it was Sunday, most things were closed.  So we headed to the beach right next to the airport, where we drank beers before our flight.

© Sarah Milstein 2013