New York and London are both expensive cities, but there is one area where there is no comparison. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about the cost of taxis. Even with the recent fare increase in New York, cabs in London are WAAAYYYYY more expensive.
To give you an idea of how expensive London cabs can be…. Last week, my husband and I hailed a metered taxi on the street, taking it from Exmouth Market to Paddington station. Both are in Zone 1, and we took the cab around 11pm in the evening so there was absolutely no traffic. The cost of the cab was slightly over £20. That’s right, more than twenty pounds, or roughly thirty-two US dollars to go from one destination to another within Central London. Can you imagine what we might have had to pay if we took it during a time where traffic was a factor? Talk about ways to break the bank.
So what’s a girl to do?
When I first moved to London, I found it very hard (and depressing) to let go of the ‘I’ll just grab a cab’ New York mentality. The convenience of always knowing that a cab is an option (when it’s late at night, when you’re late for work, after you’ve had a few drinks…) is something that I always took for granted. Letting go of that, meant that I had to start spending a little more time planning out my transportation options. So what are the options exactly? Continue Reading →
Hello vacation! My hubby reluctantly posed for this pic. The view in the background is of the port in Monaco.
I’ve been meaning to post about our trip to the French Riviera, but I keep writing and re-writing the post because there are so many things to talk about! So, instead of giving you a looooong dose of daily reading, I thought it would be nice to split each of the places we visited into separate posts.
We took our trip in late June/early July, and it was the perfect time to travel to the south of France. The weather was absolutely amazing – sunny, not too hot, not too cold – and it wasn’t super crowded or overrun by tourists.
After flying into Nice, we took the 110 Express bus from Nice to Monaco. I highly recommend this bus! We did a bit of research and found that the express bus is the second best way to get to Monaco. (The first best way is via helicopter, but that was a little beyond our travel budget!)
The bus was nice and pretty cheap. It picked us up at the airport and went directly from to Monaco, stopping at each of the major hotels there. It was probably almost as fast as a taxi at a tenth of the price.
We stayed at the Monte Carlo Bay hotel. While it was a bit of a hike from the Place du Casino area, it was a lovely hotel with spacious rooms and pretty view of the sea. We lounged at the pool during the day and spent most of the evenings closer to the center of town.
Monte Carlo Bay Hotel
We stayed in Monaco for about three days, and I would say that that was more than enough time. It’s a very small country, and other than the casino and the nightlife, there’s not much else going on. Here are some of the highlights:
THE MONTE CARLO CASINO
Even if you don’t like to gamble, you have to go into the casino just for the experience and beautiful decor.
BEST RESTAURANT WITH A VIEW
This is cheating a bit because it isn’t in Monte Carlo, but it’s close enough. I’m talking about La Chevre d’Or in the charming hilltop town of Eze, situated between Nice and Monaco. The restaurant has two michelin stars (not too shabby…), but the food is just the icing on the cake. The best part of the evening was walking through the property’s amazing gardens while taking in the incredible views of the Mediterranean.
BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR DRINK ON
This one is a little tougher, because the city was actually pretty dead when we visited. I’m not sure if it is because we were there mid-week or if it was the time of year… We went to a number of bars, but most of them were empty and we were among only a handful of customers.
For pre- or post-dinner drinks, Buddha Bar was fab. It had a lovely outdoor seating area in addition to the typical Buddha Bar scene inside.
For a full-on clubbing experience, we had to visit Jimmy Z. According to most sources it is a Monaco institution. The venue was beautiful – half indoors, half outdoors, with tables overlooking the water. Drinks were very expensive (and this is coming from someone who is used to paying Manhattan prices for drinks!). If you’re coming with a group, bottle service might be a more economical option. The night that we went the crowd was made up of mostly couples snuggling on the couches. Only a few made it onto the dance floor. But with such an incredible venue and great DJ, there’s no question that this place is fun on a busier night.
BEST SHOPPING SCENE
There are a few things that Monaco gets right. Gambling is one, and shopping is another. Being in Monte Carlo is like walking along Fifth Avenue, if Fifth Avenue was surrounded by beautiful gardens, clear sea, and some of the biggest yachts in the world.
Many of the nicer stores are on the streets surrounding the Monte Carlo Casino and the Hotel de Paris. Right across from the casino gardens, the Métropole Shopping Center also has a few shops worth visiting.
Overall, Monaco was really nice. I couldn’t spend an entire week there, but for a long weekend it’s the perfect holiday destination!
I’m posting a Travel Tuesday post on a Wednesday, mainly because I forgot to put it up yesterday. Sorry! I was super busy doing laundry, cleaning and packing for our upcoming trip to India. I completely forgot to post.
Anyway, I’m super excited for India. The pic above is a throwback from the last time I was there. It’s of me and my mom in Delhi
As I’ve been going through my list of things to pack, I thought it would be helpful to do a post on the couple of things that I never travel without. We’ve done a lot of traveling in the past couple of years, and there are a few necessities that I always have with me, for weekend trips and long vacations, both near and far. These things just make my life easier! Continue Reading →
Last Easter, my hubby and I did five days in Barcelona. It was an amazing trip, filled with just the right amount of yummy food, great art, tourist sites, and sunshine.
We stayed at Le Meridien hotel on La Rambla, in the heart of the tourist section of the city. It was the perfect location stay for seeing the sites, as it was fairly central and right near a subway station. While we were there, we got really lucky with all of our restaurant picks. We had a fantastic meal each night!
As I said above, we had some of the most amazing food in Barcelona. We generally had much better luck finding restaurants through Yelp and friend recommendations than by popping in random places along the street. Particularly around La Rambla and some of the other touristy areas, the food seemed overpriced, greasy and flavorless. If you are planning to go, I think it is definitely worthwhile to take a little time to do some research and make reservations at the good places in advance. Here are some of our recommendations
Can Majo 5 word summary: paella, seafood, location, paella, paella
Paella is one of Barcelona’s specialties, so you must make sure to try it while you are there! Can Majo is a restaurant famously known for having great paella and seafood. Situated in the Barceloneta neighborhood, it’s a very picturesque place to eat. (I read somewhere that they also have a terrace overlooking the beach, but it was too cold and rainy to sit on a terrace when we were there.) The crowd of diners seemed to be mostly tourists, but the atmosphere didn’t feel overly touristy.
We were eating with some friends, and all six of us got the seafood paella. I’m generally not a huge paella lover, but even I had to admit that this was very good. The seafood was super fresh and the rice was perfectly moist. The paellas are a little pricey, but definitely worth the splurge!
On Saturday night, we went to a flamenco show (which included dinner) at Tablao de Carmen. It’s definitely an experience that caters to the tourist crowd, but the dancing was very entertaining.
There are a couple of different food options for food, and you chose your menu when you book tickets for the show. We chose the prefixed tapas menu, which was more than enough food. The food itself wasn’t great, or even that good. Actually, I would go as far as to say that the food is a miss, but I still thought that the price was worthwhile just to see the dancing. And, they give you unlimited wine/sangria, which makes the food taste a little better
Bar Mut 5 word summary: unique tapas, wine list, pricey
These are not your run-of-the-mill tapas dishes. When we arrived, the waiter told us that they had no menus and he verbally described 5 or 6 dishes that they had. They were all very unique dishes – not for picky eaters! They also had an extensive wine selection, with wines ranging from very cheap to outrageously expensive.
The ‘tapas’ are quite large, so we only needed three dishes between the two of us. (To save room for dessert, of course!) Egg carpaccio – amazing. Grilled octopus with potatoes – the second best. I can’t remember the third dish we had, so it must not have been that great. For dessert we had Coulant de Chocolate with Pistachio Ice Cream – heaven on earth.
Apparently there is also a super swanky nightclub associated with this restaurant, and they occasionally invite people eating at the restaurant to go to the club. I haven’t seen it because we obviously weren’t cool enough to be invited… or maybe it was closed because it was Easter. Anyway, might be worthwhile asking about it if you’re looking for a night on the town after dinner.
Sensi Tapas 5 word summary: ambiance, location, tapas, friendly waitstaff
We found this restaurant on Yelp, after searching for places with a more traditional tapas menu. Sensi’s menu does have all the usual suspects: patatas bravas, croquetas, chorizo, padron peppers… but they also have a unique ‘Oriental tapas’ menu. We mixed and matched from both menus, and everything we had was very good. We both particularly liked the red curry mussels and the beer-braised baby chorizo.
The ambiance of this restaurant is also what makes it so good. It is situated in a stone building and the restaurant has painted a few bright red accent walls. The look is completed by a gothic-style chandelier hanging from the center of the space. A definite recommend for anyone!
Cinc Sentits 5 word summary: prefix, expensive, orange marinated olives
On our final night in Barcelona we went to Cinc Sentits, which is widely considered to be one of the best restaurants in the city. We did the tasting menu, and it was so YUM! They had these orange marinated olives, which were so amazing. They actually weren’t part of the tasting menu. The chef made them special for that night, but I’ve never tried anything like them before. They were so good. The rest of the food was also really nice. A definite MUST-DO if you’re looking for something super swanky. Warning though, it is very pricey so certainly not for the budget traveller.
When we first moved to London, I wanted to buy a Swiffer WetJet, one of my favorite cleaning tools. I popped over to amazon.co.uk, did a quick search, and added the Swiffer WetJet to my cart. As I was going through the checkout process I (luckily) glanced at the total. 101 pounds.
The term ‘Indian Summer’ was one that was thrown around quite a bit this weekend. This is my first autumn in London, so it surprised me and made me a bit sad that this weather isn’t typical for September. This weekend, We decided to take advantage of the warm sun, knowing that it might not be around for much longer.
We had a lovely afternoon on Sunday at Spitalfields Market. It’s a great place to find quirky clothes, jewelry and housewares, and it’s open every day of the week. They also have cool community events. On Sunday they had tango dancing.
We ate brunch at this really cute restaurant right next to the market called Bishopsgate Kitchen. I would highly recommend the chorizo hash.
New York City and London mirror each other in many ways, including the fact that they’re both home to some of the world’s top museums. Where New York has the Met, the MoMA and the Museum of Natural History, London has the National Gallery, the Tate Modern and the British Museum.
BUT, London does beat New York in one very important way: ACCESSIBILITY. Almost all of the museums in London are free. That’s right, you can pop in for 30 minutes, or an hour, or a full day at no charge whatsoever. Pretty great, right?
Last Sunday, we visited the Tate Britain. What I really like about the Tate museums is that they organise how they display the artwork in a very thoughtful way. The Tate Modern, for example, is organised by theme. The Tate Britain, on the other hand, is organised by time period, allowing visitors to take a chronological walk through the history of British art from 1540 to the present day.
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I (left), Arthur Melville, The Blue Night, Venice 1897 (right)
The Chapman Family Collection (left), Peter Blake, Portrait of David Hockney in a Hollywood Spanish Interior, 1965 (right)
The museum itself is also pretty impressive. The Sackler Octagon in the center of the building is amazing.
The view of the Sackler Octagon from the Duveen Galleries
In total, we spent about three and a half hours in the museum. We ate in the temporary Millbank Cafe and Bar. (The hot food was crap, but the flourless chocolate cake was A-MAZING.) We saw the special exhibition on Lowry, which is on until 20 October, but cost £15 per person. And finally, we did a brief walk through of the chronological tour of British art. We didn’t have time to see the Turner Collection or the galleries dedicated to individual artists, but hey.. there’s always next time!
Last week was the first week of regular season NFL games. My hubby is a huge Steelers fan and I’m an even bigger Eagles fan, so this poses a huge dilemma. How do we watch the games in London?
The Steelers game last week was a 1pm game, showing at 6pm in the UK. 6pm is still a reasonable time to watch football, so this took the time difference obstacle off the table. After much searching we were able to find a bar that was showing the game: the Marylebone Sports Bar & Grill. Continue Reading →
I had a minor freakout today when speaking with a friend about the TV show, Homeland.
It’s one of my faves, and I realized that when it comes back for Season 3 in September, I won’t be watching it along with my US-based friends. (It will be premiering in October in the UK.) Not only does this mean that I’ll have to hold out a little longer to find out what happens with Brody and Carrie and my favorite character, Saul; but it also means that I’ll have to stay away from Twitter every Monday morning in order to avoid inadvertently reading any spoilers from last night’s episode.
This got me thinking.. are there other fab US shows that I’m missing here in the UK? Here is a list of upcoming UK air dates for your favorite US tv shows. Continue Reading →
Visit Britain is using the birth of Prince George to promote Britain as a family-friendly destination with this poster.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you must already know that the biggest news in London is the birth of the royal baby.
Tourists are coming in droves to experience the royal fever that has taken over London. Visit Britain has created this poster (left) to promote tourism in the UK, and the birth of the royal baby has increased Britain’s popularity worldwide.
While you clearly can’t come to see the royal baby himself, I wanted to put together a list of the best and most interesting tourist attractions related to the royal baby. Continue Reading →