Tag Archives: travel

French Word Of The Day!

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faire des bêtises – to do something silly / to play the fool

Nous savons tous que, dans leur exubérance, des jeunes peuvent parfois s’écarter du droit chemin et faire des bêtises - We all know that young people, in their exuberance, might sometimes be led astray and do something foolish or stupid.

Synonyms - Faire l’idiot, faire le zouave, faire l’imbécile.

Poppy’s Place, Parsons Green, London

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Where?

Located at the Lillie Road end of Munster Road, Parsons Green, this new little cafe-diner is as kooky as it is tasty. Nestled on the corner of Bronsart Road, the glass facades provide a light, airy space which won’t induce Sunday morning hangover claustrophobia.

Poppy's Place, 255 Munster Road, Fulham, London SW6 6BW, United Kingdom

The Decor?

Poppy’s is beautifully decorated with white wooden walls and flooring giving it a beach-like, summery feel perfect for a summer’s day treat. A rustic, duck-egg blue cabinet houses a delicious spread of jams and breads (even crayons for your tots), while the vintage server at the front is bedecked with tea cups that little girls dream of. Cute wooden tables are adorned with beautiful fresh flowers in coloured glass vases and lab-like stools complement the uncluttered vibe.

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The Grub?

The menu is varied and affordable and the quality of food, top-notch. Nothing on the breakfast/lunch menu exceeds £10 which is a pleasant surprise versus some local joints so if you’re after a bargainous, slap-up brekkie, take your pick. There’s something for everyone here, from smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs and a choice of sides such as grilled bacon or chorizo to bacon baps, porridge with winter fruit compote or greek yoghurt with seasonal fruit.

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The Lunch?

Lunch options are equally diverse from house burger and macaroni cheese to a range of toasties, salads and baguettes. Steak, horseradish and rocket is a personal favourite. There’s even a Little Munsters Kids’ Menu including fish finger sandwiches, chicken wedges, baked beans on toast and boiled egg and soldiers.

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Dinner too?

Open until 11pm, the dinner menu also includes a range of mouth-watering dishes, from fresh catch of the day to ribeye steak (sourced from premium Lake District Farmers, this is the priciest dish on the menu at £25). The only health-warning of note is that you’re likely to become a regular if you visit this place. After a mouthful of these goodies, you’ll be chomping at the bit for more.

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Details:

Address: 255 Munster Road, Parsons Green, SW6 6BW

Telephone: 0207 920 6420

Nearest Tube: Parsons Green

Website

5 Of The Tallest Buildings In The World You Need To Visit!

1. The Canton Tower, China

Also known as Guangzhou Tower (Chinese: 广州塔), The Canton Tower is a 600 metre tall multi-purpose observation tower in the Haizhu District of Guangzhou, Guandong, China. The tower became operational for the 2010 Asian Games and briefly held the title of tallest tower in the world, before being surpassed by the Tokyo Skytree in 2011. It’s now the fifth-tallest freestanding structure in the world and is lit by seven thousand LED light fixtures which change colour across the entire height of the tower. A beautiful kaleidoscope of colour against the night sky.

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2. The Burj Khalifa, Dubai

The world’s tallest man-made structure, the 829.8 metre high Burj Khalifa in Dubai holds the official title of ‘Tallest Building in the World’. It was also the location for the current Guinness World Record for the highest base jump in history! Designed as the centerpiece of a large-scale, mixed-use development including 30,000 homes, 9 hotels, 7.4 acres of parkland, 19 residential towers, the Dubai Mall and the 30-acre man-made Burj Khalifa Lake, the decision to build Burj Khalifa is reportedly based on the government’s decision to diversify from an oil based economy to one that is service and tourism based. Great attention-grabbing strategy!

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3. The Empire State Building, New York

An 103 storey skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan, The Empire State Building is an impressive 443 metre high. The world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years until being overtaken by the original World Trade Center’s North Tower in late 1970, The Empire State Building is currently the fourth tallest skyscraper in the US (after the One World Trade Center, the Willis Tower and Trump International Hotel and Tower) and the 25th tallest skyscraper in the world. The views over New York are breathtaking, its distinctive art deco style belying its timeless appeal.

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4. The Eiffel Tower, Paris

The iconic iron latticed Eiffel Tower, named after its engineer, Gustave Eiffel and located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world. Standing some 324 metres tall, it held the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second and an observatory on the third. With views over one of the most romantic cities on Earth, it’s pretty clear why it’s such a popular proposal spot…

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5. The Shard, London

Also referred to as The Shard of Glass, Shard London Bridge and formerly London Bridge Tower, The Shard is an 87 storey skyscraper in London that forms part of the London Bridge Quarter development. Its privately operated observation deck, The View From The Shard, is a popular spot for tourists and Londoners alike. Designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, the Shard is currently the tallest building in the European Union, standing at an impressive 309 metres. As London’s highest viewing platform, The Shard is a wonderful place to take in over 1,000 years of the capital’s history. What’s not to like?

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The Comfort Zone – Love it or Hate it?

Are you a comfort zone lover or hater?

What does stepping outside your comfort zone mean? Panic zone, learning zone or magic zone?

Does change mean recklessness or development, confusion or clarity?

Do you dare to dream?

Watch the video below and find out why stepping outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens.

5 Minute Chunky Guacamole Recipe

Want to whip up a pre-dinner entree that’s fresh, healthy and scrummy?  Are you time-short but eager to impress your guests? Look no further. This guacamole recipe is easy to follow and super-quick.

Ingredients:
  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 3 avocados, very ripe but not bruised
  • juice 1 large lime
  • handful coriander, leaves and stalks chopped, plus a few leaves, roughly chopped, to serve
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli, red or green, deseeded and finely chopped
  • tortilla chips, to serve
Method

1. Use a large knife to pulverise the tomato to a pulp on a board, then tip into a bowl. Halve and stone the avocados (saving a stone) and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh into the bowl with the tomato.

2. Tip all the other ingredients into the bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Use a whisk to roughly mash everything together.

3. If not serving straight away, sit a stone in the guacamole (this helps to stop it going brown), cover with cling film and chill until needed. Scatter with the coriander, if using, then serve with tortilla chips or spicy wedges and sour cream.

Improve your Languages with Vocabuflash

Looking for an accessible way to improve your Spanish or English?  Look no further.

Vocabuflash on YouTube is an easy to use language learning tool, providing short flash card videos (15 mins) on vocab essentials, from 100 most commonly used words and phrases to verbs and adjectives.

It also provides pronunciation of each word, improving your listening and speaking skills as well as reading and writing. Just 15 mins a day to improve your fluency – first thing, before bed or while you’re cooking – easy peasy.

YouTube Link

The Top Roof Terraces in Madrid

1. Circulo de Bellas Artes Roof Terrace, Gran Via

Located on Calle de Alcala just off Gran Via, the roof terrace at Circulo de Bellas Artes is a not to be missed. If there’s one place you should take a visitor, it’s here. A spectacle extraordinaire, the wow factor is on a par with stepping onto the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

This is a truly panoramic experience, with views stretching over the cityscape as far as the eye can see. The terrace is vast with various sub-sections, from the chic canopeyed restaurant hub and sophisticated high-tabled drinks area to a chic sunken zone with low-lying sun loungers and fluorescent mushroom-like tables.

If you come before 9:30pm you’ll avoid queuing and catch the sunset. At 3 euros a pop, an evening a-top Circulo de Bellas Artes is a steal.

Contact:

Address: Calle de Alcala, 42, 28014, Madrid

Nearest Metro: Banco de Espana

Website

Tel: 913 60 54 00

2. Cibeles Root Terrace, Banco de Espana

Cibeles Palace roof terrace comes a close second. Standing majestically in front of the famous Cibeles Fountain, it oozes gravitas and splendour.

The Palacio Cibeles Restaurant, on the sixth floor, has pretty lovely views but the eighth floor is something else. With horizon wide panoramas of the city from a 70 metre high look-out point, this is well worth a visit. The terrace is top-end chic, with striking black surrounds and dim-lighting which gives it an exclusive edge over some of its counterparts.

If you count yourself a bit of a sophisticat, give this a whirl.

Contact:

Address: Plaza Cibeles 1, 28014, Madrid

Nearest Metro: Banco de Espana

Website

Tel: 917 40 06 68

3. La Terraza de Óscar at Room Mate Óscar, Chueca

Situated on Plaza de Vázquez de Mella, between Gran Via and Chueca, the rooftop bar a-top the swanky Room Mate Óscar hotel is a must. If you’re struggling to find it, you can’t miss the bold, over-sized sign hanging from its exterior which reads: “Do you want to sleep with me?”  How continental.

With comfy white cushions, sun-loungers spread around to laze on and drinks ranging from Gin and Tonics to Mojitos, you’d have to try pretty hard not to like this place.

And while it’s a top of the range spot with a distinctly exclusive vibe to it, it’s not overly expensive. Chic, light and airy, Room Mate Óscar mixes the luxurious and unpretentious with ease.

Contact:

Address: Plaza de Vázquez de Mella, 12, 28004, Madrid

Nearest tube: Banco de Espana/Gran Via

Website

Tel: 917 01 11 73

4. ME Hotel Roof Terrace, Las Letras

Think understated chic under the stars. Not unlike its glamorous Covent Garden counterpart, the roof terrace at the ME Hotel in Plaza Santa Ana is a super stylish hang-out with views to die for. With wooden decking lining the floors, stylish glass surrounds and chic taupe umbrellas, it has an air of exclusivity which more than justifies the 10 euro entry fee by night.

Though previously a little put-off by the latter, it’s a small price to pay for the ambience and complimentary cocktail of your choice.

If you really can’t bring yourself to shell out, the terrace is free by day and is a lovely spot for afternoon digestifs after lunch at Lateral southward.

Contact:

Address: Plaza de Santa Ana, 14, 28012, Madrid

Nearest Metro: Anton Martin

Website

Tel: 902 14 44 40

5. St Anton Market, Chueca

My sister’s favourite of the lot, this roof terrace combines markety buzz and casual chic.  Located on the top floor of Mercado San Anton (one of Madrid’s most authentic tapas markets), it’s an eclectic mix of flora, fauna and cocktails set in the heart of Madrid’s gay district.

If you don’t fancy the restaurant sitting alongside the bar, or sampling the market treats below, there are top of the range restaurants a-plenty southward. If you like character, you’ll love this.

Contact:

Address: Calle Augusto Figueroa, 24. 28004, Madrid

Nearest metro: Chueca

Website

Tel: 91 330 07 30

6. El Corte Ingles Roof Terrace, Callao

Feast your eyes on this one.  The gourmet section of the well-known department store has moved skyward, where it combines forces with a variety of bars and restaurants. From Japanese and American to tapas and tortellini, this is a gem of a find with spectacular views of the city to boot. Whether you’re after a full-blown meal or a light snack after a day’s shopping in Sol, this is a wonderful spot to unwind. Not often you find similar offerings atop department stores in London…

Contact:

Address: Plaza de Callao, 2, 28013, Madrid

Nearest Metro: Callao

Website

Tel: 913 79 80 00

7. Rooftop Bar, Hotel de Las Letras, Gran Via

Located in the heart of Madrid on Gran Via, this is a classy 4* Hotel with a twist. As its name suggests, Hotel De las Letras has a literary thread, with walls decorated with silk-screened texts of different authors. If poems and short stories aren’t your bag, venture up to the 7th floor rooftop bar, otherwise known as Ático De las Letras and discover a relaxed, jungular wilderness overlooking the city heights.

The decor is understated but snazzy, with slatted wooden flooring and high neon green perspex tables. Food includes a range of salads, tapas, grilled sardines and beef tartare. There’s also an impressive range of booze on offer with varying types of rum, vodka, gin, brandy, whisky and champagne as well as mojitos, caipirinhas or a range of fresh juices.

Come nightfall, you can enjoy the starry lights of the cityscape alongside a live DJ who plays into the wee hours. Open from 13:00 to 12:30 Sundays to Wednesdays and 13:00 to 03:00 Thursdays to Saturdays, this is a great spot to enjoy a break from the city.

Contact:

Address: Calle Gran Vía, 11, 28013, Madrid

Nearest tubes: Gran Via/Sevilla

Website

Tel: 915 23 79 80

8. Hotel Urban Roof Terrace, Sevilla

A stone’s throw from Gran Via, Hotel Urban is a minimalist 5 Star experience worth a visit. The roof terrace is understated, modern chic, with white seating and views over Madrid’s city centre. While the outlook is a little more ‘urban’ and less far-reaching than some of its counterparts, this is an elegant spot with a uniquely metropolitan twist.

The menu is extensive with generous lashings of gin typical of Madrid and the drinks are served with popcorn – a novel touch for a novel experience. Open from around 8pm, this is a lovely spot for a pre-dinner drink.

Contact:

Address: Carrera de San Jerónimo, 34, 28014, Madrid

Nearest Metro: Sevilla

Website

Tel: 917 87 77 70

9. Ildefonso Market, Malasana

This new market in Tribunal is a must-see.  While sampling the culinary delicacies here is the main feature, the roof terrace on the second floor with its outdoor watering system is super buzzy and fun.  The only reason why this ranks lower than the others is because there is no view – but the atmosphere is second to none.

Grab yourself a mouth-watering burger, a plate of pulpo and a glass of vino for 2 euros and you’re in bliss.  Throw a chocolate crepe in for good measure and life really doesn’t get much better.

Contact:

Address: Calle Fuencarral, 57, 28080, Madrid

Nearest metro: Tribunal

Website

Tel: 915 59 13 00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Days in ‘The Big Apple’

Manhattan, New York

New York City is addictive – once you’ve tasted it, you’ll want more.  A concrete jungle with a skyline to end all skylines, what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in buzz.  The city that never sleeps, it’s hub of yellow taxis, beeping horns, NYPD vans and Stars and Stripes – everywhere.  If you can stomach the Arctic climes, February is a great time to visit – you’ll benefit from cut-price flights and maybe a bit of snow, if you’re lucky.

Your first experience of Manhattan will doubtless be in a yellow cab.  Brace yourself.  New York taxi drivers are devoid of the charm of London cabbies.  Zero small talk and 20% tipping starts here!

Top Sights 

Skyline by Night

In terms of sights to see, The Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan is a great first stop.  Walking through the art-deco surrounds as you ascend to the open air 360-degree observation deck on the 86th floor is like stepping back in time (don’t worry, there’s a lift).  The panoramic views at the top are all the more striking by night, the bitter cold etching the stunning vistas into freeze-frames of the mind.  The cityscape is breath-taking, with lights spanning horizon-wide across the Hudson and East Rivers and stretching skyward to illuminate the heady heights of the Chrysler Building, the Rockefeller Centre and the Bank of America Tower.

Skyline by Day

By day, the penthouse floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at 80 Columbus Circle on 60th Street is a top of the range spot to gaze over the Manhattan skyline and Central Park.  If you can’t stretch to the mouth-watering sushi feast on offer, a hot chocolate is a warming alternative on a cold winter’s day.  The views from the rooftop bar of the Standard Hotel, an 18-storey tower arching over the High Line in the heart of Downtown Manhattan’s Meatpacking District are also worth a peek – if you can stretch to a slightly pricey liquid treat, there’s no better way to take in The Big Apple than in the chic surrounds of the Boom Boom Room.  But this is a city with far more to it than its 1,776 feet height.

Café-to-go

From East Village and West Village to Wall Street and Chelsea, New York is a hive of activity and character.  The cafe culture is a huge part of daily life, stretching well-beyond the 9-5.  My favourite daily hangout was the “The Bean” at 147, East Village, a large cafe full of charm and character (and delicious banana muffins to boot).  Typical of the New York coffee scene, it’s awash with locals on Apple Macs, giving off a collective energy which really stirs the creative juices.  Who knew sitting at a communal table could be such fun?  Very un-British.

East Village

While we’re on the subject of East Village, with bars, cafés  and restaurants aplenty, this is a great little spot for young-uns to stay.  Lying east of Greenwich Village, south of Gramercy Park and north of the Lower East Side, the area has become a center of the counter culture in New York and is known for its diverse community, vibrant nightlife and artistic sensibility.

Greenwich Village 

If you prefer the finer things in life, a stroll through the civilised Greenwich Village will give you a snapshot into the lives of Danielle Steele’s upper middle class ladies.  If you fancy a lazy afternoon in a café, you can while away the hours watching New York’s equivalents of Chelsea yummy mummies treating their well-turned out tots to tea and cake.

The Meatpacking District

For a lively gastronomical experience you won’t forget in a hurry, hop a little further north to The Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking District.  One of the greatest indoor food halls of the world, it has more than thirty-five vendors purveying everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake.  It also boasts eclectic pop-up shops displaying all manner of delights from hand-made jewellery to beautiful cards and prints such those designed by Ashleigh Verrier.  Top that off with a visit to the world-class High Line (a stone’s throw away) and you have a perfect afternoon.  A one mile, haven-like park built on an elevated railway 30 feet above Manhattan’s West Side, it provides beautiful views over the Hudson River and beyond.

A top spot for dinner nearby is The Monarch Room, the American Restaurant-Diner also located in the Meatpacking District.  With an ambience and price tag typical of the area, it’s super trendy with a buzziness that’s hard to beat.  Fantastic cocktails and a diverse menu ranging from grilled octopus and duck breast to peanut butter wedge and chocolate cake make for a memorable feast.

Central Park & Midtown

Another must-see site is the famous Central Park, some 800 acres in size.  Just north of Midtown, it’s home to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, tennis courts and a sizeable lake.  You can even roam around it in a horse and carriage if you’re feeling lazy.  Shouting distance from Saks on Fifth Avenue, Barney’s on Madison Avenue and Broadway, a leisurely walk amongst the trees can be topped off with a bit of retail therapy and any number of Musicals from Pippin to Wicked.

Broadway

If you’re after some respite from New York’s mayhem, The Ace Hotel on Broadway is just the ticket.  Dimly-lit with with cosy armchairs and sofas, this chilled lounge-bar is a great example of New York being “a city of interiors”.  Step off the bustly streets into Ace and you’ll enter a snug brimming with New Yorkers, Brooklynites, international travellers and freelancers unwinding to the dulcet tones of stellar live music displays on Sunday evenings.

Wall Street & Brooklyn

I’d also recommend a trip to Wall Street.  Situated on the Southern tip of Manhattan, it buzzes with testosterone befitting a global financial centre and is a stone’s throw from the famous Brooklyn Bridge and its spectacular views of Manhattan (dinner at The River Café overlooking the East River is memorable).  The Financial District is also within spitting distance of the stunning new World Trade Center and The World Trade Center Memorial, a salutary reminder of times passed.

Guys ’n’ Dolls

A note of warning for single ladies out there looking for love.  If you’re visiting New York in the hope of “hooking-up” with a handsome American, best look elsewhere.  Described as “a candy store for men”, women vastly outnumber their male counterparts and are known to be every bit as determined and toned as professional predators.  This is a city of wash-board stomachs like no other.  The other tip for English tourists is to speak slowly and clearly, over-enuciating to the nth degree.  While most New Yorkers go bananas over “cute” English accents (cue: “I’m dreadfully sorry to bother you” – again), it takes, on average, about three attempts to be vaguely understood.  Most odd.

America v England

One of the other notable aspects of New York and an apt analogy for the difference between the English and American personality has to be the cars.  While London’s roads boast Mini Coopers, BMWs, Aston Martins and TVRs, New York is replete with black, oversized A-Team style vans, Mustangs and Cadillacs.  Such was the prevalence of colossal black vehicles parked astride 5* Hotels, I half expected Barack Obama to step out on state business.

But joking aside, New Yorkers can’t be faulted for their warmth, enthusiasm and lack of reserve.  This is a people who take pride in letting their military personnel board planes first and who fly the American flag with unapologetic patriotism – a refreshing contrast to London.  The  scale and compression of the high-rise buildings give off a vitality and animation so imposing it seems almost pop-up.  Like nothing I have ever experienced, with a noise and buzz of elephantine proportions, this really is “The Land of Hope and Dreams”.  If you feel a little flat, it will bring you alive; if you feel de-motivated, it will make you dream bigger.

It’s perhaps best summed up by John Steinbeck: “New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it – once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.”

Details:

Cheap flights – Monarch

Accommodation – AirBnB has great value private rooms or whole apartments (worth it given hotel rates in NY)

Visual Snapshot of NY – www.humansofnewyork.com/

Map of Manhattan – see below