In this guest article, former pastry chef Andrea Duty takes us on a mouthwatering tour of the best deserts and sweet stuff in London – heaven for sugar addicts!
The torrid reputation of English food is infamous. Time and time again, foodie travelers pass on the UK’s bland traditions in favor of Vietnamese spice or French indulgence. And while it’s true that the culinary scene in London had an exceedingly long awkward phase, it’s since grown into a modern, dynamic contender as one of the best food cities in the world. I could talk for pages about the various curry houses, chippers, chaat shops and pubs throughout the city, but as a former pastry chef, I feel it my duty to bring you all things sugar, from the traditional to the internationally influenced. Thus, my list of absolute favorite desserts in London. Nothing bland about it.
Renowned Parisian chef Philippe Conticini brings the signature bell jars display cases and geometric packaging of La Pâtisserie des Rêves to Marylebone, filling them with manicured renditions of French classics and updated British favorites. His kouign amann – a baton of caramelized croissant dough – negates the need for a trip to Paris on the Eurostar while his carrot cake has forever ruined me to my homemade version.
Hot on Conticini’s heels is Frédéric Vaucamps, the master of meringues whose Aux Merveilleux de Fred just debuted South Kensington. His dainty “cakes” of crisped egg white, whipped cream and assorted toppings look like the dense cake balls du jour but wow with a cloud-like consistency. Flavors such as speculoos, praline and coffee compete as top sellers…and for space in my stomach.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
All those who visit me in London are treated to a Sunday roast at The Spaniards Inn, a 16th century pub reportedly frequented by the likes of Dickens and Keats. My guests may think the aim here is to show them a bit of British history or give them a little culture, but my real motive is a slice of sticky toffee pudding. The version at The Spaniards is wickedly rich and is pushed over the edge with a dollop of clotted cream. Nab a seat by the fireplace and it’s pure heaven.
Take a buttery tart shell, schmear it with jam, top with dense almond cake and you’ve got a classic Bakewell Tart. There are as many variations of this dessert as there are bakers in England, but my favorite slice so far is at Le Comptoir Gourmand. It may be commercially made, but it’s so rich and homey that I swear someone’s grandma must be running that kitchen.
Pistachio/Ricotta & Sour Cherry Gelato
I recently spent two weeks in Italy where I consumed as much gelato as is humanly possible, but BUT (and I feel sacrilege even saying this) none of it was as good as the scoops at Gelupo. Here the flavors are spot on: fresh, not too rich, and not too sweet. They are just…perfect. Plus, there’s a dessert case full of frozen cupcakes, chocolate-dipped cones and a rotation of seasonal treats. Even when we are in the depths of winter, you can bet on finding me here.
Andrea Duty is a former pastry chef from Austin, Texas living in London, England. She eats her way through other countries in attempt to discover cultural insight from cake and historical relevance through cookies…or something like that. You can follow her travels at This New View.
More London dining experiences:
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
The beautiful region of South Tyrol in Italy ticks lots of boxes; picturesque Alpine farmsteads, clear as crystal mountain air, stunning views of the Dolomites – but fashion? When I visited South Tyrol in September I met with two different fashion companies run by energetic young entrepreneurs who were taking inspiration from both the natural environment of South Tyrol and also the modern spirit of Italian design. With the fashion capital of Milan only a couple of hours away these companies can enjoy a lifestyle surrounded by nature while tapping into the best fashion design and production facilities in the world. Read on to find out how fashion and design is thriving in South Tyrol and to enter my South Tyrol Designer Giveaway of WAMS Socks and Re-bello T-shirts – just in time for Christmas!
Where Are My Socks? Italian Designer Socks from South Tyrol
My first stop on the South Tyrol Designer trail was to meet Robert Larcher and Daniel Kaneider, founders of WAMS?! Socks in their office just outside Bolzano. I call it an office but in true start-up fashion, they have crammed their showroom, warehouse, design hub and working space into a basement room of Robert’s apartment. I instantly felt the fun, fashion vibe with washing lines of latest sock designs strung over their desks and promotional leaflets from their latest collaborations covering the tables.
The two entrepreneurs met when studying economics in Innsbruck and decided they wanted to start a fashion business – fashion seems to be in the blood of every Italian male! They felt there was a gap in the market for colourful designer socks that were top quality but moderately priced and started work with a freelance designer to create the first collection. The tongue-in-cheek name of WAMS or “Where are my socks?” came about because the pair were always losing their socks in the wash so they wanted something bright and easy to spot. Now the range is constantly changing and there are often special editions such as the collection they made to match a Re-bello t-shirt line or the special snowflake sock they made for Snowdays, Europe’s biggest winter sport event for students.
The socks are made of top quality combed cotton in a factory near Verona and the company is proud to be selling a 100% ‘Made in Italy’ product. The local production means they can respond to fashion trends and work with other South Tyrol designers on special projects. Daniel told me “If someone asks me for a special design, I can call up the factory and in an hour I can be in Verona to discuss it with them”. The socks are stocked in over 50 stores around Italy and are also available to buy online through the WAMS website.
All the designs are unisex and in two lengths since Italian businessmen prefer to wear longer socks that don’t show any ankle, while those looking for fun and fashion will go for the ankle length. The socks retail at €12 for the ankle length and €16 for the longer length with a €48 gift box containing 4 socks that is very popular at Christmas. Robert and Daniel kindly gave me 4 pairs of socks in their most popular designs to give away in one of the gift sets – see below for more information on my South Tyrol Designer Giveaway.
Follow WAMS?! socks on their website where you can order their socks, ankle length socks €12, knee length socks €18, gift box with 4 socks €48, free shipping within Europe for orders over $40 otherwise shipping within Europe is €5. Follow their social media channels Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter
Read on to the bottom of the article for details of our WAMS Socks giveaway
Re-Bello – Sustainable Street style from South Tyrol, Italy
My next stop on the South Tyrol Designer trail was at the Re-Bello warehouse on the outskirts of Bolzano, where I met founder and CEO Daniel Tocca. After completing a degree in economics Daniel went on to complete a Master’s in Entrepreneurship in Rotterdam and realised that this was the path he wanted to take in business. After a false start working for a year in a multi-national corporation he gave up his job and in 2010 returned to his home town of Bolzano, where he joined with two friends to work on the concept for their new start-up venture.
They wanted to work in the fashion sector which is well developed in northern Italy, as Daniel put it ” Already when Italians are 13 or 4 they have an eye for beauty and fashion, it is in our blood like football.” Their vision was to develop a fashion brand that was based on sustainability, since this was a growing movement in Italy and Europe in areas like organic food, but was not well represented in the fashion sector. They started to source and develop sustainable yarns and fabrics, using bamboo and eucalptus as well as organic cotton and up-cycled wool, and to develop a plan to build the business. Daniel told me “Sustainability is not only in the clothes, in the materials, in the hang tags and everything we use, but also in the philosophy of how we should develop our company for long-term growth”.
At the start Daniel worked with a freelance designer to develop the fashion concept of Re-Bello – a beautiful rebel who wants to change things but in a beautiful way. Each range follows the season’s trends but draws inspiration from street-style, punk and rock and is inspired by the 23-35 year old fashions, although all ages may be attracted to the stylish designs and sustainability concept. The t-shirts designs are where the company started and Daniel showed me a banner made up of all their best-selling t-shirt prints, many of which become signature prints that transfer from one season to the next.
The fabrics used are top quality, with a silky finish and the unusual yarns are a key part of the sustainability approach. Bamboo grows in the wild and when cut it will quickly grow back at 15-20 cm a day, while Eucalyptus (sold under the Tencel brand) is also a semi-wild plant and so does not require intensive cultivation methods or large amounts of water. Organic cotton is also used as well up-cycled wool, taken from the offcuts from woollen garment manufacture which is re-cycled to make a new yarn for the Re-Bello knitwear. The company uses natural dyes, avoids garment finishes that use any harmful chemicals and their production methods are certified under recognised standards such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and OEKO-TEX Standard 100.
Despite all the work that goes into the sustainability of the Re-Bello fashion ranges, Daniel told me “I want to attract the customer who doesn’t necessarily know about our sustainability philosophy, who buys because of the style, they love the materials and how they feel. Then they go home and wear it and they understand the sustainability message and feel good about that.” The natural beauty of South Tyrol is a big inspiration for the sustainability approach of Re-Bello and a reason why they are based in Bolzano rather than the fashion hub of Milan. Daniel told me “When you come here the first thing you see is that nature is everywhere, even if you are in the centre of Bolzano you look up to see the mountains around you. The nature and sustainability of South Tyrol is what will keep Rebello here.”
Read on to the bottom of the article for details of the Re-Bello T-shirts I’m giving away
Follow Re-Bello on their website where you can see more of their Autumn range and discover how their sustainable approach makes a difference. In the Re-bello online shop you can order some of the best-selling t-shirts, knitwear and jeans for both men and women with T-shirts from €39.90, knitwear from €69.90 and jeans from €99.90. Follow them on their social media channels Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube |
The South Tyrol Designer Giveaway – WAMS?! Socks and Re-Bello T-shirts
I’m really pleased to be giving away to my readers some of the WAMS Socks and Re-Bello T-shirts that were kindly given to me when I visited the designers in South Tyrol. Lucky you – just as you’re starting to look for Christmas gift ideas! I’m giving away a gift box of 4 pairs of WAMS designer socks and 3 Re-Bello T-shirts. You can keep them for yourself or gift them to that sister/ brother/ mother/ daughter/ son/ boyfriend/ wife/ special person in your life.
From WAMS Socks – I’m giving away 4 pairs of Socks in a gift set worth €48 which you can see in the photos below. There are 3 pairs of short and 1 pair of long length, 2 pairs in size 36-40, 2 pairs in size 41-46.
From Re-Bello – I’m giving away 3 T-shirts in designs and sizes listed below to 3 different winners;
- Left: Batwing Tunic T-shirt Rose of Sharon made of Eucapliptus (Tencel) in size Large worth €39.90 – See it online here
- Centre: Kimono T-shirt White + Dark Gull Grey made of Bamboo in size Large worth €48.90 – see it online here
- Right: Batwing Tunic T-shirt Dark Gull Grey made of Eucaliptus (Tencel) in size Medium worth €39.90 – See it online here
How to Enter
To enter the South Tyrol Designer Giveaway please use the Rafflecopter widget (you can enter for both the socks and the T-shirts);
- If you’d like to win the WAMS Socks, enter by taking a look at the WAMS Socks website and then leave a comment below this post to tell me which is your favourite sock design from their range.
- If you’d like to win one of the Re-Bello T-shirts, enter by taking a look at the Re-bello Autumn 2014 look book for women or men or their online shop and then leave a comment below this post to tell us which is your favourite look or item from the Re-bello autumn range. In your comment, please also let us know which of the three t-shirts you’d like to win.
You can gain additional chances to win via the Rafflecopter Widget;
- Tweet about the giveaway, using the example in the Rafflecopter Widget
- Follow @Heathercowper on Twitter
- Follow @Re_Bello on Twitter
- Follow @wamsfashion on Twitter
- Follow Heather Cowper on Instragram
- Follow Re-Bello on Instagram
- Follow WAMS on Instagram
Terms and Conditions
- This giveaway is a prize draw/sweepstake
- The prizes are a. 4 pairs of WAMs socks in a gift box b. Re-bello batwing T-shirt Rose of Sharon size L c. Re-bello Kimono white/grey stripe T-shirt size L d. Re-bello Batwing dark Grey t-shirt size M
- Unfortunately no substitutes for design/ size/ colour are available since the items were given to me in South Tyrol and will be shipped my me from the UK to the winners
- The giveaway is open to all readers in any location
- The 4 winners will be chosen at random
- The giveaway ends on Monday 24 November at midnight
- The winners will be notified by e-mail within 7 days of the draw ending and must confirm their acceptance of the prize by e-mail within 3 days or the prize will be allocated to another winner.
- The prize will normally be posted to the winners within 14 days of them accepting the prize and may be posted by the cheapest method, so this will determine when it will arrive.
- The giveaway is restricted to one entry per individual although each individual may leave a comment for both the socks and the t-shirts
- Any duplicate or automated entries will disqualify the entrant from this giveaway
- Entering this giveaway gives permission for you to be added to the e-mail list of Heatheronhertravels.com but we will never spam you and you can unsubscribe at any time.
More things to see in South Tyrol
Cycling with wine and apples – on the South Tyrol wine road
Climbing my first Via Ferratta in South Tyrol
Traditional South Tyrol food and wine with a gastronomic twist
Messner Mountain Musem – before the time of man
Information, articles and resources for South Tyrol
For more information to plan your own visit, find accommodation and discover all the things to do in South Tyrol, visit the South Tyrol Tourism website and watch videos about the region on their YouTube channel. For updates on things to do in South Tyrol follow the South Tyrol Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram pages
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
Some great competition websites:
In this article, our guest author, Astrid Ruffhead takes us on a drive along the west coast of Sardinia from the bustling capital Cagliari to the coastal resort of Alghero taking in the candle festival of Sassari.
Located on the southern coast of Sardinia, Cagliari has throughout history been a leading trading seaport in heart of the Mediterranean. The oldest part of this bustling capital is the Castello, perched like a crown on top of the hill in the town centre. Park the car outside the city walls and enter the city via the Porta Christina. Immediately to your left you find the former Arsenal, now housing the city’s most important museums; those of Archaeology, Oriental Art and the Municipal Art Gallery.
The grid-like layout of the city makes it easy to find your way around. Walk along the Via Martini and you will soon be standing outside the Town Hall. Inside is the helpful tourist office and on the first floor are the Sala Della Rappresentanza and Sala del Consiglio Comunale. On their walls hang numerous paintings of important events in Sardinian history. To me, it gave a visual aid to Sardinia and its relationship with mainland Italy, but what struck me most, being a paranoid and security-anxious Londoner, was the openness of the place, no security checks or guards anywhere.
The same street leads you down to the impressive Romanesque façade of the Cathedral on Piazza Palazzo, built by the Pisans in the 12th century. Dedicated to Santa Maria, this place of worship is extensively decorated in different types of marble in the Baroque style. I was there on a Sunday and the cathedral was packed full, so many locals and visitors chose to sit on the steps outside to listen to the ceremony and music in the glorious sunshine.
Antiques is one of my passions in life and I had months in advance planned to be in Cagliari on the second Sunday of the month so that I could fully indulge myself at the antique market on Piazza Carlo Alberto, an event which every website had assured me takes place every second Sunday of the month – the day I was there. Nobody though, had added the words ‘except for August’…Oh well, time for lunch instead. I found this lovely trattoria serving wonderful seafood in one of the many narrow alleyways within the Castello.
The coast road to Oristano
From Cagliari we took the motorway towards Oristano. From there on, the coastal road is one I will always remember, simply breathtakingly beautiful. Sandy beaches or rocky outlets are embraced by the clearest waters I have seen for a long time, colours ranging from dark ink and celestial blues to a soft shimmering turquoise. As cliffs get higher and the roads getting narrower, to my great surprise, long legged pink flamingos can be seen around the salt plains that are now vast nature reserves.
Continuing north, we made a stop at the pretty little town of Bosa on the river Temo. Here is a good market on a Wednesday morning selling fruit, cheese bread, a very good place for sampling delicious local produce. Get here early as market and everything else for that matter, closes at lunchtime. Boat trips are available on the river in the evenings and along the river you see the old tannery buildings from the turn of the last century.
Arriving at Alghero
Closer to Alghero, the landscape changes again, becoming more fertile with many wine producing fields, including Sardinia’s favourite grape, the Vernaccia. Alghero has been a popular resort since the 1960s thanks to its long sandy beach but in the countryside south of Alghero you find may manifestations of the Nuraghi people, who lived on this island in the 10th-12th century BC.
Via Garibladi runs along the seafront and marina and its many bars and restaurants are filled with trendy people watchers. As always, I head for the oldest parts of town where I notice that this place has a very Spanish influence. Street names can be both in Italian and Catalan, going back to a time when the city was captured by the Aragonese. The San Francesco cloister from the 14th century is a reminder of this era and during summer months it becomes an atmospheric open air concert venue. In Via Calberto, you find many craftsmen selling local coral jewellery, much admired for its deep red colour.
As picturesque as Alghero is, particularly in the evening, it is the scenery outside the town that attracts me most. Do not miss the Capo Caccia peninsula. It appears like a huge sculpture before you, as you travel north of the city. In the air you might be lucky to see one of the few surviving Sardinian Griffon vultures or the more common peregrine falcons, who have masses of white cliffs to choose from as nesting grounds. But keep your eyes on the ground, particularly if you decide to take the 654 steps down the Escala Cabriol, (the goat’s steps) to Neptune’s Cave filled with remarkable stalactites and stalagmites. The only let-down is that you have to take all the steps back up again… It is easy to get out to Capo Caccia on a hop on – hop off sightseeing bus. The trip takes 2 hours and is the best value ever had for 18 Euros.
Sassari and the Giant Candles
Sassari is the second most important city in Sardinia. Municipal buildings in the Neo Classical style surround the large Piazza Italia. In its centre is a huge statue of Victor Emanuel ll (Vittorio Emanuele Maria Alberto Eugenio Ferdinando Tommaso) not only the first king of a united Italy, but also gives his name to the long main shopping street, Corso Vittorio Emanuel, which winds its way through the old town. My main reason for visiting Sassari though, was the annual festival of the Candelieri. This is an incredible day to be there, as from around lunchtime you can hear music and singing in the street, getting louder by the hour, as the Candelieri start practicing for the evening.
The event has its roots in the 13th century when the city was under Pisan domination and there was a tradition of offering a candle to the Madonna on the eve of the Assumption. In the 17th century and after numerous plagues had hit the town it took the form of religious thanks from the town guilds.
To this day nine guilds including blacksmiths, farmworkers, carpenters, tailors, greengrocers etc. parade through the city, each carrying a huge wooden column with coloured ribbons on top, representing a candle stick. It takes 8-10 men to carry this 100 kilo candle, at the same time walking, singing and dancing in a procession through the city. Everybody joins in with this fantastic celebration which ends in the evening when wooden candles are ceremoniously placed at the church of Santa Maria.
My thanks for this guest post to Astrid Ruffhead who after growing up in Sweden, arrived in London in the late 1970s, first working for the Swedish Tourist Board and later for VisitDenmark. She has also owned her own PR company, The Travel Gallery PR and a second passion is hotels. She lives in North London and is today working as a freelance travel and antiques blogger/dealer. Contact Astrid at: email@example.com or elegantforever2010.blogspot.com
More things to see in Sardinia
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
“We want you to help the world dream about Greece”, the Minister of Tourism, Olga Kefalogianni told us at the opening night party for the TBEX travel bloggers conference in Athen. The city had opened its arms wide to welcome over 500 travel bloggers attending the conference so that we could help change perceptions about what Greece has to offer. In the opening speeches the Mayor of Athens, Giorgos Kaminis told us “We felt that during the economic crisis we were treated unfairly by the mainstream media and so we wanted to invite you bloggers to see Athens for yourselves and tell the real stories of our city.”
Greece has been through some tough times in the last couple of years fillng the newspapers with reports of strikes and public protests. During the crisis the government was forced to take drastic measures to balance the books and pensioners, students and families alike struggled to make ends meet. But in Athens last week we could feel a new energy as Greece leaves the worst behind and looks to the future. Local tourism businesses had come together to show us their best side and at the opening party restaurants and food businesses wow’ed us with a feast of Greek cuisine and enterprise.
A showcase of Greek gastronomy at the TBEX opening night party
Arriving at the Technopolis cultural centre it took me a very, very long time to extract myself from the main hall where stands of food and drink producers tempted me with tastes from all the regions of Greece. From Stremmenos I tasted my way through the naturally matured proscutio and salamis from the pine forests of Central Greece, washed down with Verve natural juices in blends of apple, celery, melon and ginger from Farmer’s Republic. I sipped Greek wines from Papaioannou Wines and nibbled a plate of miniature hot dogs from local restaurant ManhManh who offer Greek regional dishes with a modern twist. Another local Athens restaurant Aleria was serving a creamy, nutty Halva mousse to die for and I was given a bag of traditional Loukoum sweets made by Nedim, perfumed with rosewater, coated with coconut and dripping with syrup. I took them back to my hotel room and looking for a late night snack I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t resist eating the whole bag.
During the day I had taken the Athens Food Tour with Big Olive City Walks, a new business run by young Athenian entrepreneurs including the founder, Yannis and architecture expert, Nikos who fed us historical snippets during our walk.
Greek pastries and yoghurt at Stani Dairy bar
The gastronomic walking tour started back to front with the deserts first, although of course the Greeks tend to eat their yoghurt and honey in the morning for breakfast and their cakes in the afternoon when guests come visiting. At Stani, a family run dairy cafe just off Omonia square, tubs of creamy Greek yoghurt were piled in the chiller cabinet and jars of honey stacked on the shelves of cream painted cabinets transported from some Greek grandmother’s kitchen.
Plates of sweet treets were laid out for us to try, with crisp Loukoumades, miniature doughnuts drizzled with honey, a slice of Galaktobureko custard tart enclosed in syrupy filo pasty and Moustalevria a sweet jelly made from grape pulp left over from the wine pressing and scattered with nuts. And of course there was creamy Greek yoghurt made from sheep’s milk bathed with honey and scattered with walnuts. Stani: 10 M. Kotopouli str, Omonia square
A tasting of olives and LIA oil, the symbol of Athens
Our next stop took us to the Big Olive offices where we had a tasting of olives and olive oils with sweet, hard biscuits flavoured with orange and almond. These traditional Koulouraki biscuits would be hard baked to preserve them but then softened by dipping into olive oil. The LIA extra virgin oil from Messinia, beside the Ionian sea was poured into a cup to sip on its own and savour the green grass flavours. We tasted the small, salty, black Kalamata olives from the Pelleponese and the plump, fleshy Amphisa olives from central Greece, the Kalamata ones being the more expensive of the two.
The olive is seen as a symbol of peace and prosperity in Greece since the legend goes that the Greek Goddess Athena planted a tree on the Acropolis, so founding the city of Athens which was named after her. I thought perhaps that the Big Olive city walks had started from selling olives, but Yannis explained that it was a play on names like Big Apple for New York, but Big Olive for Athens since the olive is not only the symbol of the city but also of regeneration and will spring up and grow again after a forest fire.
With the fishes in the Athens Central Market
Our gastronomic tour now took us through the amazing Central market on Athinas Street known as the Varvakios agora where stand after stand of fish was laid out, with all the vendors keeping up a constant calling and exhorting us to buy their fish. Silver scaled and yellow striped fish stared up at me with dead eyes and open mouths from their bed of ice strewn with lemons while plump pink crayfish were standing ready to make a seafood supper.
At the farthest end of the fish section we reached the meat section where half carcasses of dead animals hung from the meat hooks. I winced as the butchers wielded their cleavers expertly on the chopping blocks and hoped that no fingers would be chopped off in the process.
Nikos the story teller told us how the market had originally been located within the archaeological area until this new one was built in the 1880s to allow the excavations to take place. The traders resisted moving into it since it was further away from the busy shopping areas, until a fire mysteriously broke out and burned down the original market, leaving them no choice.
Flatbreads warm from the oven from Antiochia
Next stop on our gastronomic journey around the regional influences on Greek cuisine was Feyrouz Lahmajoun, another new family venture featuring the flatbreads of Antiochia. What is a Lahmajoun? It’s a Turkish or Armenian street-food that is somewhere between cross a pizza, pitta and a pie. The owner, Andreas explained how the shop was named for his mother Feyrouz who made all the doughs and fillings for the Lahmajoun and also for the much admired singer Fayrouz who was considered the queen of Lebanese music and whose portrait was hanging behind the counter. “She is the only Arabic singer who is loved by all religions and all nationalities” he told us.
We could see the different flatbreads laid out behind the counter covered with minced meat or vegetables to which you could add humus or olive paste as an extra topping. The Peinirli or open top pies were laid out along the window counter for us to try, warm from the oven with toppings of cheese and tomato or cooked vegetables, with a glass of perfumed amber Turkish tea flavoured with cardoman and cloves. Each of these a bargain at around €3. Feyrouz: Karori 23 in Aiolou, Athens
Ham and charcuterie at Karamanlidika
Reluctantly our group moved out of Feyrouz, having devoured everything that had been laid out for us and headed through the side streets to another cafe/deli specialising in cheese and charcuterie called Karamanlidika. Strings of red sausages, bunches of garlic and chillis and whole hams were strung above the counter like Christmas decorations. With bare stone walls and simple wooden tables the place looked like a classy village taverna serving simple plates of cheeses and sliced charcuterie to appreciative diners.
Many of the hams had a thick red coating of spices like pepper and fenugreek which once thinly sliced, made a ribbon edge of the meat, giving a zap of flavour as we greedily ate it with our fingers. Also on the menu were Meze like the stuffed vine leaves and matured cheese with plenty of jars and bottle full of oils and condiments to take home. Karamanlidika: Sokrates 1 & Evripides 52, Athens
Coffee and a sweet spoon at the Museum of Gastronomy
Our final stop was the charming Museum of Greek Gastronomy, a private house that had been opened up with a restaurant upstairs, some specialist produce on sale and downstairs an exhibition about the foods and cultivation of the monks of Northern Greece. We sat in the small courtyard looking out towards the church next door and enjoyed a strong Greek coffee perfumed with rosewater and a “Sweet Spoon” which in this case was a miniature aubergine preserved in syrup like a crystallised fruit. Museum of Greek Gastronomy: 13, Agiou Dimitriou Street 10554, Athens.
Now mid-afternoon and our Big Olive Gastronomic walking tour completed, it was time for a bit of tick-list sightseeing. Paris may have the Eiffel Tower, Rome the Colosseum, London the Elgin Marbles (don’t mention the Elgin, or should I say Parthenon Marbles to a Greek!) and of course when in Athens one must see the Acropolis.
The heavy rain that we had battled through in the morning had given way to warm sunshine and so with my new blogging friend Paula from Soothed in the city I headed up the hill towards the Parthenon. By pure chance we had chosen the perfect time to take photos of those famous monuments, at the golden hour of late afternoon when the sun bathes the golden stone of the Parthenon and those lovely ladies holding up the roof bask in the sunshine. The Parthenon was something of a building site and seemed to be in a process of being dismantled and put back together with cranes and scaffolding everywhere. We walked around, took lots of photos and marvelled at the size and sprawl of Athens below us, stretching as far as the mountains in the distance.
Sightseeing boxes ticked, we headed back down and wandered around the narrow streets filled with cafes and restaurants, stopping for a pistachio ice cream (me) and an enormous chocolate truffle (Paula) from Da Vinci, an artizan ice cream parlour that it seemed churlish to pass by without going inside to investigate the flavours on offer.
The next two days were taken up with the TBEX conference but our final Saturday night was spent at a street party put on for us by the local traders of Pandrossou Street. Emerging from Monastiriki Metro station and crossing the square I was half expecting that this narrow street nestling below the Acropolis hill would be full of tourist tat, but instead I found charming family businesses that were full of character, displaying Greek crafts and artizan goods. I stopped to watch the lady handpainting gorgeous vases at Pagani and stepped inside to find a treasure trove of painted gifts from all over Greece.
Further along the street the shops were putting on demonstrations of their crafts, a shoemaker tooling traditional leather sandles that a fashionable Ancient Greek lady might have coveted and the bouzouki maker at the Pegasus musical instrument workshop. I tried a real Greek coffee outside the Mikro cafe, strong and sweet just how I like it, but beware drinking it down to the last drop or you’ll end up with coffee sludge between your teeth.
At the end of the street the bouzouki band were playing all the old favourites, those foot tapping, shoulder swaying tunes that demand to be danced to. Since my sister lives on the Greek island of Zakynthos, I’ve had the pleasure and fun of the Greek night that she puts on in her hotel each week for guests, and all the songs were familiar to me. This is the music of festivals and wedding celebrations, enjoyed by every age from the trendy young things to their black clothed grandmothers and believe me when the band strikes up, the Greeks don’t need much excuse for a dance.
I’d like to say that I joined the circle of dancers, a mixture of locals and bloggers and danced the night away in the streets of Athens, but I was too busy recording the music on video for you dear reader (please watch it below). “We invite you all to be Athenians” the major had told us, and on our final night in Athens, listening to the familiar songs we took that message to heart. Come to Greece was the message, come enjoy our ancient cuture and our modern spirit, come enjoy the sunshine and the music and the people. Come enjoy a glass of wine with new friends, come eat our traditional dishes reinvented in new ways, come feel the warmth and spirit of Athens and Greece. Come visit us in 2015.
I hope you enjoy the video below of Bouzouki music in Pandrossou Street Athens
Since I love to stay in hotels with a strong design influence and a boutique feel I was interested to see that The Square Hotel in Copenhagen has won a World Travel Award for Denmark’s leading boutique hotel for 2014 and in fact has won the award for six years out of the last eight. Copenhagen is a city that has no shortage of well designed hotels, drawing on all kinds of design influence, especially the clean, modern Scandinavian design and it’s one of my favourite places to visit at any time of year. The World Travel Award is quite an accolade and aims to promote global travel and tourism by identifying and rewarding excellence, with winners in the many different categories being selected through voting by travel industry professionals.
The Central Location of The Square Copenhagen
Although I haven’t personally stayed at The Square Hotel, I have visited Copenhagen several times and know that the hotel is set in one of the most central locations by the City Hall Square which gives the hotel its name. It’s a fantastic location for those visiting Copenhagen both for business or for a leisure break, since the Central Station is just a 5 minute walk away allowing you a quick and direct transfer from the airport in 30 minutes.
Close by you’ll find the Tivoli amusement park which is popular with locals and tourists and has something to appeal to all ages, with beautiful gardens, 25 adrenalin pumping and family friendly rides and plenty of restaurants and cafes. If you enjoy art and sculpture, visit Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek which is also a short walk away, with a beautiful greenhouse winter garden, classical statues and a great collection of impressionist art. Heading in the other direction through the City Hall Square will take you for a stroll along Strøget, the premier pedestrianised shopping street of Copenhagen with great Danish brands like Georg Jensen and Royal Copenhagen as well as many different fashion and clothing stores.
Boutique design inspiration at The Square Copenhagen
The ‘Square’ theme is followed through into the simple, minimalist lines of the open reception area as you enter from the City Hall Square and the square motif also continues into the textiles and furnishings in the rooms. The hotel’s lobby is furnished with the Danish design classic Egg chair by famous designer Arne Jacobsen and all of the hotel’s 267 rooms are decorated in a typically Danish design with subtle colors of soft green, purple, gold and deep red.
As all travellers know, design alone can’t guarantee a pleasant stay and so the staff at The Square Copenhagen go out of their way to create a relaxed and home-like atmosphere, and do everything they can to make it a comfortable stay.
Rooms at The Square Hotel Copenhagen
The Square Hotel has 268 non-smoking rooms with stylish, minimalist design, featuring the square motif to unify the design. You’ll find it in the luxurious velvet and satin fabrics used in the curtains and throws and in the dark wood headboards and other furniture. All rooms feature the normal conveniences of flat screen TV, air conditioning, ironing, tea and coffee facilities, hairdryer and mini bar as well as free internet. If you are travelling as a family or group of friends, connecting rooms are also available so you can keep an eye on the kids or have fun with your friends.
The bathrooms also feature modern, Scandinavian design, with large mirrors and clean white tiling. If you suffer from allergies, let the hotel know when you book, since some rooms are available without carpets and all the duvets and pillows are hypo-allergenic and feather-free.
The buffet breakfast is served in the 6th floor restaurant area where you can enjoy a view over the square and the rooftops of Copenhagen. To set yourself up for the day, book the bed and breakfast deal and enjoy a range of fruit, yoghurt, pastries, cereals, cheese and cold meats as well as those excellent nutty Danish breads.
I love staying in hotels that have a boutique and designer feel and although I haven’t personally stayed at The Square Copenhagen, I think it would be an excellent choice for a business of leisure stay in Copenhagen, which is a wonderful city to visit at any time of year.
Booking information for The Square Copenhagen
Visit the Square Hotel Copenhagen website to check prices and book your stay in Copenhagen. Rooms are available from 1030 DKK (£110/ €140/ $175) per night based on 2 people sharing with a 35% discount when you book for 2 nights or more. Special offers are also available for mini-breaks, seasonal packages and stays that include entrace to Tivoli or a dinner and show at nearby Wallmans. You can follow The Square Copenhagen on Google+ | Youtube | Instagram
This article was brought to you in partnership with The Square Hotel, Copenhagen. All photos courtesy of The Square Copenhagen