Mamma Mia!: Travel Off The Italian Beaten Path

As far as the movies, travel guides and personal blogs tell us, Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world and getting there should be something towards which we aim at least once in our lives. With any number of ancient sites to choose from, however, knowing where to start in the Mediterranean country can be the biggest challenge of all and with so many well documented guides already out there, it can be hard to feel like you’re seeing anything for the first time.

It turns out, however, there might be another side to the country that we simply haven’t seen before and by traveling off the beaten path, it’s possible to experience a much more authentic, less captured side of the historical country. But where should you start? These spots might not be exhaustive but, use any one of them as your starting point and you’re guaranteed to have a trip to remember.

Orvieto

Located a short 90 minute trip outside of Rome, Orvieto is a great way to glimpse the Italian countryside if you’re taking a longer trip in the country’s capital. Located on a picturesque hillside, the winding town offers spectacular views of the local area and surrounding countryside, showing off the wonders of the Umbrian landscape. Inside the city walls, it’s much the same story and with many of the city’s older buildings still well preserved, it’s very easy to get a glimpse of what life was like hundreds of years ago. While there are any number of picturesque spots to see, the local cathedral really takes the cake, filled with intricate mosaic tiles and stained glass windows like you might have never seen before.

Rimini

Want to cool off at the beach? Rimini is the spot for you. A local favorite, Rimini is a great seaside resort off the beaten track, offering you all the benefits of Italian culture will the possibility of cooling off at the end of the day with a quick seaside dip. With a whopping 9 miles of seafront, the beach options in the town go on for days and you might be hard pressed to choose a beach that you prefer the most. It’s not just all about the water either; you can stroll the city’s promenade and sample any number of local dishes, stopping into bars and cafes as you please.

Parma

The city that gave its name to the celebrated ham, Parma is about so much more than great food. While most tourists do flock to the place for its celebrated cuisine and local delicacies, there is a great deal to see within the town. There are many walking tours on offer which give you a glimpse into Parma’s long and winding past, giving you the backstory on any number of buildings and monuments. If your tummy’s rumbling, there’s plenty for you, too; one of the most popular walking tours takes a look inside a number of cheese making shops, letting you sample the local delicacies before you settle on a choice.

Puglia

If you’re looking for a quieter, calmer version of the Amalfi coast then Puglia has you well covered. Renowned for its unique cone shaped huts, the town has a rich and vibrant culture and many of its older buildings still stand today. As well as the picturesque local views and noteworthy architectural feats, the town is renowned for its great selection of local foods and produce and whether cheese, olives or bread is your thing, there’s bound to be something out there to suit your tastes.

Portofino

One of the most colorful places in the country, Portofino is a real photographer’s dream. Dotted with pastel colored houses, sparkling turquoise swimming spots and any number of sailing yachts, the seaside towns is one of the prettiest places in Italy and one of the best places to unwind after a long day. While most travelers head to Portofino to kick back and relax, there are a number of great walks to be had in the town, offering great view over the local area and coastline. Try heading up Castello Brown Fortress for the best view of the region; located high up on the hillside, it takes in the place in one sweeping view.

The Foodie’s Guide To Paris

Paris. The city of lights. Home to some of the most famous culture in the world. The French capital is one of the top tourist hotspots around the world, and it’s not hard to see why. Brimming with art, packed to the rafters with monuments, the city is a real gem in the European crown and visiting there at least once in your life should be high up on your travel agenda. When it comes to cuisine, the French have had a hold on the industry for decades but in recent years, Paris has begun to change its tune. What was once a hub of traditional French dining has taken a more contemporary turn and now, you’re just as likely to stumble across a modern fusion dish as you are a French classic. But where should you be eating in the city? That is the question on everyone’s lips and luckily for you, we’re here to answer it.

Holybelly

Brunching in Paris is practically an institution and if you aren’t settling down for your weekly meal each Sunday, you can’t truly call yourself a local. While there are a ton of incredible eating spots around the city, few do the job quite as well as Holybelly. Located just off the city’s trendy Canal St. Martin, the cafe is a real foodie favorite and serves up some of the best food and coffee across the entire city. While the roster of daily specials is always worth a try, Holybelly comes out on top with its serving of eggs and sides. Get there early, though; the cafe is a local favorite and tables fill up fast.

Clamato

Where French dining was once a heavy, butter laden affair, it has transformed itself and now, you would be more likely to find locals chowing down on a selection of small plates than anything else. While there are a horde of great, meaty joints, Clamato does something a little different, taking the small plates concept to the seafood market. Serving up a selection of unusual and exquisitely finished plates, the restaurant certainly knows what it’s doing and once you taste one plate, you might never want to eat traditional seafood again.

Frenchie To Go

While securing a place at the much celebrated Frenchie might be a little difficult, you can get a taste of Gregory Marchand’s foodie empire by pulling up a pew at concept fast food joint Frenchie To Go. Serving up a selection of quick and tasty meals, the restaurant is most famous for its pulled pork burger and fries, which tend to sell out as quickly as they come. Other offerings still hit the spot, however, and you can wash it down with a hot cup of coffee.

Candelaria

Thought that you had tasted every kind of Mexican food there is? Just wait until you try Candelaria. A cocktail bar and restaurant in one, this popular food spot serves up a mix of traditional Mexican food like you might have never seen, all washed down with a frozen margarita. The dinner menu might be small, but it’s seriously good and after one taste, you might be hooked for life.  

Au Passage

Fast food takes on a whole new meaning in Au Passage, one of the city’s most popular small plates restaurants. Nestled just a stone’s throw from vibrant République square, the restaurant rubs shoulders with some of the best cocktail spots in the city and is the perfect place in which to commence a night out. Make sure you make your order before it runs out; the kitchen is renowned for changing the menu by the minute, so if you see a waitress rushing towards the large menu blackboard, make your request before it’s too late.

Gravity

While not strictly a restaurant, cocktail bar Gravity serves up a great selection of foodie bites to be washed down with its original creations. Having opened its doors last September, the bar has quickly proved to be a popular amongst locals and now, finding a table might be something of a struggle. The food menu is packed with the kinds of small plates making the rounds across the city right now and, accompanied by the bar’s many cocktails, they certainly go down a treat.

Go East: Where To Travel In Eastern Europe

When it comes to travel, we’ve all got our dream cities. Whether it’s Paris, Tokyo or New York calling you from across the water, each place is renowned for its cultural sights and local flavors and, thanks to years’ worth of collective experience, you know that a trip to any one of the world’s travel centers is guaranteed to be unforgettable. There are other places across the globe, however, which have been going overlooked for years now, falling short of the vacation radar. Perhaps less well known or explored than other places, these cities have just as much to offer as their more popular counterparts, arguably showing a more authentic side of local life. If you want to tap into the very best of these adventure-rich cities, then you might do well in turning your attention to eastern Europe.

For so long the underdog of the European cultural scene, the region’s eastern nations have been making a name for themselves in recent years, building up a cultural and artistic following. As well as having some of the most beautiful and ancient cities around the world, these smaller cities work well as “go-between” towns, linking to neighboring regions and countries in all things art, food and leisure. While there are a huge number of smaller cities to be explored, these eastern cities really top the tally and whether it’s history, cuisine or nature that you’re on the hunt for, you’re bound to stumble across something worth exploring.

Kraków

Once Poland’s capital city, Kraków is bursting to the seams with cultural activity and foodie spots and now, it is fast becoming a travel destination for adventurers across the world. Intertwined with the events of WWII and the Cold War, Kraków is a city as founded on its recent past as its near future and across the city, it’s possible to stumble from one time zone to another. Despite the difficult events that rocked their country, Polish people are as proud a nation as they come, showcasing their rich culture in a number of diverse museum experiences. While taking a trip to the nearby Auschwitz camp and museum might seem like a long journey from the center, doing so is an essential part of really experiencing Kraków and understanding how it has reformed itself. Elsewhere in the city, you can try popping into a Milk Bar for an authentic dining experience, strolling around the cobbled streets of the Jewish quarter and exploring its old town, which even has its own Medieval moat.

Dubrovnik

It’s not hard to see why Dubrovnik is more commonly known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. Located on Croatia’s glittering coast, the ancient city is the crown jewel of the country, highlighting all of the region’s proudest cultural and architectural feats. While there are plenty of stunning vistas to feast your eyes on, few areas of the city are quite as beautiful as the old town, which is fit to bursting with winding cobbled streets and medieval architecture. If you really want to take it all in, you can take a stroll atop the old city wall, which boasts some of the best panoramic sights of the place. Once you’ve finished walking, try resting your feet on a local cable car, which takes in sights of the entire town from the top of the nearby Mt. Srd.

Ljubljana

Walk into Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana, and you might believe that you have stumbled into a fairytale. Balancing bustling riverside streets, quaint pedestrian bridges and a even hilltop castle, the tiny city is a real treasure trove of hidden sights. In the summer months, the streets come alive with local performances and free events which last well into the night. If you want to get your bearings, you can try heading to Presernov Trg, a square in the city center in which motor traffic is heavily restricted. While you can try strolling along the winding paths, you would be equally well suited in hiring a bike and exploring Ljubljana’s riverway. Daytrippers from the city often set their sights on the nearby Lake Bled which, surrounded by mountains and fir trees, is one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

Eastern Europe is filled with hidden gems and cultural delights that are just waiting to be found. While a number of cities are starting to gain international attention, many of them still draw in local crowds only. If you’re looking for your next adventure, head east.

The Girl’s Guide To Berlin

When it comes to European cities, you can’t find a much cooler place than Berlin. Home to some of the most creative individuals this side of anywhere, the city is bursting with inspiration and one of a kind finds and if you venture there, you might just end up not coming back. While it is great to visit the city at any time of the year, it really comes alive during the summer months, the locals spilling into the many parks and public places after weeks of bitter cold. Thanks to longer days and warmer nights, there are also a ton of summer events taking place in the city when the sun comes out, giving you even more reasons to prolong your stay in Berlin. With outdoor spaces galore, independent galleries, food markets and music events, the city might just be the best European all-rounder out there.

First things first, you’re going to want to take a serious look at Berlin’s coffee scene. The number of independent, ethically sourced cafes that have sprung up in recent years is simply staggering and now, the locals are as up to date on their brews as some of the best baristas in the world. Starting your day at Kaffebar is always a safe bet and is sure to keep you going for a long day of activities. While the cafe is normally packed with freelancers and creatives, if you get there early enough you’re guaranteed a spot inside. The coffee is a must but if you really know what’s good for you, then you will will stock up with a full breakfast. Serving a variety of cakes, fruit plates and cooked breakfasts, the cafe serves some of the best food in the area and is a favorite amongst locals.

If you want to experience a lesser known side of city life, then you can try making a beeline for the Turkish market. Located in Kreuzberg, the market takes place every Tuesday and Friday and pulls in many of the local Turkish population. Taking place alongside the city’s canal, the market is a great place to take a stroll on a sunny day, offering a wide range of fruit, vegetables and items for the home. You’re bound to find a real treasure amongst the stands.

Those on the hunt for something a little more filling, however, should look to Markthall IX for inspiration. A covered market, the place sells a range of homegrown products put forth by a variety of local vendors; if you’re looking an authentic picture of Berlin’s creative scene, then this is it. If you’re in the area on a Thursday evening, you will find yourself in the midst of one of the biggest foodie events in the city, as a group of food vendors take over the stands. The produce on sale is from all across the world, letting you taste whatever you have in mind.

Of course, there is plenty of history and culture to be experienced in the city and taking a trip to Boros Bunker will show you a side of Berlin life you might not have ever seen. Once acting as a bunker for the city’s inhabitants following the Second World War, the building was later taken over by the Red Army, serving as as a working prison. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, the bunker was the site of a number of techno parties, giving way to the city’s famous party scene. Now, the place is home to one of the most varied contemporary art collections in the world, all presented in one of the most unique locations in the city.

If you’re lucky enough to enjoy Berlin during the summer months, then you can enjoy a late afternoon drink by Görlitzer Park, one of the most popular in the city. Drawing in crowds of people from across Berlin, it is one of the most thriving areas during the summer months and offers a great deal of space within which to relax and enjoy the sun. Many people flock to the area after work with a picnic in tow so don’t be afraid to make like a local and kick back.

Berlin truly is a city that offers something to everyone and in every corner of the place, there is something new to be discovered. A place as laid back as they come, it is up to you to decide how you enjoy your time in the city. You might just fit in like a local.The

The Girl’s City Guide To Barcelona

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So often, getting the perfect balance between great culture, even better food and a killer hotel can be all but impossible and somewhere along the line, you have to compromise on one essential feature to make the rest worthwhile. There are some places in the world, however, which magically deliver on all fronts, serving you up all of the essential ingredients for a perfect trip.

A city practically created by the vacation gods, Barcelona in Spain really does have it all. Balancing a healthy dose of Catalan culture, an incredible local dining scene and some of the best nightlife spots in the world, the city is a great place in which to get away from it all and catch up on some much needed r&r. Located on the Spanish coast, the city is large enough so you won’t easily run out of options and compact enough to make hopping from one spot to the next a real breeze. Easy.

Where to stay

First things first, getting a great hotel spot should be at the top of your agenda and luckily for you, the city more than delivers on the sleep front. No matter your budget, there is something unique on offer, which will blow all of your others stays out of the water. If you’re looking to save on the hotel, but still want somewhere with great interior design, then you need to set your sights on the Hotel Praktik. Located right next to a number of public transport options, the hotel is in easy distance of all of the best hotspots and restaurants. Each room is kitted out in its own unique artwork, while the outdoor terrace offers a little calm away from the buzzing city.

If you want a little more independence in your stay, however, you should set your sights on the city’s huge number of apartment rental schemes. While Airbnb is of course big news in the city, you might want to source a new type of stay and if this is the case, you can’t get much better than Chic and Basic. Sprawling across the city, the company has a number of different properties to choose from, each with a different interior design. Every rental also comes equipped with its own bicycles, making getting around the city a real breeze.

What to do

When it comes to activities in Barcelona, you’re incredibly well covered and no matter what you’re searching for, there is something that will really take you by surprise. While making a beeline for Gaudi’s various architectural feats is all part and parcel of the city experience, there are plenty of other things to get excited about, too. The city is full of artistic references and over the years, was home to many of history’s most enduring creatives. You can follow the Picasso trail by walking down the streets and neighborhoods which influenced the artist’s singular style, all before taking a stroll around the Museu Picasso, in which many of his most famous works are located.

If the arts aren’t your thing, however, you can try hiking up the Montjuïc mountain – a place that is rarely on the tourist trail. While it does take some effort to get to the top, by the time you get there, you won’t regret a thing. Looking out on the city, the park offers one of the best urban vistas anywhere in the area and offers a rural respite to the rest of the urban sprawl.

Where to eat

A coastal town, Barcelona has a huge number of great eating spots, all stuffed with the finest local fare and fresh seafood. If you’re on the hunt for a real showpiece of a meal, then you should head directly to the hugely popular Alkimia. Approaching classic Catalan cooking with a theatrical flair, the restaurant is renowned for its deconstructed dishes and experimental style of serving. It’s not just all appearances, either; the food, although in strange guises, utilizes all of the best ingredients from Spanish cooking, leaving diners feeling more than satisfied.

If you want to try your hand at the local tapas scene, however, you can try the incredibly popular Tickets. While actually securing a table at the sought after restaurant can be a little tricky, once you’re in, you are privy to some of the most incredible cooking you will ever taste. The restaurant follows traditional tapas menus but, by including seasonal produce and one off ingredients across a number of the dishes, adds a little something extra to the tasting experience. You might have to book some months in advance but if you manage to get in, make sure you haven’t eaten before.

Home to great culture, food and drink, Barcelona is one of the most vibrant places in Europe and it’s hardly surprising that so many people choose to make it their vacation destination. Ever changing and expanding, the city never stays the same so even if you’re visiting for a second or third time, you’re guaranteed something spectacular.

The Insider’s Guide to Paris

Across the world, it seems like everyone has their own opinion about the city of lights. Whether it is the capital of love, great food or influential art, it doesn’t matter; Paris is a city that has it all, constantly evolving to meet the tastes of its diverse locals. If you’re planning a visit to the French capital any time soon then you’re in for a treat; thanks to a blossoming local business and arts scene, there are more new places to try than ever in the city. All it takes is a little investigation.

Do you want to experience the city like a local and discover its hidden gems? You’ve come to the right place. Hold on tight; we’re about to journey to the other side of the city of lights.

Gravity

Over the past few years, the food and drinks scene in Paris has exploded and where native dining used to be about lashings of butter, cream and cheese, now, the food is as experimental as it comes. Across the city, there are a huge number of cocktail and food bars which are growing in popularity by showcasing some of the best of France’s diverse local produce. If you’re looking for some of the most incredible out there, then you need to head to Gravity. Having opened towards the end of 2015, the bar is still relatively new on the scene, but that hasn’t stopped locals flooding there in their dozens. Home to an impeccable cocktail menu, the most delicious small plates you will ever taste and a sweeping, curved ceiling, Gravity is a nightlife experience unlike anywhere else in the city.

Le Bal

While Paris is known for its rich cultural and arts scene, it is doing a great many things for the contemporary scene, too. Although you might be tempted to head to some of the city’s major museums and galleries – which are certainly worth a visit – you can also try sourcing out a few lesser known spots, too. Gallery Le Bal sits just inside the 18th arrondissement close to Place de Clichy and is a real cultural find. Showcasing the most cutting edge artists and filmmakers, the tiny gallery always has something worth viewing that might just change your perspective on the world. The famous cafe also serves up a killer brunch that is worth hanging around for.

Halle Pajol

Located far in the north of Paris is a place that is completely changing its surrounding environment. The Halle Pajol is situated right next to the city’s train line and is a project that hopes to change how locals live in and use the space. Constructed out of wood and steel, the open plan building boasts and blooming botanical garden on one side, in which you are likely to find locals reading, chatting and enjoying the sun. Enter from the street side and you will be met with a entire set of new restaurants, cafes, shops and a youth hostel. It might be far from the city’s center, but Halle Pajol is transforming what Paris means to many people.

Louxor Cinema

A building that is as renowned for its interior architecture as its impressive film list, the Louxor cinema is worth visiting at least once in your life. Decked out in Egyptian-inspired art-deco design, the building itself is a sight for sore eyes and is unlike any other place in the city. While you can expect to find a number of new releases at the cinema, it is also renowned for its screenings of movie classics, which draw in the crowds from across the city.

Holybelly

If you’re in Paris on a Sunday, then you do brunch. Partaking in the meal is not even a point of question for most locals and if you want a real Parisian experience, then you too will take part in the feasting. Searching for the best brunch in the city might be a challenge but for many locals, there’s no question that Holybelly tops the list. Located next to the city’s trendy Canal St. Martin, the cafe serves up a whole range of brunch and lunch foods that are guaranteed to get your tummy rumbling. The menu often changes each weekend and the specials are always worth paying attention to, so make sure you ask before you order.

Experiencing Paris like a local can really show you an entirely new side to the city and completely change your presumptions about the French capital. Away from the cultural center, there are a great deal of new and underground things going on; all it takes is a little extra searching and Paris can be yours for the taking.