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If you only spend 3 days in Capetown, you can already book your next trip, because let’s face it, you’ll get a taste of it that will make you come back for more!
For a little bit of everything (if you only have 3 days in Cape Town, it really is a little bit!) focus on 3 things: Cape Town, the mother city, Table Mountain or Cape point and a little escape to the Cape Winelands.
Best time to go is from December to March.
Cape Town is often referred to as the mother city…because everything takes 9 months to complete. And honestly it’s a mum on weed. Cape Town has a very chilled and mellow vibe even if let’s face it, it has some awfully violent side too. Stay safe and don’t be a dare devil.
One of the great ways to discover Cape Town is to hop one of the tours with the great guys at Free Walking tour. They rock and for any budget (you give a donation at the end of the tour) you can discover the city and its (glorious and not so glorious) past. Don’t miss the little piece of Berlin wall, a walk through the Malay quarter and the infamous bench in front of the old Race classification board building.
Once you’re done with the tour, make a small detour to the District 6 Museum. Not the most amazing museum but a great way to understand more about the apartheid (remember you only have 3 days!). There is a great coffee house next to the Museum, perfect for a little break after your walking tour.
If you’ve planned the afternoon tour (at 2PM), you can spend your morning cooking Malayu cuisine in the Malay quarter. Pam at Capefusion tour can help you book your cooking class.
If like me, a fan of Rodriguez, and you’ve seen “Searching for Sugarman” about a dozen times, head to Mabu Vinyl on Rheede Street. Probably the last CD I ever bought was in this store. It’s also a great source of information if you’re looking for a live gig in the area.
South Africa in general is a wonderful place for outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re in Cape Town for a short stay, here’s a pick on classics that you can do within a day without too much driving around.
Table Mountain climb (take the cable car on the way back). I’d recommend the Platteklip Gorge (it starts right next to the lower cableway station). It’s one of the easiest routes, if you’re not too scared of a little scrambling.
If you prefer to do it safely with a guide, check out those guys here.
You can either start your climb mid-afternoon to enjoy the sunset from the top (and spend most of your climb in the shade) or alternatively pick a morning climb to have the rest of your afternoon for exploring.
As usual, don’t forget plenty of drinking water, a good pair of shoes and a little picnic. You might even be lucky to have a rock hyrax as a climbing companion.
Another great visit is obviously the Cape of Good Hope, once believed to be the most southern tip of South Africa (but it’s not, Cape Aghulas is). The climb is much shorter and easier than Table Mountain, and can be done in 20 min with flip-flops. That’s one of the best spot to see where the two oceans meet. On both sides of the road to and from Cape of Good Hope, don’t miss out on the Ostriches chilling out.
Needless to say, if you want to do a self-catering tour, you will need a car to do both in one day.
Start the day at Boulders beach with the penguins. Forget kitten cuteness, this is cuteness heaven.
The Boulders penguin colony was established in 1983 to create a safe haven for African penguins.
With 3 boardwalks, one viewing area and a pristine beach, it’s penguins viewing heaven. Stay safe and don’t get close, while penguins are the cutest they won’t hesitate to bite fingers or noses if they feel threatened.
Once you’re ready to leave Simon’s Town and the penguins, make your way to the vineyards and head to the winelands.
Western Cape wine, stem from a long tradition of wine making with the first estate established in 1685 (Constantia). While the Dutch settlements started making wine, it’s when the French Huguenots started opening estates that the South African wine culture really started. I guess a little competition is always healthy.
The Cape winelands encompass Constantia, Stellenbosc, Franschhoek, Paarl, Robertson and Wellington which are the most popular wine regions.
I’d recommend Franschhoek if you want to combine some lovely town with wine tasting and a more chilled out tour. Don’t miss the wine tram, a great way to see some vineyards, do some wine tasting without having to drive around. Get your tickets in Franschhoek town and pick the Blue or Red tour. More here.
If you’re really into wine tasting, Stellenbosch has some cool activities such as Wine-blending at Middelvlei Wines. You get some expert advice on how to make your own blend and can even leave with the winning blend! More info here
For a romantic lunch, don’t miss out on the picnic baskets. Almost every estate offers amazing food and some even have picnic grounds. Forget about bringing your own sandwich, these are posh picnics. Book ahead as for most you can’t just show up for one. One of my favorites is the Boschendal estate, their picnic area is just gorgeous, so are the grounds around the vineyards.
French Romance : 3 reasons to head to Cannes Hors Saison
The perfect winter romantic get away, Cannes “hors saison” will make you fall in love with France again. Enjoy French hospitality, magnificent cuisine and indulge in doing nothing at all on a Sunny terrace in January.
1. Locals reclaim their town
There is something irresistible to Cannes off season. Maybe because the “Cannois”, (people who actually live in Cannes all year round), seem to enjoy having the town to themselves and not share it with thousands of inconsiderate tourists. Or maybe simply because the warm sun of la Côte d’Azur shows up regardless of the time of year. If you want to experience French hospitality at its best, avoid the Summer months and head to Cannes when you can blend in and be a guest, not a tourist.
2. Experience legendary places
Unfortunately Cannes doesn’t have a film museum (something one could expect considering the love story Cannes has with cinema). Yet, if you’re interested in behind the scenes of Cannes glamour there are other options…
Old millionaires, high end prostitutes and movie stars from another era, Cannes is not your everyday place, even off season. To sample a bit of this subculture, head to La Chunca on a Friday night. It is a tiny, extremely smokey place on the croisette (one of the last bars from the golden era still open today on la Croisette and it doesn’t seem to be affected by the smoking ban in public places). Expect live music and bar tenders with bow ties. This place is straight out of a gangster movie and has all the above crowd. Live music starts at 11pm and goes on until the early hours of the morning.
3. People watching
If you can rent a car, a nice way to spend your Sunday is to drive along the sea coast all the way to St Tropez. You’ll pass ghost towns and funky architecture from the 60s (you can spot Pierre Cardin’s Palais de bulles from the road in Théoule sur mer, which looks straight out of a bond movie). Don’t leave without a café granité at Senequier in St Tropez. Facing the marina, it is the best spot for people watching and a legendary place altogether. At 5€, the espresso is probably amongst the most pricey in the world but you can stay the whole afternoon and enjoy a bit of French “Art de ne rien faire”. And that’s probably priceless.
There is not much to do but maybe that is the whole point. While the rest of Northern Europe is fighting the hostile winter, sit back, relax and enjoy the warm sun while your tastebuds can rejoice for a proper foodporn heaven “à la française”.
The wonderful thing about France is obviously not the recurrent strikes but of course the food. The French have it all figured out with reasonably priced menus (you can eat an out of this world 4 course menu for 40€), affordable wine (don’t expect Italian or Spanish wines, the French stick together when it comes to wines!) and a sense of elevating your senses when it comes to food. Don’t mess around with your food, they would probably be more offended than if you’d burn Joan of arc a second time.
Expect to drink a lot of wine as well, as wine by the glass is outrageously expensive, so bottles are always the way to go ( ohhh too bad…)
French dinner doesn’t start before 8pm. If your dinner time has to be before 8, maybe the local McDonald (called Quick) is a better option.
Cannelle is a little café which serves lovely desserts and homemade snacks. A great place to stop for lunch or afternoon tea if you’re shopping at rue d’antibes. You can also buy Fauchon produts.
Volupté anytime is a salon de thé and it has its own tea brand and a wide selection of Oolong. If you’re into green tea they actually have a good selection of sencha. Expect light snacks and delicious desserts when it comes to food. It is a very popular place with the local young mums, so at lunch it is a bit of a stroller race track.
Bobo bistro at 21 Rue Commandant André
Bobo means bourgeois bohème, the father of hipster chic, with less facial hair and more classy outfits and this cute little restaurant is the brand essence of Bobo! A small menu with both French flavours (try their “poireaux vinaigrette” et mimosa eggs) and Italian classics (parmigiana and truffle gnocchi) makes it a good “light” dinner option. The wine list is just like the owners: bubbly and charming. I recommend the côtes du rhône amour de fruits, a nice little red that goes well with pretty much anything.
My favorite: La table du chef at 5 Rue Jean Daumas.
Don’t ask chef Bruno to tell you what is on the menu. Because there is no menu!
Every night, a different four course meal is served and the only thing you’ll be asked before you start is your diet specific requirements.
Based on the concept of table d’hôtes, this cute little restaurant serves French classics with a twist. Chef Bruno is alone in his tiny little kitchen and will always make a point in meeting all the guests personally at one point during the meal. If you want to try a Michelin restaurant without the price tag, la table du chef is the place for you.
Off season means hotel prices drop significantly.
You can stay at the legendary hotel Martinez for a fraction of the price. While the suites (that Hollywood studios use during the film festival) might still be unaffordable, the deluxe rooms with sea view is reasonably priced and indisputably a very good option. It is a Hyatt hotel so expect all the perks of a Hyatt stay (including collecting miles in most affiliated programs).
If you’re not desperate for a room with a view, several mid range options can be found in town. Best western patio des artistes has recently been renovated and features comfortable large rooms 2 seconds from rue d’antibes. It is nothing special or remotely charming, but it’s clean, affordable and has cool amenities (if, like me, you’re into collecting hotel shampoo bottles).
If you’re on a budget, airbnb rooms is the recommended thing or stay at Résidence Gambetta which has 4 little studios.
Looking for a weekend idea to party with your friends? Look no further, Liverpool has everything you ever wished for.
1. Party all weekend like a maniac
Liverpool is one of the best place to party in the world. Forget everything you thought you knew about a wild night out. Liverpool has it all, 10 times louder, bigger, messier and funnier. There’s a whole section about bars here. And don’t forget the local hangover cure: a banana, a full fat can of coke, a greasy spoon breakfast and a hair of the dog… you’ve been warned.
2. The Baltic Triangle
In every city you have the cool kid neighbourhood. Like the place where cool, creative, bohemian people hang out. In Liverpool, look no further, you want to head to the Baltic triangle.
Liverpool Icon Jayne Casey founded it to ensure Liverpool’s creative community would have a place to call home. In a few years she managed to turn this derelict area of the city into a thriving center for innovative, artistic, creative people. Unlike other hipster dominated areas, the Baltic has a very genuine vibe of creative cool with small cafes, cool bars, psychedelic music festivals and street art galore.
Obviously. Unless you’ve been spending the last 50 years in a cave, you’ve heard of the Beatles. While there’s a museum at the Albert Docks, there isn’t much left in town for your to explore. Head to Matthew Street for the wall of Number 1 billboard hits from Liverpool artists and you’ll discover there is a whole bunch of artists besides the Beatles who’ve come from Liverpool. Every other bar will have a live gig at some point during the night, Studio 2 is a good place to start if you’re looking to start the night with live music.
Oh and if you want to know everything about the Beatles, here’s a radio show I worked on a few years ago: (in French http://bit.ly/1k30mOZ)
4. Capital of beautiful hair.
Like most continental Europeans, great hair means you’ve had a cut about 3 months ago, you’ve actually used a brush to put your hair up and you’re relatively proud of the result. Think again. Liverpool is the world’s capital of beautiful hair. Ladies spend fortune on their locks and anything less than a “big and bouncy” blow-dry is considered a bad hair day.
If you really want to experience Liverpool like a local and you’re a lady, head to the hairdresser on a Saturday morning. Get your hair “pinned” and buy a can of hairspray! The idea is to leave it “up” until you want to go out. It will sit nice and curly (with lots of hairspray) once you “de-pin” your hair. You should at least leave it for a day for a full effect.
Liverpool ladies take their hair very very seriously. If you want to look the part, you’ll need to rock those locks baby.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any extravagant equivalent for men. You can definitely get a hipster haircut at Voodoo Barbershop on Bold street, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re terribly hangover.
5. The only Grade II listed toilets in the UK
It was John Lennon’s favourite pub and it’s probably the city’s most beautiful one. The Philharmonic pub is as legendary as its guests and while the interior is very beautiful and reminiscent of Liverpool glorious days (most of it came from the same makers who designed the Titanic’s interior), the main attraction are the gent’s toilets (sorry ladies, the women’s toilets are pretty lame in comparison).
Once awake, one of my favorite thing on a Saturday morning (and by morning I mean from 11:30 AM) is to head towards the Cathedral Café (called Mezzanine Café) for a full English breakfast. Especially on a sunny day, the walk from the city center up Bold street, pass the Bombed out church, all the way to the Philharmonic Hall is simply my favorite. It’s a bit of a detour from town, yet you’ll get to see the beautiful Georgian buildings, which haven’t been destroyed and replaced by concrete cocks in the 70s. If you’re brave (or simply want to get rid of that terrible hangover with a little exercise), from hope street head towards Falkner square, Catherine street has some of the nicest buildings in town. The good thing is, you can’t get lost because from every single place in Liverpool you can see the huge, massive enormous cathedral.
An alternative to the Mezzanine café (or if you’re really too hangover to sit in a Cathedral), stop at Quarter, right on Falkner street (that’s also next to the Philharmonic Hall). Their full English Breakfast is amongst my favorites. It’s a great place for a brunch or lunch.
Once you’re done with Food, take the time to visit the Cathedral. It’s totally worth it (and it’s free). Liverpool’s Cathedral is gigantic. It took 74 years to complete. On a sunny day you can also reach the top of the tower and enjoy the most panoramic views on the Mersey River.
If places of worship’s not your thing, head to the Baltic Triangle, the epicentre of Liverpool’s creative community. Artist studios, creative agencies, funky little digital start-ups, Baltic Triangle is probably the better looking baby sister of Shoreditch in London. Younger, hotter and with some dignity. Unit 51 is a great place for food, so is Baltic Social.
It will only take you 10 min to head to the Albert Docks from Baltic Triangle. And if you miss the Albert Docks, it’s like you’ve never been to Liverpool. Pay a visit to the Liver birds, take the time to see the Slavery Museum.
Dinner: One of my favorite place is the hub, a great gastro-pub, book ahead as it gets very busy very early.
A great cheap option is Kimos , a favorite amongst students, meal portions are huge and it’s absolutely delicious. A great mix of all time favorites mezze and the more classic student food options. It’s Halal and the staff is super friendly.
Otherwise there’s ho-st. A cool pan asian canteen on hope street.
For a 3AM kebab or pizza, there are plenty of options in town. The good thing is, you’ll get a pizza with a view. 3AM in Liverpool on a Saturday is quite a show!
Let’s face it. You’re not in Liverpool for the gastronomy…
There are several options, from 5* to no stars at all. Liverpool has something for every budget. My recommendations are:
Cocoon: If you don’t mind sleeping in the basement with no windows. It’s cheap, reasonably clean and 10 min from Concert Square. You won’t need to cab it, unless you’re totally S***faced. Weekend rate: 55£/night for 2.
Novotel: super central, you can find some great deals directly on the Novotel page and if you subscribe to Le Club Accor you’ll be the first to know about it. Room starts at 70£/night for 2.
Hope Street Hotel: Expensive. Boutique hotel close to the Philharmonic Hall, rooms are small yet it’s a nice place (avoid if you’re planning a mega night out with your mates). It’s a bit run down but if you want to avoid the big chains (Hilton or Crown Plaza) it’s about the only decent 4 star options around. Room starts at 150£/night for 2
From the airport, either take a black cab (around 20£ to the city center) or take the airport express (5£).
For an easy night out:
Start with a drink at Studio 2 Parr street. It used to be a fab recording studio back in the 80’s. Coldplay recorded their parachutes album in Parr street (amongst other). The bar is located on Parr Street (surprise, surprise…)
It is mega cheesy. But it’s probably one of the most romantic things to do: explore southern Bavaria and its beautiful castles.
A little bit of history. Once upon a time, there was a king who really didn’t want to be king. He would have preferred to hang out in an imaginary world with heroes and gods from the Walhalla, singing opera all day long and never have to meet real humans. Except Ludwig II could not really escape from his royal duties. So instead, he bankrupt Bavaria, splashing on compulsively building castles and financing operas.
Back in the days, Ludwig II wasn’t really popular. But somehow today, Bavaria can say thank you to its mad king because it is now home to several fairytale castles that tourists from around the world come to visit all year round.
Whatever the season, castles are a very popular destination, so be ready to queue. The good thing in the winter is that queues tend to be smaller, but with an average of minus 10c, waiting outside is not exactly a fun experience.
These are 3 castles you can visit over a long weekend. Stay around Füssen and rent a car as Bavaria is not particularly public transport friendly.
The most famous one: Neuschwanstein.
Yep, that’s the Disney castle from Sleeping beauty. If you don’t want to brave the long wait to get in, head directly to Marienbrücke and enjoy the view. The bridge was built by Ludwig II to enjoy the view on his castle. And truly, it looks out of a fairytale.
The island one: Herrenchiemsee. Right, so Ludwig II really liked Versailles. A fervent admirer of Louis XIV (not the one who lost his head, the one who so humbly called him
self the Sun king), he decided it’d be really cool to built a mini version of Versailles on an island. And he did. Only he stayed in the castle a total of 8 days. Needless to say, it’s just like the original, a better visit in the summer because the gardens and the island itself is an outdoor heaven. And also in the winter, it gets very very foggy and you kind of expect a German version of the loch ness to come out of the water and eat you.
My personal favorite: Linderhof.
It is the smallest castle that Ludwig II built and his preferred residence too. It is a miniature castle (compared to the others) but somehow Ludwig thought he could fit his entire collection of “stuff” in it. It is über rococo and if you’re remotely claustrophobic not a very good option, but if you want a glimpse of the king’s intimacy (and total madness), Linderhof is the place to go.
Don’t miss out on the Cave, full blond with a lake and a seashell shaped boat, and listen to Wagner music. How über cool.
Where to stay and what to eat? Head here
Let’s make it short. To enjoy the most of your castle orgy, stay in or around Füssen. These are two nice little hotels, complete with the cute Bavarian deco (if you’re into that) and a friendly receptionist wearing a dirndl (the typical German/Austrian outfit). Book ahead as these places get really busy in the Summer.
Alatsee is definitely a favorite as it comes with a private (yes, private) lake. It also has a very nice restaurant (once you’re tired of eating sausages and other Bavarian snacks, you’ll be very thankful for Alatsee), so even if you’re not staying in Alatsee don’t miss out on their dinner menu.
Rooms start at 30 Euros per person, and let’s be totally honest, it is a minor upgrade from a youth hostel but you can’t beat the private lake for romance…
Dreimäderlhaus. Literally the house of the 3 young women (don’t get over excited, it is owned by a very traditional Bavarian couple). Cute rooms with balconies, room starts at 80 Euros.
When in Bavaria, forget everything you know about healthy eating. Because no matter what you do, you will end up eating things you never thought you could digest. This includes plates of pork. From ribs to steaks to sausages to feet. All in one plate.
No wonder they invented Jägermeister. That’s the only way to digest all this meat.
So instead of recommending one place in particular, here is the thing you should order in any good old “Stube”: Schweinshaxn with Knödel. It’s pork meat with a sort of undercooked potato purée that looks like a bull’s testicule. Anyways.
Leave some room for dessert and try Germknödel with Vanilla sauce. It’s just like the above knödel except sweet.
And don’t forget the local beer.