Lyon & French Alps

 

Dan recently had the opportunity to join a weeklong project in Lyon, France.  Of course as it was a new city for us, I quickly wanted to join!  So I arrived on Friday at the end of the week for a night in Lyon then the weekend in the Alps.

After Dan finished up work on Friday, I met him in the city centre where we walked around exploring.  The city is really adorable – I couldn’t believe how many cafe’s, restaurants and bars there were! It’s a very small, but incredibly charming city built around the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers.  I wish we had more time there than just the one evening…

 

Lyon is known as one of the gastronomic capitals of the world.  It is FILLED with Michelin starred restaurants and is home to some of the most infamous culinary institutes.  I’m a HUGE Anthony Bourdain fan (R.I.P.), and love to follow his recommendations as we travel around the world.  One of my favourite episodes of Parts Unknown was his Lyon trip.  He visited Paul Bocuse’s restaurant and was able to dine WITH Chef Paul himself!  Watching Anthony Bourdain’s excitement and respect for such a chef made me want to experience those feelings as well.  I had just been promoted at work, and Dan told me we were going to go out to dinner to celebrate that evening.  Never did I think we’d be able to get into Paul Bocuse – but somehow Dan managed to secure a booking!!!

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We indulged in the most memorable six course meal:

  • Amuse-bouche de l’Auberge
  • Duck foie gras terrine, ginger jelly, dried fruits chutney [Kirsten] & Traditional Lyon quenelles of pike with crayfish, Normande sauce [Dan]
  • Filet of beef Rossini, Périgueux sauce [Kirsten] & Fricassee of Bresse chicken in cream sauce, morel mushrooms [Dan]
  • Selection of fresh and matured cheeses from ‘La Mère Richard’
  • Delicacies & Temptations
  • Fantasies & Chocolates

Two things in particular stood out to me; first was the veal sweetbread that was on top of my beef filet – out of this world delicious! And secondly, was the dessert cart.  I wish I was able to take better photos of them (because there were FOUR – not just ONE dessert cart!) I had a hard time containing myself and not asking for a sampling of each of the desserts offered!  It was such a special evening and was by far the best meal of my life!


 

Part two of our trip kicked off early the next morning as we hired a car and drove off east towards the French Alps.  Our plan was to arrive late morning and spend the afternoon hiking.  However…the World Cup was on (and France was playing) and it was nearly 100 degrees out, so we decided to take it easy and just drive and stop in a few small villages along the way and then watch the match at a local pub.

It was such a beautiful drive climbing up and up through winding steep mountain roads, to where we stayed at a beautiful catered chalet.  The house was built into the rocks.  It was quite a striking mix between old/mountain rock and modern.  The area even had a local friendly donkey that greeted us 🙂

 

 

The next day we set off for a full day’s hike in the alps.  Dan chose a beautiful trail around one of the ski resorts with views of Mount Blanc.  The weather was absolutely perfect!  It was quite funny because it was about 70 degrees and sunny, but parts of our hike were still through the snow!

We love adventure trips, and this one in particular because it was such a contrasting trip – gourmet meals to trekking in the alps.  It was also really cool to see this area in the summer as this was a similar area we were in the winter for our ski trip!

Zakynthos, Greece

One of our favourite trips of all time was about two years ago when we spend a long weekend in  Santorini, Greece.   When we sat down  this spring to decide where we should visit for a long relaxing weekend, we both quickly agreed on going back to a Greek island.  We settled on Zakynthos as it was super easy to reach and offered some great resorts.

This will quite possibly be my shortest blog post, as we pretty much spent 90% of the time lying by our resort’s infinity pool overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea.  The remainder of our time we spent on our motorcycle winding through the olive tree farms to see the dramatic coastline or out to eat the most incredible Greek food.

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How we spent our whole first day 🙂

For our first night on the island, Dan found the most amazing Greek restaurant for dinner, Bassia.  We actually ended up loving it so much, we went a total of 3 times throughout our week there!

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The next  morning we drove across the island over to Porto Limnionas, a sheltered cove for swimming.  The 1.5 hour drive was so beautiful, passing through olive farms, vineyards and tiny little towns.  When we arrived to our lunch destination, we were greeted with the cutest little restaurant set high above the cove overlooking the most crystal clear turquoise waters!  After a quick bite, we climbed down the steps to the water where we went swimming and explored the caves.  I couldn’t believe how clear the water was – you could see the sandy bottom the whole time and the water was at least 30 feet deep!

That night’s dinner treated us to one of the best views on the island. Lofos Pizzaria is set up in the hills, overlooking the middle valley of the island.  It is quite the trek to get to on a motorcycle…lots of hairpin turns and a steep climb!  But after a somewhat eventful trip there, we made it in one piece and enjoyed some Greek pizza and a perfect sunset!

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The next day, we did nothing but move from the pool to the beach 🙂 It was perfection!

IMG_3918In the evening, we rode over to another incredible Greek restaurant.  The entire “dining room” is set outside, underneath a canopy of greenery and fairy lights.  It’s magical!

For our last excursion, we drove across the island and to the north to see the Island’s most famous sight – Shipwreck Beach!

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From there, we explored another beach, Xigia Beach.  This area is incredibly unique, as the water has a layer of collagen on the top!  The natural springs flow sulphur and collagen, making the water feel silky and smooth against your skin (although quite stinky too!).

 

For our last night, we went back to our favourite restaurant where the staff treated us to a “going away” meal which included 5 courses of their best Greek dishes.  It was an unforgettable meal, and we made some great friends that we hope we can go back and visit some day.

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We were really lucky to have a late evening flight back to London and were able to spend the WHOLE day pool and seaside again.  It was the perfect trip.  We were able to actually relax, read (and finish!) books and soak up the Greek sun.  I cannot recommend this place enough, particularly our hotel.  It was a 10/10.

Venice, Italy

Last week I was SUPER lucky to have one of my friends come visit us in London.  Courtney and I went to university together and met each other on the women’s hockey team.  We instantly became friends and she’s been by my side ever since.  She even stood up next to me on our wedding day as one of my bridesmaids.  Just before we moved to London, she started dating her boyfriend, Dan.  As we were leaving, I never had the chance to meet him – so when they arrived in London it was our first chance to meet.  And it was hard to believe by the end of the week we had just met – we loved Dan – I mean it doesn’t hurt that his name is also Dan ;)! The four of us had such a wonderful time together.

They arrived Saturday morning and without skipping a beat, we took off for a quick tour of some of the London sights.  We started with a walk through Hyde Park to see Kensington Palace.  After a quick pub lunch nearby, we made our way up to Notting Hill to stroll through Portobello Market.  It’s so easy to forget about these incredible streets and markets when we’re busy living our fast paced London life, so it’s extra special to go back and visit these places with friends and see the excitement on their faces when seeing it for the first time.

That evening we met up with the Ives and Phelps for a night of darts.  Flight Club is easily one of our favourite group hang out spots.  The atmosphere is so much fun!  After a few hours of hitting the bullseye, we made our way over to a speakeasy for some cocktails and live music.  Again, I just love having our US friends in town to visit.  Dan and I love London so much, and it’s so amazing to show our friends the city we’ve made our home.

 

Sunday was a full day of sightseeing.  We started with brunch at Dishoom before making our way across the city.

 

On Monday,  Dan  and I had to go to work for the week while Courtney and Dan made their way over to Paris then Munich.  Courtney’s brother and family live in the Munich area so they were able to spend some quality family time!

Friday night we all met back up in Venice! We had the cutest Airbnb! It had a fab terrace where we enjoyed many, many pizza’s and vino!  We were so lucky to have stumbled upon an uhh-mazing pizza shop just near our apartment on the first night.  We ended up visiting them every day (I think maybe even twice in one day?).

All day Saturday was spent sight seeing.  We quickly checked off all of the main tourist sites in the area.  These areas were SO busy with people, so we wanted to make sure we saw them and then were able to spend the rest of our time enjoying the quieter spots of Venice.

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Saturday evening was probably the best part of our trip.  Our apartment’s concierge service connected us with a local boat owner/guide (Marco) for a sunset cruise around the islands and canals.   Marco was incredible!  The five of us quickly became friends as we cruised around enjoying local prosecco and snacks.  The gondola’s on the main canals in Venice are SO expensive and touristy.  Again, it was nice being able to enjoy the quieter side of Venice and he even took us out to Burano which is one of the most colourful islands in the area!  The three hours with Marco flew by, and we all struggled to say goodbye and not book him again for the next evening!  I would HIGHLY recommend going with Boat Skipper Marco if you’re planning a visit to Venice in the future!

Sunday was spent meandering around and enjoying all of the hidden gems Venice has to offer.  All of the bridges, canals, boats, cute buildings make it so easy to just walk for hours.  And not to mention all of the homemade pasta shops and gelaterias! I also can’t believe I’ve made it this far without mentioning Bellini’s!  Venice is the home to the Bellini!  Prosecco and fresh peach juice – how can  you go wrong?  We made many pit stops along the way to enjoy fresh Bellini’s and spritz’ throughout the weekend!

 

 

 

We flew back to London early Monday morning for one last day of exploring and spending time together.  After a bike ride through the city, we ended up at Louis Vuitton where Courtney and I decided to celebrate our friendship with matching handbags 🙂  We had so much fun picking them out then flaunting them around the streets.

 

On our last evening together, we went to one of our favourite food markets, Mercato Metropolitano, for dinner before capping our trip off with drinks at the top of the Shard.  We had such a great time with Courtney and Dan!  The hardest thing about living abroad is not being close to friends and family.  And it’s even harder to say goodbye after such a special week together.  But…we’re already trying to plan our next trip together!

 

Seoul, South Korea 서울

 

Once again, we’ve been on the move!  This time Dan had to go to Seoul, South Korea for a 2.5 week work project.  The first weekend he was in Seoul landed on the Easter holiday, and I had Friday and Monday off work so decided to join him for a long weekend.  It was quite a long flight (11 hours!), but being able to experience a new country with Dan was 100% worth it for the quick trip!

With the time difference, I landed in Seoul early Friday morning.  Dan had to work the day, so after he greeted me and had a quick lunch with me, I was off on my own to explore.  I spent the afternoon wandering around Myeong-Dong which is a popular shopping area.  The streets were filled with beauty shops, clothing stores and street food vendors.  I couldn’t believe how many beauty shops there were!  Skin care is taken so seriously there, you can’t go more than 5 steps without another shop selling their famous sheet masks.  I had heard a lot about them, and was quite sceptical at first…but after purchasing a handful and testing one at our hotel…I understand the hype!  I’m addicted and loved stocking up on different versions I would find throughout the remainder of my trip.

Dan met up with me for a Korean BBQ dinner.  I forgot how much I love Asian restaurant culture.  Everything is so organised, efficient and just DELICIOUS!  After dinner we went over to Seoul Tower to catch some of the night views over the city.

On Saturday, Dan had to work until mid-afternoon so I set out to do some sight seeing on my own in the morning.  I first visited the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple.  It had the coolest outdoor area surrounding the temple.  Thousands of colourful lanterns we strung in the sky creating the most beautiful rainbow canopy! I loved watching the locals come and go and perform their traditions/rituals.  It is especially cool to see the differences between all of the Asian cultures and religions from all of our travels.

From there I wandered over to Gwanhun-dong to check out some more shopping and culture.  There was an incredible shopping centre (Insadong ssamjigil) which was filled with local artist shops and retailers.  I even stumbled up on a poop themed cafe’ – I swear, some of things you find in Asia…you can’t even imagine!

After meeting up with Dan, we went to explore the Gyeongbokgung Palace.  The palace is the largest and most grand of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. Our timing was perfect as when we walked up the changing of the guards ceremony was just starting.  It was really cool to watch.

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I quickly noticed that many of the visitors (and locals) at the palace were dressed in traditional Korean clothing.  It didn’t take me long to decide that this was the perfect opportunity to play dress up and engage in this fantastic tradition and rent a Hanbok for the day! I felt like such a princess.  I LOVED exploring and spending the afternoon in this stunning gown!  I couldn’t stop twirling around and of course I was wearing a huge grin the entire time.  Let’s be real though…the palace was lovely…but this dress…took the crown!

 

That evening after reluctantly returning my Hanbok…we made our way over to Hongdae Street.  This area is known for it’s urban culture, art and street performers.  The entire street is shut down and flooded with food stalls, retail shops, art stands and…screaming KPop fans for the street performers that are set up about every 20 meters.  It was bizarre.  Literally every 20 meters down the street was a mini stage or sectioned off area with a street dancer/singer/artist.  Each one had it’s own HUGE loyal crowd.  It was so much fun walking the street and seeing performer after performer and enjoying some tremendous street food!  We ended the evening with some delicious Korean fried chicken (the real KFC!).

On my last full day in the city, we visited the Changdeokgung Palace, which is another of the Five Grand Palaces within Korea.  We didn’t find this to be too dissimilar from Gyeongbokgung Palace, so our visit was short and sweet!  From there we quickly explored Bukchon Hanok Village then took a long walk along the Cheonggyecheon to get to our lunch spot.  The Cheonggyecheon is a 10k long urban park/stream that cuts through the middle of Seoul.  It has a big beautiful walking path on both sides – hard to believe that it used to be a big concrete expressway!

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Lunch was incredible!  It was another version of Korean BBQ – however this time no one spoke any English so we had no idea what we were really doing or eating!  We love the traditional style restaurants where you sit on the ground and wear an apron and cook your own meal!  This meal was probably my favourite of the trip!

 

From there, we had one last area I had to check out before leaving – Gangnam!

 

That evening we went out for a last bowl of Bibimbap (YUM!) and I stocked up on some last minute sheet masks.

 

The next morning I flew back 11 hours to London and went to work the following day!  It was a whirlwind trip for me, but I’m SO glad I did it.  Dan stayed on for another 2 weeks before coming back for my birthday (and birthday trip!) then ended up going back to finish the project for another 10 days!

 

Lisbon, Portugal

If you follow us regularly, you’ll probably notice both Dan and I have been travelling a lot for work.  Our last weekend trip was stapled onto a work trip Dan had in Oslo, Norway  and this time it was my turn to travel for work and have Dan come visit me on the weekend!  I’m working on some really cool projects across Europe right now, and lucky for me, two of them are in Portugal.  After a few days in Lisbon and Porto for work, Dan joined me Friday evening for a weekend of exploring.

For some reason (which were both still not entirely sure why) we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city. We rarely do this, but it ended up working out great as it got us quickly to some of the main sites…although in retrospect, we only used the bus about 2, maybe 3 times 😉

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First stop:  Belém Towera stunning tower structure that from afar looks like it is floating off of the Lisbon shoreline.

After snapping a few photos and walking along the shore, we walked over to Pasteis de Belem, the world famous bakery known for its Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts)!  We were warned that the queue would be quite long, but it would be worth the wait.  Luckily, we only had to wait a few minutes before we had the most delicious, warm custard tarts in our possession!  Unlike a lot of places that are very hyped up about being “the best”, this place totally lived up to the hype – they were outstanding!  Totally worth it if you’re in the area!

A quick Uber away (not the bus :)) was the, also very famous, TimeOut market, where we enjoyed some delicious lunch.

We spent the remainder of the day wandering around various neighborhoods, while gawking at all of the gorgeous architecture and TILES. I fell in love with the tiles.  I took close to 100 photos of buildings and tiles.  We even ended up visiting a tile shop to purchase some to bring home with us!

That evening we had a really good Portuguese dinner at a really cool, funky restaurant and topped off the night with some incredible wine at what is now possibly my favourite wine bar ever.  The entire building was covered in beautiful green glass wine bottles and their service and selection was FAB!

On Sunday we did a bit more exploring, but mostly just enjoyed relaxing and walking in the sunshine.  We had the most perfect weather while in Lisbon, about 65-70 degrees and sunny the entire time.  We loved the food, the wine, the culture, and just about everything!

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. I’m so grateful that I am able to work on a project in this incredible country!

Oslo, Norway

Dan has been able to travel to Oslo a few times for work trips these past few months, so we decided that I would join him for a night to do some exploring!  It was as really short trip, as we flew in Saturday morning and I flew back Sunday night.  But it’s a really small city so it was really easy to do in a quick weekend.  So many people told us that Oslo is a really boring city, but we ended up really loving it and finding it incredibly beautiful!

We spent Saturday afternoon just wandering around the city’s shopping area.  It’s basically just one long high street.  But one beautiful high street and at the end of the shopping street sits the Palace up on the hill with a beautiful park.  When we reached the end of the walk and got to the park, we decided we should go ice skating in the park!  We rented hockey skates and as soon as we got them – it started to snow!  I’m talking the most perfect big fluffy snowflakes!  Living in London, we don’t get snow and I LOVE snow!  And how perfect to be skating in the snow in Norway!  Perfection!

 

As I only had one night in Oslo, we decided to try and visit as many places as possible for food and drink.  So we started off at the top floor of our hotel for a cocktail – which happens to be the tallest building in Oslo!  Next stop was a cave bar/restaurant for dinner and some Norwegian beer.  They were known for their sausages so we had to try them, and they didn’t disappoint!  After dinner,  we bar hopped at a handful of craft beer bars around the city.  The craft beer scene was fantastic there – especially the sour beers!  So many fun ones to try, I loved it!

On Sunday we decided to take a long walk along the waterfront.  We started over by the Oslo Opera House which is a stunning display of architecture along the sea.  The  building and sun created beautiful reflections into the water.

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The remainder of my short time in the city was spent just wandering around, enjoying the wonderful weather and being with Dan.  We love weekends away where we can just take it slow and not feel rushed to see a lot of tourist sites.  Oslo was so beautiful and was the perfect quick (but slow) getaway! And I got my snow fix in 🙂