Lunch at Au Nez Rouge, Visit to Black Virgin of La Daurade, Toulouse 10 Do's and Don'ts by Mamina and Anne

Before I hop on the plane and head to Europe, I thought it would be timely to share 10 do's and don'ts on Toulouse by someone local.

Pascale Weeks of C'est Moi Qui l"Ai Fait (French food blog) was kind enough to play matchmaker and introduce me to Mamina who pens Et si c'etait bon (another tasty French food blog) 

Mamina does not live in Toulouse yet she is a frequent visitor to La Ville Rose since her daughter Anne who practices nuclear medicine moved there 3 years ago. Anne enjoys her life by the Garonne and is always happy to share her Toulouse discoveries with her mother.

Here's Mamina and Anne 10 Do's and Don'ts of Toulouse.

TO DO :

1-Must see Basilique St Sernin, beautiful sight day and night, wall, find your way there from Place du Capitole walking in the shade provided by historic homes that line the streets of the neighborhood. If you visit St Sernin on a Saturday morning, Place St Sernin hosts a flea market. 

2-Place du Capitole, the heart of la ville rose and its pillar, Glacier Octave (homemade ice cream). Do not skip a stop there under any circumstances. You will find other ice cream shops in the vincinity yet nothing compares to Octave. Enjoy their ice-cream creations on the terrace or take it to go. 

Octave-glace-samba

3-Take a walk along the banks of the Garonne river and admire its bridges especially Pont Saint Michel where you get a great view of the sights. Walk along Canal du Midi in the Rangueil neighborhood.

4-Make time for Marche Victor Hugo (food market, open Tuesday through Sunday from early morning to around 1 pm). The fish stalls are outstanding and butcher shops have few equals in France these days. Let yourself fall for charcuteries, especially Noir de Bigorre (black Bigorre pig) specialties 

5-Have dinner at Au Nez Rouge (The Red Nose), a wine bar in an old 'colombage' house. This no fuss place has a very good wine selection (some by the glass or the carafe) and a simple and tasty menu. Prix fixe options are offered for lunch including 'plat du jour' at 10.50 €.

6-If you want to add to your kitchenware collection, check Maison Habiague (44, rue Alsace Lorraine), the equivalent of Ali Baba's cave for the discerning cook. Chefs and amateurs alike frequent this place in search of perfect or rare kitchen tools. Store is opened Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm. Note that as many stores in Toulouse, they close for lunch break from 12:30 pm to 2 pm Monday through Friday.

 

7- Fans of aviation and industrial history can take Airbus Tour on the outskirts of Toulouse.

8-Feel like Haute cuisine, Michel Sarran, his cooking will make you melt. More home than restaurant, the dining rooms are artfully decorated. If dinner prices are out of your range, try the lunch prix fixe 'Capitole', 3 courses for 49 Euros (wine and coffee included). Sommelier Jean-Luc Planelles will be happy to introduce you to local wines. Restaurant is closed from August 4 to September 4.

9-Buy cheese (if only one) at Xavier, place Victor Hugo, they do their own affinage. Francois Bourgon was named 'Meilleur Ouvrier de France' in 2011. The shop is full of 'fromage' treasures.

10-Have lunch at Chez Navarre (49, Grande rue Nazareth). It is a Table d'Hotes which means that you will eat what the chef Jerome Navarre had in mind that day at long communal tables. Opened Monday through Friday, it is closed during the summer.

Navarre

DONT’S

1-Never expect to be served quickly in shops...In the south (midi), people pace themselves.

2-Don't walk alone along the Canal du Midi in the Gare Matabiau (train station) neighborhood.

3-Do not select an hotel without air conditioning. Summers are hot, sometimes very hot in Toulouse.

4- Make no mistake, Pont-Neuf is the oldest bridge in Toulouse. Garonne is a 'magnifique' river that should be crossed numerous times in various places via different bridges.

5- Do not have dinner at Bibent on place du Capitole. Serice is very often very bad and food quality lacks consistency.

8- When driving do not take 'peripherique' at rush hour. Traffic is horendous, even during the summer.

9- Don't forget that police has radars on bridges to check motorists speed when peripherique is not crowded. 

Black virgin

10-Don't think that St Sernin and the Capitole are the only sights worth checking. Pay a visit to the stunning Black Virgin at Notre Dame de la Daurade church, visit the many museums.

A big thank you to Mamina and Anne for their guided tour of Toulouse.

(* Photos and video from respective spots mentioned in this piece except for image of Black Virgin of La Daurade from piece on Laws of Silence blog)


Prahran Market to Birrarung Marr and Chez Dre, Melbourne 10 Do's and Don'ts by Tad Lombardo

In past 2 months and a half, 10 Do's and Don'ts have been a bit of a neglected child as I was dealing with a heavy workload.

Things have slowed down a bit and it allows me to catch up.

Today marks the return of 10 Do's and Don'ts with a trip down under thanks to chocolatier Tad Lombardo of Cioccolato Lombardo, a New Jersey native now based in Australia.

Read the whole piece as some of Tad's don'ts are actually do's.

Tad Lombardo's 10 Do's and Don'ts of Melbourne:

I visited Melbourne for the first time in May 1994 on a two-week holiday. It was then that I first fell in love with this city and Australia. I moved here permanently in 1996.

Melbourne is a modern, thriving, classy, cosmopolitan city of approximately 4.5 million people and is the seat of Government for the State of Victoria. The city has a distinct European vibe and is renowned for its art, architecture, diversity, entertainment, fashion, food, and shopping. The city is Australia’s events capital hosting regular National and International events – there is always something going on in Melbourne! Melbournians are also Sports mad featuring Tennis, Australian Rules football, Cricket, Rugby, Horse Racing, Soccer and Formula 1 to name some of what is on offer. (For more details and information about our fine city, see: Visit Melbourne)

The following are my favourite “do’s and don’ts” for my adopted hometown of Melbourne, Australia and many are the reasons why Melbourne is regularly voted “The Most Liveable City in The World”:

Do's:
1. Have dinner at Attica Restaurant (No. 53, San Pellegrino World’s Top 100 Restaurants List) In my mind; Attica is Australia’s best restaurant and one of only two restaurants in the country to earn a place on The World’s Top 100 List. Attica is Victorian Restaurant of the Year 2012 and was awarded Three Chef Hats (Australia does not use the Michelin Star rating system. We use “Chef Hats” and Three Chef Hats is the highest rating.) Advance Bookings are essential. 

2. Visit The Prahran Market, Australia’s oldest food market. The Market dates back to the 1850’s and is known as “The Food Lover’s” Market. I sell my chocolate at The Prahran Market, so anyone visiting, stop by and say hello!

Damianpike

3. Le Petit Gateau should not be missed when in the Central Business District. Melbourne’s famous French Pastry Chef, Pierrick Boyer, operates/manages LPG. 

4. Areas such as Degraves Street (across from Flinders Street Train Station and Federation Square) are one of the reasons why Melbourne is loved so much. The alleyways and side streets are full of cafes, bars and eateries that flow out onto the streets, giving the impression of a European city.

5. Located in Degraves Street is a lovely shop called Clementine’s. Clementine’s only stocks products made in the State of Victoria and provides smaller producers an opportunity to showcase their products in the central business district of Melbourne. Products include gourmet food, artisan chocolates, pottery, gifts, etc. 

6. Visit the Melbourne Cricket Ground, aka The MCG, take a Guided Tour of the grounds and visit the National Sports Museum located within the MCG. Even if “sports” are not a personal interest, the MCG is steeped in history. The National Sports Museum is award winning and contains impressive multimedia displays including a 3D hologram presentation with Australian Cricket Icon, Shane Warne. The museum is not just about Cricket, however, and covers all sporting disciplines.

7. Visit Books For Cooks located at 233-235 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. Books for Cooks is an independently owned book shop and specialises in cookbooks, food writing, food history, and all things related.

8. Take advantage of the beautiful Victorian countryside and make a day trip to The Bellarine Peninsula, The Mornington Peninsula and/or the Yarra Valley. All these regions are located no more than 90 minutes drive from the Melbourne CBD. These areas not only showcase stunning scenery, but renowned Victorian grape growing/wine regions and local produce.

9. Melbourne is known for its “café culture” and coffee is a very large part of it, thanks to Italian immigration in the 1950’s. The coffee here is different than it is in the USA. To experience the coffee culture here, it is a good idea to learn the nomenclature. Every thing on a coffee menu will be a variation of an espresso, which means quick brew under high pressures (as opposed to drip brew which is popular in the USA.) When ordering coffee here, the following are the drinks to order:
􀀀 -Flat White: the most basic/popular drink of choice, which is an espresso with steamed milk.
􀀀 -Long Black: espresso & hot water makes a steaming mug of 'black coffee' (stronger than a flat white, but ask for milk on the side if you need a little 'white.')
􀀀 -Short Black: espresso only in a small glass
􀀀 -Macchiato: espresso & a spoon of milk froth
􀀀 -Latte: espresso & steamed milk & froth
􀀀 -Mocha: a latte with a sprinkle of chocolate powder
􀀀 -Cappuccino: 1/3rd espresso, 1/3rd steamed milk, 1/3rd froth

10. Visit Bridge Road Shopping District. There are many factory outlet type businesses here with many bargains on name brand and designer products. Not to be missed!

Don’ts

1. In 1885, Melbourne was built on the lower stretches of the Yarra River.
Originally the Wurundjeri people inhabited the banks of the river. They called the river Birrarung, but at the time, English settlers translated the word incorrectly and called it “Yarra.” The name remains today. Don’t leave Melbourne without learning something about Australia’s Aboriginal people: their rich culture, history and beautiful art.

Rock-carving_birrarung-marr_mel_r_1269199-303_503x283

2. Don’t swim in the Yarra River, its not the cleanest waterway! But definitely boat on it or take a cruise – there are great views of the city!

3. Don’t be surprised if the Australian version of English leaves you a little bit confused. Australian slang is used through out every day conversation.

4. Don’t leave Melbourne without visiting Chez Dre in South Melbourne. This is a beautiful, new French inspired café and the food and pastries are amazing! 

Chezdre

5. Don’t drive on the wrong side of the road. In Australia, we drive on the left hand side.

6. Don’t be alarmed by the size of the spiders – they are enormous!

7. Don’t use flash photography when taking photos of the little penguins at the penguin colony at St. Kilda Pier as the flash can damage their eyes. Yes, believe it or not, just 6-kms (3.7miles) from the Central Business District of Melbourne there is a colony of little penguins numbering about 1,000. 

8. Melbourne is one of the few cities in the world that still uses Trams for public transport. If driving in Melbourne, don’t attempt to turn right on a road with Trams unless you are familiar with a “hook turn” from the left hand lane. Have a look at the following YouTube Clip to see what I am talking about!

9. Don’t stress if you get lost while strolling through the city. It is set-up on a grid (similar to Philadelphia) and is easy to find your way around. The people are very friendly; so don’t be afraid to ask for directions! There are volunteers who wear bright red shirts and caps. These people are City Ambassadors and are stationed on various street corners to assist tourists with information and directions.

Cityambassador

10. And finally (and most important), don’t let a Sydneysider try to convince you that Sydney is better than Melbourne…yes, there is a healthy rivalry

Thanks Tad for taking us around your adopted city.

(* Photo of Damian Pike by Susanne Edwards from Prahran Market Facebook Page, Chez Dre photos from review by local food lover The Misadventures of MissChievously,  Photo of City Ambassadors from Melbourne city site, Photo of Aboriginal Rock Carvings at Birrarung Marr from Visit Melbourne website)


Digestive Walk in Campo Grande after Eating Lechazo, Valladolid 10 Do's and Don'ts

After taking a vacation, the 10 do's and don'ts return thanks to Spanish food blogger SandeeA who offers her 10 Do's and Don'ts on Valladolid.

Before her 10 's and Don'ts, here's a quick introduction to the world of SandeeA (by Sandra):

"Sandra Mangas Hernandez (SandeeA), 36-year-old mom and food blogger based in Spain, I am nothing if not an inventive cook. I was once a disaster in the kitchen, but started improving my skills after my sons were born. In 2008, I started my food blog La Receta de la Felicidad (translated to The Recipe for Happiness) where I prepare recipes for the kid we all have inside."

Do's First:

DO come to Valladolid during Easter to have the chance to see one of our Holy Week processions, declared of international touristic interest. Differently to other places in Spain, the main sign of identity of Holy Week in Valladolid is silence, and it is a cultural and religious experience you should not miss. My favorite is the Sermón de las Siete Palabras (Sermon of Seven Words) which is held, after being announced in verse at different points around the city by a group of fraternity members on horseback.

DO have a walk in Valladolid central park, the Campo Grande, which is a lovely place to go for a walk in all seasons. There is a lake full of ducks, and if you are lucky you might be able to see a red squirrel running through the trees. After a nice walk, make a stop to recover one’s strength at the terrace bar, and there it is typical to have a beer and some calamares fritos (fried calamari)

DO try one our Ribera del Duero wines. The Spanish wine region of Ribera del Duero is one of the most prestigious wine producing areas in the world. Mythical wines made here incluye Vega Sicilia, Pingus, Pesquera, Emilio Moro, Carmelo Rodero, Pago de Carrovejas, just to name a few. You can visit some of these wineries and some you´ll have the opportunity to taste many of these wines and see where they are made.

Campo_Grande_en_otoño_(Valladolid) (2)

DO have some tapas! Although in Valladolid you have to pay for them (There are many cities in Spain where the tapas are for free with your drink), they are worth of it. I suggest you having a Roquefort-pork loin sandwich at La Tasquita II, and anything at the Jero: you can just point to the tapas you want and they heat them up for you. They have really creative and yummy tapas. Also if you are in Valladolid in November, you will be lucky to see the International Tapas Competition, the most important tapas´event worldwide. During this week many tapas bars of the city offer the participants´ tapas to the regular customers.

Solomillo-pimiento-y-roquefort (2)

DO have some “lechazo”. In Valladolid, the suckling lamb is famous, and there are restaurants where you go exclusively to eat lamb and the waiters ask you just for the drinks.

Lechazo-horno-1024x768 (2)

Now don’ts:

DO not rent a car. Train station is near the center of Valladolid, you can use public transport, have a nice walk, or hire a bike, and don’t miss the wonderful buildings such as the Academia de Caballeria (Cavalry Academy)

DO not miss one of the most interesting things you can do in Valladolid is attending the Seminci
(Semana Internacional de Cine), the International Film Festival.

DO not believe Valladolid has a true beach when you hear talking about “Las Moreras” beach. It is just an artificial beach near the river Pisuerga, where people try to get a good tan in summer, have a bath in the river, and where you may take a boat which offers a 12-kilometer excursion through the river.

DO not forget to visit San Pablo, and la Antigua churches, which are my favorites… I even wanted to get married in La Antigua, but it was too small.

Santa María de la Antigua. VALLADOLID (2)

DO not visit Belaria bakery unless you are ready to gain weight… everything they have is just delicious, my favourites are: tarta aniversario and pastel ruso.

Belaria (2)

Previously: Let Time Go By, Sunset at Saigon Saigon Bar, Saigon 10 Do's and Don'ts by Linh Le


Let Time Go By, Sunset at Saigon Saigon Bar, Saigon 10 Do's and Don'ts by Linh Le

After a 2 month lapse, today marks return of 10 Do's and Don'ts with Linh Le 10 Do's and Don'ts of Saigon

Saigon is an infinitely multifaceted city. This could be said of every city in the world but from all the places I have traveled, it could not be more baffling than in Saigon.

As your plane surfaces the rice fields, you can already envision the multi-facet aspect by the variety of greens and shades the landscape offers.

From a district to the other, from a period in history to another, the city has never ceased changing faces. District 1 is the most modern, west-inspired, and busy district of all. But just walk away from the main avenues into the surrounding districts and you will feel far in time and space.

Walk around the city. Few people do that, but that is the only way to get to know it Though the walk may at times seem long and sometimes devoid of touristic interests, you will find local markets on your way, typical food street vendors and a life that you really can’t fathom just walking the beaten tracks.  Don’t be deterred by people gazing, it is risk free for you.

When strolling in the large tree-bordered avenues, along the French colonial buildings, through the tiny local markets, from early sunrise to warm dew point, and despite the relentless hustle, you will feel the city’s timeless atmosphere of peace, elegance, and joy.

Which leads me directly to the food subject. Eating in the streets of Saigon is as exciting for any food lover as Disneyworld can be to a 4 years-old…fun, new, endless, infinitely varied, tasteful, colorful, surprising, joyful : heaven for taste buds!

Enjoying Saigon demands that you take your time, that you take it slow. Like sticking to the slowest beat in a fast-rhythm song.

Here are some keys to achieve just that.

DO’S

  • By sunset, go and have a drink at Saigon Saigon Bar on the 9th floor of Caravelle hotel. When there, sit facing the Saigon Church, and you will have a view on the mythic Continental hotel, Rex hotel, and the church. If you have read some 20th century history before leaving, or “A quiet American” by Graham Greene, the view will undoubtedly be very lively to you.

Saigon Saigon Bar (2)

  • Around 7p.m. go to  “Saigon xua va nay” café (‪‪33 Nguyen Trung Truc / District 1). This is a typical café located on a terrace a few minutes away from Ben Thanh market with low tables and chairs. It is a highly popular venue for locals and once there you will be part of a national custom named “nhau”.  Nhau means sitting around with friends, having (numerous) drinks and eating loads of typical playful dishes made for that single purpose. The food made for “nhau” is nowhere else to be found than in the designated places. So please go, sit, take it slowly and stay until wee hours in the morning. You will see street performers, you’ll be able to order food from street vendors if you feel like it. And you will be a real saigonese for a moment.

Saigon Xua & Nay (2)

  • Forget about your watch, food street vendors will remind you which part of the day lies ahead. From the 6 a.m. sandwiches, to the 2 a.m. fish skewers, you will have the greatest live food show ever. If you walk by Square Alexandre de Rhodes / District 1 at the following hours : 6 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, 8 pm, 10 pm, you will see a ballet of food street vendors and you can try all sorts of rolls, cakes, and drinks depending on the time of day. My very favorites are the 6 am egg sandwich, and the 4 pm coconut sweet roll.

Rice pancake on Square A. de Rhodes (2)

  • If you need to take a time out of the city hustle, go to “Regina Café” (84 Nguyen Du / District 1), just a few steps from the Church. The café has terraces and a friendly staff. Their iced coffee and chocolate are just what you need to start afresh. The atmosphere is calm and peaceful, protected by ancient trees.
  • At 7 pm, Ben Thanh market is closing. At that very moment, restaurants will pop out on its pavements. Among them, “Hai Lua” is a must-do.  Try at least their “Banh Khot” and “Banh Xeo” (spectacular) which are southern amazing specialties. The restaurant is very popular with locals, and it’s worth the wait!

Hai Lua Restaurant (2)

 DON’TS

  • If you are looking for tasteful, authentic, fresh foods, don’t go to hotel restaurants or so-called “high scale” restaurants. Unless you are looking for the atmosphere and the service, you will be disappointed.  It will absolutely look like your local fusion restaurant, and will be almost as pricey.
  • Don’t stick to your 3-meals-a-day routine. Eat whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, the streets offer just that.  Don’t hesitate to eat fruits, rice cakes, pancakes, sandwiches, rice, noodles, soups, desserts…Around Ben Thanh Market, on Le Loi avenue, in the surrounding streets. Street food is safe. You can also go around 610 Nguyen Dinh Chieu / District 3 by noon. There, you can walk around the pagoda “Chua Ky Vien”. You will find local markets and amazing food stalls anytime of day. The place is very typical Saigon, lively and colorful.
  • Don’t walk around flashing your jewelry or your Chanel-logotyped tote bag as if you were on Rodeo Drive. Where tourists are swarming, thieves are thriving. This is also true under the Eiffel tower. Apart from all basic rules, concerning bags, money, camera and jewelry, you can walk around and feel safe, Vietnamese people are mostly friendly and helpful.
  • Don’t buy your souvenirs in Ben Thanh market or if you do, be aware that many lacquerware, wood-carved objects are mass-produced in China and you might as well find them in your local Chinatown. The best souvenirs to bring back from Vietnam are food (coffee, tea, sweets, fruits, dried seafood…), lacquers (around Dong Khoi Street), embroideries (Close to Dong Khoi also). You can also go to Fahasa bookstores to find your favorite novel in vietnamese, or fast-learning methods to learn the language. Also go to Huynh Thuc Khang street to find Vietnamese (and non-Vietnamese…and sometimes long-forgotten) music.
  • Don’t lose your nerves over small arguments. Hotel staff, cabs, and all people working in the tourism industry have a very different notion of time and stake. What seems unbearable to you (like an unfair cab fare, a slow/wrong service…), will be a lesson to learn for them (or a risk-free shot at making some extra money). Patience and a smile will take you anywhere in Saigon.

When in Saigon, I can only recommend you to take 3 or 4 days to dive into the Mekong Delta. Best option is to hire a driver for the ride (Approx. 150 USD including the driver’s meals and accomodation), your hotel concierge will help you find one. If your trip should have only three stops, here are what I really recommend you they should be:

  • My Tho : rent a boat with any local company (all prices are equivalent, you can bargain) and visit the small villages on the river. You will see local craftsmen, farmers and you will catch a glimpse of a simple life. It will be a stark contrast with life in the city but closer to the reality of Vietnam, as more than 80% of Vietnamese people are living in the country.

Make sure your guide takes you to a restaurant where you can have “xoi chien phong” (fried sweet sticky rice cooked and bloated into a ball the size of a soccer ball!) and “hu tieu my tho” which is local a noodle-soup specialty.

My address to find both dishes is Trung Luong restaurant (Quoc Lo 1 / My Tho). There is a grocery store at the entrance of the restaurant, indulge in the chewy tamarind, coconut or ginger sweets.

Xoi Chien Phong in My Tho (2)

Long Xuyen is the historical heart of the Mekong Delta. Long Xuyen market is one of the most beautiful market I have seen in Vietnam. Each stall has a specialty and it is a semi-wholesale market where small merchants of the

  • specialty and it is a semi-wholesale market where small merchants of the delta come and buy their produce. Located on the bank of the river, Long Xuyen market is riveting by the light in between the stalls, by the opulence of its stalls, by its colours and the endless activity of boats loading and unloading. But above all, the food stalls are just amazing by the variety of choice and the freshness of its dishes. There you can have “Banh Tam Bi” (large rice noodles with minced meat and a slight topping of coconut), all kinds of desserts, fish, fresh vegetables…

Long Xuyen Market (2)

  • Can Tho : located on the bank of the Mekong, Can Tho is famous for its floating markets. They are definitely worth the ride and you will find a thousand ways to go to the market, you can ask your hotel.  However, the floating markets are not my favorite spot in Can Tho. The most staggering experience for me has been to float on the river by 4 am, before sunrise, in a blind darkness, and no sound but that of the still water and the coughing engine of the boat. Our guide took us into the small branches of the river where we could witness the awakening of the Mekong. This ride was topped by the visit of a traditional rice noodle factory just before sunrise. The atmosphere of mystery, timelessness and peace is breathtaking. And finish the ride just roaming in the middle of the market, having a coffee on the boat.

My recommendation for Can Tho is that you stay in Hotel Ninh Kieu with a room overlooking the river. Then you can ask the concierge to book a boat ride for you, starting at 4 am. The ride should cost you around 20 USD.

Rice noodle factory in Can Tho (2)

Thanks to Linh Le for opening our eyes on real Saigon for this return of 10 Do's and Don'ts.

Linh Lê is as multi faceted as the Saigon she takes us through. Born in France, based in Paris, raised in a food-addict Southern-Vietnamese family and raising a multi-cultural family herself, she goes through life as through an endless journey. In this journey she is fueled by love, food and literature. So it is only natural for her that she eats, reads, writes and loves every bit about her ancestors’ homeland. Saigon is her second base, a place where she takes a second wind whenever serendipity takes her there. Linh happily hosts cooking classes and shares her knowledge with chefs. She tells some of her moments and shares recipes in her blog Baguettes et Traditions (Written in French).

Previously: Pa Amb Tomaquet to Ailanto's Fashion, Monica 10 Do's and Don'ts of Barcelona


Pa Amb Tomaquet to Ailanto's Fashion, Monica 10 Do's and Don'ts of Barcelona

Spain had eluded us for our 10 Do's and Don'ts until I asked Monica Navarro, owner of Delishop, to offer her 10 Do's and Don'ts of Barcelona.

We had the pleasure of meeting Monica in New York where she was presenting some of her wonderful Delishop line of gourmet foods.

She was so generous that she came up with 10 of each.

Without further ado, let us serve Monica piping hot 10 Do's and Don'ts of Barcelona.

Do's First:

    DO visit AILANTO, one of the trendiest up and coming Spanish designers, this brother duo has a fantastic store and showroom at C/ Enric Granados. A wonderful tree-lined street full of old-world European charm.   

Ailanto
      
    DO walk along the Consejo de Cien street near Rambla de Catalunya to contemplate small, independent art galleries, frequented by local art collectors.       

     DO have the octopus carpaccio with mashed potatoes at the restaurant, LIMBO, in the Barrio Gotico.  

     DO hop on board the cable car starting from the Barceloneta beach up to the top of the Montjuic hill. On the way down stroll through the recently renovated Botanic Garden.        

     DO go down to the Barceloneta beach, preferably by bike or scooter, stay around until sunset, and enjoy a nice bottle of wine in one of the many beach bars, where local DJ’s spin cool vibes as night falls.

Boqueria

     DO visit PARC GUELL, the outdoor park designed by Antoni Gaudi. Hidden alcoves and awe-inspiring architecture, combined with the best view of Barcelona makes it a must.  

     DO whet your appetite at the MERCAT DE LA BOQUERIA, described by some as the most impressive food market in Europe; and it does not disappoint. If it’s not on sale at the Boqueria, it probably isn’t worth eating.  

Bartomas

     DO get your fill of authentic tapas at a number of local-frequented tapas bars such as, PINOTXO in the Boqueria, CERVECERIA CATALANA, or BAR TOMAS (best “patatas bravas” in town)

Now for the Don'ts    

     DON’T miss the Festival Grec, an arts festival during the summer months of June and July.   

     DON’T order expensive wines. There are hundreds and hundreds of fantastic wines for under 15€.          
     DON’T miss your chance to taste the “pa amb tomaquet”, the local tomato-rubbed bread served with everything. It is said to mimic the colors of a Mediterranean sunset, whether true or not, it is a great example of the poetry of the local cuisine.

Pa am tomaquet

     DON’T rent a car. Like any other big city, walking, biking, and public transport are the way to go.  

     DON’T think you can go out dancing before 1am, we’ll all still be eating.     

Primaveracultural

     DON’T eat or drink at the Port Olimpic area. It’s a cheesy tourist trap.          

     DON’T worry about getting pickpocketed. If you don’t get pickpocketed on a daily basis in your own city where you live, you won’t get pickpocketed here. Just use common sense.     

     DON’T get frustrated if you want to brush up on your high school Spanish but they only speak to you in Catalan, the local language. Ask nicely and any local will switch to Castilian Spanish.          

     DON’T drink sangria or go to a bullfight and think you have had the ultimate Spanish experience. These two things are not very popular in Barcelona among locals.           

     DON’T think that 2pm is too late for a 3-course lunch or that 10pm is too late to eat dinner, it is very easy to get used to, and very enjoyable. Just go with the flow and in no time you’ll start to wonder how you ever lived without a  “siesta”.        

A few words on Monica Navarro:

Barcelona-born, New York-educated, created the Delishop gourmet food brand, following an 18-year career as a strategic planner for luxury brands at a multi-national advertising agency. When she is not busy creating new products and new ideas, she can be found looking for shells on the beach with her daughter or visiting galleries and museums showcasing contemporary art. She is passionate about Barcelona.

Thanks Monica for serving this generous helping of Barcelona.


Lookout for Siwash Rock, Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, Jade's Vancouver 10 Do's and Don'ts

Out of the goodness of her heart Jade, one of my recent contacts, stepped up to the plate and offered her 10 Do's and Don'ts on Vancouver...

Currently Jade is working on a site dedicated to sustainable food production and the promotion of local community gardens in an around town. You can keep up with her trials and tribulations via her Twitter page...

Do's and Don’ts in Vancouver: 

1.      Do embrace our weather and come equipped with an umbrella and wellies. On a rainy day, my favorite thing to do is walk along the seawall and take in the fresh salty air. Starting from English Bay, make your way into Stanley Park and be sure to stop by legendary Siwash Rock and the Pauline Johnson Memorial (hidden amongst the old growth trees) and finally make a splash at the Vancouver Aquarium.

EnglishBay

2.      Don’t go to Granville or Robson Street and expect a cultural experience. Instead, checkout historical Gastown & Chinatown, colourful Commercial Drive, eclectic Main Street or beautiful Kits Beach (below).

KitsBeach2

3.      Do eat your heart out. Vancouver has exceptional cuisine. My Personal favourites include: Dinestry, Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, Thai Son, Kintaro, Kadoya, Sushi Hiyori, Guu, Ma Dang Goul, Vij’s, Rangoli, Indian Oven, Sawasdee, La Buca, Phnom Penh, Ukrainian Village, Meat & Bread, Bin 941, Go Fish, Japa Dog, Red Onion, Rodney’s Oyster House, Alibi Room…to name a few.

4.      Don't go to Yaletown. Ok well, do go, but only if you’re the type of person who enjoys paying $18 dollars for 2 teaspoons of crab while petting your purse dog. (see photo).

YaletownEats

5.      Don’t be stingy on the tips. For standard service, it’s customary to leave at least a 12% tip. For great service, anywhere from 15-20%+ is good.

6.      Can’t decide on where to eat? Do take it from a local and read up on Miss Your Plane and Wandering Dumpling 

7.      If you are here for more than three days, do drive to Whistler. The sea-to-sky highway is pretty epic.

8.      Do visit Granville Island Market Place but leave your car downtown. There is never any parking on Granville Island and the Aquabus ferry is a much more enjoyable way to get there.

Granville_island1

9.      Don’t forget to visit the Look Out for a view of the whole city. This 360 degree tour, from 553 feet high is pretty spectacular.

10.   Do "ask a local" - Vancouverites love sharing their 2 cents, so don't be afraid to ask for directions or suggestions on places to go. Or, you’re too shy check out the Georgia Straight for local events. And despite what you hear at the airport, don’t expect any Vancouverite to speak fluent French. You’re more likely to run into someone who speaks mandarin than French here.

Bon Voyage!

Thanks Jade for turning on a dime and coming up with a great 10 Do's and Don'ts of Vancouver.

(* Photo of Granville Public Market courtesy of Inside Vancouver , all others courtesy of Jane...Check her Flickr photostream for more facets of Vancouver)


Oriental Museum to Lou Malnati Deep Dish Pizza, Chicago 10 Do's and Don'ts by Leela

Food writer Leela has opened many people's eyes on the delights of Thai home cooking thanks to She Simmers. She also contributes to CNNGo.

She is as familiar with secrets of Bangkok as those of Chicago.

Today she was kind enough to share her 10 Do's and Don'ts on Chicago.

10 Chicago Do’s and Don’ts

1.  Do buy CityPASS which gives you VIP admissions to 5 must-see attractions in Chicago: Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, Skydeck Chicago, Adler Planetarium or Art Institute of Chicago, and John Hancock Observatory or Museum of Science and Industry. With CityPASS, you save 50% off regular admissions and can skip most long ticket lines.

Sheddaquarium

2. Don’t limit yourself to only well-known museums and attractions. Those who enjoy ancient Near Eastern arts and history will love the Oriental Institute Museum in Hyde Park. The Museum of Contemporary Art is also a great place to visit.

3. Do buy a hop-on-hop-off double-decker tour package, especially if it’s your first visit to Chicago. This allows you to see a lot of the city in one day without the expense of cab fares. Don’t forget other means of transportation as well. The ‘L’, Chicago elevated trains, take you to many neighborhoods worth exploring.

4. Don’t underestimate the cost of parking in Chicago. It adds up! Traveling by car allows you more control, but can be quite costly. Parking in general is costly; it is particularly so at most tourist attractions.

5. Do take a stroll on the Magnificent Mile where you can find various shops along both sides of Michigan Avenues, including the Water Tower. Do visit Navy Pier, especially if you enjoy seeing the city from the Ferris wheel.

6. Don’t eat at the touristy, pricy, and mostly mediocre restaurants at Navy Pier. Don’t waste your money at department store food courts either. And a restaurant on a high-rise building that boasts great view of the city and the lake? Don't waste your money and space in your digestive tract there. I'm serious.

7. Do enjoy Chicago’s famous hot dogs and deep-dish pizzas. Lou Malnati’s, in my opinion, serves up the best deep-dish pizzas in the world. Portillo’s is also a place where you should visit for Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches and hot dogs. Chicago’s famous Garrett Popcorn lives up to the hype and is worth a visit. I highly recommend a mixed combo of caramel crisp and cheese.

Deepdish

8. Don’t limit yourself to just these budget eats, though. Chicago is home to some of the best restaurants in the United States. We have Alinea, which has recently garnered 3 Michelin stars, Avenues which is my absolutely favorite, Schwa which may be hard to get in but is magnificent, and Blackbird which I adore. These fine-dining establishments may be pricy, but if you plan ahead, a meal at one of these restaurants will make your trip to Chicago truly memorable.

9.  Do experience high-end food at low-end price from several renowned Chicago chefs. Xoco by Rick Bayless is a great place to experience Mexican-inspired tortas hot out of the wood oven, freshly-made churros with hot chocolate to dip them in, etc. I also love Urban Belly by Bill Kim. Then we have Grahamwich by Graham Elliot which some people enjoy.

Floriole

10. Don’t believe that Chicago does not have good bakeries. It's one of those oft-repeated lies. We're not saturated with great bakeries like New York City or San Francisco, but what we do have is great. Visit Vanille, Floriole, and Bittersweet, and you’ll change your mind.

Thank you Leela for taking us on a stroll around Chicago. Another city I have to add to my agenda.

Previously: L.A Without a Car, Gelato Baby 10 Do's and Don'ts in Los Angeles

(* Photo of Shedd Aquarium by Joe Zitzelsberger from Aquarium Facebook Fan Page, Deep Dish pizza from Lou Malnati's Facebook page, Floriole photo also via their Facebook page)


L.A Without a Car, Gelato Baby 10 Do's and Don'ts in Los Angeles

Alissa, the Gelato Baby herself, have been doing a lot of back and forth for these 10 do's and don'ts of Los Angeles.

Today, things just fell into place.

Here are Alissa 10 Do's and Don'ts for Los Angeles.

1) DON'T rent a car. From the airport, take the FlyAway, a rapid bus service that takes passengers directly from LAX to Downtown, Westwood, or Van Nuys for $7.00 or less. It's the best deal in the city—especially since you could easily pay $60 for a cab. From there, it's easy to get on public transit to get where you need to go.

Strolling

2) DO walk or take public transit everywhere you go. Los Angeles has a fantastic, if unsung, public transportation system that's clean, colorful, and reliable. The buses go just about everywhere you'll want to. The trains can deliver you to don't-miss destinations like Hollywood, Downtown, Pasadena, East L.A., Watts Towers, and Long Beach—and you won't have to look for parking.

3) Do use Metro to plan your trip.

4) DON'T go to the "Original Farmers Market" on 3rd and Fairfax expecting to find local produce or "The Grove" looking for orange-picking activities. Although a few of its stores and eateries are charming, there isn't much substance to be found at these two manufactured retail environments (although they are fun for people-watching, if you're into that kind of stuff).

Cauliflower

5) DO go to one of the "real" farmers markets that pop up every day somewhere in the city. These are the best way to experience local culture and explore new neighborhoods. The biggest and most famous are the Wednesday mornings in Santa Monica or Sunday mornings in Hollywood. Here you'll be picking produce alongside celebrity chefs and nibbling prepared foods like pupusas and tamales alongside actual celebrities. On Thursday night there's a market at a Japanese estate atop a mountain in Hollywood L.A. City Farm No kidding. Thanks to Farmer Net, you can find all Hollywood farmers markets.

6) DON'T go looking for L.A.'s art scene at The Getty Museum. Sure, the views are impressive, and the building's monumental, but the environment (and the art) is more sterile than a hospital. This is not where L.A. art is made.

7) DO spend an entire day downtown experiencing L.A.'s real creative community. Head to the MOCA street art and graffiti show Art in the Streets (up through August). Head east to SCI-Arc , one of the world's most famous architecture schools, to see an installation in their gallery. Wander through the maze of artist spaces, hip stores, and galleries around Little Tokyo and Gallery Row.

Gelatobaby

8) At night, go to the Downtown Art Walk on the second Thursday of each month to see thousands of people and artists take to the streets.

9) DON'T go to Pinkberry. Please. I beg of you.

10) DO get your local ice cream fix at one of my favorite establishments. Scoops serves outrageous flavors like bacon cheddar jalapeno. Bulgarini has a greek yogurt flavor that will knock you off your feet. Pazzo  whips up the best farmers market concoctions like Meyer lemon sorbetto. Coolhaus roams the streets with ice cream sandwiches made with dirty mint ice cream and sea salt chocolate cookies.

Gelatocup

Thanks Alissa for sharing.

Alissa Walker is a freelance writer who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She writes about design, architecture, cities, transportation, Los Angeles, and walking for many publications, including GOOD and Fast Company, and is the associate producer for the public radio show DnA: Design and Architecture. In 2010, Alissa was named as a USC/Annenberg Getty Arts Journalism Fellow for her writing about design and urbanism. She lives in a royal blue house in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, where she throws ice cream socials, tends to a drought-tolerant garden, writes infrequently on her blog, Gelatobaby, and relishes life in L.A. without a car.

Previously:

Get Stitched Up At Roger, Don't Venture Too Far into Tsin Sha Tsui, Hong Kong 10 Do's and Don'ts

(*All photos courtesy of Gelato Baby on Flickr, all rights reserved, used by permission)


Get Stitched Up At Roger, Don't Venture Too Far into Tsin Sha Tsui, Hong Kong 10 Do's and Don'ts

An exchange with Nicole Koo of Hong Kong based (more than marketing) firm Catch On on the paucity of Asian restaurants from Asia offering Asian food in World's 50 Best Restaurants list for 2011 leads to the return of 10 Do's and Don'ts with Hong Kong in the limelight courtesy of Paul Calder, an Australian transplant (Expat).

10 Hong Kong Do’s & Don’ts

1) Do zip up to the top of the Peak on the gravity-defying tram (Peak Tram/ 33 Garden Road). Once at the top, stroll up to Victoria Peak or, for a less challenging trek, take path along Lugard Road. The vertigo-inducing city views are a true treasure.

Don’t bother if it’s smoggy or if the Peak is smothered in cloud (it often happens). On those days, you’re lucky to see two feet in front of you, let alone any spectacular view. And don’t leave your Peak visit to the weekend. During those times, the only view you’ll see is hordes of camera-toting tourists.

Peak Tram HK

2) Do cross Victoria Harbour on the iconic Star Ferry. The lolling, leisurely pace offers a nice respite from Hong Kong’s fast-and-frantic lifestyle. And aside from the old-world charm it evokes, the journey from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui lets you soak in Hong Kong’s photo-worthy skyline.

Don’t bother venturing too far into Tsim Sha Tsui or along the always-congested Nathan Road. Once you dock at Tsim Sha Tsui, you’ll find every store you need at Harbour City, Hong Kong’s biggest mall.

Victoria Harbour+ Star Ferry

3) Do take a hike and tap into your wild side (and, no, this is not about a night in Wan Chai!). Contrary to popular belief, Hong Kong isn’t only about neon lights. Hong Kong’s national parks are dotted with hiking trails. For the novice walker, start with the Dragon's Back trail. About a 20-minute cab ride from Central, this gentle walk offers some spectacular natural scenery. There’s a reason why Time magazine named it “the best urban hike in the world.”  

Don’t believe the hype about Stanley Market. Yes, it’s out of the throbbing metropolis. Yes the journey aboard the double-decker bus from Exchange Bus terminus in Central is fun (take 6, 6A, 6X or 260 and snag the upper deck front seat). Yes, admittedly some of the waterside eateries are worth a visit. But the market is wall-to-wall kitsch. If cheap factory overruns and chintzy Chinese souvenirs are your thing, then you’ve found your Mecca.

4) Do drop by Aqua restaurant (30F, One Peking Road, Kowloon) and head upstairs to the bar to enjoy the spectacular panoramic view.

Don’t bother to eat there. The food isn’t nearly as delicious as the view.

5) Do get stitched up at Roger Concept Tailor (Room 504, 5F Takshing House 20 Des Voeux Road, Central). The father-son duo offer expert workmanship, quality fabrics and speedy service.

Don’t bother crossing the border into Shenzhen (China) for a cheaper deal. You may save a few dollars, but the shoddy work, ill-fitting outfits and cut-rate fabrics will cost you in the end.

6) Do dine at the Pawn. Widely considered one of Hong Kong’s most successful conversions of a heritage site, The Pawn was once the site of the infamous Woo Cheong Pawn shop. While retaining the building’s rustic charm, The Pawn is now home to one of Hong Kong’s best restaurants.

Don’t ignore the other great eateries in out-of-the-way neighborhoods. The guys behind The Pawn are also responsible for a number of boutique wine and cheese shops dotted throughout Hong Kong. Classified also serves what is arguably Hong Kong’s best coffee.

Classified (2)

7) Do stay at Eaton Smart, Hong Kong. Ideally located in downtown Kowloon, Eaton Smart, Hong Kong is surrounded by a buzzing shopping district, heritage-rich buildings and sites of historical importance. The streets are dotted with fortunetellers, Chinese opera singers, snake shops and Chinese Medicine practitioners selling authentic herbal teas. Best of all, the hotel hosts complimentary nightly tours of the nearby markets, neon-lit neighborhoods and cultural enclaves. Eaton Smart guests can also take part in the free Tai Chi classes led by a certified, award-winning Tai Chi Master.

Don’t be taken in by the cheap hotel offers in nearby Mongkok. When a hotel charges by the hour, you know you’re in the wrong place.

8) Do find a decent Dim Sum restaurant. Tourists flock to Maxim’s Palace, City Hall, but get there early or the long wait will test your patience. For a more authentic experience, try Dim Sum (63 Sing Woo Road, Happy Valley) or the sprawling, noisy Metropol Restaurant, 4/F United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty.

Don’t fool yourself: Often the best, most authentic Chinese food is found in less-than-swanky street cafes and hawker stalls. If it’s crowded with locals, take your chances.

9) Do take a step back in time. Local history buff Jason Wordie hosts educational walks though some of Hong Kong’s infamous districts. Fascinating and fun, book through the Jason Walks site

Don’t miss out on Hong Kong’s regular cultural festivals. To stay in the loop, pick up a free copy of the weekly HK Magazine in restaurants and bars.

HK Magazine

10) Do visit the bars along Wyndham Street, Central. Cool, cosmopolitan crowd.

Don’t bother with Lan Kwai Fong. Once considered the go-to place to party, the glory days are well and truly over. Sweaty, slobbery crowd.

Based in Hong Kong, Paul Calder has lived and worked in Asia for 15 years. Originally from Australia, his ramblings, rumblings and random thoughts have appeared in a number of prestigious publications (that should have known better).

Find out more about what Nicole, Paul and the rest of the team at Catch On are up to and taking a liking to via Catch of the Day, the Catch On blog.

Previously: Bach Themed Music Garden, Vaughan Mills Outlets, Scheffler Deli, Toronto 10 Do's and Don'ts


Bach Themed Music Garden, Vaughan Mills Outlets, Scheffler Deli, Toronto 10 Do's and Don'ts

After a one week hiatus, 10 Do's and Don'ts return.

We follow Amsterdam with Toronto as seen by The Indulgent Foodie, Nadine.

Toronto 10 Do's and Don'ts:

1. Toronto will premiere it's inaugural Foodie lifestyle design show in October.  Starting with a who's who guest list opening night party on October 20th. The event will be followed by three days of utter Foodie indulgence.  Delicious Food Show will feature the best in cooking , food and kitchen and all the lifestyle items that goes with it.

2.  Sample the variety of foods in many of Toronto's diverse ethnic neighborhoods. Indian, Caribbean, Asian, Greek, Portuguese; the list goes on. Toronto food is truly a reflection of its culturally diverse community.  One of my favorites is the Debu Indian Cuisine restaurant on Mt Pleasant. The Prix Fixe Three-Course Lunch offering a starter, main and dessert for $20 is a remarkable deal for such quality meal. The food is rich in flavour, exotic in taste and delicious. I recommend the chicken biryani with fresh rice and the butter chicken- dipped with the freshly made fully, hot garlic nan (order extra, you're going to want it). The warm rice pudding dessert with a delicate flavor of cardamom is a to-die-for treat and a wonderful conclusion to the meal.

Eggplantsteak

3. Chinatown, experience a variety of oriental shops and an incredible selection of authentic chinese restaurants offering delicacies such as dim sum and peking duck. The vibrant neighborhood comes alive on weekends when the sidewalks are abundant with fruit vendors stalls, and must-have kitsch, from strainers, to glitzy slippers, and jewelry. The adventure begins at Dundas and Spadina and continues to explore a world of authentic ethnic inspiration from various Chinese cultures including Cantonese, Szechwan, Hunan. 

4. Do not eat at any restaurants with the "conditional pass" as issued by the Toronto Health department. The best is pass/green. Do not eat at conditional/yellow.

5. The St.Lawrence Market on Sunday
If you love vintage collectibles (clothing, jewelry,kitchen gadgets)art, antiques and interesting knick- knacks, the Sunday market is for you. With lots of hidden treasures, you will be sure to find something of interest at a great price. Also a great place to spot celebrities such as Ru Paul and Goldie Hawn (when they're in Town).

6.St Lawrence Market on Saturdays, the St.Lawence market is bustling with shoppers buying the best, freshest, local foods. A variety of items from meat, poultry, great seafood, cheeses, breads, and baked goodies, can be found. Vist Schefflers Deli for the best cheeses, charcuterie, and Chaloner Olive and Chili Jams that are outstanding with Cheeses.

Schefflersdeli

7. Richmond Adelaide Shoe Repair bring your worn, broken, rubbed shoes. The shoe guru is a master of shoe fitting. The Louboutin, Jimmy Choo’s and Manolos will be like walking on air after a custom fit from the shoe master

8. Vaughan Mills
Vaughan Mills is a fashionista’s or fashionisto’s paradise.  It’s where factory outlets like Holt Renfrew last call meets new concept stores.  There’s something for every one in this large 1.2 million square feet retail space track style Mall.  The kids and men will have something to do visiting venues like  Hollywood's Lucky Strike Lanes, the world's largest Pro Hockey Life, Bass Pro Outdoor World and Nascar SpeedPark.

9. Don't make fun of our money calling it Monopoly money. Especially now as our currency is very strong.

Don't mock us for expression eh after every sentence.

 10.Visit Toronto's Harbourfront, any time. Toronto Harbourfront hosts a variety of events arts and culture, shows, food .  Walk along the gorgeous paths or bike along the scenic paths and enjoy the scenic views of the city and waterfront. There are free events in the Music garden.  
As you continue west along the stunning Harbourfront is the Exhibition where many events are held during the year.  The architecture of the original exhibition buildings are unique to Toronto and the grounds are nice to see .  One of my favourite building is the Horse Palace it has a long glorious history of service to the Agricultural fairs. So prestigious that the Royal family comes to open the Royal winter fair each year.  The use of columns and Art Deco elements in  the Horse Palace is a must see.

Musicgarden

Accross the street is the Better Living Centre a classic Modernist building.  The original purpose of the Better Living Centre was to introduce new ranges of consumer goods to the baby boomer generation, making it a "space of encounter between consumer and product".  It was also known as the place where consumers came to see the latest and best in a variety of items including kitchen appliances.  It seems fitting that this where the Delicious Food Show will premiere.

Do come enjoy all the indulgence that is authentically Toronto.

For full disclosure Nadine is part of the team bringing Delicious Food Show to Toronto.

(* Photo credits: Eggplant Steak copyright Chef Debu Saha, Scheffler's Deli from their home page on St Lawrence market site, Music Garden by Gera Dillon for Harbourfront Centre site)