RE BALANCE…. INNER PEACE IN EL PUERTO

Bag: The brewer holdall as my on-board luggage and The Hoxton bag for my daily use

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Flight: London to Gibraltar, approx. 3 hours.  I had an unsettling early morning flight having been sat next to an extremely drunk and rather intimidating group, out on their stag do. Adieu Monarch, can’t say I will miss you.

Gibraltar to Cadiz: approx. 1hr 40 mins by car

Stayed at: El Puerto, 10km outside Cadiz

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Ate breakfast at: Bar Vicente, owned by 4 generations of the same family, next door to the local market so the perfect spot for people watching. Had a traditional breakfast of Pan con tomate with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice for only 4 Euros. Could sit there every day.

Ate Tapas at: Bar Apolo, recently renovated, delicious freshly cooked food and great value. Be sure to try the local cuttlefish Choco

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Visited:  Cadiz, ferry crossing to Cadiz from El Puerto takes 25 minutes and costs 2.65 Euros one way. The central market sells fish like you have never seen, but go early as they close early. Have to confess I struggled with the sharks

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Street food– plenty of choice surrounding the market, I settled for La Taperia de Lula, don’t miss it! They certainly know how to cook the most delicious regional dishes including Arroz Negro– rice with squid ink.

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Swam at: Las Redes, the best and longest stretch of beach, perfect for swimming and walking but very full at the weekends.

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Excursion: Sanlucar de Barrameda. All that you would expect from a traditional, white Spanish Village: sun washed central square, bars, cafe’s and ice cream parlours. Some lovely historic sites here as well.

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Drink: sherry out of the cask at Bodegas Obregon and why not have a small tapas whilst your at it

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Buy: Tejas ( Tile biscuits) flat , handmade almond biscuits to die for from Cien Palacios- it’s all they do and they come in beautiful tins.  A fan from the market if you really want a piece of Spain to take back home.

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ESCAPE… Weekend in Sofia

My trusty travel companions were The Brewer holdall  which contained all I needed clothes wise for the weekend ( it was just an escape after all) and my Hoxton bag which was perfect for keeping my wallet and phone whilst strolling, people watching and eating of course.

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I travelled from Heathrow to Sofia with British Airways /club class £670 return /duration 3 hours ( correct at time of writing)

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Stayed at: Hotel Marinela , prices start at £100 per night for a King room with city views. Comes complete with loud peacocks in the morning ( not kidding) and loud music at night so..if you are looking for a quiet hideaway this hotel is not for you. But if you want to see some life, this hotel is quite an adventure and the rooms are nice and spacious.

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Stroll down pedestrian Boulevard Vitosha for a spot of people watching and a good coffee. If you are lucky you can catch a glimpse of snow on Mt Vitosha, which hangs over at the far end of the Boulevard and looks like something out of a film set.

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Then head on round the corner to Tsar Shishman Street and Angel Kanchev Street-here you will find a complete melting pot of  the very old and somewhat run down with the very trendy and excitingly new- designer boutiques, artisan cafes, artisan eateries, speciality shops and downright traditional ones too.

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Highly recommend:

Made in Home or Made in blue– home made food, good for veggie lunches, chill vibe

The Tea House serves teas, vegetarian food and has live jazz music nights

Bistro pesto Little Italian place serving salads ,two types of pasta and that’s it  !! but who needs more?

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If you want to try the best homemade Bulgarian ‘Banitsa’ ( pie) some great bakes and perfect coffee, do not miss a pit stop at Daro  I absolutely loved this place!!

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And if you scream for Ice Cream you can queue and get the best one at Gelateria Naturale

Other things to do, which do not involve food are…

Visit the famous Alexander Nevsky Church  the interior is truly stunning, then pick up a Sofia Free Tour , they also do a free hiking and a free biking tour.

Visit the Borisova Gardina Park, for some street entertainment or a little rest, then the park in front of the National Theatre for some live Jazz

If you’re tired and need a taxi download the Taxime app and only use that, if you pick one up from the street you could be charged as much as triple

And if you want a different eating adventure come night time try Umami  complete with landscaped gardens, ponds and exotic birds… it’s an experience!

 

Travel….Off to Lyon

Photography and content: Brian Minkoff photography

Bag: The Islington bucket bag from Not on the High Street

  • Eurostar from Kings Cross directly to Lyon: 4hrs 40 mins prices start from £90 return
  • Stayed at: The Carlton Lyon,  which thankfully had brilliant air conditioning throughout-it was 37 centigrade outside. Prices start at £195 for a double in July

 

Comfy:

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Waiting for the lift:

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Off for an iced something and a quiet read:

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  • Many, many ice creams were essential given the heat. The best was Terre Adelice,  Green Chartreuse was my favourite flavour-but was almost tempted by the Goats Cheese or Tomato and Basil, Check out  some of the flavours here

Love at first sight:

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  • Boat trips to and from the modern Confluence were a mere 2 euros each way

Dive in:

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My new friend Paul Bocuse:

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Great meals to be had at:

  • Institute Paul Bocuse –where his trainees learn the ropes ! We had a fantastic slow cooked beef rib on a bed of macaroni cheese and a shoulder of Moroccan lamb with spices were the stars. And it would have been rude not to try the Macaron desert – a macaron with a mousse of mango and passion fruit filling, with salted caramel ice cream or the Chocolate bomb with very very rich melted chocolate inside, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce !!!!
  • Le Cintra terrase, in a beautiful square near the Town Hall- where we indulged in some fantastic home cured salmon and whole sea bass.
  • It was too hot to wander the vast shopping mall but we did salad it on the Terasse of Le Paradis du Fruit , Red Mullet and Tempura Prawn salad was lovely. As was the Passion fruit smoothie.

Blending in with the locals:

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Many quirky buildings along the Confluence including The orange Cube behind the bag

 

 

DINE…. lunch at The Ivy Chelsea Garden

Location :  The Ivy Chelsea Garden, 195 -197 King’s Road, London SW3 5EQ

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The Bag: The Goldbourne in Monochrome

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Photography: Brian Minkoff

Food: British brasserie & Grill

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Eaten (and recommended): Duck salad £9.25, Whole Dover sole £37.00, Rib eye £27.95,  Char grilled Banham ½ chicken £14.95, Ivy’s ‘must have’ Signature dessert- Chocolate bomb £8.50

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Drinks: Angels Share ( highly recommended!!   a fantastic take on a Mojito with kumquats, ginger,lemon grass , Kaffir lime leaves and Havana rum) £9.50, Lavender Lady £8.00

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The space: Elegant, spacious, beautiful garden and terrace

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Service: Lively & personable

Celebrity spotting: Michael Caine, Princess Beatrice, Joan Collins

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Paris with my ‘The Brewer’ Holdall

Hit by the tough economic downturn as well as recent unrest there seems to be quite a big divide in opinion when it comes to Paris:     It’s beautiful- it’s dirty, it’s exciting- it’s dangerous, it’s cool- it’s run down, it’s delicious- it’s full of fast food

I Paris hop regularly and am never 100% sure how I feel about going these days, when the sun is shining I think ‘OK, it will be fine’ but when it rains I wonder ‘what on earth am I doing going there in the first place?’

For my most recent mid-April trip I left Kings Cross International ‘armed’ with my lovely ‘The Brewer’ travel holdall, now that on its own (I confess) is enough to put me in a good mood.

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A couple of hours later I arrive ,Paris is kind and greets me with sunny skies. I set off on my mad schedule, I certainly know how to pack in a full day’s work made easier by the fact that I’ve been so many times that making a B line from the station to my favourite haunts is second nature.

Say what you will, there is always something new and exciting to discover here and that is what really makes Paris so unique.

So a quick run-down of what excited me this time:

An amazing cheese shop caught my eye, the large milk urns leading to the door and the outdoor cooled fridge packed with cheeses .Even though I didn’t buy or try any it was just spectacular.

It’s asparagus and strawberry season and all the green grocers have them out on display, they just look so good and they display them so beautifully

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Lunch break for me and my bag ….

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In a little corner café I take the ‘dish of the day’  which turns out to be the most delicious home-made ravioli and green salad.  I just love it that in France it is completely cool to wipe clean the sauce on your plate with your bread, how good is that!

 

The flats in Central Paris, especially the buildings that taper into a corner are beautiful.

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The independent clothing boutiques are the best I have seen anywhere, absolutely and without a doubt.  But even the larger Dept stores embrace fashion in the grandest of manner. So Spring has hit Printemps and you just can’t miss the buzz, large floral rabbits included.

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As I step out of Printemps the heavens open, hailstones the size of golf balls followed by a heavy downpour. I head on back into Printemps and the quiet oasis which is the Cojean café in the lower ground floor. White and silver minimalism, healthy alternative snacks and salads, vegan cakes and lots of lovely teas. My tray looks great on the table top and my The Brewer holdall looks even better hanging from its under table bag hanger- how thoughtful of them to do this.   Any bag designer and bag lover reading this blog will totally get this,surely this is what life is all about.

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Back at the Gare du Nord I regroup my thoughts, the intention was to go to Paris armed solely with my Brewer travel holdall which is very spacious and to fill it up with a few bits and pieces bought on the way and that’s it.

Did I stick to my plan? Why of course not, too many things to buy in Paris!!

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And Raymond cooked lunch…

An invitation to eat at Raymond Blanc’sLe Manoir aux Quat’Saison’ is not one to be taken lightly, and most definitely not one for refusing. So when my mother told me that on her list of ‘things to do’ she still had to eat at Le Manoir, I obliged and very quickly. I made the booking some 3 months ahead and was mentally counting down the days.
I’ve always been a great fan of Raymond Blanc’s cooking and the philosophy behind his food. I was I confess, curious to know if indeed his cooking and passion for seasonal organic produce was going to be as good as it came across in his cookery programmes.

The hotel ‘Belmond, Le Manoir aux quat’Saison’ is situated in Great Milton, Oxfordshire and surrounded by lawns, flower beds, orchards and of course, the vegetable and herb garden, which supplies the kitchen with its fresh organic produce. It is idyllic, beautiful, typically English, peaceful and very welcoming- in fact, it is perfect.

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We were lucky enough to arrive on an English summer’s day, sunny but not too hot, menus, aperitifs and beautiful canapés were served al-fresco on the lawn, till we were called to go indoors to our table.

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We were advised that there is approx. a 20 minute wait between courses, details of our dishes were put on our table as a ‘take-away’ menu. This, they advised, is so that customers don’t have to have long introductory speeches by their waiters every time a dish is served-unless of course they want to, in which case all they have to do is ask.
For the next 2.5 hours we sat captivated as each dish arrived at our table, each a work of art

gazpacho

cod

duck

risotto

poached-egg

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We both ordered the same dessert

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Followed by coffee and petit fours in the garden

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Did it meet my expectations? Well, it was beautifully served, in perfect surroundings, by fantastic staff and most importantly- it was in fact the best food I have ever had, one to remember.

( Oh and one more thing, which I loved- there is no mobile phone reception in the restaurant!)

Wish I could add the smell too

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I should have gone out running today, I should have gone and made a dent into my yet undone Christmas shopping, I had things for the house I really needed to buy. So what did I do?  I stayed at home and I made these gorgeous mini doughnuts, served hot, dipped in sugar and cinnamon with a side of fresh brewed coffee. Just a shame that wordpress doesn’t come with a ‘smell this’ option .