Travel: Da Nang, Vietnam (Part 2)

Following on from my blog post last Thursday, this is the next instalment to my trip to Vietnam. It should be noted that travelling at the end of June to Vietnam means that you have to battle with intense heat and humidity; the second day of the tour we were in 40 Celcius Degree heat! I recommend sunscreen, a hat and a lot of water…or just don’t visit in summer; According to the locals, the best weather is in October/November.

Cham Museum

I actually visited the Cham Museum on Day 1 of the tour as it is located in Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng, central Vietnam, near the Han River. This building was first built under French Rule in 1919, since then it has been expanded and now holds the world’s largest collection of Cham Sculpture. Champa was an Indian civilisation between the period 500 to 1000 AD that built and flourished in Central and South Vietnam. I was unaware that Vietnam had such a rich history, and there are many archaeological sites throughout this region. Their legacy remains through brick temples and intricate sculptures carved from sandstone, mainly of the god Shiva and Asian animals. The museum is worth visiting for those who are interested in the history of the Champa people and worth going to add further colour when visiting sites such as Mỹ Sơn (see below). Though note to all visitors, there is no air conditioning in the building so I would advise bringing a fan in the summer months to cool yourself.

Mỹ Sơn

Mỹ Sơn is located near the village of Duy Phú, in the administrative district of Duy Xuyên in Quảng Nam Province in Central Vietnam, 69 km southwest of Da Nang. It is a cluster of Hindu Temples in Vietnam and was considered the most sacred in the Champa culture. Located in the mountains and surrounded by lush forest, it is one of the most picturesque places I have visited. I recommend starting your visit here early in the morning before larger tour groups start their tours.

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The first excavations were conducted by Henri Parmentier and Charles Carpeaux (1903-04) and each cluster of buildings were artistically labelled Cluster A, B and so on. Evidence suggests that the first buildings were constructed between the 4th and 5th Century, however, currently, the oldest that remains is from the 7th Century, with the newest built in the 13th Century. Unfortunately, a lot of the buildings have been lost during the American War from bombing. Whilst you are there look out for the discarded bombshells and craters on the site.

Despite the destruction, temples, meditation rooms and even the library remain intact for visitors to observe and admire. It is a wonderful place to visit and I recommend it to be on anyone’s Vietnam itinerary.

Hội An

This beautifully preserved Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to 19th Century and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. The streets are lined trees and hanging from them a kaleidoscope of lanterns. We visited during the day before the hustle and bustle of the night time markets. The main street was quiet and peaceful. In the heat of the afternoon sun, the residents sheltered in the shade playing card games and ignored us as we walked past. This allowed us time to admire the colourful historical buildings undisturbed.

The town reflects a fusion of indigenous and foreign cultures (principally Chinese and Japanese with later European influences). The Chinese influences were clear as a lot of the streets within the town reminded me of Chinese period dramas which I use to watch with my grandmother, the heavy wooden doors and intricately tiled roofs. One stop on the tour was the Old House of Tan Ky and this brought back memories of my grandmother sister’s home in China in the 90s before the growth of China reached the town. It was surprisingly nostalgic even though I was in Vietnam. The family still resides in the building and is an example of 18th merchant’s home.  Note the beautifully carved chairs as you walk into the building.

A great example of Japanese influences in Hoi An is the infamous Japanese Covered Bridge dating also back to the 18th Century. The bridge features two monkey sculptures at the entrance of the bridge, and as you cross, the other end stands two dog sculptures representing the start and beginning of when the bridge was completed. There is a Taoist temple in the middle the bridge and as you walk on the left, note the markings of the heights of the floods over the decades.

Hội An is ultimately designed for tourists, with many restaurants and shops, I would recommend shopping at the Central market but note you will have to bargain. Rule of thumb is you should deduct two-thirds of the asking price. Though note that you are supporting the local economy and people, don’t be like my mother where she was arguing £2 with the shopkeeper and making him very upset and told us to go away (I went back with the negotiated price + the disputed £2)… Located with the Central market are food stalls and juice stands. On the outer edges, towards the river, there are a lot of fresh fruit stalls and you can see the locals buying their food shopping, on the sides, there are souvenir stalls and baskets.

Whilst we were there, our tour guide was kind enough to ask his wife to wait in line for what he says is the best Banh Mi in Vietnam – Bánh Mì Phượng. I later found out is the one that Anthony Bourdain tried. Honestly, it is AMAZING (we ate it so quickly I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of it). It is not very large, so don’t do what I did and shared it with my sister – it is worth having one for yourself!

I wished that I was able to stay later to experience the night markets even though it has been noted it is a bit of a tourist trap. Hội An is beautiful and worth any diversion for a visit.

That is what I wanted to share with you on my trip to Vietnam, I hope you enjoyed the blog post. Have you been to Vietnam, if I go back what would you recommend? As always, I look forward to your comments!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

 

Travel: Da Nang, Vietnam (Part 1)

As promised, I am going to share my summer holiday trip to Da Nang, Vietnam. It is my first time visiting the country and I would have loved to do a long trip but because of other commitments, I was unable to and settled for just a short stay in Da Nang. However, from my first impression, the history, culture, nature and food is worth another visit! This post has been split into two parts just so I could give each place enough attention 🙂 so here goes Part 1!

Where we stayed

Da Nang is located in central Vietnam and the main reason we ended up there was because I wanted to stay at a Banyan Tree resort. Probably not a criterion that one would consider when deciding a family holiday but I wanted a bit of luxury and a place I knew I would be able to relax. My parents had visited the region previously and spoke highly of it. Asking other friends and colleagues who have visited Vietnam before, I was comforted that many said it was one of the prettiest regions in the country. With that in mind, we went ahead with our stay at Banyan Tree Lăng Cô; which is part of the Laguna Lăng Cô resort.

Honestly, it is one of the best resorts I have ever stayed at. I am a big fan of the Banyan Tree group, and as usual, the service was impeccable and we had a “villa host” take care of us and all our needs throughout our the stay. I mean we had her Whatapp number so we could ping her a message!

From Da Nang airport, the hotel provides a complimentary shuttle service from the airport (at scheduled times) and it is c. 60-90 minute drive to the hotel. Originally we had booked a two bedroom villa for the 4 of us but was upgraded to the three bedroom villa with the best view of the resort. It was HUGE (260 sq meters) and with our own private infinity pool. It was paradise and, quite frankly, there was no reason to leave the room! Unlike me, my dad left the villa to play golf in the late afternoon sun; so for those who are keen golfers, you can play an 18-hole, par-71 championship course designed by Sir Nick Faldo. He said it was amazing and a really well maintained and designed course (if you take his word for it).

I really recommend this wonderful resort for those who are looking for something special and luxurious. I would go back again to take advantage of the many activities that are available at the resort and because it is conveniently located in central Vietnam with various UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there is no excuse not to go back!

Where we visited

As you are aware now, I am not one to just sit by the pool all day (much to the dismay of my parents and sister). I can’t truly say that I have been to a country if I have not at least learnt and seen a bit of history and culture. Given that I love Vietnamese cuisine, I couldn’t wait to get out and try some street food as well (more in Part 2).

Marble Mountains

Unfortunately, given the relatively remote location of the resort, for ease of planning, I used the tour service organised the hotel for our day trips. They ended up being a private tour which is always special as I could ask as many questions I wanted! Our first stop was the infamous Marble Mountains which are a group of the five limestone and marble hills in Ngu Hanh Son District, each representing a basic element: Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth).

At the foot of the hills is the Non Nuoc village where generations of family skillfully carve statues from marble (now imported from other places in the country as it is not possible to mine in the area). Though I found the shops more of a tourist trap, the temple at the top of the Thuy Son (the water mountain) is worth the elevator up and the very long climb down. For those who have bad knees, I would not recommend the climb down, my sister (who had knee surgery a year ago) and mother really struggled. I believe it is possible to take the elevator down but it is a large circle round; so do let your tour guide know if you have difficulties or if you are organising the walk yourself, you have been warned!

Thuy Son is a popular destination with many visitors, and it is not surprising. At the top of the mountain, you are greeted with this spectacular view of the valley.

What is most surprising and unexpected were the peaceful temples located in the caves and crevasses of the mountain. It is not something that I had experienced before, wandering around the caves whilst bats rested above our heads. Remember to bring your camera as every turn was a surprise. The caves were also a respite from the scorching summer heat!

Linh Ung Pagoda

Our next stop on the tour was another Buddist temple, the Linh Ung Pagoda which is considered as one of the largest in Da Nang City located in the Son Tra Peninsula on the top of a mountain. This meant it provided one of the best views of Da Nang City. The most striking feature of the temple is the tallest Lady Buddha statue in Vietnam overlooking the peninsula. Even for those who are not religious, the architecture and gardens of the temple are worth a visit.

Da Nang City

We arrived back into Da Nang City in the late afternoon, to stop at Da Nang Cathedral. Coming from Europe, I would consider it more of a small church than a majestic Cathedral, however, it is on the map for tourists because it is pink and very Wes Anderson-esque. To the locals, it is warmingly known as the “Rooster” because of the weathervane that sits on top of the church. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, we were unable to go inside as it was time for Mass. It is worth stopping by to admire the French architecture and a reminder of the colonial past of Vietnam.

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I hope you enjoyed this instalment on the Pineapple Chicken Blog, can’t wait to share more on my trip to Da Nang!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

 

Travel: Vienna

This year’s Easter holiday weekend (April 19 to 22) was spent with my family – yes, it really is as frightening as it sounds. I won’t give details of my family feuds and frustrations but I will share what we got up to and hopefully some helpful tips for this beautiful European city! Unfortunately, this was not my most organised holiday (despite there being a spreadsheet…). It just so happened that I was also planning my Barcelona trip with my aunties which was going to take place two weeks after I flew to Vienna, which I will also be sharing with you soon. Let’s just say that there were a lot of lessons learnt.

Where we stayed

My family and I stayed Le Méridien which was very conveniently located in the Museum Quarter and where all the famous sites and shopping was within walking distance. Transport links were also brilliant and for those who like to take Uber, this is also available in Vienna. The metro and trams are easy to navigate and use, as long as you have google maps – you won’t get lost. We had booked the room with a terrace which turned out to be a wonderful idea because it was 20+ degree weather with clear blue skies. I tend to prefer boutique hotels but if you wanted a hotel with all the facilities and in a super prime location, I really recommend Le Méridien. 4 out of 5 pineapples!

What you must see

Vienna is a must-visit destination for culture and music, it is no surprise that it attracts thousands of tourists from all parts of the world. However, because of this, there are some challenges.

Tip 1: To avoid being disappointed and long queues – you have to book tickets in advance.

Vienna is not a city that allows for tourists who like to be spontaneous; if you are such an individual, you may wish to purchase the Vienna Pass instead, which allows Fast Track to certain tourist attractions. I personally did not use this during the weekend as I knew that my parents couldn’t handle that many museums in one short weekend, but it seems really worth it if museum hopping is your style 🙂 I will definitely give it a go next time.

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace is the number one tourist attraction in Vienna and for good reason. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful palace in Europe and often compared to Versailles (which I have yet to go).

Tip 2: If you don’t like booking tickets, the ONE TICKET you must book is for the Schönbrunn Palace!

The lines are longs and the tickets were sold out by the time we went (poor planning). However, do not despair, the most beautiful part of the palace is FREE. The gardens and the fountains which make up most of the land at Schönbrunn Palace is free for the public to wander around! On the weekend we went, there were stalls at the front gate to celebrate Easter, think lots of eggs, birds and bunnies (and pretzels!). 5 out of 5 pineapples!

Belvedere Palace

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Belvedere Palace is another beautiful palace and a must visit for those who want to see the infamous painting “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt. I think it is worth entering the museum just for this one piece. Prints and souvenirs just do not give justice to the beauty of the painting. The gold and other precious metals make it one of the most extravagant artworks I have ever seen. It was particularly interesting after seeing Klimt and Schiele up close in an exhibition in London.

Tip 3: if you are tight for time and would like to save some money, just purchase the ticket for the Upper Belvedere as this is where the Klimt painting is displayed.

I had bought both tickets, but I didn’t have a chance to go into the lower Belvedere which houses temporary exhibitions. 3.5 out of 5 pineapples!

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien is another extraordinary example of beautiful architecture. Vienna is seriously not short of breathtaking buildings. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien is the largest art museum in Austria and houses some of the most famous paintings such as The Tower of Babel (1563) by Pieter Brueghel. At the time when we visited, they were also displaying contemporary artist Mark Rothko. Overall, I would give it 3 out of 5 pineapples. 

Kursalon Hübner

When in Vienna one has to go to a concert. You will find a lot of men dressed up in Mozart outfits trying to sell you last minute tickets, though I am naturally very sceptical and would never recommend buying your tickets that way.

Tip 4: Do your research and book tickets in advance for concerts. 

I cannot stress this enough, on our trip, we asked the concierge for a recommendation and he suggested to watch this small concert at the Kursalon Hübner. The hall was beautiful but there are definitely plenty better in Vienna. The reason I chose this concert was because my mother wanted to see a bit of Viennese Waltz. Big mistake – the concert was poorly executed and not value for money. The orchestra was small and there was no conductor, honestly, it was a shambles, so my advice – don’t go to Kursalon Hübner.

Vienna is truly a cultural hotspot, for those who are interested in more famous artworks, check out this great summary here. Other museums to consider whilst you are visiting include:

Where we ate

  • Café Landtmann located just outside the beautiful Burgtheater and a stone’s throw away from the neo-Gothic town hall – Rathaus, this cafe is situated in one of the best locations in the city. When the weather was as wonderful as it was for us, eating on the terrace was an experience. It is a typical Viennese coffee house with the usual specials such as Schnitzel and Beef Goulash, but the reason we made our way here was because it is supposed to be one of the best places for Sliced Pancakes – “Kaiserschmarrn” which my sister was seeking high and low for. I didn’t get to try as I was completing a “no sugar” challenge. However, my dad had seconds and he doesn’t even like desserts! Worth going to check out – 3 out of 5 pineapples. 
  • Café Museum was just around the corner from our hotel and it is a wonderful place to have a traditional Austrian breakfast. Another typical Viennese coffee house (same group as Café Landtmann) it is a very civilised way to start the day. They have a myriad of different breakfast options and is reasonably priced. What was quite common was runny poached eggs with Madame Crousto bread and coffee/tea. 3 out of 5 pineapples. 
  • Café Sacher Wien is where you can try the original Sacher-Torte. It is quintessentially Austrian coffee house with a long history. We visited here for breakfast, again, they have an extensive menu; though most patrons were there just to try the infamous cake. Personally, I am not a fan because I do not like the apricot jam filling. Be prepared to wait in a very long line as it is another top tourist destination (and don’t expect good service either) but it is one of the “must dos” of Vienna. 2 out of 5 pineapples. 
  • Restaurant OPUS is an intimate restaurant located in Hotel Imperial. The picture of the restaurant on the website is literally the only room of the restaurant (hosting only 8 or so tables). I organised the dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday; though the service was not what we are used to in fine dining restaurants of London, the food more than made up for it. My sister said the desserts were the best, but I found the bread the most memorable. Each dish was excellently executed and they give guests the freedom to choose from several tasting menus to mix and match the perfect menu suited for you which is unheard of in my dining experience! If you are looking for somewhere to celebrate with your loved one, I highly recommend this restaurant. 4 out of 5 pineapples.

Vienna is a beautiful city and one of the best places to visit for culture and architecture. This was my second visit and I would go again, as there is so much more to see! Have you been to Vienna before? As always I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Travel: Chamonix Mont Blanc

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Happy Mid-Week everyone! I was busy enjoying the French Alps that I had forgotten to post a BRB announcement last Sunday – so sorry about that! I had a wonderful five days breathing in the fresh mountain air and trying snowboarding (again) with my boyfriend which I want to share with you first. We will resume our usual Pineapple Chicken long read this Sunday 🙂

Chamonix Mont Blanc Wedding

Though I have skied in the alps when I was younger this was my first-time visiting Chamonix Mont Blanc. The main village is at a height of 1,035m with cable cars going up to nearly 4,000m. Fun fact: Aiguille du Midi has the highest altitude difference of 2,807m. The town itself is bustling with a main street filled with stores and restaurants. I was genuinely surprised how large it was and with a vibrant après-ski scene of bars and pubs. Personally, I would love to come back because it is a large valley with several other “villages” and mountains to explore, including the possibility of going over to Italy. They even have their own app, which I recommend for all those who like to be up to date with the latest skiing conditions.

The raison d’être to travel all the way to Chamonix was to celebrate one of my university friend’s wedding. They are a fantastically joyful couple full of laughs and I was very honoured to have been invited to celebrate their marriage. It was my first experience of a “winter” wedding was wonderfully intimate and quaint. The ceremony took place outside under the breathtakingly beautiful snow-capped mountains and the remainder of the reception was held in a cosy cabin. I was grateful that my boyfriend and I could make it as it was an extraordinary event!

Where we stayed

I wanted to stay close to “central” Chamonix so that we were close to the shops and close to the couple/rest of the party. As a result, we selected a boutique hotel – Hotel Morgane. Overall, the reviews for the hotel were decent and the fact it had a pool attracted me in the first instance. We booked the deluxe room so that we could also have a little bit more space than just the bed. I am so glad that we did. The room was large with a separate bath and toilet, bedroom with a huge bed and TV; in addition to, the living room with a desk, wardrobe and pull out sofa bed (excuse my Instagram video below as I didn’t take proper photos!). My only feedback is that the bathroom was small, and the bath seemed old compared to the rest of the room. Other than that, the room exceeded our expectations.

The staff at reception were incredibly friendly and helpful. The hotel also offers -20% discount at the ski rental shop near the hotel which was a bonus. Furthermore, if you hired them they would deliver all your equipment to the hotel and place it in a locker located on the ground floor – now that is great service!

We managed to check out the spa area by only looking into the pool area. It looks smaller than on the website, but I think it is great that a hotel in the mountains offered an indoor pool. Unfortunately, given our busy schedule, we did not get to enjoy the facilities. Obviously, I will have to visit again so that I can enjoy the facilities (hint hint). I highly recommend this hotel if you want a home away from home, with a good size room, friendly staff and convenient location. 4.5 out of 5 pineapples!

Where we ate

  • Bartavel – just off the main shopping street, this was a restaurant we found by chance when we first arrived at Chamonix. With a glass terrace and an Italian menu, we thought it would be worth trying; we were hungry by this point, so minimal thinking was involved. The menu is simple and surprisingly yummy. Your usual comfort food was executed well and piping hot (just how I like it). They also seemed to be famous for their ice cream sundaes as well. If you are looking for simple and casual eating, and not for ambience, then totally check them out! 3.75 out 5 pineapples.
  • La Ferme – When in France I always crave crepes and this restaurant was conveniently located right next to the hotel. I loved it so much that my boyfriend was dragged into it twice. I didn’t have their savoury crepes, but the sweet ones were super yummy. I drool as I type this… Small and simple establishment but does what it says well. 3.5 out of 5 pineapples.
  • Josephine – I was initially drawn to the restaurant located in central Chamonix on the edge of a small plaza. It reminded me of Paris and was filled with patrons enjoying the sun. I am a sucker for Parisian Cafes and it was exactly as expected; beautifully tiled floors and lights. We managed to grab a seat by the window, so I could people watch. The menu is not particularly vegetarian-friendly as their speciality was seafood. Nevertheless, the food was good and portions generous. I thought it leaned towards the expensive side, so it only gets 3.25 out of 5 pineapples.
  • Little Boxes – is perfect for a quick bite to eat, their menu is made of pizzas and burgers. Located right by the Chamonix SUD bus station and Aiguille du Midi cable car, it is easy to find. I ordered the veggie burger and it was extremely yummy; though one of the best things were their fries! Nice skin on chunky chips, a perfect remedy against the cold. There is not a lot of seating inside and it got full quick at lunch, but I am not surprised why – the pizzas also looked awesome! 3.75 out of 5 pineapples.

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  • Le Comptoir Nordique – My boyfriend and I were extremely tired after our first snowboarding lesson, so we thought we would give the hotel restaurant a go. It had good reviews and was a bit smarter which suits for a romantic date night. The food was extremely fresh and well done. We had the Nordic Menu which was anything a-la-carte for three courses at €42 per person. We both started off with a selection of salmon and the ribs for mains. Though pricy, I thought it was worth it and was a welcome change to burgers and pasta that we had throughout the rest of the trip. The staff was extremely friendly, and the restaurant was quiet, so we managed to enjoy each other’s company in peace. 4 out 5 pineapples.

Things to try next time 

My boyfriend and I had a wonderful time in Chamonix; I had forgotten how wonderful it was being amongst the mountains and snow. Now that I am back in London and back to the usual routine, I am missing the scenery and planning on when I go back up to the mountains. I would love to spend more time in Chamonix and the following will be on my to-do list:

Hope you found this guide to Chamonix helpful! Have you been before? Do you have any recommendations for me if I go back? As always, I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

Travel: Paris

Hey everyone!

I hope you are having a wonderful week so far, the weather has been pretty miserable in London, so it is great that I can reflect on my last long weekend away in Paris in this blog. Taking me back to happier memories.  I am so grateful that I can travel between two very different cities within a space of 2 hours – just gives me the fix I need when I need to get away from London.

Where we stayed

The reason for my trip to Paris this time around was to help my friend move her suitcases from Paris back to London. My manager said that this was a tenuous excuse to travel all the way to Paris, I completely agree, but any excuse to go to Paris! We wanted to stay quite central, and where is better than close to the Galerie LaFayette at The Dream Hotel Opera. Though the location was really convenient, I really do not recommend this hotel. The rooms were clean but the lift is shockingly small. For those who are claustrophobic, I really advise that you either stay on lower floors or find alternative hotels because, for someone who isn’t scared of refined spaces, I was very uncomfortable. Considering how much I paid for the hotel, it was not worth it at all! 2 out of 5 pineapples.

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Day 1: Gastronomy Galore

It was a rather girly weekend where it was filled with food and shopping. The most memorable part of the holiday was going to one of the best Boulangerie I have ever been too – Du Pain et des Idées. It is probably one of the most Instagrammed bakeries in Paris and for good reason. The best pastries I have had and they also do these wonderfully warm savoury rolls. I am salivating as we speak. Honestly, 5 out of 5 pineapplesIt is also conveniently located next to the canals and would be considered the “hipster” part of Paris with quaint boutiques. This is where I bought my first purchase of the trip on Rue de Marseille 🙂 

As we had some time to kill before our picking up my friend’s bag, what is better than continuing eating? We wanted somewhere close to where we were and a quick Google search led us to Le Marine on Quai de Valmy, right by the canals. One thing I love about Paris is they always have a good menu of the day, comforting main and scrumptious desserts. It is your typical Parisienne cafe, with the monochrome tiled floors and super small tables. If you are looking for a quick and affordable bite to eat, I recommend it if you are in the area, but nothing to go out your way for. 3 out of 5 pineapples.

After picking up the suitcases from the French suburbs, we made it back to the hotel… up the super tiny lift and into our .. super small room. As you can imagine, I wanted to get out of the hotel as soon as possible and we made our way to Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. Though it is filled with tourists, it is a beautiful building which I recommend at least seeing once, Just look at the amazing dome below. This was also where I bought my second purchase of the trip, worth the detour to have a look inside, so I give it 3 out of 5 pineapples.

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This weekend was also to celebrate my friend’s birthday and her favourite cuisine is Japanese, so we obviously had to try and find one of the best restaurants in Paris for her! Nodaïwa is a very quaint and zen restaurant near the Louvre that specialises in eel dishes and comes up in nearly every Japanese food guide to Paris. We were luckily able to get a table at 7 pm as it opened. It was a great experience with the staff being super friendly. The menu is limited, so if you aren’t going to enjoy eel, I would not recommend it. We started off with sea bass sashimi and ordered the Sakura set. They were both very well executed and I recommend getting the sashimi – super fresh and a light white fish as a starter. We ended the meal with black sesame ice cream (must order) and their special dessert of the day: Yuzu Soya Panna Cotta (don’t order). Unfortunately, the texture of the pannacotta was gritty because of the soya rather than luxurious creamy jiggle you get with a normal one. I will give it 4 out of 5 pineapples.

Day 2: More Shopping

The best morning starts off with a great breakfast. Conveniently located near the hotel is La Gramont, which I have visited before with family. This is on the main street of Boulevard des Italiens and perfect for people watching. The beautiful terrace of Le Gramont makes it one of my favourite spots in Paris. They do a quaint breakfast – coffee, orange juice, croissant or baguette with confiture (jam) – yum! I was being greedy and ordered scrambled eggs with cheese as well. I am not sure why, but the French seem to enjoy their eggs really “bitty” and lumpy, rather than the smooth texture in the UK. Not sure whether I am a fan, to be honest. Regardless, a lovely little cafe, so it gets 4 out of 5 pineapples.

The remainder of the day was spent wandering the streets around Opera and going high street shopping, where I ended up with my third purchase of the trip. Along the way, my friend mentioned the prettiest Starbucks in Paris (3 Boulevard des Capucines). It was worth making the detour for. The beautiful ceilings and different reading areas and a long working table. Wish we had something like this in London!

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We continued with the Japanese cuisine theme and had a late lunch at Aki. A casual Japanese restaurant specialising in okonomiyaki. I am not a big fan, but they did have other set menus which meant that you can have half portions of soba and rice in one meal – which is a dream. The food is average but the price is reasonable; this is probably why it is a favourite amongst locals often with long queues outside. A casual eatery but nothing special, it gets 2.5 out of 5 pineapples. For dessert, we headed up the street to the bubble tea joint – The Alley. There has been a lot of hype around this brand as seen on my Instagram, but there isn’t one in London, so I was really surprised to see it in Paris. The queue was also long here but seemed to be more reasonable than the ones I have seen in Hong Kong. Is it worth the hype? – definitely, one of the best bubble teas I have tasted. I tried the famous brown sugar bubble tea, whilst my friend got the classic but hot. Not too creamy or sweet, it was super yummy – 4.25 out 5 pineapples.

We continued our shopping journey, to one of the most beautiful places in Paris, Jardin du Palais Royal. Even in winter when there are no leaves on the trees, it is still worth a visit. Surrounding the gardens are these elegant archways with boutiques on the side. Nearby there are also other shops (this is where I bought my fifth and final purchase of the trip 🙂 ).  

We ended the evening walking past the Louvre and along the River Seine, passing the Notre Dame to the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. I highly recommend this route as you see so many beautiful and iconic buildings along the way. I had never been to the bookstore before and I highly recommend it as it is one of the few places to find books in English. However, the feel of the store is really special. The old bookcases and all the various nooks and crannies to hide away. You can understand why it is so famous and also why you see their famous “tote” bag along the streets of Paris. Personally, I think it is a must visit!

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Of course, we had to have dinner, so of course, you need a double crepe dinner! We didn’t have anywhere particular in mind, but Crêperie des Pêcheurs came up after a quick search. It is along a very touristy street, but once you enter a very quaint restaurant, decorated to look like the hull of a ship, with sails on the ceilings. Personally, the savoury crepe was disappointing, but the texture of the sweet crepe (just butter and sugar filling) was super yummy and with Chantilly cream just made it dreamy. Quaint little shop, don’t go out your way to go but if you are in the area, do stop for a sweet crepe! 3.5 out of 5 pineapples.

Day 3: Lunch then homebound

Our Eurostar back to London was in the afternoon, so just in time for a spot of lunch before we left. We wanted to stay close to the hotel for an easy exit. We wanted to go to Le Strogoff but they were already closed for breakfast (11 am), so we walked to Café Le Brebant which had this beautiful interior and terrace. We wanted to enjoy a simple meal and watched the world go by. The service was good, unfortunately, the food was average, so it only gets a 2.5 out of 5 pineapples.

There wasn’t much culture this time around, but I am sure I will be back in Paris soon enough. Where is your favourite place to eat in Paris? Do you have any recommendations for my next visit? As always, I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

Travel: Malta

malta jan 2019

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are well and had a wonderful weekend 🙂 It has been personally a stressful week and I have been struggling with quite a lot of different emotions. It isn’t an excuse but ultimately this has meant I could not keep with the posting schedule I set out at the beginning of the year.

I had such high hopes that I would be able to stick to a bi-weekly post, but I think Christine Rai (@yeahitschill) summarised it perfectly with her Instagram post. I am going to forgive myself and I think I will discuss the topic of resilience later on, as part of my self-discovery this year.

Alas! You are not here to read about all the above, I am very excited to share my weekend trip with my boyfriend to Malta! For those who have been following my blog, would know that I did not travel out this Christmas so we decided that we would start the year with a BANG and go away.

Where we stayed

I did some prior research to the trip and many different blogs recommend St. Julian’s as a place to stay rather than the old town of Valetta. I wanted to stay somewhere I could enjoy the sea, so it seemed like a good choice. It is a resort area rather than the cultural UNESCO town of Valetta. Luckily, St Julian’s is only around a 20-minute car ride away from the city centre, so I thought that wasn’t too bad in terms of distance/getting around. We stay at the Westin Dragonara Resort; my initial reaction was it was a huge hotel and had a Wes Anderson feel to it. It was painted this wonderful pink and white on the outside – which I LOVED!

Ignore the baby cot in the picture, they just put it in our room by mistake! 

Tip: When booking hotels I always request a higher room because normally the more expensive rooms (such as suites) are located on the top or penultimate floors. If you want to enjoy the “same view”/amenities but not the price, asking for higher floors is a great way to do this.

This time it really worked out because the hotel was in the process of renovation and we ended up with a newly decorated room and floor. The most basic rooms are HUGE!!! With a super king size bed, desk and sofa space; a massive closet and a good size bathroom. Perfect for a resort type of holiday, where you might be spending more time in your bedroom relaxing. The choice suited us because we wanted to use this weekend to recover from the festive period with family. This is distinctively a different kind of holiday than my usual where I pack it full of stuff to do and exhaust myself. The hotel has an indoor heated pool and a big gym as well (but I can’t tell you whether it was amazing or not because we didn’t manage to get to see it…too busy relaxing hehe).

What we did 

Admittedly, we didn’t have that much time in Malta, so we had to try and make the best of it for the only one full day we were there. We didn’t hire a car but we did see the double-decker sightseeing buses, so I thought that would be a good idea for an introduction to the island. There are three companies in Malta, but we chose Citysightseeing because our hotel was a stop on their route, which made it very convenient. We purchase the €20 day pass each, which is pretty reasonable, especially compared to London transport.

This is not my usual way of travelling but given my limited time and I didn’t want to do too much planning, this was a nice in between. There is a North & South route which the ticket allowed us to travel on. We opted for the South route which stopped in Valetta and also to travelled to Marsaxlokk fishing village and the Blue Grotto.

  • Valetta – We stopped at the Valetta waterfront, which was beautiful! I highly recommend stopping there to look at the sea and the beautiful Barrakka gardens.
  • Marsaxlokk fishing village – We only drove past this on the bus but I regret not stopping off. It is super picturesque! If I was to go back, I would definitely have an ice-cream by the sea and watch the beautiful fishing boats bob in the water.
  • Blue Grotto – Learn from our mistake, go early in the morning and preferably not in the middle of winter. By the time we arrived at 14:30, the last fishing boat was departing. I was unable to convince my boyfriend to join because of the choppy waters, which was a shame. It will have wait until next time.

Where we ate 

  • For a really cosy Italian restaurant with great seafood, I highly recommend Storie e Sapori. We had fresh lobster linguine with clams and it was so delicious! The people are wonderfully friendly and I think was reasonably price given the quality of food.
  • We also tried Palio’s restaurant at the Westin. Again, the food was amazing quality and fresh. Though casual and probably not a usual place for date night, I think it is worth trying. Highly recommend the ribs.

Short but sweet

I was sad to leave on Sunday morning back to London. Malta did have a bit of everything, culture, nature, friendly people and good food. It was a short trip but a very sweet one. Next time, I will visit when it is warmer and for longer.

I hope you found this guide helpful. Have you ever been to Malta before? Would you recommend anything I should try next time I go?  As always, would love to hear from you, so leave a comment below. For more pictures, do check out my Instagram!

Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

 

 

Thought of the Day: Happy New Year!

Hey Everyone!

I want to wish all a fabulous 2019, may it be filled with positivity & wellness so you can tackle anything you want to achieve this year! This will be a short post as I set out the focus of the Pineapple Chicken Blog for 2019 and hopefully, for many years to come.

As I previously mentioned, the blog has grown into something I truly love and I want to make sure that I am taking it in a direction that would bring about longevity by keeping it relevant and interesting to read!

Positivity & Wellness

The focus will be on positivity and wellness by following my journey to find understand what it means, as well as what works for me. I am no expert in this field but I hope my story will spark you to find your positivity and encourage you to focus on your wellness/wellbeing too. Unfortunately, this is not going to be a blog about healthy eating and yoga (though I probably will try to do it this year) because these are not things that invigorate me, but there are plenty of others who have done a much better job than me on this topic! I might reference them along the way but my focus will be more on mental wellbeing.

Travel & Art

Thank you for all my readers who have stuck with me so far and welcome all new readers! The blog will continue its chilled vibes as I navigate and travel to different places in London, UK, and around the world. Travel will be a big part of the blog, as well as the usual art and cultural pieces. As I try to develop my knowledge on the topic of positivity and wellness, I think a bit of science will also come up as I try to read more about this topic. Not sure where my research and reading will take me, but I am super excited to share it with you all!

Blogging Schedule

I will be posting on the blog every Thursdays and Sundays. For more daily updates, please do check me out on Twitter (@pineapplechkn_) & Instagram (@pineapplechicken_). I love to hear from my readers and followers, so any suggestions or topics you wish to discuss on this forum, do let me know!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken

PS. For those looking for a different kind of read, check out my boyfriend’s latest post.