Monday, June 17, 2013

summer drinks | gin, lime + mint

There are two kinds of people - those who love gin, and those who don't. I happen to love gin and always enjoy it in the summer mixed with mint and lime. What is your favourite summer drink?

xo sara

Sunday, June 16, 2013

toasty warm in madrid, spain

Hot, hot heat was was the first and last thing we felt while visiting Madrid! Since they are right in the middle of Spain, they rely of lots of plants and water features to keep the city cool. The whole city is covered in trickling fountains with lots of greenery and are embellished with lights at night for a soft and romantic glow.

Susie and I visited the beautiful gardens of the palace in the middle of town. It was such a hot day without a cloud in the sky - all I wanted to do was dive into a pool but there was not one in sight! Therefore, I pretended like I was swimming amongst the garden! It wasn't the refreshing feeling I was going for but it did take my mind off the heat.

We were never hungry while we were in Madrid - the amount of food they give you is unreal! Upon entering a restaurant, they give you a platter of breaded food with meat and cheese. This is like their "Hey, thank you for coming into our restaurant! Let us fill your tummy with delicious Spanish food for free!" We didn't realize this was the case so we also ordered lots of meat and peppers as well as many (many, many) Mojitos! It was a delicious Spanish evening!

Right in the middle of the Madrid train station was a pond with trees and hundreds of turtles! It almost didn't look real but after seeing all of the dozens of tourists taking pictures, I was certain that those little fellas were real!

{Images by Sara + Susie}

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xo sara

Friday, June 14, 2013

j'adore paris

This was my second time visiting Paris and I felt even more excited than the first visit.  My family and I went to all of the main tourist attractions - The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Musée d'Orsay, Love Lock Bridge, etc. This time around, I felt like I was able to truly walk around and enjoy this beautiful city. Visiting Paris in June is the perfect time because it's not too hot, there are not many tourists and prices are not at their all-time-high.

Buying tickets for any tourist attraction/exhibit/museum will help with ques. You might pay a little extra but it is worth it because you want to visit Paris and see Paris, not visit Paris and wait in a line!

Louis Vuitton window on Champs-Elysées

Laduree Ever since I started blogging I have been infatuated with Laduree. My dream was to one day go to their restaurant on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. While we were walking down the famous strip, my heart stopped then rapidly started beating as we came across the famous Laduree. 

Susie and I each ordered club sandwiches which took us by surprise as they were absolutely delicious! There were layers of cheese, meat, vegetables and to-die-for sauces! For dessert we were delighted to order Laduree's classic macaroons! We even had a decadent strawberry cake which was incredible.

Walking around Paris was so magical - there is so much detail in all that surrounds you.

Paris train station

Abercrombie & Fitch
You might wonder why even bother going inside Abercrombie & Fitch? You have to. It is hands down one of the most beautiful stores I have ever been in. The attention to detail is exquisite and the cobble stone path leading up to the front door is gorgeous. What caught my eye was the magnificent gate opening up onto the property. We were lucky with there being no que, if you go in high season you might be waiting a bit.

There are no photographs allowed inside the store.

The model and I at the Abercrombie on Champs-Elysées on polaroid 

Palace of Versailles
Make sure you dedicate a full day to visit the Palace of Versailles because the Palace is amazingly grande and the gardens are large and magnificent. We got an audio guide which was great because of the GPS in the system, it knew where you were in the building, so it was constantly talking to you.

My friend Brandon suggested this restaurant to me and am I ever glad he did! I felt like I was walking into a private club with an excellent ambiance, comfy seating and walls covered in celebrity faces. Davé has been the place celebs come to eat in Paris for years and I witnessed this first hand by seeing pictures of them at the beginning of their career as well as current ones.

What I loved in particular about this place was there are no menus. Davé comes to you table and asks you what you are craving and you work on the perfect meal together. Thanks for such a delicious and memorable experience!

Davé is located beside the Louvre on a side street (click here for directions).

This is Davé and I at his restaurant

After Paris we were scheduled to go to Nice but the trains in France were on strike. Therefore we ended up going to Spain! We took a bus to the airport and when we got there pulled a few benches together, and slept in the airport. Would I recommend it? It was a free evening in Paris.

{Images taken by Sara + Susie}

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xo sara

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

london calling

The changing of the guards is a free daily event (weather permitting) at 11am where the guards march to the Royal Palace and swap places. I could not believe how many people were there! I arrived about an hour early and I felt like the last person to arrive. Every square inch of brick you could stand on was covered with people.

This truly is a magical experience and something I highly recommend. If you look closely, you might be able to see the Queen! Rumour has it that she watches from her window from time to time.

Abbey Road
Julius, Susie and I took a stroll down Abbey Road and re-enacted the the classic Beatles album for "Abbey Road" which was shot in 1969. Notice I'm not wearing shoes just like Paul McCartney! 

Tower of London 
Visiting the Tower of London was like stepping back into time! You are able to walk along and in the walls and see dungeons where they kept prisoners back in the day. There were carvings on the brick in the dungeons from the prisoners - creepy! Apparently they would bring in exotic animals and have them run around like monkeys, lions and bears! 

My most favourite part of visiting the Tower of London was the Crown Jewels! There was an enormous collection of diamonds and jewels from the royal family. Each room glittered beyond belief.

So thankful for my Orthaheel sandals I'm wearing in the picture above! I've walked nearly all around Europe in these and could not be more thankful. 

Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum
I bought a beautiful  V&A water bottle, hammer and screwdriver set from the Jacaranda Tree in Toronto years ago and to this day still adore them. Why do you ask? Because of the classic V&A pattern of course! This museum is filled with jewellery, fashion, fabrics and much more. There was a special David Bowie exhibit which looked incredible!

Matt + I under the Chihuly at the main entrance - such an incredible art piece!

British Museum 
I am so fascinated by Ancient Egypt, the design looks as gorgeous today as it must have did then. We had a great time roaming around the British Museum looking at all of the wonder artifacts. 

London Eye
If you are looking for an incredible view of London, take a ride around the London Eye. It takes about 30 minutes to go all the way around and well worth it to go on a nice sunny day. 

While walking along the river, we saw these adorable baby ducks snuggling under their mothers feathers!

London Checklist 
 - Ride a double decker bus
 - Westminster Abbey
 - Tower of London
 - Take a picture inside a phone booth 
 - London Eye
 - Take a taxi ride
 - Big Ben 
 - Walk down Abbey Road
 - Watch Tower Bridge 

Meet Pudge, she's a cutie!

{Images by Sara + Susie}

Thank you Julius, Matt, Riley + Pudge for letting us stay with you! 

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xo sara

Saturday, June 8, 2013

amsterdam is a place to return to

Amsterdam has the popular attraction as being the place to party with lively clubs and brown cafés but it is so much more than that. We took a train from Berlin during the day so we were able to see the glorious countryside of The Netherlands. There were acres of green agriculture and sheep galore!

This city blew my mind with its beauty. The buildings, are old but very well kept up, there are flower pots everywhere and of course canals around every corner. I could not believe how gorgeous and sophisticated all the house boats were - they were painted with lots of flowers much like the homes and lawn chairs on their patios or roofs. 

Of course, I had to rent a bike which was one of the highlights of my trip! It was scary at first because there were so many bikes zooming past, but it was comforting that there are completely separate bike lanes from the cars. Once I got the hang of it, I felt like a local!

Susie at Moulin Rouge

If you can only do one thing in Amsterdam, you should go to the Anne Frank House! You are taken on an incredible tour of the their home. You enter the home through the bookcase which was the original secret entrance. There is no furniture in the annex but they have models in the middle of the rooms showing how the spaces used to look. Coming here was so surreal, especially  after going to the Dachau concentration camp in Munich. It was very emotional to actually feel what it might be like to be in the camps and in hiding.

*It's best to go in the early morning or evening to avoid crowds. You can buy a ticket online to avoid ques.

Years ago I took a summer art class and painted "Sunflowers" by Van Gogh which my mom still has hanging in her office. It was really cool to see the real deal in person! There are three spatious floors of his artwork and of his art supplies. The gift shop is massive, you can purchase just about anything with 'Van Gogh's' artwork on it!

I have been on many brewery tours before, but nothing like this. You are taken on the Heineken experience and shown how they brew the beer, the history of the  beer came , how to properly drink a beer and fun games along the way. The highlight of tour for me was going on the boat ride down the river which was included in the admission ticket. 

* You are given a gift after the tour - we each got a Heineken bottle opener! The entry price of the tour was 18 euros which I thought was a bit pricey.

This amazing restaurant is located in an old Dutch church and filled with lots and colour. Upon entering you are amazed by the exciting buzz, tiles on the walls and two floors of people enjoying delicious Middle-Eastern food. If you are hungry and on a budget, the portions are really big!

If you are looking for a laid back, comfortable place to stay that feels like home, Coco Mama is where you need to be. This hostel has high ceilings, the most comfortable beds, a pretty backyard and an amazing basement with a full kitchen and complimentary condiments. 

* Fun fact about this hostel - it used to be a brothel! They have pictures of the previous owner with his lady friends and one of the poles on display!

Hostel Rating
Hospitality      ****
Cleanliness     ****
Location         ****
* They have wifi throughout the whole hostel

{Images by Sara + Susie}

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xo sara