Hand Luggage Essentials

In flight travel essentials

Between packing for my husband’s frequent work trips (shh don’t tell the TSA agents!) and the trips I have been very lucky to go on, I’ve gained enough mileage to consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to choosing the hand luggage essentials. Now obviously a lot of what you choose to take with you depends on where you are going and how long your flight is, but I usually start with this list and add or subtract what is necessary.

On a shorter flight, say like the four hours to Mauritius, I only took my handbag and made sure to double check I had a lip balm and hair-tie. On other trips, especially ones where there isn’t a swanky airport pick-up arranged or a long layover is included, I choose a more sturdy backpack. My back already takes a beating on those crappy airplane seats, the last thing I want to do it hurt it even more! Plus backpacks tend to have plenty of storage space for the essentials. It goes without saying that I try to keep things to the minimum so that said back problems don’t worsen unnecessary. Find my full list below.

Toothbrush and toothpaste: Starting with the obvious here, but one sure way to make yourself feel more like you is by keeping up your dental hygiene routine. Sometimes I even throw in a little mouthwash, which is a great way to keep your mouth feeling fresh on the plane.

A hairband: Sometimes I like having my hair out of my face, especially if you’ve just made a run for the boarding gate following last-minute changes. Been there, done that and was very glad I packed underarm as well.

Underarm: Nothing fancy required, but I do find that a stick version is usually best. It doesn’t count as a liquid and is often slightly lighter than liquid versions. A spray of sorts can also be great, although aerosols are banned. Those tiny fragrance samples can come in very handy though!

Anti-back: I am a little extra and like following a liquid antibacterial gel with a wipe to make sure I get all the germs before eating or touching my face. I also make sure to do so every so often in between as well. So far it has served me well in that I generally don’t catch any bugs during flights. My routine of taking Airmune beforehand should probably also receive some credit for this.

Baby wipes: On very long, connecting flights, baby wipes are great. I used it to refresh my face and underarms on our connection in Dubai and it made me feel ready for the 14 hour flight onwards. It obviously doesn’t replace a good shower, but for someone who is grossed out by the idea of airport showers this is the best alternative.

Moisturiser: I only ever take two moisturisers with me on an airplane. One is usually a concoction of my favourite basic moisturiser mixed with an oil for extra juicy-ness. I apply this to face, neck and hands. I also always pack a mini 8 Hour cream for lips and any possible dry spots.

Eyemask: They often hand these out on the airplane, but not all airlines do this. Whist it did feel slightly ridiculous the first time I wore it, it has become an essential for me. It is the only thing that stops me constantly waking up when my neighbour’s screen flashes. So I always take one with me.

A fully prepped phone: You might think that your phone can’t do much when on airplane mode, but I find downloading a few of my favourite podcasts is great for when you’re too tired to keep your eyes open but too uncomfortable to sleep. I also always have my charger on hand as most modern aircraft have USB ports that allow you to plug in and charge in seat. You could also download some series or games to keep you entertained when taking a daytime flight.

Your own earphones: Whether noise cancelling or not, you’ll feel so much better with your own earphones than using the gross ones the airline hands out.

Reading material: At this point I don’t know who I am kidding, I rarely read more than a single article on an airplane. I simply can’t get my eyes to focus when I’m beyond exhausted. But reading and paging through a magazine is a sure way to get my eyelids heavy enough for another attempt at sleep.

An oversized scarf: I love to wrap myself up in this soft, massive scarf that is washer friendly. It keeps me cosy on the airplane, but can be worn as a scarf so it doesn’t require packing or carrying.

Hairbrush: Entering the not-pictured zone, I forgot to photograph my small foldable hairbrush. They usually hand these out in business class but I’m sure you can find something similar at a Chinatown near you. My hair has a tendency to tangle like crazy, especially as I usually wear it down. So detangling it makes me feel more human.

Prescription meds: Always keep these on you as you never know when your checked luggage will arrive at your destination. Plus you might need to take them in flight! Be sure to also carry a copy of your prescription. This can usually be obtained from your pharmacist or your doctor can issue a new one.

Travel docs: Your passport (obviously!) and a ‘cheat sheet’ with your flight reference number and accommodation details. The last thing you want is for a taxi driver to start shouting at you in a foreign language if you can’t immediately give your hotel address.

Extra outfit: I also always make sure to pack at least one extra pair of socks, underwear and a t-shirt in case you arrive at your destination sans suitcase.

Electronics & Charger: Other essentials include your camera, cell phone charger (and any other essential chargers for that matter) and a converter plug if required.

There you go, not a single face mask in sight and plenty of essentials included. I think a great way to make sure you have all your essentials is to keep track of the things you use before bed when at home. Maybe make a list a few days before departure and then start eliminating from there. Along with my list, it will ensure that the whole packing process runs smoothly and sets you up for a good start to your holiday!

 

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What to Buy on Your Next US Trip

 

US Beauty shopping

I’ve shared my New York wishlist on the blog, so most of the items featured in this post shouldn’t come as a big surprise. I’m excited to share with you what I decided to take home as well as some of my favourite stores in case you might have an upcoming trip to the US or a willing mule. I know I did brig home quite a few things, but I want to disclaim that I had been saving for a while and that it also was my birthday so I had quite a bit of birthday money to splurge on myself as well.

Reading Material

With so many books and magazines to choose from and at such better rates than here in South Africa, I really struggled to limit myself. I picked up a copy of Veranda, a beautiful home decor magazine as well as two books by Nichole Robertson, namely Paris in Color and New York in Color, in honour of the last two places I visted. Both are absolutely beautiful and were a steal on Amazon. I’ve also previously ordered (via my travelling husband) the Elements of Style by Erin Gates and more recently It’s Beautiful Here by Megan Morton.

Fashion

I didn’t pick up as many clothing pieces as I expected, as the quality of Old Navy clothing was slightly disappointing. Although there definitely were a few items I could easily have taken home in Anthropologie and Sezane, I ended up only purchasing a silk shirt in Zara with the perfect pocket details. I also eyed up a few shoes in Sezane and Everlane, but struggled to part with that much money for something I literally walk all over.

During our strolls in Soho I found a beautiful slim gold ring by designer Alexandra Beth. The area was filled with pop-ups and shops stocking beautiful designs by locals and they aren’t as expensive as you might think. I’d highly recommend you keep an eye out if you have something special in mind.

Beauty

I think this has to be my favourite category as I found so many items were so much more affordable. Of course you could go the luxury beauty route, with brands like Drunk Elephant, Hourglass, Charlotte Tilbury and many more available. Most of my choices were decidedly more budget friendly though.

Sephora was great, but overwhelming and overcrowded. The sales lady also wasn’t much help when I wanted to test out the IT Cosmetics CC cream (sadly the lightest shade is too light and the following too dark on me). It definitely is great if you know what you are looking for, but not the best for browsing.

In Target though, I found what I was looking for. I really regret not picking up the mini Pixi Glow Tonic, but did take home the Milani Rosa Romantica blush which is a great dupe for the Hourglass blushers and the beautiful Kristin Ess The Signature Shampoo. Compared to my usual shampoo, it feels thinner yet no less foamy. It doesn’t make a significant difference in how clean my hair looks, but man does it smell good. The best way to describe the scent would be like a subtle unisex aftershave with the tiniest hint of floral.

Next up was the ELF store, where I replaced my eyeliner brush (for my brows) for only $3 and this beautiful No Budge Shadow Stick in Bronze Metal. Unfortunately though the colour is a little misleading as the shimmer is a warm copper, but the base colour is a cooler grey. This becomes obvious once I blend, so it only really works as a very full-on shadow look with the edges blended. I like the formula though, so if you aren’t looking for a warm shade this would be perfect.

I spent quite some time in the Deciem store as well, where I browsed The Ordinary shelves. In stark contrast to Sephora, the busy sales lady was more than happy to help me test and explain the differences in products. I left with Salicylic Acid (which has been great on spots), 1% Retinol in Squaline and Hyaluronic Acid. Each of these products has found a special spot in my beauty routine, but I’m already planning on ordering a few back-ups of the HA. Now that I know my skin can handle the retinol, I’m also keen to try a stronger dosage and perhaps give the Peeling Solution a go.

Lastly I made my way to the pink heaven that is Glossier. Be warned that the small showroom can get packed and that there might be a line outside if you arrive at an unfortunate time. Much to my husband’s dismay I tested several products before settling on only taking home the Milky Jelly Cleanser. I wouldn’t say it is worth the trek and perhaps if you have medium-oily skin this would be better suited for you. Personally I like the smell and it does make my skin feel clean, but I’ve just realised that I prefer creamier cleansers.

Milani blush and ELF eyeshadow stick

Snacks

I can now safely say that South-Africans really don’t have it bad when it comes to chocolate choice. In the US most candies are either peanut butter based or made by Herseys. The latter of which we tasted and gladly parted with soon thereafter. Our tried-and-tested favourites includes Yorkies (mint patties), Reese’s Pieces (imagine peanut butter M&Ms) and all the M&M flavours (excluding Birthday cake). We tried Red Vines but found them slightly disappointing, probably due to all the hype.

Home

Whilst I could have easily decorated a whole townhouse whilst there, both my luggage restrictions and credit card limit weighed heavy on me. So in the end I only took home this beautiful agate coaster from Anthropologie (which can only be described as Poetry on steroids.) I’ve long lusted after the agate book ends, but after seeing them in real life I realised that they were too small to create the impact I expected them to give. I also spotted loads of smaller items that I could have easily taken home with me in CB2, West Elm and Sezane.

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My New York City Guide

Brooklyn Bridge views

We just came back from the most wonderful trip to New York this spring and I can’t wait to share it all with you and relive it in the process. It still feels a little surreal and it might have been a little too close on the heels of our previous trip, but when opportunity presents itself you have to jump!

I approached this holiday a little differently to previous ones and decided to plan as little as possible. Obviously I didn’t want any regrets so I did do some research into what I’d like to see, but we took things as they came on most days. This means more wandering around aimlessly, shopping and stopping for coffee often.

Union Square market blossoms

Food

I made a tick list of all the things I’d love to try when on this trip and it included deliciousness like the famous cronut, bagels (we had multiple), pizza pies (basically just a whole pizza), hotdogs, donuts, Shake Shack burgers and Mexican among others. I managed to tick off most of the things, although hotdog stands ended up being few and far between so we went with fallafels from food trucks instead.

I had the best pizza in little Italy’s Puglia, although the entertainment did make it a little hard to have a decent conversation. Subsequently we also enjoyed some good pizza at Keste Pizza & Vino.

We arrived early-ish for a Domenique Ansel cronut expecting a crazy line, but we only queued for about three minutes and quickly figured out that they now rotate a single flavour each month. Both disappointing and easier to order. The strawberries and cream flavour was amazing but I’m glad we shared.

By this time in the trip we figured we’d have to start cheating if we wanted room to taste everything, so dougnuts for lunch it was. We ended up at Dough Dougnuts at the Flat Iron, which had a decent selection of flavours to choose from despite the original branch being in Williamsburg. We had the Mocha Crunch and Dulche de Leche, of which the latter was my favourite. This is also another treat worth sharing as the donuts are massive.

At Jack’s Wife Freda we tucked in to the famous rosewater waffle and whilst it was delicious, I think I might have appreciated something savoury more at that point of the trip.

 

We literally didn’t have a single disappointing meal, although the Mexican at Tacombi was way too spicy for me and made my eyes water. It is not for the faint hearted.

Our favourite though, much to my purse’s delight, was Shake Shack. The beef burgers weren’t anything special but do treat yourself to the crispy fried Chick’n Shack. The Shake Stack burger with a beef patty and deep fried mushroom is also worth a shout-out and we can’t fault their fries.

Coffee Spots

In sharp contrast to our previous trip to Europe, we didn’t have a single bad coffee on this entire trip. Starbucks was the most disappointing out of the whole lot and that is only because the rest was so great.

We made multiple stops at Eataly for late night coffee pick-me-ups (one of the few places open until 11 at night) and also tried a few other famous spots. Toby’s Estate, Birch Coffee and MUD (try the NY Breakfast special) all were delicious but the prettiest by far were  Old Rose, La Mercerie and Maman. We stopped into many more spots, but unfortunately I can’t remember all the names.

Shopping

Obviously New York is famous for shopping, but with the weak exchange rate luxury fashion isn’t really on my radar. I did find something I loved in Zara, but other pretty clothing stores like Sezane, Anthropologie and Everlane were more for browsing than shopping. But boy is it nice to nosy around and take in all the prettiness. Also don’t be afraid to stop in at one of the many markets as this is a great opportunity to support a local designer and pick up pretty jewellery at a steal.

Beauty shopping is where it is at though! I stopped in Sephora a few times but was disappointed to find the neither of the lighter IT Cosmetics CC creams were the perfect shade. On to where I did spend a tonne – Target, Deciem and Glossier. No stop in New York would be complete without a stop at the pink paradise. It is worth going early though (they open at midday) as they made us queue outside when we arrived a little later. I’ll share all my favourite purchases at a later stage though.

For home shopping West Elm, CB2 and Anthropologie (I could spend hours here) were favourites.

Sightseeing

I’m a massive sucker for ancient buildings, classical architecture and marble. I wasn’t expecting to like New York as much as I did. Whilst the architecture is mostly what you’d expect, brownstones with fire escapes and water tanks, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the city. Although it pretty much is a concrete jungle, the ample parks more than made up for it along with the beautifully curated sidewalks. It might just be because it was spring, but we found the prettiest flowers around each corner and often where you’d least expect it. Corner shops carried the prettiest tulips and peonies were everywhere.

New York Public Library

By the end of our trip the weather took a turn and the days became cooler and rainier, but that didn’t put us off visiting Brooklyn Heights and the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. Even the rain and wind couldn’t keep us away!

Of course you can’t visit the Big Apple and not stop by Central Park. In our case, we went twice when the weather allowed as it just had such a nice atmosphere. We also caught amazing views from the Jacqueline Kennedy Reservoir.

Bow Bridge, Central Park

Washington Square Park and Madison Square Park were also amazing spots, the latter obviously being our favourite pick with a Shake Shack and view of the Flatiron building.

Museum wise I chose to visit the Metropolitan and MoMA as I have an obsession with art. Both were equally amazing, with the Met offering visitors more than just art. The fifth floor of the MoMA was my personal favourite though as I literally sat in front of Monet’s lilies for several minutes trying to convince myself that it is real. I have it on good authority though that the Museum of Natural History is also worth a visit if you don’t fancy art.

Other favourite spots included the New York Public Library, which is just breathtakingly beautiful and Bryant Park at the back where we watched a free opera performance. I would also highly recommend you attend a Broadway show if so inclined. We managed to find cheaper tickets for the Phantom of the Opera and it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Grand Central station

If given enough time, do read up a little on Grand Central before your visit. It is not only beautiful, it has a very fascinating history.

If you were looking for wonderful areas to just roam and explore I’d recommend TriBeCa (where Sezane is), SoHo and Chelsea. The Upper West Side was another favourite of ours with a lot of smaller bakeries and coffee shops.

Stay

We actually booked an AirBnB for the first half of our stay in Brooklyn and then splurged on a fancy hotel in Manhattan for the last few nights.

Our AirBnB was very spacious and offered great value for money, but in New York location is everything. Catching the metro into Manhattan was fairly easy and cost-effective as we just bought a seven day pass, but we did waste a lot of time on days where we wanted to head home before going out to dinner again in Manhattan. If you are considering a stay in Brooklyn, be sure to look at central Williamsburg if you plan on spending more time in Brooklyn itself.

In Manhattan we stayed at The Evelyn, which was in a great spot close to Fifth Avenue, the Flat Iron building and Madisson Square Park. In general it was just a great area to walk around in. I’m sure when the hotel’s renovations are finished it will become a favourite among many.

Ten full days in this magical city was only just enough to cover most of what I wanted to see and I could have happily spent even more time exploring! I’d love to hear about your favourite city spots.

 

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Meatball Gyros Recipe

Meatball gyrosMy husband and I like this so much that we included this in our meal lineup almost every week during the summer and now that it has cooled down I still find myself craving it every now and again. This is the result of researching falafels before our Paris trip (can you believe we didn’t even know what they were!?) and trying to create something similar looking with what we had on hand. So not very authentic and actually much closer to Greek gyros. The best part though? One batch will serve about four adults and you might even have a little leftovers for lunch.

Ingredients

  • 500 g Ground Beef
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tsp BBQ Spice
  • 1 Egg, beat
  • 100 ml Bread Crumbs
  • 1 tsp Worcester Sauce
  • Sunflower Oil, to fry
  • 1 Red Onion, finely sliced
  • Half a cucumber, grated or finely diced
  • 1oo ml Greek yoghurt
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Lemon juice
  • 4 Pita breads

DIY Meatball GyrosMethod:

  1. Combine the mince, flavouring, egg, Worcester sauce and bread crumbs together and form little balls approx 3 cm in diameter.
  2. Heat some oil in a large frying pan and add the meat balls, making sure to brown them on all sides.
  3. Add some water and let it simmer for approximately three minutes, until the water has boiled off.
  4. Combine the cucumber, yoghurt, garlic and lemon juice together and season with pepper to taste.
  5. Toast the pitas, slice them open and fill up with red onion, meat balls and tzatziki.
  6. Serve warm and enjoy!

 

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My US Shopping List

My US Shopping list

I’m incredibly lucky and excited to be heading to New York in a week’s time for my birthday! As a surprise to no one, I’m definitely setting aside some time for shopping. Between shopping for my home and hauling beauty products I also hope to find some time to squeeze myself into some Old Navy jeans- this is the land of fast-food after all! So fingers crossed I find something that fits.

If you’re heading to US any time soon or can get your hands on a willing and able mule, you might consider adding some of these to your list. I’m hoping that by listing everything I won’t go overboard or forget to check something when overwhelmed on that side. If there is anything you think I’ll regret not getting, please holler at me in the comments below.

Also as a little disclaimer, I am a fairly frugal shopper and likely won’t be taking all of the below home with me but most of these do warrant a closer look and it is my birthday after all…

Skincare

I’ll start with skincare as that definitely makes up the bulk of things I’d like to take home. I’m trying to focus on items that aren’t available in SA, or at least not easily available. My skin is on the sensitive side and can sometimes be dry, but I’d like to play around with some acids as it is something I’ve never really explored and am really excited by. So the below is my starting point when staring down the aisles in Sephora.

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser – I’m in New York, I can’t not go! To be honest I’m not that excited by most of their products. It feels like there are often cheaper dupes out there (hello Essence’s brow gel!) or slightly more expensive items that outperform them. Their cleanser seems to be the exception to the above as it sounds like the perfect second cleanse and possibly a dupe for the Oskia Renaissance.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid – You can’t really go wrong with a HA, it is great for all skin types and at this amazing price point I’ll definitely stock up.

The Ordinary Retinoid – I’m so excited to try this and experience the results for myself. Honestly I don’t know how my skin will react, so I’ll likely get a fairly low dose.

The Ordinary Salicilic Acid – This seems to be the acid most frequently recommended for people with sensitive skin or rosacea, so without a doubt this will end up in my shopping basket.

Pixi Glow Tonic – I’m a little on the fence as to whether I should get this, but it is an iconic acid toner and I’m thinking that this would be a good all-rounder to graduate to when my skin has acclimatised to the salicilic.

Summer Friday’s Jet Lag Mask – I’m basically being sucked into all the blogger hype on this item, but as I mentioned my skin is quite dry and could do with some extra help on the plane.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Intense Hydration – This is a straight-up moisturiser and I suspect will be perfect for fighting dehydration from travel and winter. The Dr Jart Ceramidin cream is also a contender, but I think price wise I’ll likely favour this one.

Makeup

I’m very minimal when it comes to my makeup, as I do it in about 5 minutes 6 out of 7 days a week (the 7th day I don’t wear makeup…shhh!) So my intended purchases are a little boring, but I’m toying with the idea of a liquid or cream highlighter like the RMS one or the Cover FX Glow Drops. I’ll see how my budget fares on the trip and swatch both in store.

IT Cosmetics CC Cream Your Skin But Better – Longest name ever, but a firm favourite amongst beauty bloggers all around. The description sounds right up my alley – a dewy, moisturising foundation. It sounds a lot like my all-time fave, but sadly discontinued Clinique Moisture Surge Foundation. I’ll definitely see whether I can find myself a good colour match in store as their shade variety isn’t great. My bet is on fair though!
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders – Fun fact, I’ve never bought a cheek colour! All mine have been gifts or gifts with purchase. I might have to change that for this blush in Mood Exposure. I’ll definitely swatch it in store first and will likely pick up one of the super cute mini versions as I’ve never finished a full-sized cheek product and it leaves more room in my budget. Win-win!

Sephora Lash Tash To Go Set – I’m nearing the end of my mascara’s life and am trying to decide whether to purchase something more affordable or splurge on this great set. If you’re feeling flush, this is a great way to get testers for some of the most popular mascaras and a voucher to purchase a full size of your favourite all at no extra cost to you (depending on which you choose it could be a minimal amount.) How amazing does that sound?

Fashion

I don’t really have a lot on this list as these items are obviously seasonable, but I do have a few things that are either part of permanent collections or things of which there are always great variations in store.

  • Sezane Boyfriend Silk Shirt – I was seriously gutted when I couldn’t visit their store in Paris earlier this year, so will definitely head to their NY location as soon as possible this time. With more time to spare, I hope to finally check out their silk shirts among other things. Their new collection also launches on the 2nd of May, so hopefully there will be a lot to shop.
  • Everlane – I’m cheating here, as there is nothing in particular that jumped out at me but I definitely want to check out what they have in store. I love their simple aesthetic and have a serious crush on their Modern Loafers and their Boss Boot.
  • The Daily Edited Mini Black Cross Body Bag – They had me at monogrammed leather items. Need I say more? Well this bag might be a good dupe for the Gucci Soho Disco I’ve been dreaming of and they have a great colour selection.
  • Old Navy Jeans – I’ve only heard good things about their jeans and as I am on the hunt for a mid to dark tone high-waisted jean I think it can’t hurt to look. Plus at about 30 dollars a pop it also won’t hurt my bank account!

Home

Finally I’ll also be bringing home a few smaller things for my home. Trying to steer clear of breakables is going to be challenge! I mean just look at Anthropologie’s mugs…

  • West Elm Agate Bookends – I’ve wanted agate bookends for almost as long as I’ve wanted a massive bookcase. I think these would look wonderful in mine and also isn’t as pricey as others I’ve seen in SA (from R800 and up!). I will definitely be taking a closer look in store.
  • Anthropologie Door Handles – I’m hoping that one day soon we’ll get new bedside tables and then I can switch out the drawer handles with these pretties. These hex ones look good online, but I’ll see what jumps out at me in store. Maybe these will be on sale? A girl can dream!
  • Anthropologie Coaster – They do some pretty amazing coasters and you can’t really go wrong with these. Poetry also had some a while ago and I so regret not buying some.
  • Target and CB2 get honourable mentions as I’m sure I’ll find a few things I love in store.

Not included above are all the American sweets I’ll bring back with me, if they survive the journey! We’re also hauling home a DJ Roomba, or a more cost-effective alternative, to help us fight the good fight against all the cat crystals. So much for maintaining the image of glitz and glam.

I’d love to hear what you’d bring back in the comments below.

 

 

 

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Lisbon Travel Diary & City Guide

Its been over a month since our return and I’ve only just been able to put all my thoughts in order as this trip was absolutely packed with amazing memories.  Not only did I get to experience the beautiful Portugal, but I also managed to tick Paris off my bucket list (although I’d love to go back!). To be honest, this trip kind off caught me off guard.

Portugal wasn’t ever really on my travel bucket list, but when the opportunity arose to join my husband on a business trip I jumped. Once you start looking into Portugal, you can’t help but fall in love. And now I can give you reasons to visit too!

Despite it being in the middle of winter, we loved each and every second of it including the rainy days spent under umbrellas and nearly blowing away with the wind in Sintra. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s get started at the beginning.

Our week long visit to Portugal started in Lisbon and we were giddy with excitement when we finally made our approach into Lisbon airport. The views were breathtaking as we swooped low over the turquoise waters and felt like we could touch the Padrão dos Descobrimentos before a million red roofs greeted us.

I was initially a little baffled as to which area to stay in, but I’d say our choice of The 8 Downtown Suites in Lisbon’s Baixa area was a pretty solid choice. The staff were very accommodating, friendly and gave us a lot of tips. I’d say anywhere between Rossio square, the Elevador and Lisbon Cathedral can be considered central although I’m sure there are many more lovely areas to stay in.

Our first stop after the long flights was the TimeOut market as we desperately needed to refuel. Although I initially considered it far out, it turned out Lisbon was a lot smaller than it looked on a map, and we were there within 15 minutes for an early dinner. The market is quite similar in concept to Florence’s  Mercato Centrale with a traditional fresh produce market on one side (which was sadly closed due to water damage during our stay) and a selection of some of Portugal’s best small eateries on the other. Be warned though that this side can get crowded with seating becoming a challenge if you go after seven. We stopped by several times during our stay and enjoyed food from the Asian Lab, Pizza a Pezzi and another place dedicated solely to chicken. Another favourite was To B. Burger or not to burger, which as the name suggests, is a lovely burger place.

Praça do Comércio

We can’t start talking about food though without mentioning the pastel de nata, a dessert so innocent yet rich and comforting. Several of these delicious bites were enjoyed during our stay, some are served hot, others with icing sugar and few with cinnamon. It is best described as a mini milk tart trying to be a creme brulee.

My personal favourites were from Manteigara although others in our group preferred those from Pasteis de Belém (eggier, if that is a word!) and Tartine (sweeter). We didn’t have a single disappointing one though and at around 1 euro each you really should decide for yourself!

Castelo de sao Jorge wall

Although there is a lot to see and do in Lisbon, most touristy recommendations centre around beautiful churches, Miradouros (or lookout points) and Belém. I loved the architecture of the Lisbon Cathedral and the striking image of an orange tree against the historic building. Most of the cathedrals and churches in Portugal were ornate and grand, even the smaller ones, but in fear of seeing to many we decided to keep our schedule loose and spend more time walking around and exploring things on our own.

There are several notable miradouros, or lookout points, in Lisbon (Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen), but we eschewed them all in favour of the Castelo de Sao Jorge on a clear evening. This Moorish castle dominates the Lisbon skyline and seemed like a good place to admire the beautiful city. The thousand steps leading up were completely worth it though as the castle granted us amazing views over the whole of Lisbon, an excellent vantage points to spot both intruders during ancient times and all the tourist sights today. If possible I’d recommend you head here at the start of your visit as it can help you gain some perspective and make you giddy with the prospect of seeing it all up close. 

Of course we also managed to squeeze in some time for shopping and discovered a few favourites. The street leading off from the arch in Praça do Comércio is home to a few popular brands (Zara, H&M, Pull & Bear and many more) and was very close to where we stayed, but we definitely enjoyed shopping along the Rua do Carmo and Rua Garrett the most. There we spent quite some time in the United Colors of Benetton and got lost in a massive four-story Mango. We also found the prettiest florists and small bakeries along the way. I’d recommend you take one of the many side street to discover some favourites a little off the beaten track.

That is how we stumbled upon A Vida Portuguesa, a shop with a unique collection of locally produced things ranging from predictable tiles and sardines to beautiful beauty products. And talking of souvenirs, it seems you can’t go wrong with a pair of leather shoes made in Portugal. There is a leather shop around every corner, so keep an eye out and don’t be afraid to ask for the price should you see something you like.

If designer brands or window shopping is more your thing, then Avenue a Liberdade seems to be the go to. This tree-lined street stretches out from Praça dos Restauradores, the perfect spot to observe the pink Palacio Foz, and is home to designer brands like Gucci, Armani, Louis Vuitton and the likes. You’ll also find a Laduree tucked into one of the centres if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth!

Finally, you can’t go to Lisbon without stopping in to Belém and Sintra. I’ll cover the latter in a separate post, but since Belém is less than half an hour from Lisbon it feels natural to include it here. We had three sights on our list, namely the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Belém Tower and Jereminos Monastery and surrounding gardens, but really it was the pastel de natas that lured us over.

We headed out on a crowded tram that stopped around the corner from Pasteis de Belém  and decided to pick up a sweet treat. Although the line was long, it didn’t take long to get to the front and the pasteis did not disappoint (spoiler, none of them did!) although I do feel they might be slightly overrated. Definitely still worth it though!

From there we walked over to the Jerenimos Monastery where the massive line outside convinced us to first find the two towers. The gardens across of the Monastery were beautifully kept and I imagine it would be a lovely spot to sit and enjoy your pastei on a warmer day, with the Monastery and estuary making for great views.

We didn’t enter the Belém Tower but took in its beauty from the outside. Unfortunately none of our photographs does its scale or the detail on the outside any justice, but it just as you’d imagine.

As there still was a massive line outside the Monastry we decided to rather just enjoy the adjoining church on the right. Here the high vaulted ceilings alluded to what we might have found next door, had we made our way over earlier.

You can’t talk about Lisbon without mentioning the Azelujos, or painted tiles, that adorn most buildings. They really add something completely unique to Lisbon’s architecture and whenever we spotted a building with a unique pattern we squealed with excitement! I do feel though that one of the unsung heroes of Lisbon, and Portugal as a whole, is the cobbled sidewalks. Each features a unique pattern and is like a beautiful artwork.

Although February might not be the best time to visit Lisbon, it helped that this is one of the warmer European cities with temperatures usually hovering between the higher single digits to the low tens. We were also hoping to avoid some of the crowds by going when it is cooler, although we kept holding thumbs for the rain to stay away. We were incredibly lucky with nothing more than a light drizzle in Lisbon.

Lisbon beautiful street

Lastly as my sister-in-law and I explored much of the city on our own for the first two days it is worth mentioning that we always felt safe even after dark. As wary South Africans we  avoided staying out too late and always looked over our shoulders, but even during the quieter and colder evenings nothing ever caused us any concern. Just be aware of the weed (or Hash) sellers who mostly hang around the popular tourist sites like Praça do Comércio and quieter streets after dark. A polite no thanks should send them on their way, but I’d avoid starting a conversation and made sure to grip my bag extra tight.

Lisbon City Guide

Let’s get to the good stuff. If you’re heading to Lisbon soon (lucky you!), make sure to take note of the below:

Stay

  • Baixa Area – The 8 Downtown Suites

Eat

  • To B. Burger or Not to Burger – The best budget-friendly burger and fries served in a cute restaurant. Be sure to try their homemade lemonade!
  • Pizzeria Romana al Taglio – Great takeaway pizza slices offering everything from traditional flavours to more adventurous combinations
  • The TimeOut Market – We loved the Chow Mein at Asian Lab, enjoyed several slices from Pizza a Pezzi and enjoyed a chicken pita from the chicken place. For sweet treats try Santini and Manteigaria.
  • Tartine – We came for the pasteis de nata and stayed for lunch. A good selection of fresh breads and affordable prices.
  • A Padaria Portuguese – A chain restaurant you’ll find all over Lisbon that offers affordable lunches and good chocolate quentes. No need to enter a Mc Donalds, unless you need the loo!
  • Wok-to-Walk – Takeaway stir-fry noodles made to order and enough to share!

Pastel de Nata

  • Tartine – A slightly sweeter variety with an extra flaky pastry.
  • Pasteis de Belém – Slightly thicker custard that tasted more savoury than sweet.
  • Manteigaria – For me these had the perfectly flaky shell and creamy centre that wasn’t too sweet.
  • Basically any place that serves hot pasteis de nata for around one euro! You can’t go wrong!

Shop

  • Avenue a Liberdade – If luxury shopping or window shopping is your thing, this is where you’ll find the Prada and Gucci stores and if you fancy a macaron, stop in at the Laduree.
  • Rua Augusta – Here you’ll find all the chain stores – Zara, H&M, Pull & Bear, Bershka and many more.
  • Rua do Carmo and Rua
  • Garrett – Find larger version of chain stores and a few higher-end brands here along with cute coffee shops and pastry shops.
  • Armazéns do Chiado – A shopping centre on Rua do Carmo and home to the largest Mango I’ve ever been in, Parfois for great accessories and a Sephora.
  • A Vida Portuguesa – For slightly less tacky versions of typical tourist mementos like Azulejos and Ginja. I could have browsed this old-school style store for hours.

Sights

  • Castelo de Sao Jorge – Take in the best views of the city from one of its oldest buildings!
  • Lisbon Cathedral – Don’t overwhelm youself and head straight to the best church in Lisbon. Be sure to walk around it from the outside aswel!
  • Rossio Train Station – A beautiful and interesting building and also a great station to catch the train to Sintra.
  • Praça do Comércio – Beware the drug sellers, but enjoy the beautiful view from the square.
  • Palacio Foz & Praça dos Restauradores – A pink palace and beautiful square. Do you need to know more?
  • Jereminos Monastery & gardens – We didn’t enter as it was raining and there was a long line, so head here early as it is one of the few things I regret not seeing. Luckily the church next door is free to enter, had no line when we were there and is just as impressive! Also don’t forget to enjoy the gardens opposite.
  • Padrão dos Descobrimentos – Located opposite the monastery, this makes a lovely starting point for a walk along the estuary to Belém Tower.
  • Belém Tower – A beautiful tower that used to play an important role in Lisbon during its seafaring days.

If you have any questions be sure to ask in the comments and I’d love to help!

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Easter Chocolate Bark Recipe

Looking for something fun and easy to do this Easter? I’ve got you covered with the ultimate in sweet treats – Easter egg chocolate bark! This is a great way to use up the last bit of Easter candies or, as was the case for me, a good excuse to stock up on some of your favourites! I’d like to say that this recipe is fool proof, but unfortunately you do run the very real risk of finishing the ingredients off before they make their way into the melted chocolate! If you managed to keep your taste buds under control though, you’re good to go! I would venture to say that this is even a good one to keep the kiddo’s busy (under supervision of course!) and of course you can customise this to include some of your personal favourites, these just happen to be mine.

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Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Valentine's Day MacaronsI’ve loved rounding up this Valentine’s day gift guide because I feel like I can really indulge in my love of blush pink without any shame! Most of the gift are fairly simple – I say save the big ticket items for anniversaries and birthdays – but their just kind of token  of appreciation I’d appreciate. I hope that there is something in here for you too!

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DIY Christmas Gift Tag & Gift Wrapping Inspo

Christmas gift wrapping and DIY name tag

As much as I love gift shopping, planning and co-ordinating my wrapping and name tags to my Christmas decor has always been just as fun to me. This year, I decided on a beige and gold wrapping paper with a wreath-like DIY name tag. I love all the lovely wreaths I’ve seen and decided to take on this Christmas classic and make it slightly more modern. I love that these name tags are reusable and could just as easily double as Christmas decorations on a tree!

Granted this DIY is time consuming and maybe not as practical if you’re wrapping more than a handful of gifts, but it sure is pretty! Plus making the stars is the perfect activity to do whilst watching Christmas movies.

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Christmas Gift Guide for Him

Mens gift ideasI mentioned in my previous gift guide that I find buying gifts for men incredibly hard, which does not explain my delay in publishing this post, but perhaps makes you feel slightly less alone? Either way, with four days to go to Christmas you might find this gift guide for men helpful when it comes to shopping the beloved men in your life.

Comfies

In my experience, new clothing rarely excites men as it does women. So if you’re considering a cloth-based gift, might I steer you in the direction of lounge wear. So far this has gone down a treat with both my husband and brother. Things like slippers, stretchy pants and robes aren’t necessities but they sure make life that much more enjoyable! These H&M pants (in a different colour) are a firm favourite in our household and these slippers look so cute.

Tech & Accessories

This might possibly be the most frequently requested gift category for men. Ranging from techy watches to the latest phone gadgets, there is sure to be something tech related on their Christmas wish. Whether it comes in under budget is a completely different question though!

If you recently won the lotto, I’m sure the VR Playstation will score you extra brownie points that might carry you to the next gifting opportunity. Quality over-ear headphones is another favourite, that can easily be scaled to suit your budget. Noise cancelling seems to the next big things, with the price increasing if you choose to go with a wireless option. Both Sennheiser and Sony make good options, but these Bose ones are more common.

Leather tech covers and laptop bags are also often welcome gifts and will be a treat for both your eyes, especially if there is a tendency to have these lying around. My husband has a leather iPad pro cover (similar to this) with storage for the iPen, which would have made the perfect gift if he didn’t already own it. We don’t spend that much on Christmas gifts, so this leather bag is out of the question, but it sure is beautiful and would make a great gift.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Thank goodness the digital age makes gifting for men a little simpler! With online gaming platforms like Steam it is easy to purchase new games (often on special) or things like game time for their favourite game. Game time can also be purchased for gaming consoles, so best find out exactly what he has before whipping out the credit card.

If so inclined, a carefully selected board game can also result in hours of fun lasting well into the future! Personally we like CarcassonneCodenames (much less dramatic) and Dungeons and Dragons. Raru has a pretty impressive selection online, so time to start browsing!

Tools

If you’re buying for the handyman, chances are there is something that can be added to his tool kit! Whether they’re missing something basic or require something specific for a future project, scanning their tool box might soon reveal a gift idea. Multi-tools are popular for a reason, but this year my husband requested a more specialised laptop screwdriver set. This is perfect for the guy who likes to tinker with his tech, but an electric screwdriver set could also be a nice gift – this I can personally attest to!

Books

For some reason it seems like e-books tend to be more popular with men, but that doesn’t mean that the category has to be foregone when purchasing gifts for men. Whether you settle on a hard copy or electronic version, we’re sure there is something to suit every man’s interests.

Books my husband recently read and loved:

Travel Accessories

If you’re buying for a frequent traveller, anything that can make travelling more comfortable and relaxing would be much appreciated. I can personally attest to how wonderful packing travel cubes are, so if you’re buying for a frequent traveller this is certainly where I’d start. Noise cancelling headphones are also high on the list for most travellers, with other accessories like a neck pillow being slightly more personal choices. If you are aware of an upcoming trip, then buying a travel guide for that specific destination could also be a lovely personal touch. Although guide books might be dying out, these DK Pocket Map & Guides are my favourite. As they are small and have a handy map, they make great travel companions when WiFi isn’t readily available.

Old Favourites

If you still find yourself stuck or simply don’t know the person you’re gifting to that well, you can rarely go wrong with a good tipple, roast or related paraphernalia. My husband likes a good whiskey but I’m completely lost when it comes to buying mid-ranged whiskeys. I’ve found buying the most expensive one you can afford with the word “Grant” in the title is a good way to ensure you’re getting the best value for money. Other things like a beautiful glass whiskey decanter or even some freshly roasted beans would also always be welcome. I like the idea of purchasing some beans from your favourite local place. We love both Boston Coffee and Alchemy Coffee Roasters. Special coffee mugs are also always welcome, especially when bought in pairs.

On the other end of the spectrum, fragrances are incredibly personal. So if you find yourself in a position where you know the person well enough to gift this, receiving a back-up of a favourite is always a lovely sentiment.

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