How to: See a new city / Part 2

Barcelona from the W Hotel

Shop at the museum

Sending a postcard home? Avoid the souvenir stores like the plague and head to a museum or gallery shop. Because they often stock items from local artists and designers, I find they are often the best place to pick up cool mementos and gifts for loved ones. For art lovers and history buffs, their location is pretty convenient too.

Connect with its people

In Rome, I discovered a quaint wine bar and awesome street art in Pigneto thanks to one local, and Aperol spritz and the city's most popular tiramisu thanks to another. I knew neither of them before I visited the city. Ask for friends to connect you, or if you’d rather not take things offline, seek out local blogs or ask questions on a community driven site - couchsurfing and quora are good ones.

Get somewhere high

Everybody loves a view. Find an observation tower, a hotel rooftop, or a hill. If you have a friend in SF and that friend is mobile, beg them to take you to Twin Peaks. My friend Jarred took me and I saw the whole city laid before me like a map. Many destinations offer a high vantage point that’s not only good for photo ops but a fantastic way to make sense of the layout of the city.  

Find a local to love

Find a favourite establishment to cosy up in. I can’t count on one hand how many times a local cafe has been my saving grace. In addition to wifi and toilets, they’ve stashed my bags, offered me shelter from nasty weather and staff have let me use their phones, given me recommendations, even housed me.

 

How do you see a new city? Feel free to write me or leave a comment.

 

Part 1 can be found here

Photo: Barcelona from the W Hotel.

How to: See a new city / Part 1

Some people are excellent planners alas I am not one of them. Even though I enjoy slow travel (read: lazy), I’m usually too fully immersed in one destination to even begin to research another. How I’m getting from the airport to where I’m staying is the only thing I know for sure when I get on a plane.  Over the years I've adopted a few go-to travel habits for seeing a new city.

Get on the water

This is cheaply and easily done in some cities, Istanbul and New York for instance, harder in others. Whether it’s a ferry ride, a boat tour, a friend’s old dinghy, I love the water and I always try to get a glimpse of the city from the other side.

Get recommendations from friends

Get recommendations from people whose tastes you share, and you’re unlikely to be led astray in a new city. Have a coffee with a friend who knows it well, crowdsource on your social networks, start a Google doc and invite your friends to contribute to it (I’ve done this a few times and it becomes a resource everybody can use).

Visit a local market

Local markets are an especially good place to buy gifts particularly artist's markets and food markets.  I always prefer to buy a perishables such as handmade chocolate, preserves and oils instead of plastic souvenirs that more often than not are mass produced in China. I’d rather buy local and support the community and I find markets the best place to do that.

I’m in Berlin with friends right now and we just discovered the best mustards at the open air Turkish market. (Hi apple chili mustard, you complete me.)

Explore by neighbourhood

In Paris, I loved Montmartre and the Marais (Sorry in advance to all the Parisians this will offend). In Tokyo, I loved Aoyama and Akihabara. You won’t ever unearth all of a destination’s gems in one short visit but focus on a fantastic neighbourhood or two and you’re off to a good start.

Get a guidebook

This may seem dated to some but I wouldn’t dismiss guidebooks just yet. I usually give this advice to people who are looking at maximising a few days in a new destination without the luxury of time to google. 

I like guidebooks and I’ll often buy them for places I have no connections in. They can help one navigate a city using public transport or teach one about the local customs, about public transport, about tipping.

They are also often detailed so many will offer suggestions for other nearby places to visit. I found Omkareshwar, a tiny temple town in India thanks to a friend’s Lonely Planet when I was irritable in Indore and it ended up being an extremely memorable excursion.

 

Photo: Manhattan from the Staten Island ferry.

Link Love #3

If you are in Paris, go along to the Palais de Tokyo and check out Flamme Eternelle, a almost squat like installation by Thomas Hirschhorn that also serves as a relaxed social and collaborative exhibition space. My friend Skye who sent me these photos has a "rather large poetry collage" on display alongside many other artists. Read more here. It's on until June 23rd! 

- Two very interesting subcultures. Read about the wonderful educational initiative that inspired the surfing culture in Kovalam in my favourite Kerala and watch these videos about the customised Lambos of Tokyo's underworld. (Hint: Holographic vinyls) 

- The Almighty hates client feedback too.

- Give up photographers. The satellites have won

- Melanie Griffiths was raised with lions.

- I recently reconnected with Shweta Malhotra, a talented graphic designer I once collaborated with as a copywriter and stumbled upon her personal project Something Cool Everyday. My favourites are her people illustrations (above). Particularly her collection of drawings from Bombay's recent Lakme India Fashion Week.

- The Dirty Old Man speaks. A great read (and rant) about Bombay's liveability. 

- Do you like art, blue or both? Then you should follow Australian artist Lucas Grogan on instagram.

Recipe: Cinnamon French toast with nutella and caramelised bananas

This is a recipe from my blog archives. I learned how to make it on a date a few years ago and that date remains one of the most memorable ones I've ever been on. Side note: People don't go on enough romantic dates these days really.

In my earlier post I had mentioned that "I only date dudes who cook because A) they cook. There is no B." though I'm eating my words today. (I can't help it, my boyfriend just has such a sweet face.) But I digress. This dessert followed a cracking meal of tagliatelle with tiger prawns in a sundried tomato and cashewnut puree white wine reduction. Yup he pulled out all the stops. French toast is totally underrated in my opinion - it's sexy and homely. This is a slightly elevated version and if you're anything like me, you'll probably have these ingredients on hand. 

Ingredients: 

4 slices day old sliced bread or baguette
Half a cup of milk
2 Eggs
4 tsp sugar
Cinnamon powder
A scraped vanilla bean (or vanilla extract)
Nutella
2 Bananas
Butter

Method:

Whisk the eggs with the milk, 2 tsp sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
Soak the bread thoroughly in the egg mixture without letting it disintegrate.
Melt butter on a hot skillet and fry the bread until golden brown
Turn the heat to low, melt more butter and add the rest of the sugar. Once dissolved, caramelise the bananas for about three minutes.
Spread Nutella all over the hot French toast and top off with the caramelised banana.
Optional: Add big scoops of ice cream, sliced strawberries and garnish with sweet basil.
Not optional: EAT.