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European Destinations, Italy

A Luxury Guide To Florence

May 13, 2016

The view of Florence from the famous bridge Ponte Vecchio [Copyright Vinita Marwaha]

The view of Florence from the famous bridge Ponte Vecchio [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

A long weekend in Florence conjures images of stunning Renaissance architecture, romantic walks by the River Arno and delicious Tuscan dishes. After recently spending time in Florence it’s certainly all this and more. Having travelled around Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia for the past 9 months I had been craving amazing Italian pasta, it being my favourite food. I wondered how many amazing meals of gnocchi with burrata mozzarella I could fit into four days in Florence..

When travelling we try to #LiveLikeALocal as much as possible, usually staying in guesthouses or B&Bs with friendly hosts that have been an integral part of our travel experience. Florence was no exception. We stayed at the stunning Palazzo Belfiore, in the Oltrano quarter of Florence. A neighbourhood as full of local Florentines as tourists. The location couldn’t be better and we loved being on a quiet street closed to traffic, only a 3 minute walk from the celebrated Ponte Vecchio bridge and 2 minutes from the majestic de’ Medici Palazzo Pitti. Upon arriving at Palazzo Belfiore we were welcomed warmly by the wonderful Federico. He, along with his sister Francesca, transformed seven apartments set in a 15th century noble house and opened them up for the world to visit. We entered the gorgeous Leone X apartment to find a lovely gesture of fine Tuscan Rosé wine and a delicious custom-blended tea, created especially for Palazzo Belfiore by a local tea and chocolate artisan Oro Nero (it even contains chocolate!).

The bedroom in the stunning Leone X apartment at Palazzo Belfiore [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The bedroom in the stunning Leone X apartment at Palazzo Belfiore [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Federico can even arrange a cooking class for you in your apartment, artisan workshops or programs for children. Our apartment certainly felt like home with thoughtful touches including a homemade recipe to make the Florentine classic “Pappa al pomodoro” along with the ingredients,  a fantastic salon hairdryer and hair straightener!

The spacious bedroom of our Leone X apartment at Palazzo Belfiore [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The spacious bedroom of our Leone X apartment at Palazzo Belfiore [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Each room is scented by a fresh oil home fragrance called AquaFlor Parfum that we had to go and get for ourselves!

The AquaFlor shop on Borgo Santa Croce, 6, Florence! [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The AquaFlor shop on Borgo Santa Croce, 6, Florence! [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Unique AquaFlor Parfum

Unique AquaFlor Parfum

 

A Gift of Oro Nero Chocolates!

A Gift of Oro Nero Chocolates in the Leone X Apartment!

We loved our stay in at Palazzo Belfiore and it’s a perfect way to feel like a local immersed in the Oltrano quarter of Florence! It’s truly #YourHomeAwayFromHome!

Steps away from Palazzo Belfiore is the Ponte Vecchio bridge leading to the famous Duomo, which we explored during a fantastic walking tour around the city! The Medici tour is fantastic and we loved learning about the Vasari Corridor. An enclosed elevated passageway was built and used by the Medici family in Florence to connect their two homes (or palaces!) as they felt insecure in public. It runs from Palazzo Vecchio, across the River Arno and on top of the ancient bridge, Ponte Vecchio, to Palazzo Pitti.

Part of the Vasari Corridor, an enclosed elevated passageway built and used by the Medici family in Florence to connect their two homes (or palaces!

Part of the Vasari Corridor, an enclosed elevated passageway built and used by the Medici family in Florence to connect their two homes (or palaces!)

 

Giotto's Campanile part of the complex of buildings that make up Florence Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy. [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Giotto’s Campanile part of the complex of buildings that make up Florence Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy. [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Apart from relaxing in our gorgeous apartment and walking around the streets of Florence, we spent the rest of our time enjoying traditional Tuscan dishes.

To celebrate a special occasion (we were celebrating our anniversary!) or just to enjoy a taste of quintessential Tuscan food, look no further than Hotel Brunelleschi. A spacious 4-star hotel nestled in a courtyard in the centre of Florence, giving rooms a magnificent view of Florence’s famous cathedral, Brunelleschi’s Duomo.

The stunning view of Florence's Duomo from Hotel Brunelleschi [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The stunning view of Florence’s Duomo from Hotel Brunelleschi [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

Hotel Brunelleschi, immortalised in Dan Brown’s books ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and the recent ‘Inferno’, allows you the opportunity to stay in a Byzantine Pagliazza Tower from the 6th century and a medieval church. The interior however is anything but medieval. The hotel was fully refurbished in 2013 and combines luxurious features and stunning vistas to provide a memorable experience.

A beautiful 360 panorama of Florence from your room [Hotel Brunelleschi]

A beautiful 360 panorama of Florence from your room. It looks absolutely stunning! [Hotel Brunelleschi]

Exclusive Dr.Vranjes toiletries are provided at Hotel Brunelleschi

Exclusive Maison Vranjes toiletries are provided at Hotel Brunelleschi

The courtyard of Hotel Brunelleschi, Florence

The courtyard of Hotel Brunelleschi containing the outside terrace of the Osteria della Pagliazza restaurant

The Pagliazza Tower of Hotel Brunelleschi originated in the 6th century and was previously a prison. It even contains a private museum in the basement featuring Roman baths and artifacts. The museum is open to hotel guests, accompanied with a hotel member of staff.  The breakfast room of the hotel retains the original features of the building of St.Michael’s Church, including the baptism font. Culture, history and luxury for guests under one roof.

Roman baths and the basement of a Roman house in Pagliazza Tower of Hotel Brunelleschi

Roman baths and the basement of a Roman house in Pagliazza Tower of Hotel Brunelleschi

 

The Santa Elisabetta Restaurant in Hotel Brunelleschi

The Santa Elisabetta Restaurant in Hotel Brunelleschi

 

A stunning chandelier adorning the Breakfast Stemma Room

A stunning chandelier adorning the Breakfast Stemma Room [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

We were excited to try the traditional meets contemporary Tuscan menu at Osteria della Pagliazza, which featured a welcome drink of Prosecco ‘Valdo’ Doc Extra dry, a selection of cold cuts of meat, home made pasta, Tuscan soups, a bottle Santa Cristina, I.G.T, Farm Antinori wine and mineral water for 49 Euros. The hotel also has the Restaurant Santa Elisabetta resaturant, the ‘gourmet temple of Florentine gastronomy’, the Tower Lounge bar and a stunning Breakfast Stemma Room for guests. The Santa Elisabetta restaurant is the perfect spot for that special proposal or a romantic dinner.

 

A delicious selection of tuscan cold Meats and Cheeses [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

A Delicious Selection of Tuscan Cold Meats and Cheeses [Copyright: Vinita Marwaha]

The picturesque terrace of Osteria Della Pagliazza

The Picturesque Terrace of Osteria Della Pagliazza

 

Amazing Ravioli Fiilled with Eggplants, Salted Butter and Dried Tomato Sauce

Amazing Ravioli Fiilled with Eggplants, Salted Butter and Dried Tomato Sauce

 

An amazing anniversary lunch at Hotel Brunelleschi

An amazing Tuscan lunch at Hotel Brunelleschi

 

Our Secondi Piatti of Scottona’ Grilled Beef and Grilled Vegetables

Our Secondi Piatti of Scottona’ Grilled Beef and Grilled Vegetables

 

For Dessert, a Tasting of Three Flavors of Gelato Prepared Daily

For Dessert, a Tasting of Three Flavors of Gelato Prepared Daily

 

A wonderful end to our Tuscan meal (the teabag is made out of silk!)

A Wonderful End to our Tuscan Meal (the teabag is made out of silk!)

Our meal was incredible and Hotel Brunelleschi’s Tuscan menu is perfect to experience the best food that Tuscany has to offer with a luxurious touch.

Have you visited Florence? Let us know in the comments below!

Palazzo Belfiore, Via dei Velluti, 8, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 264415. Email: info@residencebelfiore.it

Hotel Brunelleschi, Piazza Sant’Elisabetta, 3, 50122 Firenze, Italy
+39 055 27370. Email: info@hotelbrunelleschi.it

All opinions expressed are my own.

Asia, European Destinations, Travel Tips

The Top 5 Foods I Discovered Whilst Travelling RTW

March 28, 2016
Dumplings and Nyonga cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

Over the last 8 months I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to travel around Europe and Southeast Asia. It’s been an incredible experience, but one of the best parts about travelling to the stunning mountains of Albania and fast-paced modern Bangkok was the amazing food that we discovered around every corner. Here’re my top 5 dishes from Spain, to Thailand.

Tapas in Barcelona

Tapas in Barcelona

Seafood Paella in Barcelona, Spain

Seafood Paella in Barcelona, Spain

1. Paella and unique tapas in Barcelona, Spain

After visiting the historic Quimet&Quimet in Barcelona I decided to recreate the delicious  signature dish of smoked salmon on a toasted baguette with Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, balsamic vinegar & truffle-infused olive oil. Served with olives and salad with fresh bufala mozzarella from Italy! Not only did we find the best tapas venue in our 3 weeks in Barcelona, we also had a succulent seafood paella in the Sarria neighbourhood.

Dumplings and Nyonga cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

Dumplings and Nyonga cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

Nyonga Cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

Nyonga Cuisine in George Town, Malaysia

2. Nyonya cuisine and Dumplings in Malaysia

Amazing Nyonya cuisine, an original form of fusion that dates back centuries to the cosmopolitan ports of Malacca and Penang where marriage between Chinese and Malays created a unique way of cooking. We also stumbled upon the most amazing dumplings in George Town, a must-visit if in Malaysia.

 

Balinese cuisine

Balinese cuisine

3.  Homemade Balinese food in Sideman, Bali, Indonesia

One of my favourite places on this trip was Bali, specifically Sideman. A small sleepy town near the east coast that’s yet to be overrun with tourists, still imbuing a sense of serene calm and tranquility. Surrounded by deep green rice paddies terraces and overlooked by the Mount Agung volcano, the view from the infinity pool was heaven. A gorgeous place for a luxury stay and still affordable among the five star hotels. The homemade Balinese cuisine served here tasted as luxurious as the surroundings.

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Bosnian Coffee

Bosnian Coffee

4. Traditional Dessert & Coffee in Bosnia

We were recommended by our walking tour guide to try a Bosnian dessert called Tufahija. A delicious stuffed apple with hazelnuts and honey with cream on top! Followed by a cup of traditional Bosnian coffee!

Pad Thai in Bangkok

Pad Thai in Bangkok

5. Thailand – From North to South

We spent the last 3 months of our time in Asia in Thailand! A stunning country with a variety of dishes from Khao Soi (a rich yellow curry noodle soup with vegetables and chicken, pork or beef) in the North to spicier dishes in the South. My favourites were the delicious, people-pleasing, Pad Thai with Chicken and Mango with Sticky Rice. I ate them almost daily!

What were your favourite dishes from around the world? Let us know in the comments below!

Denmark

Living Like a Local: Denmark

August 6, 2015
Beautiful day in Nyhavn, Copenhagen!

Denmark. The land of historic Vikings, modern bicycles and beautiful vistas. It’s the closest country in Scandanavia to central Europe, with it’s largest land mass attached to Germany. Copenhagen, it’s capital, is a city on trend and proudly green, with 55% of it’s inhabitants commuting on 2 wheels. When we had the chance to stay in Copenhagen for almost a month we had to say yes! Now at the end of our stay, here’re the 5 quintessential things we learnt through living like a Dane.

A stylish Copenhagener cycling in the city [Flickr]

A stylish Copenhagener cycling in the city [Flickr]

1. Biking

The bike lanes in Copenhagen are wider than the pedestrian sidewalk, earning it the title of the safest city to cycle in. With over half it’s population cycling in to work and school daily, the city has been transformed over the last 4 decades into a haven for cyclists. One of the best ways to see the city like a local is by bike and they can be rented throughout the city. Also don’t expect the spandex of your usual cyclist commuter, Copenhagen natives dress stylishly whilst biking to work, dressing for their destination rather than their commute. This elegance is best embodied in Mikael Colville-Anderson’s Flickr page.

A Variety Of Traditional Danish Smørrebrød

A Variety Of Traditional Danish Smørrebrød

2. Smørrebrød

These Danish open sandwiches are a staple lunch time dish for all Danes. A Danish girl that we met said that until she went to school in Australia, she had no idea that an alternative lunch option existed! The chewy dense rye bread is topped with a variety of meats and toppings (Paleg in Danish). For a sweeter option you can try the pålægschokolade (thin strips of chocolate) on rye bread!

Sweet Smørrebrød : Rye bread topped with pålægschokolade

Sweet Smørrebrød : Rye bread topped with pålægschokolade

3. Hygge (Hoo-ga)

A state best translated as coziness. Being hyggelig (adj, pronounced hoogalee) is the ultimate goal for most Danes when decorating their houses or hosting a dinner party. A hyggelig evening could be described as a cozy autumn evening by the fire, surrounded by stunning but homely interior decor, eating your favourite food whilst surrounded by your closest friends and family. Like a warm hug. A guest thanking their host by saying that their evening was hyggelig is the highest honour. The pålægschokolade and Earl Grey tea photo in a hyggelig living room above is a good example!

A Bank HQ In Copenhagen (L) & A Pricy Water Jug Found In Many Danish Households

A Bank HQ In Copenhagen (L) & A Pricey Water Jug Found In Many Danish Households

4. Design

Denmark is famous for it’s design. Arguably it’s most well-known export is Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair, as popular now as in it’s inception in the 1950s (although also expensive at close to US$10,000!). Danish and Scandinavian (New Nordic) design is sweeping the world. Walking (or cycling!) around Copenhagen and it’s surrounding suburbs feels like you’re walking through a living functional modern art museum, with gorgeous buildings around every corner, with locals taking pride in buying these pieces for their homes.

Watching Lukas Graham Play At The Grøn Koncert in Copenhagen & Enjoying The Outdoors

Watching Lukas Graham Play At The Grøn Koncert in Copenhagen & Enjoying The Outdoors

5. Enjoying The Outdoors

With Denmark surrounded by water and Copenhagen situated on an island, camping and relaxing in a park by the sea are ways that city dwellers enjoy their weekends. Also with VAT at 25%, food is particularly expensive in Denmark. Eating out is a luxury for most households, even though the New Nordic food revolution has elevated Copenhagen’s status globally. 15 of the cities restaurants were awarded 18 Michelin stars, including the ‘world’s best restaurant’ Noma. Alternatively most young Copenhageners choose to sit out by canals, fountains and in the park with a relatively inexpensive Danish hotdog (or Smørrebrød!) and a drink. Many people also pick the abundant fruits and vegetables in Denmark, with snap peas(!) one of the most popular snacks at an outdoor music festival that we attended!

Have you been to Denmark? Let us know if you agree with our take in the comments below!

About, European Destinations

Change

July 28, 2015
IMG_20150630_124934407 (2) crop

Change is inevitable.

Seasons change. People change. Fashion changes. But travel, travel changes you. Travel changes who you are at your core.

Deciding to leave behind everything we knew, our jobs, our home, our family & friends, most of our belongings, to travel wasn’t an easy decision. We knew what we’d be missing; birthdays, weddings, births, celebrations, Christmas and most importantly we wouldn’t be able to provide a shoulder for our family to lean on when they needed us. But we had an urge to travel, to explore, to learn about new cultures and see the world. To learn how to cook Pad Thai in Thailand with fresh ingredients from the market to living like a local at home in Denmark for a month.

With Kevin and I a few years either side of 30, and both due for a career change, this was the time, if any. From the moment we had met over 4 years ago, in a grocery store fortuitously whilst based in Cologne, Germany, to our wedding day in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, we had always agreed about one thing, we wanted to travel (although I admit I hadn’t initially envisioned travelling with solely a small backpack, but more on that later). This blog will follow our journey from Canada to the UK, across Europe to Southeast Asia and beyond. Join us as we travel around the world. – Vinita

Hiking to Montserrat in Spain

Hiking to Montserrat in Spain