Restaurant Review: Mozzarella e Vino

Mozzarella e Vino    *    33 W 54th Street, New York, NY 10019    *    $$

Nestled among gorgeous townhouses across from the Museum of Modern Art on the Upper West Side is an authentic Italian restaurant that may indeed change your life. If you could not already tell by the name — which is what attracted me to its menu right away — Mozzarella e Vino focuses on dishes made of highest quality ingredients. And when it comes to the Italian dinner essentials — mozzarella and wine, this is of utmost importance.

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I began the meal with a champagne starter and a tasting menu of the charcuterie offerings. From salami to prosciutto the entire cutting board was delicious. The meats were paired with blueberries and walnuts, which gave it a different flavor that catered to a sweet-and-salty palate. The sliced tomatoes were fresh and paired well with the mozzarella plate. I tried the smoked mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella and burrata — the latter being the clear winner. Before we even tasted anything else, Ben and I looked at each other and knew that we would be coming back for more burrata.

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While waiting for our next round of appetizers we started to try a basket of homemade breadsticks and bread. These flavors, combined with a truly delicious plate of extra virgin olive oil reminded us of our month of travels in Italy. Not only did the food taste good, but it tasted like it was made fresh from fresh ingredients — which is the traditional Italian way.

There’s a reason why Italians are known for going to the grocery store or market each morning to get their produce for the day. It takes the quality of the dishes to another level, getting the most out of the flavors of the fruits and vegetables you’re cooking with.

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The next appetizer I tasted was fried calamari— which can be the make-or-break dish of an Italian restaurant. This plate was not too fishy, but tasted perfectly crispy. The marinara was a bit spicy for my taste so I opted for a dose of lemon juice sprinkled on the fish. To Ben, this dish was even better than the meat and cheese, but for me nothing could come close to the burrata.

For the vino selection, the house sommelier helped us choose a bottle of Barbera d’Alba 2014 Deltetto, a smooth pinot noir that had hints of woody sweetness  and paired nicely with our entrees.

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For my main course I selected the Classic fresh fettucine alla Bolognese topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese. Once again the flavors were fresh and blended together nicely. Ben ordered the Slow braised lamb, in red wine and organic vegetable sauce, served with mashed potatoes. The presentation came out different than we were both expecting but the result was delicious. The lamb tasted as if it had been marinated and cooked slowly for hours.

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Last but certainly not least, I tried some of the server recommended selections from the dessert menu— the Torta di mascarpone “tiramisu style,” Vanilla panna cotta with strawberries and Seasonal fruit tart on vanilla custard.

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As far as our favorite dessert went, Ben and I disagreed once again. The tiramisu was absolutely incredible. It was light and fluffy yet somehow creamy. It had more of a chocolate flavor than espresso, which may have been why I liked it so much. The panna cotta was also delicious. The vanilla flavor was so strong that you could tell that it had been made with vanilla bean pods instead of just vanilla extract. Topped with fruit, it made for another great selection. The fruit tart however left much to be imagined.

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If you are in the area, Mozzarella e Vino is a must-try stop after a day of roaming the Museum of Modern Art or Central Park, both located just blocks away. The restaurant is the perfect way to celebrate traditional Italian cuisine prepared with fresh and top-quality ingredients.

Stay Classy! xx

Cocoa V Is The Vegan Chocolatier NYC Has Been Waiting For

Cocoa V    *    174 Ninth Avenue New York, NY 10011    *    $$

Last week, New York City received a gift just as good as any present you could buy yourself. The owner of Blossom du Jour opened her latest vegan business venture in Chelsea. The chocolate shop is located in a quiet area of the city, surrounded by other gourmet and vegan eats and boutiques. The ambience and space leaves little to the imagination with just a few stools for seating and the kitchen covered by a curtain, making the experience truly intimate.

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The chocolates are fully vegan, gluten-free, non-dairy, kosher and organic. They are handcrafted using only the best ingredients to create unique and delicious flavors, including Lavender Vanilla and Pistachio Apple.

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In addition to truffles and chocolate squares, Cocoa V offers a beautiful variety of chocolate bark and brittle. You can mix up the variety to your liking, whether you’re putting together a unique box for yourself or a friend. Because the chocolates are handcrafted, they’re also meticulously decorated with edible metallics, colors and designs. The overall affect is beautiful – and yummy.

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I tried a few samples while I was at the shop and brought some home for later… I ate this box in one sitting, but it’s totally guilt-free so I ain’t sorry. 😉 The piece that I’m holding below is Chocolate Peanut Butter and Jelly… and it was by far my favorite piece that I tried!

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If you’re in the area and are looking to spoil yourself, Cocoa V is the place to visit. In the summer they’ll be offering homemade dairy-free ice cream and ice cream sandwiches, and Belgian waffles. Their ingredients will also change with the season, so you can expect to see flavors like Edamame, Lime and Sea Salt!

Cocoa V also ships nationwide and you can place orders in stores or through their website.

Hungry? Maybe you want to whip something chocolatey up for yourself. If so, try out this guilt-free fruit dipped recipe or treat yourself to  a more traditional recipe for classy chocolate chip cookies!

Stay Classy! xx

Restaurant Review: A.G. Kitchen

A.G. Kitchen    *    269 Columbus Ave. New York, NY 10023    *    $$

It isn’t too often when you have a day filled to the brim with pure joy. In fact, it isn’t too often that we are able to tap into ourselves and feel pure joy in the midst of our daily routines. This was what it felt like on the day that I tried out the menu at A.G. Kitchen.

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I guess it helps when you’re having a delicious meal in a gorgeous restaurant while catching up with one of your best friends, but by the end of our appetizers we were already agreeing that A.G. Kitchen would certainly become a go-to spot for our friend group. The atmosphere of the dining area is airy, full of natural light and enclosed by windows. Pops of bright orange, green and blue could be found along the bookshelf and on the water glasses on each table, matching the uniforms of the waiters, waitresses and chefs. Right outside you can see Columbus Ave. a busy street that’s bordered by bright buildings (like the purple and yellow structures you can see below,) high-end stores and a two avenue walk from Central Park. It made me so nostalgic for Notting Hill and Kensington, London because the similarities in the atmosphere were most certainly there, though the accents weren’t.

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The first things on the menu that caught my eye were the exotic guacamole flavors. Instead of just the plain ol’ avocado (which is always delicious on its own, anyway) they also had options like Papaya and Mint and Pomegranate and Pineapple. The menu offers a guacamole trio – which I immediately ordered and began to devour.

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They made it right in front of our table on an adorable guacamole cart, which I loved especially because then I could see exactly what ingredients were going into it! I ordered it Mild (I still can’t do spicy guys!) but since my +1, Gab is a spice lover, she ordered jalapeños on the side… the waiters were so accommodating to each of our tastes.

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It became instantly clear upon first bite that A.G. Kitchen only used fresh and locally grown produce in their dishes. Everything tasted SO fresh it totally elevated the flavor to another level. This could be tasted in everything that I tried, even the fruit-infused cocktails – Strawberry Fields and Simple Pleasures.

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It is so rare for me to eat out and love absolutely everything that I taste. I just went to one of the “top” restaurants of NYC Restaurant Week and could barely finish my entree to the point where I ended up ordering a side and ate that as my main meal instead. I wouldn’t say that I’m a picky eater, but I do appreciate good and creative flavor in the dishes that I consume. This is the way that I cook for myself and the people that I love and what I’ve come to expect when eating out with friends, family or on dates with Ben.

This is most certainly one of the main reasons why I fell in love with A.G. Kitchen. Their dishes were each meticulously crafted, plated, used fresh ingredients and they were flavorful and CREATIVE.

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A.G. Kitchen actually has a Zagat thanks to their burgers. I of course, being the meat lover that I am, had to try one. I ordered one made with organic grass-fed beef, A.G. Kichen’s “special sauce” and locally grown mushrooms; it was to-die-for. Gab ordered the “Meatless” (being the almost vegetarian that she is) and I tried some… I will be ordering that upon my next visit. Her burger was handmade from fresh veggies and tasted absolutely amazing.

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Something I noticed on their menu is that their burgers automatically come with Whole Grain buns, but this can be changed to a Potato Bun or Gluten-Free bun, depending on preference or dietary restrictions. The entire menu features options for everyone, making it so incredibly versatile, healthy and delicious.

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The creatively delicious taste and beautiful appearance of the food I tried is without a doubt thanks to the restaurant’s owner, Chef Alex Garcia. You may know him from his shows on Food Network, “Melting Pot” and “Nuestra Cucina.” Chef Garcia is also one of the founding chefs of the Nuevo Latino cooking movement. With A.G. Kitchen, he aimed and succeeded at combining Latin and American cuisine to create the ultimate comfort food.

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I’ll be completely honest. We did a job on the first few courses (and our drinks!) The food was SO good that I forgot to leave room for dessert. By now, even if you only know me as a blogger, you know how much of a sweet tooth I have. I did end up asking to see the dessert menu, and the red “binoculars” were what I received.

As if A.G. Kitchen wasn’t already perfect enough, they even got creative with the visual display of their menu. YES. You look through the display and click through to view the desserts on the screen. How adorable is that!?

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Remember how I said we were too full for dessert? Well, one look at the menu was enough to change our minds. For dessert I tried the Hot Chocolate Brownie, which is made to share and comes with ice cream (YUM) and the Banana Mania, which was probably the best banana bread cake I’ve ever had. By this point, I was certainly full and happy, but declared that our meal could not be complete without trying a spiked Mexican hot chocolate.

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If you live in NYC, work in NYC or ever find yourself in the vicinity of NYC, do yourself a favor and make your way to A.G. Kitchen on the Upper West Side. I can pinky promise you that you will not leave disappointed. And when you do try it out, especially if you manage to eat as much as me, be sure to go for a stroll through the West side of Central Park, it’s so beautiful, quiet and peaceful there, and your full and happy tummy will thank you.

Stay Classy! xx

Brunch Spots We Love: ZUMA NYC

Zuma NYC   *   261 Madison Avenue New York, New York 10016   *   $$$

If you’re lucky, brunch reservations are the plans that get you through the week. There’s nothing like waking up on a Sunday morning feeling the motivation you may have been lacking towards the end of the week to head into the city and brunch so hard, because let’s face it, you had a rough few days and need to #TreatYoself! Now if only we could brunch just about every day of the week… 🙂

This particular Sunday morning my wonderful date and I hopped on the Metro North and walked down Madison Ave. You can tell that ZUMA NYC is a classy restaurant from its appearance on the outside. The external decor is subtle, dark hued and makes it difficult for pedestrians to take a peak in and see what they are missing out on. Once you’ve stepped inside, it is hard to escape the feeling that you’ve just walked in on an incredible meal and a warm, creative atmosphere.

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The brunch menu comes with a fresh and delicious variety of options. There is the special menu that for a fixed price of $59, you can order a drink, an appetizer platter, an entree and dessert. And of course, you can take on the extra charge ($55) for unlimited drinks if you’re really looking to let loose.

To start, we tried the edamame, watercress and avocado salad with wasabi and cucumber, seasonal oysters, salmon sake, rock shrimp with lime and tofu, yaki and chicken skewers with baby leek. Oh yeah – we tried EVERYTHING. And instantly fell in love with the place.

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We had a tough time deciding what we wanted for our main entrees. Eventually, I decided on the “tori no munaniku teriyaki” aka chicken breast teriyaki with shiitake and shiso – this is actually meant to be a sharing dish, but I was already starting to get full from the incredible appetizers (and I knew I’d dig into some of the sushi)! Ben decided on an option off the regular entree menu, the premium sushi “chef’s selection.” Which was just as pretty as it was delicious (see below.)

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The platter above was hands down the best and most beautiful sushi I’ve ever eaten!

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Chicken terayaki skewers were actually to-die-for. Juicy meat cooked to perfection and marinated in terayaki sauce made for the perfect dish. It was extremely hard for me to be nice and share this with Ben!
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For dessert, we ordered the Zuma dessert platter (yes, to share). And were presented with this dreamy bowl above! Everything from fruit to macaroons to ice cream to cheesecake was included in this dream-come-true dessert. It’s a good thing I didn’t take an after picture, because there really wasn’t much left! x

Stay Classy! xx

Romagna Ready 2 Go – A Restaurant Review

Romagna Ready 2 Go – 182 Bleeker Street New York, NY 10012

When you hear that a secret Florentine garden recently opened as part of an authentic Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village, your first question should probably be how soon can I get there…

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After visiting the Italian region of Tuscany just a few weeks prior – yes, as soon as we get through the Budapest series Italy posts will be on their way! – I never thought I could taste Bolognese sauce and homemade pasta the same way again. The flavors of the food in the birthplace of tortellini and Bolognese sauce were so fresh and beautifully seasoned that I had since been wary of tasting Americanized Italian food.

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Fortunately, Romagna Ready 2 Go is located in the Village and owned and run by Italian chef Lorenzo Lorenzi – and he imports all of his meat and ingredients from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy where he was born, just a short train ride away from Bologna and Florence.

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I arrived at the restaurant with my wonderful plus one close to 6:30, to find it virtually empty of patrons. The restaurant/bar across the street had a line out the door made up of NYU students, who were somehow oblivious to the delicious menu awaiting them on the other side of the street. We were seated in the brand-new outdoor garden that Lorenzi put together himself. The idea of it is lovely, and it certainly does add a rustic feel to the atmosphere with tables made from old doors and the walls and trellis full of potted plants and flowers.

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What I found unfortunate was the abundance of fake plants and flowers and even an unnecessary wall half-covered in plastic turf. This is something that would rarely be found in authentic restaurants in Italy, and when it is present, only in those which are geared towards tourists. The décor shows that Romagna Ready 2 Go is still trying to figure out its customer base – with a stage for live music, BOGO wine nights and beer pong tournaments on the weekends despite a classy imported menu with ingredients shipped from the homeland – yet once it chooses who to cater to, it will be the go-to spot with a line out the door, without a doubt.

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That being said, the menu is simply divine and the prices are more than reasonable, especially considering the restaurant’s location and the fact that most ingredients are imported from Italy. I spoke with Lorenzi who said he was inspired by his upbringing in the Emilio-Romagna region of Italy. His extensive Piadina menu is a direct result of this, featuring 22 different sandwiches. I tried the Genoa, the flatbread with Pesto, Bufala Mozzarella and Prosciutto Crudo and the flavors immediately took me back to Tuscany. There is no doubt that the ingredients are fresh, the Prosciutto Crudo imported and the Bufala Mozzarella homemade in Lorenzi’s kitchen. Romagna Ready 2 Go puts as much meticulous effort and importance in the way their food is created as the best restaurants in Italy do.

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Next, we were served a cheese plate and a meat plate with glasses of Lambrusco wine, also typical of the region and incredibly balanced flavor. The cheese plate consisted of Burrata, Truffle Mozzarella and Chamomile-Infused Pecorino. Each cheese was delicious, fresh and served a top arugula and olives. My particular favorite was the Chamomile-Infused Pecorino, which had a hinted aftertaste of chamomile and was stand-out special. The meat plate was Prosciutto, Bresola and Porchetta. I had tried my first Porchetta a few weeks prior in Tivoli, Italy and had realized what I had been missing out on. The Porchetta on the meat plate was just as delicious, with a poignant and rich flavor of juicy pork.

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It is questionable how there was still room in our stomachs, but it was not long before the main courses came out. We tried the Seafood Gnocchi and Lasagna della Nonna. The gnocchi was handmade in the Romagna Ready 2 Go kitchen and you could taste the difference. It blended nicely with the creamy seafood sauce, featuring shrimps and scallops sent over from the Italian Emilio-Romagna coast. It was a heavy dish but the flavor was wonderful.

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The Lasagna della Nonna was one of the best lasagnas I have ever had. It was made with homemade and very finely sliced layers of square sheet pasta and the sauce included beef, pork and veal – most sauces only include the first two. The added veal and delicate pasta created the perfect tilted tower of lasagna topped with fresh grated cheese. The flavors melted together in my mouth, the way only authentic Italian cooking can encourage, and I began to ponder how the Village needs to discover this gem of a dish.

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The dessert menu was extensive as well. After some thought, I decided on the “Chocolate Salami” something I had never heard of, but Lorenzi had described the process of how it was made and it sounded right up my alley. It was made with a medley of chocolates and cookies, frozen and then sliced. It came served with strawberries and was absolutely worth it. The dessert really did look like salami, and the mixed colors could be allotted to the cookies in the ingredients. Washing it down with a cappuccino was the perfect way to end the meal.

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If you are in the NYC area, Romagna Ready 2 Go is certainly a must-try.

Stay Classy! xx

Cafe Koosje – A Restaurant Review

Café Koosje – Plantage Middenlaan 37, 1018 DB Amsterdam, Netherlands 4-17 Pounds

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Café Koosje is just a few stops on the tram from the town of Dieman, halfway into the main city of Amsterdam. Located in a quaint residential area full of coffee shops, places to brunch and niche boutiques and shops, Café Koosje has proven to attract a diverse array of customers from all throughout the neighbouring areas.

Featuring a lovely terrace, Café Koosje has become the place for people to see and be seen in this stylish neighbourhood. It prides itself in celebrity customers from TV shows popular in the area and the regular customer base is well dressed and comes with an appetite.

The café’s interior features a standard oak bar, which matches the wood of the walls and doorways. From here the café expands further back with traditional Netherlands artwork and flyers for events in the arts in the area. It is without a doubt the place to be for the artistic and creative soul.

Starting out as spontaneous culinary venture in 2001, it did not take long for Café Koosje to earn her place as a neighbourhood favourite among both the chic young and old crowds. With vast menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a fully stocked bar, there is not much that Café Koosje leaves its customers wanting for. It provides simple menu options but transforms them into masterpieces that will make your mouth water for weeks after in its traditional Dutch kitchen.

As I mentioned, the menu did not feature any particularly fancy dishes. There for brunch, I was drawn to the Warm Goat Cheese Sandwich with Spinach, Walnut Pesto and Honey as well as the Traditional Dutch Pancake. It was only a natural reaction for me to order both.

Following the old motto, my first bite of food was the dessert pancake topped with homemade crème fraiche. Oh boy. Simple menu options mean nothing when the ingredients they are made from are locally sourced and made to perfection. This “Traditional Dutch Pancake” was so much more than a thinned out pancake or the “XXL” crepe I was expecting to appear in front of me. The cinnamon sweetness of the dough simply leapt off the plate into my mouth forkful after forkful. Compared to the regular sweet crepe dough I had tried in Paris and made in my own kitchen, this dough had a kick that put it on another level entirely. And, of course, you can never go wrong with a few dollops of fresh whipped cream.

After devouring the pancake, I still had more than enough of an appetite to try the Warm Goat Cheese Sandwich. The bread was incredibly thick whole grain with seeds and dried berries and made the sandwich seem quite large. After one bite it was clear that the Dutch understood my insatiable appetite for delicious healthy food. The warm goat cheese danced with the walnut pesto on a bed of spinach in my mouth. The flavour that made this dish more than just a sandwich was the mixture of the warm goat cheese and the walnut. It added just the right amount of sweet to the savoury, and boy do I wish I could go back every week.

Enjoy & Stay Classy! xx

Paris, France Day #4

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February 14th seems ages ago now… but that just goes to show that I have been having so much fun that I’ve become about a month behind on my travel posts… *yikes*. Tis the season for final papers and coursework that’s worth 60% of my grade to be completed in a span of two weeks, before my family comes to visit (YAY) and I start traveling a bit more before my wonderful European adventures comes to its end.

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My fourth and last day in Paris was truly a whirlwind of everything wonderful in life wrapped up in sweet crepe dough and presented on a platter full of everything that makes my soul happy.

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Regrettably we opted to not climb (the 300+ steps) to the top of the Arc because we were exhausted and as the rain had finally cleared up that morning and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to go for a walk sans umbrellas.

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Across what appeared to be a strange intersection with no crosswalk – we eventually realized the crosswalk was underground, go figure – was the Champs-Élysée which I was excited to walk down. High-end boutique after boutique the street stretched on and reminded me of 5th Ave.

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We stopped in Longchamp where I purchased some gifts and in the original Ladurée shop, which made me nostalgic for Gossip Girl (it featured the first product placement for Ladurée and that’s what it made it so popular! Of course Blair would have these delightful macaroons flown out to her from Paris!) and Ben bought me a box of the world’s best macaroons! Happy Valentine’s Day to me! Note: They were consumed so quickly that I did not even have a chance to take some pictures. One of my favorites though was the bright blue “Marie Antoinette.”

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Next we went to the Rodin Museum, something that I had been recommended to visit by multiple people, most adamantly my mother. I had already been to the museum in Philly but to see his work in Paris was a whole different story. The museum was half outside in the gardens, which was overlooked by the Tour Eiffel and Les Invalides, the building in which Napoleon is buried and half inside the museum gallery.

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I can only imagine how beautiful this must be in the spring and summer when the flowers and trees have blossomed and bloomed but unfortunately visiting in the middle of February on a grey and rainy day did not provide for the most ideal experience.

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Of course, Ben and I could not have passed up the opportunity to visit the Love Locks Bridge on the Seine during this trip, and we saved it for our last day, which also happened to be Valentine’s Day. There was something so satisfying and final about clamping the lock down on the bridge and then throwing the key into the River! It is such a cool symbolic experience (and tourist trap) but it also adds another physical portrayal of how romantic the city’s essence truly is. These locks are not just on this specific bridge, but also on the bridges, benches, railings and fences all throughout the city. There is something so special about all of the friends and lovers taking part in this tradition that it adds another element to the Parisian energy.

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Our last Parisian dinner was incredibly French and delicious. We had a reservation at the Vagenende Brasserie, a traditional French brasserie with an entirely stunning interior. The restaurant was filled with mirrors, chandeliers, gold leaf paint, dainty artwork, teal tiling and mosaics and an old world luxurious atmosphere.

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The menu was rich with options and while deciding we ordered a meat and cheese platter and champagne. Mmmm.

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The dinner was wonderful and we were surrounded by happy French couples and very French and comedic waiters. We shared a dessert made of a light fluffy crème and some sort of amazing caramel sauce and another glass of champagne before making our way to a nearby rooftop.

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We had known all along that we had access to this roof, yet for some reason did not take advantage of it until our last night. Our last bottle of French wine in hand we went up the elevator to find that we had the entire rooftop to ourselves.

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Granted, it was a chilly night, but the view was absolutely astonishing. We were able to see the Notre Dame, Eiffel Tour, Sacre Coeur, Ferris Wheel next to the Tulleries, Les Invalides… it was so wonderful. We figured out how to turn on the heat lamps at the table we were at and reflected on our trip while enjoying the view and the wine.

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It was from the roof that I was able to see the last Eiffel Tour hourly nighttime light show and I experienced the purest joy that I had felt in a long time.

Stay Classy! xx

Paris, France Day #3

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Waking up a bit later than usual, Ben and I were both still fighting off some sort of bug, (I guess that’s the price you pay to travel through airports so frequently) Ben and I kicked off our third day in Paris with, you guessed it, crêpes. We went back to our favorite little stand at the end of our block and then continued on our way to (finally!) enter the stunning Cathedral Notre Dame.

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The meticulous detail that was put into architecture centuries ago is one of my favorite parts about visiting Europe. The gothic set up of Notre Dame, which is entirely surrounded by Biblical figures, wall jambs and flying buttresses, is contrasted by the classic beauty of the stained glass windows inside the church. These are much less overwhelming yet equally as beautiful to look at as one’s eye is trained to move all the way up the oval high ceilings taking in the immensity of the entire structure. The overall affect was incredible and a different style from the cathedrals I had seen on my trips to Italy.

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After making our rounds through Notre Dame we trekked back out into the rain to the crypts beneath the Cathedral. The exhibit was a bit underwhelming – it was a lot smaller than I was expecting and featured just a few stones from ancient times, no artifacts or skeletons etc. It did however include maps that depicted what this area of France, 1st Arrondissement, used to look like before industrialization, which was interesting to think just how much has changed throughout the centuries.

Our next stop was Sacre Coeur, but first we decided to fill our bellies with *delicious* baguettes and chocolate éclairs – sounds like a balanced lunch to me! The baguette was deliciously fresh and made me wonder why we hadn’t been snacking on them since the moment we arrived in Paris. The Pâtisserie we went to actually won the “Best Baguette Contest” in Paris last year.

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Sacre Coeur could be seen from the rooftops of our area, the 1st Arrondissement and very center of the city, as a large cathedral nestled in the mountains. We took the Metro for about 45 minutes and then began an uphill walk to a set of incredibly steep stairs. (More stairs than it takes to get up to my flat I’m afraid!) At least by this point it had stopped raining and by the time we reached the top the clouds had started to clear.

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Overwhelmed by the in-your-face beauty of Sacre Coeur, as well as the stunning view overlooking the city we decided to take advantage of the clearing sky and take a peek at the landmarks we could see from high up. (Of course, the entire time there were people selling selfie sticks yelling “2 Euro selfie! In various accents.” Europe has definitely changed a bit since I was last here…) The view was gorgeous though and reminded me a bit of Florence.

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We then entered the Cathedral, which was dizzying with its high vaulted ceilings and brilliant stained glass windows. The Cathedral was huge! I paused to look in the gift shop and bought a beautiful bracelet with navy and light blue crystal beads and a gold cross pendant. (Unfortunately said bracelet has since lost the cross pendant which makes me pretty sad – BUT it’s just another reason to go back to Paris ASAP, am I right?)

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This would usually be the time where Ben and I would spoil ourselves with an afternoon nap or break from exploring, but because we woke up a bit later this day we decided to power through and head to the Musée de l’Orangerie to see some of Monet’s lovely water lilies.

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It was particularly astonishing to see the way the museum was curated. Specifically Monet’s Nymphéas was stunning to see displayed in the two oval rooms curved along the walls. I had seen some of his water lilies paintings (he made over 250 paintings of water lilies modeled after those his garden) at museums in the U.S. but these rooms were particularly special because the paintings were so cohesive and full of light and movement.

12832328_717695464933578_7895849432181468393_nIt was a bit past (second) lunch time by the time we were done viewing Monet’s masterpieces at l’Orangerie and we decided it would be best to relax and snack a bit before going out to dinner later. We picked up a baguette, brie and wine on our way back from the museum and dug into it ravenously. Once our initial hunger began to subside we realized just how stinky the cheese we had purchased actually was… not really my thing, I discovered, after waking up from my nap from the brie smell that was still wafting around the room. However – the wine and baguette were amazing – is it even possible to go wrong with freshly baked bread and a bottle of French wine?

Fortunately, dinner was much more filling and full of delicious Italian pasta. (Second time we ate Italian food in France… but so worth it and so desperately needed! If anyone knows of good Italian restaurants to go to in London let me know because I’m struggling without it!) The waitresses and waiters spoke solely in fast French, which made me so excited that I was able to keep up with them and then translate what they were saying to Ben! Our main waitress spoke in beautifully fluent Italian to other customers as well, so when speaking back to her I was able to get my point across using my two favorite romance languages. She asked me if I was from Italy (Yay! My accent is improving!) and was surprised to see that we were both from New York and just attending school abroad (win!).

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Happy and full, we started for our last stop of the night, a hipster bar recommended by my Europe guidebook catered to university students. The bar “L’Art Brut” (Ugly Art) on 78 rue Quincampoix, was super tiny and crowded. Not one seat or table was empty so we made ourselves squeeze through the crowd to a small spot at the edge of the bar. Ben remarked that he could see how the first sparks of ideas for the French Revolution could have started up in a small niche spot like this one – and I one hundred percent agreed.

The crowd that the bar drew was not your typical belligerent Saturday night crew. It was entirely clear that the room was full of intellectuals based on the language and candor that was put on tipsy display at the tables surrounding us. Just about everyone there knew each other. The walls were full of you guessed it, ugly art. Yet they did something unique to the atmosphere combined with the totally narrow space and folky tunes. We stayed for a few drinks (their organic wine was poured into a small yet potent glass, and I swore I could taste the grapes) and then headed back, ready for a good night’s sleep. But, of course, not without sharing a late night nutella e banane crêpe.

Stay Classy! xx

Paris, France Day #2 (Pt.2)

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Actually, in a few hours it was time for us to head down to the pier for a boat cruise with crêpes and champagne. (Does life get any better than this !?) The Eiffel Tour was most definitely looking down on us in approval. This was so much fun and we learned a lot about the beautiful sights we were passing from our tour guide.

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We had planned the Seine cruise to happen around the time of sunset, yet halfway through the tour it was still bright and sunny and I started to wonder if we would get to see the city at night from the water after all.

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Luckily, this worry was simply due to my own impatience and desire for things to go exactly as planned because it soon became dusky, and as we pulled into the dock we could see the Eiffel Tour putting on a brilliant shimmery glittery light show… an adorable energy that made me so incredibly happy and in love with the city !

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We exited the boat, our bellies full of crêpes and champagne, and headed straight for the beautiful lit up Tour ahead of us. Being so close to the Eiffel Tour was an incredibly surreal experience for me. It was something that I’d kept figurines of since I was little and associated with faraway magic.

Even though it sounds a bit cliché, having the chance to see it in person – and its wonderful light show! – was kind of a life changing experience for me. It made the world seem so much smaller, in a good way, and more reachable. Here I was standing next to something that had seemed so distant and out of grasp. It was just one of those moments that reminded me how amazing travel is for our minds and souls. It really expands the boundaries and limits that we place on ourselves and on a personal level, it pretty much signaled a switch in my mindset about some of the things I have been struggling with the past few months. We all have this beautiful vast world to live in and we can either make the most of it and be happy or miss out on the wonderful experiences that are within our ever-reaching grasps. In the words of DVF, “You carry the passport to your own happiness.”

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After taking (not nearly enough) photos with the Eiffel Tour, Ben and I continued on our way in search of dinner. As is to be expected, all of the restaurants and cafés in the area were astronomically priced, so we walked further into a more residential area of the city. We stumbled upon an adorable looking Italian place, L’Atelier 197 on Rue de Grenelle and had the most delicious spaghetti carbonara and a half bottle of French wine. The meal was so good that we debated making a reservation for the following evening, Valentine’s Day, but then realized that we had yet to eat at a French Brasserie and really shouldn’t eat at the same place more than once when traveling (a rule we unfortunately broke when in Spain, but I digress…).

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Our next stop for the night was back to where we started our day! On the Paris museum pass booklet we purchased at the Musee d’Orsay we saw the option to do certain museums at night, one of which was the Louvre ! This was a fantastic option because once we got back to the Louvre Palace we barely even saw a line to get in. We waited 5 minutes, showed our pass and entered the Louvre as easy as that.

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Our first stop was, of course, the Mona Lisa. By the time we arrived the crowd had dwindled down and we were able to stand front and center… again incredible ! It was innately clear why it is such a masterpiece, and yes, she is always watching you no matter where you stand… creepy. We then spent the rest of our time admiring the works of Italian and French artists until the museum closed for the night. I also fell in love with the details of the ceilings in what used to be the Louvre Palace dining hall.

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Stay Classy! xx

Oslo, Norway Day #2

12743710_709822599054198_2025202704224280183_n            I come from a family where vacation is basically a synonym for going somewhere warm, beautiful and ideally full of beaches. If you asked me a list of places I was going to travel before I came abroad, Oslo would definitely not have been on it. I cannot ski or snowboard and can barely ice skate due to a lack of good balance. Yet somehow I ended up in the World’s Winter Capital and adorable (yet freezing) ski town as my first trip outside London.

12733399_709822302387561_5591874371690853926_nDay 2 in Oslo definitely did not go as planned, in any sense. Running on just a few hours of sleep, my boyfriend and I and our German hostel roommate were awakened from a fire alarm at 3a.m. The alarm was blaring and rang for a good ten minutes. We groggily got up, met, and tried to communicate with the German decked out in Star Trek pj’s, before deciding to follow the rest of our hostel hallway back out into the freezing snowy and slushy outdoors. Fortunately as we were getting our coats on the alarm shut off and we were able to go back to bed.

12717798_709822655720859_1085279069150701506_nThree hours later our own alarm went off, super early because I was set on waking up to see Karl Johans Gate (the main street of Oslo) before it became crowded and also to see the gorgeous hot pink sunrise that I had been told occurred just the day before. Sadly, it was rainy and cloudy this morning, so apart from a few shafts of yellow light peeking through the clouds, we saw nothing. However I still think it was worth it to get out of bed and make the most of our last day in Norway! It was great to see more untouched snow on the main street and we walked to an open café for breakfast and much needed caffeine.

12733654_709822372387554_7624111714836690136_nWe started wandering around the area, passing by the National Theater, National Gallery, and the library. It wasn’t long before I realized that the front of my right boot had started to rip and snow kept getting in and sloshing around my toes – making me worried about frost bite! It was still too early for the shops to be open, so we wandered towards the pier (me walking solely on my heels) where we were supposed to hop on the 10:30 am Fjord Sightseeing Cruise! The stores opened at 10 a.m., so after warming up in an adorable coffee shop I purchased some cute wool socks with moose and the Norwegian flag on them, put my now-happy feet in them, and then put a plastic bag over my foot to avoid more water getting in (genius idea, Ben)!

12715369_709823889054069_8191519040008763355_nSure our morning was less than ideal, but isn’t that one of the important things about traveling? Rolling with the punches and making the most out of things? The rest of the day was entirely worth it. We walked onto this (open-aired!!) wooden ship and sat down at a picnic table (they put fur down for us to sit on!). We soon grabbed blankets and hot drinks because the wind chill was unbearable as we got further out into the water and closer to the Arctic border – definitely the coldest I’ve ever been!

12741943_709822329054225_7973024322935250899_nThe scenery was entirely stunning – like nothing I had ever seen before! The fjord is made of of dozens of tiny islands with one or two houses on them, and in the summer must look something like Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard (except with a fjord). After an hour and a half on the cruise, we got off at a small island that houses all of the famous Nordic museums. Budgeting our time, we first went into the Fram Museet (hehe) where we learned about how awesome Norwegian explorers were at Arctic exploration and we got to actually walk through the Fram, the ship that they sailed on and lived in on explorations to the Arctic and Antarctic.

12705451_709822452387546_6960435616968812357_nNext we stopped at the Kon Tiki Museum about the explorations of Thor Heyerdahl – which was so cool that we now want to read his book! And then, of course, it wouldn’t have been a trip to Norway without visiting the Viking Ship Museet – where the only four remaining Viking ships are housed!

12742809_709822475720877_2568957190454053612_nThis was incredibly cool to see, as well as the meticulous detail that was put into the artifacts found with the ships.

12745708_709822502387541_5109529676804791048_nAt the Viking Museet, while I was examining the gorgeous gold and gemstone decorated Viking jewelry I overheard a very intelligent American man explaining to his friends that we have the Vikings to thank for part of the English language. Apparently on Viking conquests they were extremely lazy with learning how to speak to others, and thus would only conjugate one verb per sentence… and it stuck!

12742493_709822575720867_2944871743379797720_nAfter navigating the Norwegian bus system we made our way back to the dock and rode the boat back to the mainland.

12742531_709822419054216_2053118027057557472_nStarving, we ate at a delicious restaurant overlooking the water (we ate outside, with heat lamps and blankets!) and then rushed over to the Munch Museet to see some of Norwegian artist Edvund Munch’s works, including The Scream. The museum had closed just ten minutes before we made it there… I guess there’s always something left to come back to!

12729235_709822632387528_8402625384272494840_nThat night we went back to the Vulcan district to try our luck at the Norwegian bar and club scene. The route that we took led us to a huge, steep hill, which we soon found to be covered in ice. I stopped halfway through, realizing that this was probably where I would end up breaking my leg or sliding into the river below. Ben continued slowly on his own, and ended up sliding down the last bit until he hit into the barrier separating him from the river. Frightening! Then, of course, a Norwegian woman wearing heels laughed at us as she briskly made her way down the hill…

After affirming my fear of heights, and cold water (which comes from the amount of freezing showers I have to take in my London flat), and falling, it started raining again as we got in line for the club. We waited half an hour, witnessed an intense catfight, and made friends with a group of Norwegian girls before we got the bouncer and got turned away… because we weren’t 23. Apparently the Norwegian law is that you must be 18 to drink beer and wine, 21 to drink hard liquor, and 23 to go clubbing. Yeah, I don’t understand the reasoning behind the last part of this either.

Regardless, our flight back to London was in just a few hours that this point, and we decided that Norwegian nightlife just wasn’t meant for us.

12687830_709822532387538_1182298167042379826_nDespite our struggles on this trip, it was definitely a fantastic experience and I was able to see somewhere I had never even dreamed I would get to go! We definitely learned a lot about each other and ourselves, especially as travelers, and this was a great test run, because we were tackling Paris next!

Stay Classy (&Warm) ! xx