Top 10 Reasons to Visit London in Summer:

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London is undeniably a great destination always. An amazing city that will please even those hard-to-please travelers. But if given a choice, mine will be to visit during summer. In the northern hemisphere some cities become too hot for pleasurable walk, but not London. Plus the fact that it’s longer days allow the visitor more time to enjoy it.

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  1. Wimbledon: Even if you are not a tennis fan, the energy of the city during the tournament is special. Londoners become friendlier with visitors the city feels more welcoming. Restaurants, hotels and bars, find their decor inspiration in the tournament . Pubs are crowded with people that share a beer while watching the daily matches. Around town streets and parks display gigantic screens. Strangers riding the tube share their opinions about the latest developments.IMG_7008IMG_7026_2
  2. Roof Top Bars: I have a particular affection for them, don’t know why. Whenever I visit a new city try to explore a few. In London the fact that at 11pm at night in summer the sun still shines, makes it even more appealing. The views of the city from up there are beautiful and allow you to see it from a different perspective. A calmer one. My favorite roof top bars in London are: “Radio Bar” at the ME Hotel, “Aqua Spirits”, “The Roof Gardens”, “Boundary” y  “The Lost Format Society”.
  3. The Hampton Court Flower Festival: The biggest floral exposition of the world: 50 gardens exhibit here including the marvelous water gardens. One of my favorite ones is the tent dedicated to roses, as well as visiting the innovators in conceptual gardening.
  4. Picnics : English love their picnics indeed. As soon as the weather is nice they run for their lifes to one of the many parks, with baskets full of goodies in hand. Places like “Harrods” and “Fortnum and Mason” have a wide variety of them ready for purchase and delivery. Some hotels also offer the picnic basket as part of their services. In my opinion the best parks for a picnic are: Primrose Hill Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park.IMG_0372Processed with VSCO with s3 preset
  5. Sales: June and july are the best time for bargains in Europe. It’s true that some stores can be too crowded at times but I think the wait is worth it, reductions can go as far as 70% off. Even the designer brands that traditionaly don’t offer discounts, do it in summer.IMG_0492
  6. Open Air Theater: What about watching Shakespeare under the light of the moon? In summer you can, many places offer open air theater, Regent Park is probably the most famous, but there are other venues like St Pauls Church in Covent Garden and The Globe Playhouse .
  7. Dinner with a View: Foggy London can’t always offer this. But summer is your best bet. The restaurants that I would recommend are: “Fenchurch at Sky Garden”, “Duck And Waffles” and “Serpentine Bar and Kitchen”
  8. Street Markets: If you have read me before you know I “have a thing” for markets. In London there are many and the weather in summer is perfect for visiting them. One of the most alluring ones for me is the Portobello Road Market, walking it is a pleasure and make sure you keep your eyes opened for The Humming Bird Bakery http://www.thehummingbirdbakery.com that offers the best chocolate cake in London.IMG_0503
  9. Music Festivals: Can’t expect less from the birth land of The Beatles, Adele, Amy Whinehouse and Coldplay. The amount and variety of them is huge, from the famous Festival at Sommerset House to the Eastern Electrics Festival,  ideal for the electronic music fanatics.
  10.  Sundance Film Festival: Since 2012 this wonderful festival that takes place on January in USA comes to London in June, which allows the cinema fans from the other side of the ocean to enjoy it.IMG_0359

Galapagos Islands in a few words.

When we arrived, I apologyzed. Couldn’t find the right words to describe the place nor my feelings about it. Back home, I must confess that the whole week I have been trying, looking up for new words on the dictionary, watching over and over pictures and videos of the trip – which has been counterproductive because with each image I am left speechless again. So I have decided to write only the few thoughts that coherently I can articulate, and let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

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Galapagos is not a place, is a time space. You arrive by plane or ship from continental Ecuador, but seems like you’ve traveled in a time machine to a parallel universe. To a place where for some reason time doesn’t goes by at the same pace. Or perhaps hours and days go by, but not years? I am thinking that maybe in Lewis Carroll’s world or at a Kubric’s movie some of this makes sense.

Nirvana,  that stage of complete bliss and enlightenment, that some religions have as the ultimate state to achieve, is the word that comes to mind. I felt like that, as if every cell of my body was full of oxygen and nutrients. As if everything was perfect, lacking nothing. Felt like a millionaire of life.

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Galapago’s animals seem like Saint Francis of Assisi trained them. They don’t fear humans or vice versa. Sharks and penguins swim close, with the confidence that gives them the fact of have never been harmed. Sea lions take naps on the pier or on boats, while black iguanas lay back in the sun careless. Once in a while, a stingray flies out a bit just to get noticed.

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Nature looks intact, unchanged from what it probably looked like for thousand of years.

 

Humans that inhabit there (very limited numbers) seem to be fully aware of their blessings and take good care of the islands. Visitors understand it very soon  too.Processed with VSCO with s3 preset

In case you have plans to go, here is a list of hotels and restaurants that I love:

Best Hotels

www.finchbayhotel.com

www.angermeyer-waterfront-inn.com

www.pikaialodge.com

http://www.royalpalmgalapagos.com

Best eats:

La Garrapata: Restaurant and bar

Il Giardino: Restaurant and Gelateria

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Angermeyer Cafe:  The food is delicious, cocktails are great too; but the view is priceless. Great place to watch the sunset.

I’m Galapagos’s obsessed now. Since I left, I only want to go back.

 

Buenos Aires Guide: Best Places to Eat

by: Maria Jose Noboa (cookie connoisseur)

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Buenos Aires is one of those cities that you should visit more than once, because there are always new things to discover and experience. Even though is very famous for the quality of it’s meats, and the “asados” are the stars of the show, this city offers a wide variety of restaurants of local an international cuisine.

Buenos Aires from it’s beginnings a has received a wide variety of immigrants specially from Europe, which has definitely influenced the restaurant scene.

 

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If you have visited Buenos Aires already, you know this city never sleeps. There is always something going on no matter the time of the day or the day of the week. There are  always lots of people on the streets, forming lines outside of night clubs, restaurants and bars are opened early and closed late. Huge libraries you can get lost on, amazing museums and cultural activities, all year long, avenues filled with people, as well as theaters and cinemas. Parks, concerts every week and of course dogs, and more dogs everywhere. Dog walking is an institution here.

This unstoppable and permanent activity is also seen at the restaurant scene, bars, cafeterias, bakeries, there is one in each corner.

Here is a list of places that I highly recommend for you.  All of them visited during my last visit to this amazing city.

Breakfast/Brunch in Buenos Aires:

  • Confiterías La Argentina: “Facturas” (some sort of croissant) filled with butter cream, dulce de leche, jam. Enjoy them with coffee or tea (Cabildo 1191, Belgrano)
  • Retamas Pâtisserie: Very cozzy place also great to enjoy plain or dulce de leche filled croissants (Arcos 1717, Belgrano)
  • Tea Connection: Delicious food and beverages, made with fresh and prganic ingredients. Wide variety of teas to enjoy here or to go. My favorite dish was the Salmon Bagel. (Av. Federico Lacroze 2233, Belgrano)
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  • Ninina Bakery: This was my favorite place this time visiting Buenos Aires.  The menu offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea and dinner.  Family recipes made out of lots of fresh ingredients. The place is beautifully decorated, has an open kitchen, a display filled with dreamy desserts. The most famous cake is called Lola Mora, and has almonds, chocolate ganache and raspberries. Not to be missed!  (Gorriti 4738, Palermo)
  • Oui Oui: Great open space for breakfast or brunch. French menu with specialties like Croque Madame, wafles and eggs benedict.  (Nicaragua 6068, Palermo)Processed with VSCO with c2 preset
  • LAB: For the coffee aficionado, the best coffee in town, but the cookies are to die for: Chocolate Chip or White Chocolate and Raspeberries. The also offer barista classes there.(Humboldt 1542, Palermo)
  • Mooi: By chef Jessica Lekerman and very trendy this days.  You can have their pastries to go too. (Av. Libertador 3883. Paseo de la Infanta Local 11, Palermo)Hora del Té en Buenos Aires:
  •  Alvear Palace Hotel:  A real luxurious experience  is the afternoon Tea del Alvear Palace es The dessert menu is huge. Unlimited prosseco.  Delicious sandwiches. It’s all served at “L’Orangerie”  room.  (Ayacucho y la Avenida Alvear, Recoleta)Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

    Lunch/Diner in Buenos Aires:

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    La Cabrera: Extraordinary argentinean grill. Reservations suggested(Cabrera 5099, Palermo)

  • Fukuro Noodle Bar: Steamed Dumplings and Buns, Ramen and Beer. Dishes are meant to be shared.  For dessert try the popsicles.  (Costa Rica 5514, Palermo) (Cash only)

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The Authentic Miami Guide

Aventura / Sunny Isles / North Miami Beach / Bal Harbour:

 Where to shop:

  • Aventura Mall: Complete shopping center with Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdales as anchors and a wide variety of shops in between.
  • Bal Harbour : Beautiful shopping center, with high end designers stores and great restaurants. Make sure you check The Webster , Santa Maria Novella and Books and Books.
  • Epicure: Great gourmet market.www.epicuremarket.com
  • Matrioshka Market: Since Sunny Isles is home for a big Russian Community, this market provides all sorts of imported Russian specialties. From vodka and caviar to candy.

Things to do:

  • Beach activities: For me, the best beaches in Miami are actually in Sunny Isles. Turquoise water and white sand. You can rent equipment for paddle board and kite surfing. Play beach volleyball. Rent a bike. Or just enjoy a cocktail and relax.
  • Kite park at Haulover Park: One of my favorite places in this area. You don’t need anything to come, the Kite Shop has everything.
  • Osceola National Park: Right in the middle of the City of Aventura this nature’s lover paradise. Picnic area, kayak, mountain bikes for rental, private beach, fly fishing. You can spend a whole day here.
  • Rent a Boat: For fishing or just for fun. www.sailairborn.com

Places to Eat:

  • Miami Juice: Farm to table, organic food. Wide variety of salads, entrees and juices. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Carpaccio : Italian in Bal Harbor. Can’t go wrong here, everything on the menu is perfect.www.carpacciobalharbour.com
  • Novecento: Meat lovers are always happy at this place, but their salads and grilled salmon are delicious too. For dessert: Dulce de Leche filled crepes.
  • La Estancia Argentina: Very casual argentinian market with the most delicious empanadas, milanesas, alfajores, to enjoy there or to go.www.laestanciaweb.com
  • Food Trucks Tuesday: At Haulover parking lot every tuesday from 5 to 10pm a Food Truck party takes place.
  • Laduree: A cart with all the flavors of the french macarons now at Bal Harbour
  • Makoto: Japanese in Bal Harbour. My favorite place for sushi in Miami. Try the Robata Grilled vegetables. www.makoto-restaurant.com

 

Miami Beach/ South Beach

 Where to Shop:

Things to Do:

  • New World Center and Symphony Park: The Center was Designed by non other than Frank Ghery. The new adjacent 2.5 acre park named Miami Beach SoundScape allows a great audience to watch the concert live in a 7000 sq foot wall, with outstanding sound quality – according to some the best outdoor amplification in the world .
  • Stroll around and enjoy the craziness of South Beach: Always entertaining and free of charge. There are also City Bikes available there.
  • Colony Theater Miami Beach: Check their page for events.
  • The Basement at the Edition Hotel:   Literally installed in the basement of the hotel, opens everyday from 5 pm till 12, visit the place for bowling or ice skating and finish the night upstairs at The Matador Bar.
  • Miami Beach Convention Center: Check their page for upcomming events

 

Places to Eat:

 

  • Nobu: Of course you have to top the list with Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s restaurant. Inside the Shore Club Hotel. Reservations recommended . www.noburestaurants.com
  • Drunken Dragon: A little hole in the wall, with delicious food. Not to be missed!
  • Prime 112: Always full, always noisy, always extraordinary. www.prime112.com
  • Joe’s Stone Crab: A classic in Miami. The must order are: Stone Crab Legs and Keylime Pie.www.joesstonecrab.com
  • Hakkasan: Modern Chinese restaurant inside the famous Fountain Bleu. www.hakkasan.com/miami
  • Ice Box Café: Great food and the best Chocolate Cake in Miami.
  • Yardbird Southern Table: Great Seafood and Pecan Pie. But if you are craving Fried Chicken , this is the place. www.runchickenrun.com

 

Night Life:

  • The Raleigh
  • Cecconis: www.cecconismiamibeach.com
  • The Rose Bar: At Delano Hotel.
  • Purdy Lounge
  • Arkadia
  • LIV: Inside the Fountainebleu Hotel.

 

Coral Gables, Coconut Grove (and Little Habanna):

 

Where to shop:

  • Violeta’s: Home design and accents. In general everything is pretty here. www.violetashomedesign.com
  • Peace and Love World: Great quality and beautiful design clothing line by a Miami designer.
  • Village of Merrick Park: Open Air Mall with Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom as well as small boutiques. 

Things to Do:

  • Walk around Miracle Mile coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars.
  • Biltmore Hotel: Iconic hotel in the middle of Coral Gables.
  • Coral Gables Art Cinema: www.gablescinema.com
  • Vizcaya Museum and Gardens: Was constructed by James Deering in 1916, to resemble Lake Como Mansions. The fountains, the pool, the rose garden make you feel in Northern Italy for sure. Don’t miss the furniture from the 16th century that decorates it. www.vizcayamuseum.org
  • Domino Park in Little Habana: This place is so unique I always recommend people to visit it once. The energy of the place is very special and the characters you will find there are full of stories. Mostly cuban, playing domino like their lives depended on it, talking about “Fidel” is of course a must. They are very friendly and chatty. If you get hungry there is a authentic cuban place called: El Pub.
  • The Tower Theater also in Little Habana: Offers a wide variety of independent films. www.towertheatermiami.com

 

 

Places to Eat:

 

  • Patagonias:  Casual place. Easy argentinian menú. Everything is great quality and fastly served.
  • Eating House: Capitan Crunch Pancakes, Heirloom Tomatoes Salad, Chicken and Waffles…. You get the idea. This place is a must when visiting Miami.www.eatinghousemiami.com
  • Bread + Butter: Self defined as Cuban Gastro Pub. Meat lovers will rejoice here with the chorizo burger with kimchi and a side of  Sriracha fries.  www.breadandbuttercounter.com

 

 

Downtown/Brickell

 

Where to Shop:

Village of Mary Brickell: Open air shopping center.

Things to Do:

  • American Airlines Arena: Go watch a Miami Heat’s Basketball game, and enjoy the food offer around the stadium, my personal favorites are the Gyros.  For other events check their page. www.AAarena.com
  • PAMM: Go for the art inside the museum and the architecture of the building. Read a book at one of the hammocks outside the terrace, while you enjoy the swinging gardens and the views. www.miamiartmuseum.org
  • Bayfront Park: All sorts of activities going on here always, from free yoga lessons to circus acrobatics at the trapeze school.
  • Adriane Arsht Center: Broadway Musicals, Ballet, Concerts, there is always something going on here.www.arshtcenter.com

 

Places to Eat:

  • Trulucks: Delicious seafood. Best carrot cake I have ever tasted, still have dreams about it.
  • CVI. CHE 105: Peruvian cuisine.  www.ceviche105.com
  • Azul: New American cuisine restaurant inside The Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Great seafood dishes and Raw bar.
  • Cipriani: The famous Venetian restaurant is also in Miami and doesn’t need an introduction. Just the fact that Giuseppe Cipriani in 1948 invented the Bellini’s is more than enough.  www.cipriani.com

 

Design District/Wynwood

Where to shop:

  • Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Cartier, Hublot, all the big names are here, so could be a good workout for your wallet.
  • Wynwood Letters: For all of us who enjoy paper in all its shapes and forms, this place is heaven. They offer calligraphy courses too. www.wynwoodletterpress.com
  • Jonathan Adler: www.jalanmiami.com

Things to Do:

Places to Eat:

  • Gigi’s: Asian inspired food. Cool place to eat. Industrial decor. Opens late, so is frequently visited by a crowd of party goers afterwards. www.giginow.com
  • Michael’s Genuine: One of my favorite restaurants in Miami, by Chef Michael Schwartz. www.michaelsgenuine.com
  • Zak The Baker: His baking goods has everybody raving about it. Healthy menu with fresh ingredients. www.zakthebaker.com
  • Mandolin Aegean Bistro: Just thinking about this place makes me hungry. Farm to Table concept, the decor transports you automatically to a Greek Island. www.mandolinmiami.com
  • SugarCane Raw Bar Grill:  The decor suggests that you have traveled back in time to a Caribbean Island and Ernest Hemingway is about to show up.  The food is presented in small dishes and meant to be shared. www.sugarcanerawbargrill.com
  • Wynwood Kitchen and Bar: www.wynwoodkitchenandbar.com
  • Try the best Pies in Miami at Fireman Derek’s (2818 N.Miami Ave. Miami Fl )

 

 

Kendall and South Miami:

 

Where to Shop:

  • Capretto: Great place to find “it” things. Lots of designers shoes and bags.www.caprettoshoes.com
  • Dadeland Mall: Big mall with Saks, Nordstrom and Macy’s as anchors. If you are a fan of big portions there is a Cheese Cake Factory here. The Nordstrom Bistro is also a great option for lunch.

Things to do:

  • Drive in Cinema: Blue Starlite, is the only open cinema in Miami. www.miamiurbandrivein.com
  • Knaus Berry Farm: Pick your own strawberrys, enjoy a fresh fruit smoothy, spend half a day here, the trip is totally worth it.www.knausberryform.com

Where to Eat:

  • Shibui Japanese
  • PF Chang  www.pfchangs.com
  • Bobby’s Burger Place: inside Dadeland Mall.

Other Suggestions:

Best Hotels:

Best Spa:

Best Hair Salon:

Best Yoga:

Best Family Fun Place:

  • Sky Zone Miami

 

The Authentic Miami.

I don’t think Ms. Tuttle imagined what Miami would turn up to be, neither Mr Henri Flager, when after a lot of insistence accepted to build the train rails from St Augustine down until where Downtown Miami is today.

Those who love her will be forever grateful to both of them, particularly her: Julia Tuttle, known by some as “The Mother of Miami”, because in 1891, after she bought 640 acres by the Miami River, she set her mind to found there a city. She convinced Henri Flagler and together  built the Royal Palm Hotel, the first one in the city that would be latter named “Miami” because of the aborigines “MAYAIMI” that inhabited the area.

They probably didn’t guess either that in  1959, because of the Cuban Revolution the first 280000 exiled cubans would arrive an become a key factor in the growth of the city. Neither that in 1980 the Liberty City riots would take place there too, as well as the violent and sad era known as the “Cocaine War”.

Blissfully the violent Miami that some television shows portrayed, is gone. The new century –thank to great local government, tourism and the energy of the constant migrants that arrive filled with hope of a new better life – has brought with it, a new radiant Miami, and this radiance allures Russian, British, Chinese, Canadians, and of course lots of Latin-Americans that keep dreaming about her.

For her is easy to please everyone visiting, offers a wide variety of things to enjoy: shopping, restaurants, nightlife, sports, art galleries, museums and amazing beaches. Miami also hosts wonderful events like Art Basel, Sony Ericsson Tennis Tournament, Ultra Music Festival, Antique Fair Show and a very interesting Book Fair.

 

It’s personality is a result of the Melting Pot it has become. Around the streets you can hear Cubans, Argentinians and Ecuadorians, You can eat arepas just like in Caracas; empanadas like in Buenos Aires and for dessert the perfect “suspiro limeño” like in Lima. The variety of nationalities is also accentuated by the very different cultural background of its habitants: Political exiled, journalists, bankers, singers, writers, models and retired. Miami’s air feels full of stories and history, on the streets you perceive hope, and also melancholia and longing.

 

Miami is what it is,  because of all the ones that came and keep coming willing and hoping for a life in democracy, freedom, tolerance and opportunities, something that the city seems still offers after all this time.

The authentic Great Miami experience is only found visiting every neighborhood: From Aventura to Kendall, South Beach to Wynwood and always stopping in Coral Gables and Little Habana. In my next post you will find a list of interesting activities on each neighborhood.