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Barcelona + familia lo es todo

barcelona was the last stop of the family vacation. after which A and i were heading to amsterdam for a few days with friends.

if there’s one thing that has most been highlighted after this trip its’ – family is everything! they are all that matters at the end of the day, and maintaining a close relationship with them is so v important.

i’m so grateful to have got the opportunity to spend time with mine. in such a beautiful country. during our last meal together in barcelona, we discussed that we would try continuing this tradition, and make an attempt to go on a trip every 3-4 years. i hope we manage.

Barcelona

the first time i went to barcelona a few years a go, i didn’t come back to impressed. this time – my opinion changed.

we did a super fun treasure hunt on the streets of barcelona to celebrate my mum’s 60th. and i cannot recommend it enough. it was such a good way to see the city the way locals do. and also a fun adventure while at it.

another place i recommend is the la boqueria – it has such a good vibe to it. and the best produce and smoothies.

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MARBELLA!

what can i say about this place – well for starters, i came here 5 years ago with a few girl friends for a bachelorette and fell in love with how cute this place was. it has something for just everybody, and all ages.

we stayed in puerto banus then, and went for amazing day parties at the various beach clubs they have. this time it was different. but still as good.

we stayed in marbella – not puerto banus. at this v cute resort called happimag.  which is right on the promenade by the beach.

its was a 5 minute taxi ride to old town and a 10 minute taxi ride to puerto banus.

we spent 4 days here. and they were my absolute favorite. we beached, we swam, visited old town and its several cute restaurants, and we also visited puerto banus and my favorite bar, astral cocktail bar.

my sister joined us for this leg with my niece leheir. it was SO good spending time with her again. aren’t 3 year old’s the cutest? i just love listening to all the fun observant things they have to say.

we took tons of pictures. so i’ll leave you to them.

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^^ ahhhh best times! best times! ^^

Cordoba

to be honest, i spent half of our entire time in cordoba in a restaurant, sipping on sangria. it was 40 degrees that day! – but i did spend the other half walking around old town and taking in the sights and the sounds. and the food of course ;)

we walked past the cathedral and the citadel, the mosque, the alcazar, and the roman bridge of cordoba.

the old town is particularly cute, with its tiny streets and restaurants. and gelato shops.

but mostly i’ll remember cordoba for those hours we spent at the restaurant, with my favorite cousin, talking about life :)

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^^ cordoba and its attractions ^^

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^^ lunch with my favorites – also my favorite tapa has got to be potato ali oli. this may have got to do with me being partly vegetarian  ^^

 

Seville

About two years ago, when some of our family members were in mumbai, we made a random late night plan to travel to europe. All 25 of us, in 2019. we chose 2019 as it was a year of several celebrations within the family, some 50th birthdays, some 60th birthdays, and two 25 year wedding anniversaries.

honestly, a lot of us didn’t expect the plan to go through. it was wishful thinking to get all 25 of us anywhere – forget europe.

but some of us (my uncle in particular) were so persistent, that it all started falling in place one by one. we finalized a location – spain. mainly because most of us hadn’t been to spain before.

we were to start at seville, stay there for 2 days. then head to marbella (stopping at cordoba on the way) for 4 nights, and finally end our trip at barcelona.. We had also planned a day trip to granada from marbella.

Seville

i thought i’d seen the best of what europe had to offer. but every time i visit a new city in europe, the beauty and charm that the continent is capable of – continues to surprise me.

seville was one such city.. it is so very picturesque. almost every street or corner of old town could be from a postcard or one of those instagram travel handles.

we did the segway tour around the city and realised there’s just so much to see. also – sampled spanish cuisine, tapas, paella and sangria!

here’s a snapshot of our time there in pictures…

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^^ seville old town – how beautiful is this city? i wasn’t exaggerating one bit ^^

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^^ our beautiful hotel – las casa de la juderia with an amazing rooftop pool + bar^^

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^^ spanish breakfast ;) also seville is known for its oranges – do if you ever visit you must try their orange juice^^

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^^ la familia !! i have the very very best :) ^^

 

Galle Again..

there are some cities which when you visit you know you will find your way back to.

galle was one of them for me.

apart from being super convenient to travel {it is only a 2.5 hour flight to colombo from mumbai and then another beautiful 1.5 hour drive to galle}, it is also beautiful. it has  beaches (with beach bars), amazing restaurants and stunning affordable hotels.

i went in October 2018 with friends and stayed at a small villa. this time we went on an office offsite and stayed at Le Grand Galle. the best thing about the hotel by far was the view from just about everywhere in the hotel. it is right by the galle fort and the sea and has one of the best hotel views in all of Galle.

since my colleague and i helped our office plan the trip we ended up researching on all the best restaurants, hotels to go to and i feel like a semi galle travel expert now ;)

here’s our trip in pictures…..

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^^ our hotel. and the view from my room. one of my favorite moments was just hanging out at the pool with our drinks and playing ball^^

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^^ our first meal of the trip was at this beautiful hotel called Galle Fort Hotel. which is inside the Galle fort. we all had three course meals (veg and non-veg). the food was insane and cannot recommend this place enough ^^

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^^ strolling around Galle Fort ^^

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^^ lunch at The Bungalow. another nice meal. the sea food platter (pictured above) was everyone’s favorite meal of the trip^^

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^^ lunch at this beautiful restaurant in the heart of Galle Fort called Poonie’s Kitchen. it has a pond running through the restaurant and the vegetarian meal + deserts are SO good ^^

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^^ galle nights!! other places we recommend are Kingfisher’s at Unawatuna Beach on Saturday nights, the Fortaleza for dinner, and the Luna Terrace at the Closenburg Hotel for their beautiful sunset views ^^

Galle was such a blast and i can’t wait to go there again, this time with the husband who still hasn’t been.

amsterdam again

i knew i had to come back to this city the minute i even stepped foot in amsterdam. the city hits you hard with this fantastic, crazy, mad vibe – and you get addicted, so quickly, that it’s too late by the time you realise.

sounds too much ;)? well it’s true.

we felt that vibe again this time. A’s first time {he’s made me promise we go every year once}

once we got off our cab to the hotel from the airport, dropped our bags in the hotel lobby and headed straight to the coffee shop, which happened to be right next door to our hotel {we didn’t book the hotel knowing that just btw – it was simply a coincidence}.

the spirit of the people, the personalities, backed with the live and let live judgment-free attitude of just about everyone we met was what attracted me to the city at the first instance. oh and the beauty! how can we ignore the beauty?

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^ our amsterdam trip in snapshots . seeing these pictures make me want to go back there. or move there maybe? hmmm. wishful thinking. ^^

we visited the artis zoo, the van gogh musuem, walked around dam square, ate some frites (with extra mayo), tried the food at avocado story, shopped at the 6-story primark on dam square, met local friends, smoked with local friends, sat in the park by the museum for hours doing absolutely nothing, gorged on the cheese and ham toasties, bought local souvenirs {all of which had something marijuana in them} and sat by the beautiful canals at mid night under the stars talking. just the amsterdam usual ;)

well if all things go A’s way – see you again next year. and the year after …

Lake District

since we had around 15 days in the UK we decided to club london with another place around. at first we zeroed in on scotland as we have family there. but then while researching we realised that scotland should be a trip on its own – it has so much to offer and we didn’t have enough time.  closer to our trip our cousins in Scotland informed us that they would be spending a week in lake district around the same time we were in the UK. and so – it all worked out perfectly!

we rented out this beautiful house in penrith. around 8 of us (+ the cutest labrador – fia). we had just three nights / two days but we packed the days with so many activities that our time there seemed longer. looking back this part of our trip was on of our absolute favorites. I recommend lake district to everyone who makes a trip to the UK. it is simply stunning, peaceful, quiet and just about every where you go you feel you are in a post card picture.

on our first morning our cousins had booked this really fun go ape activity  – which involves climbing trees (with harness of course) and making your way from one tree to another by rope through fun hurdles. each stage of this activity {there are 5 stages} ends with zip lining.

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^^ view from my room in lake district ^^

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^^ go ape!! these pictures are from our trial round and it gets much tougher and higher as you move forward in stages – but you have a harness so it is safe and you tend to get more comfortable as you go forward ^^

once we were done with our go-ape activities we got back from and had a big meal of veg / non-veg sausages, bread, veggies and cheese. then we headed to one of the quieter non-commercial lakes close to our rented house for a swim

we also visited the shops at a close by town called keswick – which was super picturesque and we tried the best homemade fudge

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^^ keswick ^^

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we ended the day watching the england croatia match – which england lost btw, but the energy was so high that day – which had been near perfect, so the defeat didn’t seem as disappointing as it normally would have been.

Day 2

we went on a hike close near the village of hawkshead. the walk seemed smooth and easy and we passed by a few ponds on the way but as we got higher it got much steeper and i had to take A’s help during the last 10 minutes of the trail to the top. but boy! was the view worth it all.

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^^ view from the top! i almost couldn’t believe we had climbed all the way ^^

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on the way back from the trek we stopped by at cute home turned cafe for some homemade cake and scones. you got to do the same if you ever go up to lake district. the carrot cake was the best i’ve ever eaten

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^^ the homemade scones with clotted cream and fresh jam ^^

we ended the day and our time at lake district with a round of go-karting. this wasn’t just ordinary go-karting. lewis hamilton apparently practices at this track during his time off. we also saw loads of other professionals practicing when we reached. it was very intimidating and i almost backed out of the whole thing. but then – was egged on by my cousins and gave it a go. i’m glad i did!

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^^ in our race gear ;) ^^

all in all it was an activity packed two days. more than the activities we were glad we got to spend quality time with our cousins who we don’t get to see very often. as you grow older (i am 30 now!) you realise that family and loved ones are most important and everything else is a far second.

touchdown in London town

A and i had gone to santorini, greece last summer to celebrate the wedding of our close friends Neil and Melanie. Neil and Melanie are A’s friends from the time he studied at the university of essex. at the wedding we met so many of A’s friends from england that we had decided then itself that london would be our next summer destination.

the UK visa application process is terrible and one must leave aside at least week to just finish the application process. it also takes around 20-25 days to receive your visa. but the destination is well worth the wait :)

we took the jet airways direct flight to heathrow london {which is great, quick and easy – except the meals ofcourse} and a black cab {which is a lot more expensive than an uber but worth an one time experience of the famous black cabs} from the airport to preston road, where we stayed during our entire visit. at first, a lot of people mentioned that staying in central london was a better idea as its closer and saves on travel time. but looking back, i wouldn’t have had it any other way. the houses in preston road are very cute and comfortable and the area is so calm and peaceful. a perfect place to come back to after your time exploring the crazy, busy central city.

most of our travel was via underground. so convenient! reminded me SO much of new york city. also the oyster cards are super helpful and far more reasonable and quicker then buying individual tickets. the underground gives you a great idea of the city layout and the connectivity is simply amazing. there’s a stop that can take you just about everywhere in central london.

okay wow this is reading awfully like an informative post – so pictures and a list of some of my favorite places in London!

South Bank

i cannot recommend this enough. i loved everything about walking by south bank. the restaurants / bars, the random street acts, the skating rink {yes there’s a skating rink by the river! and it super awesome}, the carousel {i mean can this be dreamier?} and the food / music festivals.

somehow every time we were in central london we found our selves gravitating towards south bank.

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some nice places to eat / drink and visit in and around south bank :

go to the food festivals! there’s loads of variety and drinks and its also a great vibe. there’s almost always a food festival during the summer seasons.

there’s also the good old ping pong and wagamama.

we also went to this really nice wine bar – gordon’s wine bar right by the embankment underground station – which is located inside a beautiful small park.

for mexican – lupita which is on the other wise the bridge just of the charring cross station does good authentic mexican

Windsor

Okay so technically windsor isn’t in london. its about 30 to 45 mins by train from london paddington or london waterloo.

i was teased a lot by A for wanting to visit windsor – royal tourism at its best, considering meghan and harry just got married at the windsor palace a month before, but honestly i am so glad i insisted and didn’t succumb to the pressure. windsor is almost magical. with the river, ducks, beautiful riverside restaurants, castles and the charming old-town vibe. the shopping is great too

we didn’t go inside the castle – but we did manage to take a walk around the town. we had brunch at this amazing restaurant called browns brasserie and bar and A insists that they served the best fish and chips he’d ever had.

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^^  special shout out to these amazing malteser milkshake at shakeaway. it was out of this world and unfortunately i have no pictures of it to prove it ^^

Camden Town

a bit clichéd but i loved camden. mostly camden market, with all the quirky – vegan food stalls. and the vibe. and the wall art. and the murals. i could go on. A and i went there first when we had just a couple of hours to kill near london euston before we caught the train to lake district {more on that in a separate post} both of us liked it enough to come back two times after. we had food at a Venezuelan {?? i could be wrong here} food truck. something that tasted like kebabs in pita pockets with hot sauce and salad. A tricked me into trying the lamb and beef ones – i thought it was chicken the whole time and kept telling him how tasty it was. only when we were done did he tell me i was having a mince of lamb and beef the whole time. it was all in good humor though and i’m kinda glad i tried it. i wish i was more adventurous with my food choices. it would make A a lot happier, for one thing.

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okay so this post is way too long and i am still only halfway through my list, so let’s continue this in the next post??

galle

we spent three whole days here.

our trip, as was unanimously agreed by all three of us, was all about food and relaxation. and that’s exactly what we did. we went to good restaurants, slept, swam and played mono deal.

all of us have v hectic city jobs and this trip was planned to get away and come back rejuvenated.

galle was just the perfect place for that. it has numerous good restaurants and spas. some of the ones we liked the most were, the closenburg hotel poolside bar, peddler’s inn pizzas and the amangalla hotel restaurant.

we also enjoyed just walking around the fort area and visiting its boutique shops. we ended buying some fun {a.k.a hippy} clothes, curios and lots of bath and body products at the spa Ceylon.

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^^ lunch at amangalla was gnocchi, sri Lankan chicken curry and watermelon salad ^^

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^^ can’t remember the names of the drinks but every drink we tried was SO good {but hard on the wallet} ^^

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^^ us. outside amangalla ^^

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^^ view from our table at the closenburg hotel. unfortunately we forgot to take pictures outside the pool area {signs of a really good time} but its a MUST go ^^

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^^ galle fort sunsets ^^

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^^ pesto pizza at the peddler’s inn cafe^^

sri lanka

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two of my friends and I took a short weekend trip to sri-lanka last month.

we went back and forth a lot before finalizing the destination. since we had just 4 days and it was only the three of us.

we short-listed galle, which is in the southern province of sri lanka, as our base because of its beautiful beaches and old Portuguese fort town vibe.

BUT the highlight of our trip was by far the amazing villa we stayed in {pictures below}. I cannot recommend this place enough. it was small {just three rooms}, served amazing breakfast, had a cozy vibes and we almost had the place to ourselves completely.

on our last day we left for Colombo early {our flight back was from here} and spent the day in Colombo – which to me was quite the surprise. I did not expect to enjoy the city so much. it was a short but wonderful few hours in the country’s capital.

 

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^^ the beautiful villa we stayed in, which was about a 10 minute tutu ride to galle fort area. it looks like a homestay but its a hotel with the friendliest staff. and a small restaurant – which serves food all day ^^

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^^ this is where we sat all day lazing around playing mono deal and eating and drinking when we weren’t outside ^^

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^^ the breakfast area – I love how everything in the villa was so open and minimalistic ^^

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^^ our room – yes that’s an open bathroom, it was  slightly awkward walking in to this, considering we were sharing a room between the three of us, but we figured out our bath plans soon enough ;) ^^

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athens

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athens, a stark contrast from the rest of the places we visited in Greece, has its negatives and positives.

few parts of the city give you a slightly creepy vibe. something about it makes you feel unsafe. but then some parts are just so beautiful  that you can’t believe that all these parts belong to the same city.

more then 50% of Greece’s total population lives in athens. you can tell, athens is v. crowded. and filled with people of different ethnicity {which isn’t really the case elsewhere in Greece}.

we didn’t get much time here but managed to see quite a lot of the city {courtesy the sweetest lady taxi driver we met at the port, who offered to take us around the city in a day, at a fixed cost. I have her email address – for any one planning to visit Greece soon}

we visited the acropolis, the placa, temple of zeus, chapel of st. George, the national library, the supreme court, monastiraki square and the Olympic stadium.

we got v lucky. the sky was an amazing unforgettable blue that day and all the pictures we took – turned out so well.

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^^ Athens is also the city of graffitis {I haven’t read this anywhere but its what I would call Athens otherwise} there seriously is not a place other than the famous monuments which is not covered in graffiti ^^

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^^ this is the view from a really cool rooftop bar we went into inside the hotel A for Athens ^^

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^^ fancy blingy pants i bought at a shop on the road. I really really love them ^^

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^^ the most amazing dinner at our hotel restaurant, the grecotel pallas Athena which only didn’t top the list of our favorite meals in Greece coz A and I had a silly argument throughout the meal. I cant even remember why!^^

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^^ the good parts of Athens^^

also since this is the end to all the Greece vacation posts- I feel the need to conclude with how A always somehow manages to win people over in all the trips we do together. it’s so v strange but every time I travel with him I see the impact he leaves behind. it may be a conversation with the taxi driver in Athens or an old lady we met at the ferry who we played uno with, but when we say our good byes they are always so emotional {and that has so much more to do with A than I} he always manages to strike up an interesting conversation and talk to them about things that matter to them. there’s so much I learn from him even after all these years.

something I always want to remember when i’m mad at him about silly things.

on vacations and Paros

Vacation is so often cast as a luxury now … a bourgeois game of Instagram tagging and food photos. But for me, in Sifnos, I came to know it as the time in the year when you find not only rest, but also the strength you need to meet your work and your life when you return to them. In the years since, it’s been hard to be an American writer and take vacations like this. But I would never want to live the other way — without them — again

excerpt from an interesting article on new york times I read the other day. its about a writer who visited a remote Greek island and on the writer ‘learning’ to take a vacation.

don’t get me wrong. I vacation like how most people do. Instagram tagging, food photos and the works.. visiting the most popular islands and making sure I cover them all even if I end up spending as little as two days in each.

no way of vacationing is right or wrong. but i would want to try it the other way next time. rent an apartment. for a month or two even. go some where unpopular. read books, draw, paint or cook. explore the city/island/village. like really explore. go to places that aren’t necessarily touristy.

the closest we came to doing that in Greece, was at Paros. Adi and I both read about the island online. we didn’t know of any one who had visited there, before we made our bookings. but the pictures looked stunning and so we took a shot at it.

and to be honest, before our ferry ride from Santorini to Paros we almost contemplated cancelling and staying back in Santorini for a few more days. all our friends were going to be staying back longer and we did love our time with them.

but the bookings were done {non-refundable} and so we went along.

boy, am I glad we did?! it was the surprise element of the trip. I still remember walking into the main street of Naoussa, Paros from our hotel up in the hill. I had to stop walking just sink it all in. everything was so picturesque in Naoussa. there were ducks, cafes, octopuses and boats. all of a sudden. out of nowhere. and there was this buzz. {not loud or touristy like in Mykonos but just quiet local buzz}

we ended up eating Italian that night {finally we had had too much of souvlaki}. after dinner we walked around the cute little town and then headed back to our hotel, sat on the deck and talked. a lot. under the stars. that moment, it was all SO perfect – that we made a pact to come back. maybe on our 10 year anniversary. but this time with family and friends.

the next day, I wanted to book a boat and explore the caves in anti-paros, but eventually we decided to stay in and explore the island instead. we took a local bus to parikia. walked around the town. prayed at some churches along the way. bought some nic nacs and then spent two hours eating brunch and chatting with a local greek at a bar in parikia.

at night we made reservations at one of the most famous restaurants in naoussa {or all of Paros, as we learnt later} called Yemeni. we got a table which was lucky because apparently they are always booked out and you need to make  reservations weeks in advance. we tried the beetroot truffle risotto, zuchhini flower balls and stuffed mushrooms. and washed it all down with a bottle of local white wine for dessert they got us a chocolate cake with ice cream {which we didn’t order, it was on the house}. it was by far our best meal of the trip.

we headed back to Athens the next morning with such a heavy heart. if I had to redo my vacation in Greece, I would have definitely spent a lot more days exploring Paros. this island,  there was something magical about it.

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^^ view from our room in hotel papadakis. the best part of visiting a non-touristy place are the hotel prices. ;)} ^^

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^^ some more hotel pics^^

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^^ downtown Naoussa^^

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^^ first Italian meal in Greece. I think my favorite thing to do during a vacation is walking from one restaurant to another, reading their outdoor menus and eventually choosing the one you liked the most :) ^^

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^^ brunch at acute bar in parikia ^^

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^^ greek goodies I bought at the local store in parikia. as you can see, anything with olive oil – and I had to buy it ^^

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^^ dinner at Yemeni, our favorite meal in Greece ^^