February 2016

I've been tricked and I'm glad it happened

A big part of cabin crew life consists of a bunch of small conversations with colleagues or passengers traveling from continent to continent. I believe that every single person has something to offer and to teach. You never know how a good word can change your entire perspective.

I turned up to be a student of my own wisdom. On my flight to Madrid, I had the pleasure to meet A, a colleague originally from Spain, that is too humble to shout out loud about the magnificent work her parents do. Throughout the flight I was trying to get some tips from my spanish compañeros ( spanish for comrades) on where to eat and enjoy an awesome view. A lot of great suggestions but when A mentioned about NEST ORGANIC Restaurant I knew that I had to look no further. The tricky part was that she didn't mention that her parents are the owners of the restaurant and that her lovely sister P, will be the spoiling factor that will make my experience even greater.

Around 16 years ago, when I was still thinking about dolls and playgrounds, Martinez family worked really hard on their new life project. Building an entire Ecological Club ( www.cuestadepatas) wasn't easy, but it paid off, very well, all the sleepless nights and the mountain of stress. The farm owned by Mr. John and Ms. Carmen is the primary source of all the ingredients used in NEST ORGANIC Restaurant.

Just about 10 minutes walking distance from Bernabéu Stadium, the restaurant is located in Moda Shopping Centre. My expectations exceeded the limits as soon as I walked in. Do you know that feeling when you come back home from a long working day and your mother is waiting for you with a hot bowl of soup? That is exactly how I felt at that moment. Pleasant and warm environment created by a rural décor with modern ornaments...this is NEST ORGANIC Restaurant.

I had the great honour to discuss with Mr. Johns, the owner of the restaurant, the beggining of this unique place. I could feel the passion and the pride that he holds within his heart. Along with his partner in business and in life, Ms. Carmen with whom his been sharing his joy and sorrow for almost 31 years, Mr. John has absolute control of what is happening in the restaurant. He was telling me that he wanted to creat something that people will enjoy and be happy to come back to. This is how the idea became alive. An organic restaurant with 100% fresh fruits and vegetables was something that benefits both parties, his family and the customers. The family is very proud of their product and they gladly send this message through the ambiance of the restaurant. I was impressed when I found out that even the paint that covers the walls is 100% organic. All the products that are used to make and eliminate the tasty food are organically certified. You are definitely in good hands.

Working on a common system used in the majority of the restaurants in Madrid, NEST ORGANIC Restaurant offers a daily menu that includes an appetiser, a main course, a dessert and a choice of wine or beer to compliment your meal. It's all served at a fixed price of 15,50 euros and the chefs selection is quite vast. I've decided to let the greatest advisers of the restaurant to guide me through, and who are they if not the staff? With a very friendly approach, J took the time to translate and explain all the dishes from the menu and helped me to make great choices. It's all about that in life, isn't it?

Starting up with a nicely presented appetiser, I begun my journey through the land of deliciousness. Fresh mozzarella topped up with rocket salad mixed in white balsamic vinegar, fried onions, sunflower seeds and raising. The combination of sweet and sour along with the freshness of the dish creates the perfect bite.
For the main course I chose the trout that was served with mashed potatoes mixed with black garlic. To be honest it was the first time when I've tried the black garlic, and I think that it is no different from the normal one, when it's cooked. It gives an interesting brownish colour and uniqueness.
I will be very honest with you. I am kind of tired of the desserts that are served in the restaurants nowadays. It's all covered in chocolate, or topped up with chocolate or it has chocolate on the side. Too much. In NEST ORGANIC Restaurant they truly read my mind and I got exactly what I was looking for. A great combination of natural, simple and tasty. A perfectly poached pear and vanilla ice-cream on top of caramel and bred crumbs. Simply WOW.

The restaurant has a nice selection of wines. All organic. Mr. Johns was telling me how he attentively chooses which wines to have on display and teaches the staff to recommend the right wine to accompany the right meal. You can find on the shelves also a wide selection of French Wines and Italian Wines. The ironed chair that I was sitting on, by the bar, could feel how I am sinking in after my first sip of Corucho Red Wine, and it felt goooood

I left the restaurant with a feeling that I am saying goodbye to my family. The way they made me feel during those couples of hours will always add up to my great experiences in Madrid. I walked out of that place with a massive hope. Hope for a better future. Hope in great organic food. Hope for a change. Such places need to take over the market and eliminate the fast food that is attacking massively. In order to have clean minds we all need clean food. We need to be conscious of what we give to our bodies. If you are too preoccupied with busy schedules, then let NEST ORGANIC Restaurant take care of it. Let the experts take over and help you achieve better results with 100% organic food. I encourage all the restaurants to switch to this concept and prove to all of us that these hopes exists.

Address: Av. General Peron, entrance C / Orense 22 pc.Carlos Trias Beltran (opposite the Picasso Tower), 38, 28020 Madrid
Tel: (+34) 917 70 85 87
Email: reservas@nestorganic.com
hours - Kitchen: Monday to Thursday from 12:30 to 23:30, Friday and Saturdays from 12:30. 00:30
hours - Restaurant: Monday through Thursday from 12:00 to 00:30, Friday and Saturday from 12:00 to 02:30

 

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Give me a kiss... (from Portuguese "me dá um beijo") and let the party begin. These words are as commonly heard as "have a nice day". Welcome to Rio de Janeiro, the home of one of the most remarkable landscapes, the host of the seductive carnival parties and the owner of the most admirable sun-kissed beaches ever.

There is so much information out there about this magnificent city, but i believe that each one of us is creating a new story as soon as we step out of the plane. I always knew i will complete this trip with a person dear to me. And I would like to take the opportunity to thank my friend C for transforming an ordinary trip into extraordinary memories. Friendship was above it all and it's a perfect proof that having a great companion is the key element in having un unforgettable journey.

FullSizeRender (16)C on the left and me, foto by me

From my new home, Dubai, to Rio de Janeiro is only 13 hours flying. Usually i am very good with the jet lags but this time i felt it with every single cell of my body. Ideally, you should start planning for a trip like this, at least 6 months ahead knowing that february is the month when the economy of the country is booming. The prices for the hotels, food, tours and others are sky rocketing. But it's still quite affordable in comparison with other destinations. For such an unique experience it's worth turning your pockets inside out.

Accomodation. Traveling with someone is always more afordable. Even if you are the kind of person that likes their own private space, sharing a hotel room with two beds is not a big issue as most of the time you will be out partying, touring or sleeping like dead. For something more economical you can choose to stay in a hostel, that give very good deals ( check www.booking.com). Me and C stayed in Copa Sul Hotel situated in a prime location near the best restaurants and liveliest streets. It's just one block from Copacabana Beach and within walking distance from Ipanema Beach. It was a great choice as we used this walk as our daily workout.

FullSizeRender (26)Ipanema Beach Road, foto by me

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Eating out in Rio. Starting with the small cornered places called Sucos, where you will find not only delicious, fresh juices but also tasty snacks like tapiocas ( a starch extracted from cassava root), and açai bowls for breakfast, you can move on to churrascarias, which are the famous steak houses. The brasilian meat is unbelievably tender and flavoured. It seemed that if you don't know how to cook a piece of filet mignon you just simply can't be called Brasileiro. We had the chance to eat in great places located on Rua Prudente de Morais: Casa de Feijoada that has excellent steak dishes and a welcome black bean soup, Restaurante Rayz which is strong in fish selection that you can't miss out. Don't walk past the small food courts that you can see randomly on the streets, but make sure that the food is fresh. 

FullSizeRender (5)Morning tapioca, foto by me

It's important to understand that food not only connects you with the locals and makes you transcend deeper into the culture of the country, it also represents the motor that will keep you radiant and healthy during your trip. So we had decided that it was time for us to spoil our souls in a 4* Restaurant called Skylab, located in Rio Othon Palace Hotel overlooking Copacabana beach. The panoramic view of the Atlantic ocean just helped creating a more unique experience. It was a little bit too romantic for two of us, but, hey... It's Rio. Accompanied by a red brasilian wine, the medium rare sirloin steak au jus and the potatoes au gratin placed carefully on the plate made me feel like I belong to this place.

FullSizeRender (13)Filet mignon au jus and potatoes au gratin, foto by me

Right at the corner of Ipanema and Copacabana, the international flags of Marius Degustare Restaurant are welcoming you to a real brasilian 3* buffet where you will need to borrow one more stomach in order to eat everything they have on display. During the whole trip I was literally crying like a baby because I wanted to experience the local buffet and the fear that I might leave without trying it was frightening me. The restaurant has a very interesting décor featuring maritime objects and antiques. The ambiance takes you back in time on a pirate ship. It seems like a wave flipped around the boat and everything is up side down now. They even have a carriage on the ceiling, how insane is that? After we enjoyed the vast buffet selection that included organic oysters, lobsters, salads and traditional brasilian dishes I have decided to indulge only the taste of the meat...a lot of meat. We also enjoyed the caipirinhas (Brazil's national cocktail made with cachaça, sugar and lime) that were rather helping the situation. It all works at a fixed price and the friendly stuff didn't stop approaching us with a different choice of delicacy over and over again. My advice to you, don't mix 7 types of fish with 11 kinds of meat, otherwise it can get very bad.

FullSizeRender (14)Me on the left and C, foto by the lovely waiter

Tours in Rio. Before the sun starts throwing balls of heat into the ground, tourists from all around the world wake up early in the morning to visit one of the 7 wonders of the world. Corcovado ( Christ Redeemer) became a symbol of the country that can be recognised and appreciated by millions. The 30 metres tall Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro was created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, but I want to make my people feel special as well because the face of the statue was created by the Romanian artist Gheorghe Leonida. Great job.
Sugarloaf Mountain ( Pão de Açúcar) is another suggestion if you want to admire the panoramic view of the city. The peak is situated at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Behind the Sheraton Rio Luxury Hotel you can witness a massive contradiction of two worlds. Vidigal favela is one of the many so called "dangerous neighbour hoods" that gives a different perspective about Rio. You can ask about the tour at the reception in your hotel or you can go the hard way, like me and C did...walking. It was tougher than I thought and the heat didn't help at all. The locals probably thought that we are just two crazy girls trying to achieve the impossible. I've read somewhere that this favela is one of the most friendly one and it opened up to the tourists in 2012, after locals made peace with the police. We rushed too quickly into making a decision and never made it to the top, but we will leave the mystery to linger until next time.

FullSizeRender (9)Vidigal Favela, foto by me

The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden or Jardim Botânico is another chance to fill your cameras with distinguished pictures. We sweat out the caipirinhas from the previous night by climbing one of the hills that lead us to a great viewing point. I'm not surprised that Portuguese called Rio de Janeiro La Cidade Maravilhosa, it's totally worth the title.

FullSizeRender (8)Overlooking the city, foto by C

FullSizeRender (15)Yoga pose Ipanema Beach, foto by C

FullSizeRender (11)Sunset Ipanema Beach, foto by me

Sambódromo. Picture for a moment the most colourful and creative event and multiply that by 100, this would be the description for the Carnaval do BrasilCarnival of Brazil). It has been so far the most beautiful and delightful show i'be been to. Held for 4 consecutive nights, the samba parades don't stop to impress a vast number of locals and tourists from all over the Globe. This is the time when samba schools have the chance to impress the audience with its thousands of dancers, its drum section and really let their inner voice talk about their culture through the extravagant costumes and unique stands. If on the crowded streets of Rio you will be able to see the improvised outfits of brides, devils and zombies, at the carnival people put on casual clothes. Obviously, me and C didn't know about that, and we've spent a good hour for the transformation into a Hawaiian dancer( me) and a Giant Tooth Fairy (C). It was fun to watch the funky reactions of our neighbours from the section.

FullSizeRender (1)C from the left,and me, foto by me

The best way to get to the Sambódromo is taking the metro. In about 35 minutes from Copacabana, we were enjoying the loud and vibrant samba rhythms that made us stand up from our concrete seats. The tickets start up at a couple of hundreds reals ( brazilian currency) up to a couple of thousand. We paid around USD200 for a seat in section 8 out of 13 that is considered economy class hoping for an upgrade to first class that never happened. Starting from 8pm until around 6am the parade can be an enjoyable torture for your feet. So, make sure you take extra cash to buy the chilled cervejas ( beers) and forget about the pain, also it will help you stay awake and try to learn some samba moves from the experts.

IMG_4615Carnival outfits, Ipanema beach, foto by me

Old, young, parents, travellers, regardless of the gender and status everybody seemed infected by the intensity of the carnival. If you want to be a part of the team who represents the school, there is an opportunity to buy a costume and feel the spirit of the carnival from the inside of the show. Such a pleasure will cost you around USD500 at least and you have to book way before in advance. I was lucky enough to have a lovely gentleman and his wife next to me that walked us through the rules and qualification points of the competition. I think they observed the confusion that my face emanated when i heard the same song for 90 minutes. I found out later that each school has to compose an anthem the lyrics of which are given to the crowd in order to sing along. From one end of the Sambadrome to the other, schools present its best performance supported by thousands of samba lovers and through this song we all become one voice, one heart.

Even now i get goosebumps when i think about that parade, but Rio de Janeiro has so many more things to offer. If your stay will be longer than 6 days, experience the wonderful beaches and islands, or stay in the city and explore Downtown, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Imperial Museum and tell us all about it.

FullSizeRender (6)Carnival, Rio de Janeiro

1Carnival, Rio de Janeiro

Going out in Rio. During Carnival Rio de Janeiro has a different system for the night life. The streets of the city become alive and the music doesn't stop until the sun is out. Those who want to have fun, don't have a problem blocking entire streets that usually divide restaurants and bars. Brasilians love to socialise and dance, that's the impression i got after spending 6 nights out. I liked that almost everyone knows the good spots and the best time to be in there. It's like a rotation process. 

Boteco Belmonte in Leblon is a great place to start up your night by enjoying some lovely drinks. Such botequims ( traditional Brazilian bar) are very widespread along the streets and usually have great snacks. The caipirinhas and cervejas are served at light speed to the crowd interested in having a good time. Boys are looking at the girls and girls are admiring the Brazilian guys. The game continues until one of them decides to spend the accumulated adrenaline in some other place. Now it's time to dance. There is a vast selection of clubs that will help you forget about it all and lose yourself in the great beats. One of the first places we've been to was 00 (Zero Zero) in Gavea and we had a really good time. All clubs work at the same system, you pay a cosmic price for the entrance and then you spend even more for the drinks. Usually clubs have a nice atmosphere and the crowd is wide in age range, from students to old couples. If you prefer something outdoors than Jockey Club will be a better choice. I really liked the music in this one, the DJ knows how to make people sweat. One important moment is that you need to know at least one popular song, because it's going to be thrown out there and will make everybody go crazy (this time was Baile de Favela song by MC João). If you want to continue the party until sunrise, Emporio 37 will not disappoint you. Every time I passed by I saw a decent amount of people outside and inside the bar/ club. On the first floor you can enjoy the brasilian mix and on the second floor you can go more international with RNB music. It's all just a big, constant party. But nothing compares to the real street fun from Lapa. As we were making our way through the pacifist crowd, me and C saw a couple of chairs, some small tables and lovely locals creating their own bubble of fun. Those people opened up their arms and let us witness one of the most pure and natural street music. With their own improvised instruments they touched my heart forever. Now i want to learn how to dance samba.

FullSizeRender (17)Cheers to the guy on the left, hi to the guitarist, us girls, and the lovely man on the right.

I can go on and on about this truly fascinating experience but I will let you discover some of it on your own. It was a trip I dreamt of since I was a child and it couldn't happen at a better time and with a better companion. My heart sings of happiness and enthusiasm and for once in life I wish I didn't have to sleep, so I can enjoy everything this fascinating city has to offer. The world is not the same after this and I'm glad I had the chance to try the unforgettable taste of Rio the Janeiro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winter is not a joke. Even this beautiful city loses its charm when covered up in grey. I see shriveled people walking on the streets, the small European, convenient cars are rushing to the red traffic light before it turns red, the small cute dogs are dressed up in adorable outfits, and the nature around is sleeping. I love coming to Madrid. And I am back again.

On a Wednesday night you would think that everything will be closing earlier than usually, it's not the case in Madrid. The shops, restaurants, bars, pubs are on a full swing. When I talk about shopping in Spain I automatically mean Mango and Zara. This is the home for these two sisters. Great deals, shocking discounts, a lot of outfits waiting for you at this time of the year. Because I went late for shopping, I was the last one to leave the stores. It felt a little bit like desperation, but like I said:" if you miss the chance, you never know when u can catch it again".

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Foto by me

This south-European city has a population of almost 3.2 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union after London and Berlin. Madrid is divided into 2 1 districts (distritos), which are further subdivided into 128 wards (barrios). Residents of Madrid are typically called Madrileños.

I just adore getting lost in downtown. The main street, Puerta del Sol (Spanish for "Gate of the Sun"), has so many hidden, interesting places where locals hangout. It seems almost like hide-and-seek game. The area contains a number of well-known sights both domestically and internationally associated with Spain. If you go to the southwest side of the Puerta you will be able to see the Plaza Mayor, the Palacio Real, the official home of the Royal Family, which is further west. The Parliament and the museum district are to the east and the train station Atocha is to the southeast. The kilómetro cero is a plaque on the ground directly north of the Post Office serving as the symbolic center of Spain. It's pretty cool.FullSizeRender (20)

Foto by me

With my 3 shopping bags used as my fancy accessories I knew that I will struggle to get in any place. That's why I let my intuition direct me to the right path and tell me where would be the greatest spot for tonight to feel the vibe of Madrid. I've heard a noise coming from the half-open, brown doors and I asked the security guy what's all this about and he said that they are hosting a local jazz band. Perfect. The entrance was €3 and luckily I had a table for only myself.
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If you are into live jazz music I highly recommend to come to Café Pupolart downtown and let your ear pick its best rhythm. I went inside the jazz bar/café and the band already got everybody hooked. Good atmosphere, a couple of beers up in the air, great international music accustomed under the jazz style. It was so nice to see Louis Armstrong observing all this from the wall of fame, I am sure he is smiling now. In the corner of the bar I saw a violin. It described my presence so well: you can barely hear me from the unnoticed spot of the bar but I am a very important component to the ensemble.   

FullSizeRender (22)Foto by me

I suddenly understood why we tend to stress out so much on a day-to-day routine. It's because we have so many distructions and forget to appreciate these kind of moments. When I travel outstation, I am usually not connected to the internet, my mobile is not on roaming, I don't have my iPad with me, I am not driving, and I am not keen to impress or be understood by anybody. All I care about is to discover, to feed my curiosity with information that is relevant to me, I focus on one thing at a time, I act like a little kid that was thrown into a deep, blue, scary swimming pool and was asked to learn how to swim. People overwhelm themselves with activities and thoughts that drain their energy leaving them with a resentful feeling. Maybe it's time to give yourself a brake and start doing things step-by-step, little-by-little.FullSizeRender (24)

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I am such a traveler. When I walk on the streets, I involuntary look around everywhere. Sometimes I see my wondering reflection in people's eyes and their expretion amuses me. The interesting part is that Spanish people don't back up. They are looking at you and with you, until the eyes speak the same language. They are very approachable and nice habitants. You might find yourself in an awkward situation where a stranger invites you for a drink in the middle of the street. I'm not saying not to go for it, but just be careful. Guys might seduce you with their Spanish inherited, suave charm.

After getting lost in the darkness of the night and finding myself in the healing light of Madrid, it was time for me to go back to the hotel and rest for another duty.

There are so many more things to see and do in this marvelous city. If you will ever have the honor to be a guest in the capital of Spain, don't hesitate to treat yourself with delightful local dishes like Paella, traditional Spanish stews Cocido Madrileño, and Callos a la Madrileña, also the so called "street food" Churros con Chocolate or Dulce de Letche, to die for. You can share with us your great experiences in the local restaurants and other places you have visited in Madrid. Looking forward to hearing from you.FullSizeRender (23)

Foto by me
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