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My six favorite London markets

london camden market

No matter where I travel, one integral part of sightseeing in a new city are markets. Be it a flea market, fish market or simply a fruit and vegetable market, I just love the atmosphere of a lively market, and seeing what is sold in markets in different countries. Last month, I hit up some of my favorite markets in Berlin, and I’ve written about markets in Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires and told you about my favorite markets in South East Asia and New York City. But I’ve never shared my favorite markets in London, which is the place I lived in the longest – which means there isn’t a market I haven’t been to in London, and it became a ritual for me to head out on weekends to pick up vintage clothes, unique gifts for friends, fresh flowers or just fruits and vegetables for the week, or just to grab a snack.

London MarketsRead on for the six markets I recommend you don’t miss on a visit to London – not a single one is like another and I love each one for a different reason – plus a few honorable mentions which, should you spend a longer period in the city, are worth a visit as well. Speaking of visiting London: If you are still looking for a place to stay in London, I recommend checking Expedia, where you can find the best deals for London hotels, apartments and hostels.

Borough Market

What started out as a local food & vegetable market right off London Bridge quickly turned into the city’s #1 gourmet food market, selling high quality fresh breads and pastries, cheeses, meats, fish and condiments like olives, nuts and other goodies. The market gained in popularity so quickly that it is basically impossible to make your way across the market without being pushed through the crowds, but if you visit Borough Market on a Friday or Thursday before lunch, you should be able to avoid the masses (do yourself a favor though and don’t go on a Saturday, unless you are willing to get up early!).

Make sure to come hungry, because not only will you want to try some of the specialty sandwiches (raclette!) or bratwurst, but the vendors also offer generous samples of Italian salami, French cheese, fresh muffins or homemade jam. If you are a foodie, you can’t leave London without visiting this market!

Where? Southwark Street (closest tube station: London Bridge)

When? There is a limited market operating Monday and Tuesday 10am to 5pm. The Full market is in operation Wednesday & Thursday: 10am to 5pm, Friday: 10am to 6pm, Saturdays: 8am to 5pm. It is closed on Sundays.

London Borough Market

Columbia Road Market

Columbia Road Market is actually called Columbia Flower Market – and is easily the best smelling market in London. Every Sunday, flower vendors line up along Columbia Road and sell an array of flowers and plants that makes every person with a ‘green thumb’ or simply adores flowers, very happy indeed. Thousands of flowers make the quaint Columbia Road shine in a blaze of colors. I have traveled all over the world but I have rarely seen a market that compares.

Visiting the Columbia Road Market makes for a lovely Sunday morning stroll through East London, and can be combined with brunch in Shoreditch or a stroll through Brick Lane Market (see below). Make sure to also check out the galleries, vintage shops and boutiques on Columbia Road while you’re there.

Where? Columbia Road (closest public transport: Hoxton or Shoreditch High Street on the London Overground)

When? Sundays 8am – 3pm.

london columbia road flower marketPortobello Road Market

London’s best known market has been going strong for decades now, turning Portobello Road into London’s busiest street each and every Saturday, rain or shine. The market was originally founded as an antiques market but has since added clothing, souvenirs, art, vintage clothes and even household cleaners to the mix. Towards the end of the market (close to Ladbroke Grove), you’ll find fruits, vegetables and other fresh produce and when I lived in Ladbroke Grove, I would visit the market every week to shop for inexpensive groceries. I was never able to resist the giant olives, cheese vendors and fresh French baguettes. If you’re in town on a sunny day, I’d recommend picking up some snack food and heading to Kensington Gardens afterwards for a picnic.

Where? Portobello Road (closest tube station: Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove)

When? Every Saturday from 9am to 6pm

London Portobello Road MarketBrick Lane Market

Brick Lane Market is my favorite place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon in London. This massive flea market in East London stretches all the way down Brick Lane and also includes Cheshire Street. As East London has become more and more trendy over the past decade or so, the market has also seen a huge growth in visitor numbers, so I recommend you go early. You can find all kinds of second-hand goods here, vintage clothes and antiques, but also toys, all sorts of knick knacks and even home decor.

There are tons of food vendors here, too, so you don’t have to go hungry. And let’s not forget about all of the amazing curry houses that made Brick Lane famous in the first place – you won’t regret stopping for lunch at any of them. During the warmer months, there are live bands and other entertainment along the street or in places like the Truman Brewery. Street art lovers take note: Brick Lane is also home to some of London’s finest street art.

Where? Brick Lane (closest tube station: Liverpool Street Station and Aldgate East)

When? Every Sunday from 10am to 5pm

London Brick Lane MarketPetticoat Lane Market

Another amazing Sunday market (you could basically spend all Sunday exploring different markets!), Petticoat Lane Market specializes entirely in fashion. The market was established over 400 years ago by French Huguenots who were selling petticoats there. Even though the street name has long since changed, the market has kept its original name and is a paradise for fashionistas. There is no fashion article that you won’t find here – from belts, buttons, underwear, leather, jeans and work clothes, this market sells anything to do with clothing. Bring enough cash, because you’ll most likely buy much more than you plan on buying! The rock-bottom prices here never cease to amaze me.

Where? On Middlesex Street (closest tube station: Liverpool Street Station, Aldgate or Aldgate East)

When? Every Sunday from 9am to 2.30pm

petticoatlane marketCamden Lock Market

Another one of London’s markets that has become way too commercialized over the years. When I visited Camden Market for the first time a decade ago, the market still had an edgy, in parts almost grimy feel to it, but the more it has gained in popularity, the more it was cleaned up by the officials. While it has become cleaner and more organized, it has also lost most of its edginess – that being said, Camden Market is still my absolute favorite market in the world. I have yet to find another market that I love equally as much and that combines vintage, food (oh the glorious food! Do yourself a favor and come with an empty belly!), jewelry, art, music and amazing gifts. If you happen to be in London during the week, you’ll be able to shop in a much less crowded environment on a weekday morning. If you’re not a fan of crowds, I’d recommend staying away on the weekends or otherwise go to the market super early. But make sure that you do go: this is the one market that should absolutely not be missed on a visit to London.

Where? Camden High Street (closest tube station: Camden Town or Chalk Farm)

When? Every day from 10am to 6pm

London Camden Lock MarketThese are only a few of the markets I love in London and ones that I frequented dozens of times. I could go on and on, also introducing you to Leadenhall Market, Brixton Village Market, Covent Garden Market, Greenwich Market, Spitalsfield Market and Broadway Market… your options for markets to attend in London are nearly endless. A quick weekend trip to London is one of the easiest things to do these days with the large number of budget airlines and trains connecting London to mainland Europe. If you are based in the UK, cheap coach operators offer tickets for as little as £1, but even from Germany or France there are always bargain train or flight offers available. It has never been easier and cheaper to visit Britain’s capital for a quick shopping trip – and no shopping trip would be complete without a visit to the city’s awesome markets!
Brixton Village Market

Have you been to London? What are your favorite markets? Share in the comments below!

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13 Things About Berlin That Might Surprise You

berlin cathedral and tv tower

I’ve talked about Berlin a lot on this site, providing you with some useful guides for the city (check out:

das ist so berlin
That’s so Berlin.

…but returning after a year, several first-time visitors in tow, I noticed that there are quite a few things that I’ve never shared with you: The things I find surprising about Berlin, and the things people I show around find surprising and interesting. So without further ado, here are 13 things about Berlin that I find surprising and that might surprise you, too:

1 Berlin is the vegan capital of Europe

This one is surprising – who would’ve thought that you’d find one of Europe’s most vegan-friendly cities in meat loving Germany? It seems like vegan cafes, bars and restaurants are popping up everywhere around the city, but I was skeptical when my friend Sam told me that Berlin was the vegan capital of Europe. A quick Google search revealed that he was correct though, and Berlin is in fact the city with more vegan restaurants than any other city in Europe, according to CNN. Germany’s first vegan supermarket chain, Veganz, was founded here, and Berlin is home to the biggest vegan festival in all of Europe. You can get vegan versions of the meat dishes that Berlin is famous for, doner and curry wurst, and you can get pretty much anything vegan: wine, cheese, ice cream, pizza… There are vegan versions of everything, and then there are of course the 60+ purely vegan restaurants and cafes in the city.vegan berlin

2 Berlin is not pretty

Compared to other European capitals like Paris, Budapest, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Prague or Ljubljana, which are known for their impeccable beauty, charming atmosphere and postcard-worthy photo opps around every corner, Berlin can only be called a city with some pretty corners at best. Gritty fits Berlin much better than pretty, and people traveling around Europe are often surprised when they get to Berlin and realize it’s not like the picture-perfect cities that they’ve got to enjoy in other European countries. That’s why Berlin isn’t for everyone – and I have to admit that it can be difficult to grasp the sprawling mess of neighborhoods. But if you make an effort to explore both the pretty and the less pretty parts, you’ll find that the city has much more facets than the cleaner, neater neighboring capitals.gritty berlin

3 Berlin is quiet

One thing that almost everyone visiting Berlin comments on is how quiet the city is. And I agree – I don’t think there are many cities the size of Berlin where you can find yourself frequently in tranquil, peaceful spaces. Even walking through the Mitte neighborhood (Central Berlin) there are a lot of spots where you feel more like you are in a small town rather than in Germany’s capital. And in the residential streets of Kreuzberg, Neukölln or Prenzlauer Berg, the only noise I found myself surrounded by was the chirping of the birds. Heavenly!

dani tempelhof
You can always find quiet, empty places in Berlin!

4 Berlin doesn’t have a skyline

Berlin doesn’t have much of a skyline – in fact, there aren’t any skyscrapers in Berlin. The highest building in Berlin is the omnipresent TV Tower at 1,207 ft (368 meters), which always peaks out from the lower buildings of the city. The Park Inn Hotel, right across from the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz, is one of the very few other high buildings in Berlin, but at 410 feet (125 meters) it is considerably smaller than the TV Tower.berlin sunset

5 Berlin is cheap

People are always surprised about just how cheap Berlin is, and I agree: having traveled all over Germany this year, I have to say that I have yet to find another city that has prices as cheap as Berlin. Food is super cheap, and drinks are moderately priced in most places – a large beer for €3.50 is seen as expensive, and €2 glasses of wine are not a rarity. Plus: groceries are cheap in the supermarkets, the Turkish Market in Maybachufer has the most inexpensive fresh produce I’ve come across in the whole country. Since many sights are also free, Berlin is one of the most budget-friendly cities in Europe.

cheap berlin
€5 lunches and an entire box of avocados for €3? Yes, please!

6 Berlin is smoky

And with that I don’t mean ‘smoggy’, no, I actually mean smoky as in cigarette smoke. Having spent so much time in the US in recent years, I am shocked every time I get to Germany and realize just how many people smoke there. The worst thing? Many bars have found loopholes to avoid the smoking ban, and so I find myself constantly surrounded by cigarette smoke when I go out in Berlin, waking up with hair that reeks of cigarettes. Ick.berlin smokers

7 Everyone is drinking beer (everywhere!)

Everyone in Berlin is walking around with a beer bottle in their hands. Well maybe not everybody, but probably 90%* of people you’ll pass in Berlin, especially in Neukölln or Kreuzberg, are carrying an open beer bottle. And if not beer, then Club Mate, a popular hipster soda drink.. but if you find yourself in Berlin, just look around you and you’ll notice that almost everyone has a beer bottle in their hands. The most plausible explanation for this is that a bottle of beer is usually cheaper than a bottle of water, so why not enjoy a bottle of fine German beer? But why not enjoy a beer at any given time, considering that it’s cheaper than a bottle of water?  And yes, it is completely legal to booze in public, and Berliners take advantage of that privilege all the time – more so than in most other German cities.

*number might have been slightly exaggerated by the author of this articleberlin beer

8 Finding German food in Berlin can be tricky

When my friend announced she wanted to try some German food, I broke out in a sweat. Where the heck could we sample some German food that goes beyond the ubiquitous currywurst? Berlin has so much ethnic food – Turkish, Vietnamese, Indian, Lebanese, Indian, Thai, Mexican.. you can find pretty much any cuisine you’re craving. But German food options seem to be few and far between. And even though you’ll discover that there are quite a few German restaurants once you start looking for them, be warned: not all of them are great. The quality varies drastically! If you find yourself in Berlin and hungry for German food, check out Dicke Wirtin, Zeit fuer Brot (their bread is amazing!), Schwarzwaldstuben and Marjellchen.Berlin foreign food

9 Doner Kebab is everywhere

While we’re talking about food: one thing you won’t ever have difficulties finding is the doner kebab, a national treasure when it comes to German fast food. Even though the kebab is a type of Turkish kebab, made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie (similar to the Arab shawarma) some people claim it was invented in Germany, and the Wall Street Journal states that There’s Nothing More German Than a Big, Fat Juicy Döner Kebab. Yes – the döner, how the Germans call it, is popular not only in Berlin but throughout the entire country with over 17,000 doner slingers, and it even outsells hamburgers and sausages, taking the #1 spot for fast food in Germany.

mustafas gemuese kebap
Mustafa’s.

Apparently there are more doner stands in Berlin than there are in Istanbul! You can’t go to Berlin and NOT have a doner – and the fight for the title of ‘Best Doner In Berlin’ is an ongoing one. Opinions vary (ask a group of Berliners what their favorite doner place is and it’s likely you will trigger a dispute among them!), but here are The Guardian’s 2016 picks for the best doner in Berlin, Thrillist’s best doner spots in Berlin, and Berlin Food Stories’ favorite doner places.

10 Berlin is cash only

maybe you should go fuck yourself
What I feel Berliners are thinking every time I ask if I can pay with card

Try to use plastic in Berlin – and you’ll get frustrated quickly. Germans do not like credit cards (or even debit cards) and Berlin is no exception here. Whenever I visit and try to pay by card, I get to hear ‘We’re cash only’ almost every time. Cash is king in Berlin, so get out a huge chunk of Euros as soon as you arrive. I am not sure why Germans are so adamant about paying in cash, but if you don’t want to end up in constant frustration about not being able to pay with your card (I find that most places that do accept card payment only accept German ‘EC’ or ‘Giro’ cards, but no foreign debit and credit cards), have your cash ready.

11 Berlin is a bike city

bike traffic light berlin
Bikes even have their own traffic lights in Berlin!

When people think of bike cities in Europe, they usually think of Amsterdam or Copenhagen, but not of Berlin. However, Berlin is just as much of a bike city as the aforementioned two, with a constant stream of cyclists using the well-marked bike lanes. One morning during rush hour, I found myself in a bike traffic jam and was surrounded by sharply dressed business men on their bikes, women in heels and suits on their way to the office, and moms with two kids on their bike on the way to kindergarten to drop them off. No matter what time of day – there always seemed to be more bikes than cars on the streets. And I have to say: cycling is the best way to get around Berlin, so do yourself a favor and rent a bike for the day at one of the many bike rental places around the city.

12 Berlin is green

Did you know that one fifth of Berlin is covered with trees? And there are 2,500 green spaces and parks in the city, ranging from massive parks like Tiergarten (Berlin’s version of Central Park) and the city forest of Grunewald to small green spaces like Monbijoupark or Helmholtzplatz. There are a number of Volksgärten (people’s parks), and there are plenty of green spaces along the canals and the river Spree that flows through Berlin from east to west. And then there’s Tempelhof, of course, Berlin’s city airport that was, after closing down, turned into a public park, larger than Central Park.green berlin

13 Berlin is full of street art

A lot of people are aware that Berlin has a thriving street art scene, but they don’t expect there to be so much street art… everywhere! In most cities, street art is confined to one or a couple of neighborhoods, but in Berlin you can’t walk a few meters without stumbling upon a piece of street art, graffiti or a mural. Even in the most random places, inside staircases for example, you’ll find tags or graffiti. Sometimes I feel like there is not a single door in the city that doesn’t have something painted on it! I personally love it, and I think it adds so much to what makes Berlin such a special place.berlin street art

No, the city is not perfect, but that’s what makes me love it even more.

Have you been to Berlin? Was there anything about the city that you didn’t expect / that surprised you? Share in the comments below!

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Polaroid of the week: Outdoor cinema in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city brooklyn bridge park outdoor movie

Click here for the soundtrack to this post 🙂

The past week has been all about work; the most I got to see of New York was during my runs: Brooklyn Bridge Park with its stunning Manhattan views, across the Brooklyn Bridge (with even better views), the lovely Red Hook neighborhood with its pier and great vistas of the Statue Of Liberty, running in Riverside Park alongside Hudson River and in Central Park. I took a break on Thursday to finally enjoy an outdoor movie – one of the 28 things I love about summer in New York City are the free outdoor movies all over the city – and couldn’t have chosen a better time for a break away from my laptop: a beautiful summer night, A League Of Their Own, good company, a lovely picnic and watching the sunset over the Manhattan skyline.

That night was a nice walk down memory lane in three different ways: This Used To Be My Playground, the theme song of the movie, was the first Madonna song that really got me hooked on her music (I liked her 80s stuff, but it was a bit too pop-y for me), and was the song that started her ‘ballad phase’ – over the next couple of years, she would release some of my all-time Madonna songs, like Rain, Secret, I’ll Remember, Take A Bow, and finally You’ll See, which might be my all-time favorite song of hers.

The other way related to the movie that I was strolling down memory lane: Some of the baseball scenes were filmed in Wrigley Field, Chicago’s famous baseball stadium which dates back to 1914 and is one of the oldest baseball parks in the U.S., which is why it was a perfect location for the movie which was set in the 1940s. I was lucky enough to watch a couple of games there during my visits to Chicago and even though I’ve been struggling to understand the game ever since I watched my first one in the suburbs of Chicago nearly ten years ago, I’ve always enjoyed being in the ballpark, taking in the cheery atmosphere of what is for me as a European a quintessential American experience, munching on peanuts and cheap nachos.

And last but not least: A couple of summers ago, I had one of the best dates nights of my life while watching an outdoor movie, and thinking back on it still puts a smile on my face.

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Where to stay in… Playa Del Carmen: The Grand Hyatt Resort

hyatt playa del carmen

When I heard that the new Grand Hyatt Resort in Playa del Carmen was awarded with the AAA Four Diamond Award after operating for only eight months (!), I was intrigued. If a hotel receives this honor after such a short time, it had to be exceptional.

The other aspect of the Grand Hyatt that piqued my interest was the fact that it was designed by the acclaimed Mexican architect Sordo Madaleno, and the award-winning New York-based Rockwell Group. I knew I had to check this new resort out for myself during my recent road trip across the Yucatan Peninsula.Grand Hyatt Resort Playa del Carmen

The Grand Entrance

Even just my arrival at the hotel was an impressive experience: We drove up a spacious driveway and at the end of it, we were greeted by a massive fountain, which resembles a Mayan step pyramid.grand hyatt playa del carmen fountain1

The intention to incorporate the local culture and natural beauty of the area  was apparent not only at the entrance, but throughout the entire property – when you access the grand entrance area you immediately see the vast mangrove gardens, which were preserved in the process of building the hotel.grand hyatt playa del carmen mangrove

The rooms are set in U-shaped four-story  blocks that surround the center section  of the hotel. The wide open central section  was designed in a way that offers terrific sea views, and can best be described as a covered walkway (Paseo) where you find the reception, a concierge desk, a coffee shop and a couple of snack bars.grand hyatt playa del carmen1

While the receptionist was checking us in, we were handed two ice cold glasses of champagne – the perfect way to start off our time in such breathtaking surroundings and to relax us after the long day of travel  (which involved a flight from New York and the drive to Playa del Carmen from the airport in Cancun ).grand hyatt champagne

We loaded our bags onto a luggage cart and a porter took them up to our room, leaving us free to continue sipping our champagne. Walking through the long, open corridors on which the rooms are located, we noticed right away the finishes and materials that were thoughtfully sought out for the property: wood, sand colored stone and lots of plants on the open side, always emphasizing the connection with the natural environment.grand hyatt playa views

And then there is the tasteful artwork – I don’t think I have ever been to a hotel with so many carefully selected pieces of art, featuring materials such as  wood and metal. Much of the artwork was created by the artist César López-Negrete, who conceptualized many of his pieces exclusively for the Grand Hyatt. I found myself constantly impressed with the design of the hotel, especially in the mornings, when I walked down to the Paseo. I was stunned by the grand architecture every time.
Grand Hyatt Resort Playa del Carmen art

The Rooms

When we were shown our room, I felt immediately at home: it was elegant and spacious, with  contemporary furniture, sun loungers on the balcony, and a bed that looked so comfortable that I knew right away I’d be able to get a decent night’s sleep.grand hyatt playa del carmen beds

There are 14 different room categories at the Grand Hyatt, ranging from regular ocean view rooms to more luxurious swim-up rooms which have access to a private pool (which is shared with the other swim-up rooms). The rooms with the most stunning vistas are without a doubt the executive suites, which are located on the fifth floor of a bridge that looks right over the translucent waters of the Caribbean sea.grand hyatt playa del carmen infinity pool view

All of the rooms are big enough to feature their own dining area, and come with flat screen TVs, iPod docking areas, coffee machines, and a bathroom that is half open to the room and features large double sinks. I loved the modern yet timeless interior design with a touch of nature thanks to the wooden features that were incorporated.grand hyatt playa del carmen bathroom

A fantastic extra? The mosquito spray that was included in the toiletries (which are organic) since the mosquitos can get annoying, especially after a rainstorm or at dusk and I truly  appreciated the hotel’s thoughtful gesture. Sometimes it’s little things like this that can make a huge difference.grand hyatt playa del carmen toiletries

The Showstopper of the Grand Hyatt

Despite the rooms being so gorgeous, the only time I ended up spending in my room was when I was sleeping, because the real showstopper at the property are the three infinity pools (the Cenote Spa would be a very close second, but more on that later.) I was tempted to extend my stay as soon as I saw the beautifully designed swimming pools and sun loungers, some of which were conveniently placed right in the water.grand hyatt playa del carmen infinity pool1

But I also loved the bigger ‘nests’, which almost felt as if somebody had taken a super comfy canopy bed and placed it by the pool – I didn’t want to leave mine! And the best bit: you don’t really have to. The attentive wait staff serve food and refreshments  right to the sun loungers, so the only thing you need to do is to get up from time to time to enjoy the views from the infinity pool during a quick dip in the water.grand hyatt playa pool area

Guests who prefer the actual beach can lay down on sun beds in the sand, right by the turquoise Caribbean waters Playa is famous for. The Grand Hyatt has a 460 feet /140 meter beachfront, but it doesn’t really matter if you lay out on the beach or in the pool area, because they’re just steps away from one another.grand hyatt playa del carmen beach

The Award-winning Cenote Spa

If laying by the pool is not relaxing enough for you, head straight to the Cenote Spa. I’ve seen quite a few spas and wellness centers  in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as impressed with one as I was with the enormous 6,000ft Cenote Spa.Grand Hyatt Resort Playa del Carmen spa

My first thought on a stroll through the spa was that the spa alone should win a prize for its architecture and interior design, and funnily enough I later learned that the spa did in fact win the Interior Design Best Project Of 2015 award. That’s how stunning the Cenote Spa is – I am afraid the photos can’t even do it justice.grand hyatt playa del carmen cenote spa chairs

The centerpiece of the spa resembles a cenote, a natural underground swimming hole that are unique to the Yucatan peninsula . Inside the igloo-shaped cenote there is a circular pool, which is extraordinary. This place is in fact so breathtaking that couples can book romantic dinners for which tables are set up right by the cenote pool, lit by intimate lights – a wonderful spot for a dinner for two. It is  also a fantastic spot for morning yoga, and luckily for yoga enthusiasts , that is exactly what you can do there.
Grand Hyatt Resort Playa del Carmen Cenote Spa

The spa treatments are designed with the Mexican culture in mind too, with unique treatments such as the Mayan head massage with cocoa and tequila oils. In addition, the Cenote Spa is equipped with a steam room, sauna, cold plunge pools, a Jacuzzi and a lap pool.grand hyatt playa del carmen cenote spa2

I was also happy to discover a bright, airy gym, which is much bigger than most gyms at hotels of a comparable size. The machines and equipment are all brand new, and I have to admit that I needed to use a treadmill after enjoying the decadent breakfast buffet maybe a little too much. Yes, let’s talk about the food:grand hyatt playa del carmen the grill menu1

Food & Drinks

There are three restaurants at the Grand Hyatt – La Cocina, The Grill at 1 26 (referring to the cross streets the hotel is located at – 1 Avenida and 26 Street), and the Raw Seafood Bar. In addition, there is a coffee bar, El Paseo, conveniently located in the covered walkway area. Both La Cocina and The Grill at 1 26 have amazing sea views, bordering the pool area, while the Raw Seafood Bar is located in the center building with a more casual flair.
Grand Hyatt Resort Playa del Carmen Breakfast Buffet

I had dinner at The Grill at 1 26, where you can get some of the best steak and grilled seafood in Playa del Carmen. My travel companion was excited to try a good steak, and I have to admit that I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t find something vegetarian on the menu, but there was nothing to worry about: the restaurant has a special vegetarian menu!

Sadly, I didn’t get to dine at La Cocina, which offers international food and focuses on fresh, local ingredients, but I got to experience the restaurant during breakfast and loved the atmosphere inside as well as out on the terrace, overlooking the beach.grand hyatt playa del carmen the grill margarita

The breakfast buffet was one of the best I have experienced in any hotel, with an extensive selection of European, North American and Mexican dishes. Every single dish I tried was scrumptious, and I couldn’t resist sampling pretty much every single pastry that was on the buffet, simply because they looked so mouthwatering good. And let me tell you: they are worth every single calorie.Grand Hyatt Resort Playa del Carmen Breakfast Buffet

One thing I appreciated about the Grand Hyatt was the fact that the hotel is not, like most resorts of a similar size in Playa del Carmen, an all-inclusive resort, but encourages guests to also go out and sample the many nearby restaurants on 5th Avenue. If you do prefer to eat at the hotel however, you can add on a meal plan to your room – just dinner (US$40, at La Cocina or The Grill); dinner and lunch (US$59) or breakfast, lunch and dinner (US$74).grand hyatt playa del carmen bar

Extra Fun!

Along with everything I have mentioned above, there is also a  coffee shop onsite, so there is really no reason to leave the hotel. And if you are afraid you might get bored: fear not, there is so much to do at the resort, it is impossible to experience even the slightest hint of boredom.grand hyatt playa del carmen restaurant2

Not only is there a movie theater (including a popcorn machine for an endless flow of fresh popcorn!), but there is an entire room dedicated to entertainment. A ping pong table, gaming consoles, table soccer, board games.. you name it, they have it. That would be where I’d be hanging out if I found myself in the Grand Hyatt during the rainy season (that said, I’ve never experienced a lot of rain in Playa, even when I was there during the rainy season… after a shower, the sun usually comes out again quickly). This room is named ‘Teen Arcade’ but judging by my own excitement over this room, I am sure that adults enjoy it just as much.Grand Hyatt Resort Playa del Carmen Entertainment Room

For families traveling with kids, there is a great kids room with plenty of toys – I know that my nieces and nephew would love it there – and experienced staff, so you can also enjoy some kids-free time during your vacation. There is even a children’s dinner on two nights, so that parents can enjoy a romantic dinner for two during their vacation!grand hyatt playa infinity pool dani

If you are looking to get married, the Grand Hyatt Resort can arrange your dream destination wedding right on the beach, and with 314 guest rooms and suites, you can rest assured that all wedding guests can be accommodated.grand hyatt playa sun loungers

Location, Location, Location

Another huge plus factor of the hotel? Its location! Playa del Carmen’s main shopping and entertainment drag, Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida), is just two minutes away. Right away you’ll find yourself in the middle of shops, bars and restaurants, and the new Quinta Alegria Shopping Mall is only a five minute walk from the hotel.

Most of the hotel resorts in Playa del Carmen aren’t actually in town, but stretch along the beaches north and south of the center, which means you have to take a taxi every time you want to go into town. I really appreciated that at the Grand Hyatt, you can just walk out of the hotel and are in the middle of it all. And the beach where the hotel is located, Mamita’s Beach, is one of the best beaches in Playa.grand hyatt playa del carmen mamitas beach

The Verdict

So what’s my verdict? The Grand Hyatt Playa Del Carmen gets five Globetrottergirls gold stars! I was trying hard to find something to complain about, or room for improvement, but I honestly couldn’t find anything.

A stylish, elegant hotel with a gorgeous pool area and stunning spa, comfortable rooms, sophisticated restaurants and attentive staff – it’s impossible to leave the Grand Hyatt and not feel refreshed and relaxed, no matter if you’re there for a quick weekend getaway or a week-long holiday. I am already dreaming of a return to this incredible hotel.Grand Hyatt resort Playa Del Carmen pool area

Details

  • Address: 1a Avenida esquina Calle 26 Colonia Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen
  • Price: Rooms start at $199, suites start at $549 (room rates vary depending on season). Check the Grand Hyatt website for special deals & packages
  • LGBT Friendly: Yes
  • Amenities: Buffet breakfast (at extra cost, if room not booked with a meal plan); three restaurants; three infinity pools, spa & gym, concierge desk, rooms have iPod docking stations, flat screen TVs, tea & coffee making facilities; wedding and events space; parking (at extra cost); kids club; entertainment room with movie theater; beach cabanas
  • Website: PlayadelCarmen.grandhyatt.com

Grand Hyatt Resort Playa del Carmen Mexico

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Polaroid Of The Week: Feelin’ beachy in New York

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york riis beachThis week was all about beaches – simply because it is too hot to do anything else! New York is suffering from / enjoying a heatwave – the perspective depends on who you ask, I guess, but I might be the only one who’d say this is enjoyable, and admittedly, it has been a little too hot even for my taste.

Working two jobs at the moment means I didn’t have much time to explore this week, but I managed to visit three different beaches: the small beach in Red Hook, just a short drive from where I’m staying, which is the perfect place to let my pup cool off in the water for a while, and Riis Beach in the Rockaways, where I’d been wanting to go for a long time (I’ve been to the Rockaways before, but only to another part of the beach there).

And my beachy highlight this week: Fire Island! This 32-mile-long, ¼-mile wide  strip of sand (the longest of four barrier islands that protect the South Shore of Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean) had been on my travel wish list for the past two summers, but somehow I never made it out there (it takes about 2.5 hours incl car & ferry ride to get there from NYC). But this week, there was the perfect opportunity to finally get my a** over to the island when a friend celebrated her birthday there. It was just a quick teaser and I didn’t get to experience any of the gay night life that Fire Island is famous for, which means I have to return soon, I guess! But the quick visit did definitely whet my appetite for more  – it was the perfect city break, and I didn’t even bring my laptop over there, which means it almost felt like a vacation to me.

If New York stays as sweltering hot as it’s been these past few days, I might need to plan another beach getaway for next week…

Newsletter subscribers: I sent out the summer edition of my Beyond the Blog newsletter last week – if you haven’t seen it in your inbox, make sure to check your spam folder. I’ve got some exclusive giveaways for newsletter subscribers which you can still enter. (If you’d like to subscribe, you can do that here)

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Polaroid Of The Week: Performance Art On Governors Island, New York

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week new york city governors islandAnd just like that, two months in Europe are over and I am finding myself back in New York. As always, it felt like I had never left and I picked up right where I had left off when I said Au Revoir to New York in early June. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back in what is undoubtedly the greatest city in the world, and I started August off with a trip to Governors Island.

What was supposed to be a beachy afternoon turned into more of an entertainment trip when the beach bar I was hoping to sip a cold beverage in was closed, but we caught a compelling show by the Polish theater group PEREGRINUS instead, which involved acting, dancing of the fantastic performers, and even participating myself. The Manhattan skyline formed a picture-perfect backdrop to the performance (which got us excited for the NYC Fringe Festival later this month!) and to a relaxing day in the sun – much needed after the lackluster summer in Germany.

I am excited to be able to enjoy all the things this month that make NYC so great in the summer – open air movies, food markets and street fairs, beach time, rooftop drinks and picnics in the park. Stay tuned for more – and if you happen to be in NYC this month, let me know!

Can I ask you a favor? Globetrottergirls was nominated as a contender for Best Budget Travel Blog in the 10Best Readers’ Choice travel award contest which is being promoted by USA TODAY. I would be forever grateful if you could vote for Globetrottergirls via this link. Only if you think I deserve to win, of course 🙂

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5 reasons why you should visit Cannes

France chez marie cafe

Cannes – playground of the rich and famous, with its azure blue waters and palm-tree lined boulevard a picture-perfect holiday spot on the French Riviera, and must-go place for anyone planning a Cote d’Azur sojourn. Cannes is so much more than the film festival that makes into the worldwide news every year, when Hollywood stars conglomerate in France’s most sophisticated and glamorous beach destination. But what makes Cannes so special outside of the Cannes Film Festival? We’re sharing five reasons why Cannes is worth a visit:

1 La Croisette

A long, elegant, palm tree-lined boulevard that stretches along the seafront for miles, La Croisette can’t be missed on a visit to Cannes. It is here where the rich & famous shop whose yachts you can see lined up in one of Cannes’ marinas. You find plenty of upscale boutiques here, sidewalk cafes and restaurants, or you could just go for a stroll and marvel at the beautiful villas on the one side, and tourists enjoying he beaches on the other. Make sure to walk all the way down to the Old Port, Vieux Port, for the scenic views.

La Croisette

2 Iles de Lerins

The Iles de Lerins are two wooded islets just off the coast of Cannes which have been famously inhabited by monks for many centuries. The monks produce the tasty Lerina liqueur on Saint Honorat and also organize wine tastings for visitors. You can even stay in a hostel in the abbey on the island to experience the simple life the monks there are living. The other island, Saint Marguerite, is famous for its gorgeous beaches and clear waters that make you think you’re in the Caribbean instead of the Mediterranean! There are regularly boat trips to the isles from Gare Maritime hourly during the summer months (and less frequently during the winter).

Île Sainte-Marguerite

3 The beautiful beaches

Cannes stretches along the sea for over four miles (7 kilometers) – and the beaches are stunning. The beach that stretches along La Croisette Boulevard is of course the most famous one, but note that not all of Cannes’ beach front is public – there are several private beaches right in the city. Among the best public beaches are Zamenhof Beach and Mace Beach (both right by Croisette Boulevard), Moure Rouge Beach near the fishing ports and the golden sand beach La Bocca. Most of the private beaches can be visited too, by the way, but they charge up to €20 admission.

Part of Cannes Beach

4 Le Suquet: The Old Town

The Old Town raises up on the mountainside of Mont Chevalier, overlooking the entire bay. This is what used to be the original fishing village that eventually turned into what Cannes is today. The setting of this neighborhood couldn’t be more picturesque, and the views over the red roofs of Cannes and the Mediterranean from up here are breathtaking. Traffic isn’t allowed, which means you can fully enjoy the narrow alleyways and staircases, courtyards and ancient walls. Make sure to climb the 11th century Tour Du Mont watchtower from which you can see all the way out to the Lerins Islands. The streets of Le Suquet are lined with fabulous boutiques and shops, by the way – not to be missed if you’re a shopaholic! In addition to luxury shops for fashionistas, you’ll find food and flower markets as well as flea markets in Cannes’ Old Town.

le suquet - vieux cannes

5 The stunning Notre-Dame d’Esperance church

This provencal Gothic church will show you that Cannes has so much more to offer than the Film Festival. History buffs will appreciate the wood paneling that dates back to the 14th century and the collection of 19th century paintings. It’s the most significant church in town. The views from the church are also some of the most terrific ones in Cannes, given that Notre-Dame d’Esperance sits on top of the hill that is home to the Old Town.

Church Notre Dame d'Espérance, Cannes

Where to stay in Cannes

Check out Villa Les Palmes – 15 recently renovated apartments inside a traditional French Riveran-style building. The apartments are furnished in a modern, contemporary way and come with fully-equipped kitchens as well as amenities such as washing machines, dishes, WiFi and satellite TV. . The apartments are near the Croisetter and only a five-minute walk from the beach. You’re right in the middle of it all, and the apartments start at only €70 per night for two people or €75 for three people!

Cannes

How to get to Cannes

The closest airport is Nice, a 30-minute bus or taxi ride away. There are plenty of shuttle services that will bring you straight from the Nice Cote d’Azur airport to Cannes. The train ride from the airport is the most scenic way to arrive since it runs right alongside the coast.

Sunset on Cannes
Photo credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Cannes La Croisette; (2) Iles Sainte-Marguerite by Anthony Fino; (3) Cannes Beach by Paulo; (4) Le Suquet by Dominique Bergeron ; (5) Notre Dame d’Esperance Church by Sam2907; (6) Cannes by Stefan Jurca; (7) Cannes sunset by Jullen Sanine
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Polaroid Of The Week: A Perfect London Summer Day

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week england london kensington gardensAfter a week by the sea, I made my way up to London, deciding that I can’t leave England without at least a quick pit stop in my former adopted hometown.

Summer was in full swing when I arrived in Friday (a rare thing for London!) and I spontaneously decided to take some time off work and spend my Saturday like most other people this weekend, and like I used to spend so many of my London weekends: in the park (with a run though Hyde Park in the morning and a picnic in Kensington Gardens in the afternoon, where I snapped the picture above), with a bit of shopping (the madness that is Oxford Street seems less crazy when you’ve been away for a while) and last but not least: with a visit to the West End, where I saw Guys & Dolls, currently starring Rebel Wilson, who always makes me laugh, and it wasn’t any different in this musical. If you happen to find yourself in London before 21 August, I highly recommend it – look for cheap tickets on LoveTheatre.com.

My quick visit in London ended with some bubbles at the Searcys champagne bar in St Pancras with Becki, who I hadn’t seen since the NBE conference in Finland in January 2014, and was the perfect way to conclude a fantastic week in the UK. Next stop: Munich!

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Polaroid Of The Week: Beach Day In Brighton

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week brighton englandI decided instead of boring you with yet another Polaroid from Berlin, I’d wait another day and share a photo of the place where I’m spending the bigger part of this week: Brighton, England! When I came here for Brighton Pride last summer, I sure didn’t think I’d be back less than a year later, but as so often… I just never know where my travels take me 🙂 (Remember how I ended up in the Amazon in March? Yeah, I had no intentions to go there either..).

Until last week I had no idea that I’d be hanging out at the beach in Brighton today, but I sure won’t complain about this! Apparently, summer and sunshine only arrived in Britain this past weekend, and I got to enjoy the most beautiful summer day on England’s south coast today. The beach was packed, as one would expect with fabulous weather like this – there was not a single cloud in the sky. People were barbecuing at the beach, SUPing in the ocean (something I’m hoping to do later this week!), and the bars and pubs along the beach were packed.

I’ve had a crush on Brighton ever since I first came here in 2005, and won’t ever tire of coming here – if you wanted to know more about what makes Brighton so special, I recommend my article Irresistable Brighton: What makes Brighton so appealing?

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Peru On A Plate: Win A 9-day Culinary Trip To Peru For Two

machu picchu llama

Peru has been on my mind lately – a friend of mine asked me to join her on a trip to Peru in September, and had I not already committed to another trip, I would’ve jumped at the chance of joining her. My last trip to Peru ended abruptly, and I have been itching to return ever since I left Cuzco two and a half years ago. After finishing the 5-day Salkantay trek through the Andes to get to Machu Picchu, I’ve been keen on doing some other multi-day treks in Peru: the Cordillera Blanca mountain range around Huarez in the north of the country is supposed to be stunning, and I have no doubt that I’ll love Colca Canyon near Arequipa in the south.machu picchu from wayna picchu peruAnd then there is the mystical oasis town of Huacachina in the midst of mighty sand dunes, the Islas Ballestas which are a wildlife lover’s dream, but I’d also love to return to Cuzco to see more of the Inca ruins around there (Machu Picchu is just one of many more) and to delve more in the city’s amazing food scene, and then there’s Lima, where people also rave about the fantastic restaurant scene and trendy neighborhoods like San Isidro, Barranco or Miraflores.dani in cuscoPeru’s breathtakingly beautiful and diverse landscapes have gotten a lot of praise from travel publications and travelers for a long time now, but it is Peruvian food whose popularity has increased notably over the past few years – which is why I am excited to share the giveaway below, for a culinary trip to Peru (click here to enter if you can’t wait).

It seems like every major city around the globe has at least one Peruvian restaurant these day, and Britain’s Guardian newspaper even ran an article a while back about how Peruvian food has captured food lovers’ hearts in England, quoting gourmet chef Alain Ducasse: ‘Peru will become one of the leading actors on the global culinary scene.’

And he was right: Peruvian food is being gobbled up all over the globe, but of course it never tastes as amazing as it tastes in the country itself, with locally sourced fresh ingredients. I’ve already touched on the fabulous food scene in Cuzco when I told you why Cuzco is worth a trip, and the restaurant scene in Lima is booming even more. New restaurants are opening constantly, and not justpisco sour your ordinary type of restaurants, but sophisticated eateries that pride themselves in serving avant-garde dishes that leave diners impressed and longing for more. Lima’s most popular restaurant, Central, is regularly voted in the World’s Top 50 restaurants and a must-visit for any foodie, Gaston Acurio’s Astrid y Gaston was recently voted the best restaurant in all of South America (!), dessert lovers will be blown away at Malabar while Maras inside Lima’s brand new Westin Hotel will satisfy fine dining aficionados.

La Rosa Nautica is a Lima institution for Pisco Sours right by the ocean, and speaking of Pisco Sours: make sure to have them daily while you’re in Peru! This typical Peruvian cocktail is made of Pisco, a type of Brandy and Peru’s national drink, and sugar, egg whites, key lime juice.

So what makes Peruvian food so special, you ask? Thanks to Peru’s multicultural heritage, it is the perfect example for fusion cuisine: it combines pre-Inca and Inca influences with the cuisine of European, Asian and West-African immigrants who all brought their local dishes to Peru where they tried to recreate them with the ingredients they found in Peru. The country itself has an incredibly diverse range of foods – ranging from seafood heavy dishes on the coast to fruit-loaded plates in the Amazon and the Andes with potatoes, quinoa, corn and other crops. The different cuisines started to melt into each other and enrich one another, creating a unique and unrivaled culinary experience.quinoa salad at quinoaOn a trip to Peru, you’ll discover that each region has its own regional dishes, only few dishes are typical for the entire country. Culinary treasures you shouldn’t miss are alpaca steak, anticuchos (beef heart kebabs), cuy (guinea pig), lomo saltado (beef tips that are stir fried with onion, tomatoes and spices), and aji de gallina (chicken in a yellow pepper sauce with hard-boiled eggs and olives). Vegetarians will love the tasty sauce of Papas a la huancaina (potatoes in a creamy cheese sauce, a dish I could have eaten happily every day while I was in Peru!) and papa rellena – stuffed potatoes with vegetables, hard-boiled egg, spices and olives (also available  with meat).

I don’t know about you, but my mouth is watering right now – can you see why I am contemplating a return trip to Peru? And because Peruvian cuisine is so popular right now, I am excited about this LATAM sweepstakes, which will bring two lucky people on a 9-day culinary-focused trip to Peru, allowing them to discover Peru’s foodie scene from Lima, the Culinary Capital of South America to the magical, spiritual town of Cusco.cuzco plaza de armas3

The prize

A 9-day culinary-focused trip to Peru for 2, including:

  • Round-trip economy class flights for 2 people from anywhere in the continental United States, via LATAM Airlines
  • A 9-day trip between Lima, Cuzco and the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu. The trip includes visiting historical places and discovering local cuisine
  • Outfits from Toad&Co
  • A specially selected travel gear package from AFAR
  • $500 worth of travel gear from Tour Radar
  • Two 38L capacity carry-ons from Away
  • An intimate cocktail class exploring the history of Pisco in the Museo del Pisco in Cuzco

Click here to enter

peru on a plate

This promotion is brought to you by Promperu in cooperation with LATAM Airlines, Intrepid Travel, Toad&Co, Campo de Encanto Pisco, AFAR, TourRadar and Away Travel. 

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