Do As the Napoletanos Do

Just last month, UNESCO gave traditional Napoletana Pizza-making cultural heritage status. The traditional Neapolitan pizzas are strictly Marinara and, of course, the Margherita. I visited Naples for the first time for the New Year, and oooo baby, I had a blast eating some pizza.

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Gotta have a small art piece of a pizzaiulo (pizza-maker). Found in Sorbillo.

I tried out two well-known pizzerias: Sorbillo and Starita – both family owned, and both delicious.

Literally down the street from my Airbnb was Sorbillo, which sits on the corner of Via Atri and the very busy, Via dei Tribunali. The closest metro stops are Dante and Museo. Our Airbnb host suggested going early. Anything beyond 2pm and you’ll be waiting a lengthy time. (Side note: Most restaurants do close in the middle of the day and re-open during the evening. You may want to try to wait in line before Sorbillo re-opens in the evening to get a spot without waiting)

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Me and my travelling partner went just after opening (12pm) and got seated without a wait time. Woo-hoo! Seriously, during the evening wait time is probably 1-2 hours. There is also a separate line if you’re ordering for take-away, however, that too can be quite long.

I ordered the Margherita Bufala D.O.P. and it was absolute heaven. The pizza was quite large and although I told myself I’d only eat half, I ended up eating all of it. No Regrets! Honestly, I don’t why I told myself that haha. The crust was absolutely delicious and it had a great sauce-to-cheese ratio.

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Margherita Bufala D.O.P.

My friend and I also ate at Starita, near the Materdei metro stop. Lines are a lot shorter than Sorbillo, but waiting is still required. We waited for about 40 minutes. Pizzas were smaller but equally delicious. I have to say…… I think I liked Starita a tiny bit more than Sorbillo. While Sorbillo’s pizzas were larger, the marinara would soak through the crust (a common situation, I know), but there wasn’t so much of that for the Starita pizzas.

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I had fantastic Margherita pizzas in both locations and both were filling. If you happen to travel to Naples, do make the time and effort to visit these places. Beware of the wait times though! Both places get crazy busy and you may have to shove your way past a crowd to put your name down. Worth it!

 

 

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The picture file of my Margherita was corrupted, unfortunately. So here’s a picture of my beer instead! 😅😅

Also if you happen to live in the NYC area, or if you are planning a trip there, a Starita off-shoot (Don Antonio), and Sorbillo have locations there. Buon Appetito!

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Actual footage of me running to the nearest pizzeria

Museum of Ice Cream L.A.

Come with me, And you’ll be In a world of Pure imagination Take a look And you’ll see Into your imagination

 

Art meets ice cream in the popular pop-up Museum of Ice Cream in Los Angeles. What began in New York has quickly spread to L.A., San Francisco, and now Miami. While the L.A. location has since sold out, I was very fortunate to buy tickets when MOIC extended its stay in Southern California. According to employees, every location is different, but what remains the same throughout is the sprinkle pool. Release your inner child!

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In true Willy Wonka-esque fashion, visitors can smell the banana wall paper, they are given ice cream, candy, and of course, there are many photo opportunities. Artists also contributed installations that were displayed including: Baker’s Son, Abel Bentin, and the co-founder herself: Maryellis Bunn.

Before you even enter the museum, those who were early could wait in a garden that had hula hoops, giant Jenga, and cornhole. Its as if Maryellis wants you to become a child again before you experience the MOIC. It totally worked. I indulged and used the hula hoops, and continued to do so when children started showing up. I swear, if it’s not already, hula hooping is going to be the next work out trend.

As my friends and I entered the museum, we were given Dove chocolates and entered a beautiful shimmery room. Thus our adventure began:

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Installation by Baker’s Son
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Art by Abel Bentin

 

Overall, it was so much fun. There was a foosball table at the end of the exhibit a well as a gift shop that sold ice cream for dogs! Our furry friends are not forgotten. MIAMI FOLKS: Tickets are on sale NOW. Before they sell out, purchase here. Definitely a family friendly event as I saw many children looking incredibly happy in the sprinkle pool. So far, MOIC is only in Miami until the end of January 2018, but who knows, maybe it will be extended as it was in L.A.

Scum & Villainy Cantina

Time to rock out with your blasters out at this Star Wars pop-up bar, located just across the street from Beetle House on Hollywood Boulevard in L.A. While Beetle House played mod and emo music to complement the goth vibes, Scum & Villainy Cantina is full of jukebox jives and, yes, they played the infamous Mos Eisley cantina song.

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Reservations are required where you present your ticket at the entrance. You can purchase a $50 ticket which includes two drink tokens and Star Wars swag (a pint glass and patch), or a $25 ticket which includes only the swag. T-shirts are also sold for an additional $15.  

I had a great time and you really do feel transported to a cantina on Tatooine. There are small bites and drinks, but I’m a little disappointed that there were only three signature cocktails. I’m actually totally bummed at the lack of creativity that I decided to come up with an imaginary list of my own that should be used:

  • Tatooine Sunrise
  • Rogue Jyn Fizz
  • Tauntaun Collins
  • Mandalorian Mule
  • Darth & Stormy
  • Sith on the Beach

But alas, I only had three cocktails to choose from. I opted for the Wretched Blue Milk which was a tropical rum-based drink and quite delicious. I spotted an older Han and Leia lounging at a booth (super cute!), and the ladies restrooms had graffiti like “It’s a Trap”, “Han Shot First”, and the symbol of the Rebel Alliance.

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In a perfect world, Han and Leia got to grow old together 😦

So if you’re a Star Wars fan and happen to be in Los Angeles, make a reservation and visit the Cantina! Cosplay is encouraged, of course!

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Beetle House L.A.

The gothic and eccentric world of Tim Burton comes to life through food and drinks at Beetle House L.A., a pop-up located in Hollywood. Beetle House comes to L.A. after the highly successful NYC location where it was born in June 2016.

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While the L.A. pop-up is full of artwork and characters inspired by Tim Burton conceptions and films, Beetle House creator, Zach Neil wanted to create a home for the “freaks, weirdos and grown up goth kids of the city.” The Beetle House slogan, in fact, is “It’s Halloween all year long.”

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That is indeed the vibe you get once you’re inside the bar. Artwork covers the walls, Tim Burton characters walk around for pictures, and carnival-like performers make their way around the bar. I saw a woman hammer a nail into her nose. Whhhhaaaa?!?!

The entrance to the restaurant is the open-mouthed sandworm from Beetlejuice. Totally cool! While I didn’t get to eat there, I did sample the drink menu. Expensive (obviously because it’s L.A.) but delicious. No reservations are required for the bar, but if you wanted to eat at the restaurant, reservations well in advance are a must. Having said that, if you are early enough, it doesn’t hurt to try asking the hostess if there’s any availability as last-minute cancellations occur. The menu itself is prix fixe with three different levels to choose from so be prepared to drop some cash for a full meal.

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It had a fun vibe especially if you are into Tim Burton movies. The music is also strategically chosen. There was music from The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Cure, and even the tequila song à la Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. So if you happen to be walking among the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, it’s definitely worth a visit.

“The idea was simple, create a space where people who love Halloween, horror films, Gothic, dark and moody music can gather for a meal and drinks. Sports bars are great if you are into sports, but what about the rest of us? Imagine a place with the same enthusiasm as a big time sports bar but instead everyone is celebrating, films, music and art. That is the type of place I want to create.” – Zach Neil

Taco Tuesday: The Ice Cream Edition

The ice cream taco is not a new fad or concept. Case? Choco Tacos from the Klondike company. I’m unsure of the availability of choco tacos elsewhere in the world, but they’re pretty common in every ice cream truck in Southern California, as well as in major grocery stores.

Another growing fad is rolled ice cream, which I believe is a Thai invention. What is new, however, is the combination of two delicious inventions to create ice cream tacos on crack, a process that Sweet Cup in Garden Grove, California has perfected.

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Initially part of “Taco Tuesday” marketing, Sweet Cup only dished out rolled ice cream tacos on Tuesday, but due to high demand and lines going out the small shop, Sweet Cup has now decided to serve these sweet tacos everyday! A victory for us all!

There are 11 signature rolled ice cream taco creations ranging from Rainbow Road (fruity pebble ice cream with cotton candy whipped cream), to Vietnamese Coffee (coffee ice cream with sea salt cream) and S’mores Galore. It was so difficult to choose. Be prepared to wait, as there are only four “cold plates” in which staff can only make one order at a time.

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I ordered for myself and of course, I had to buy some for my niece (3 years) and nephew (6 years). My three orders were the Honey Avocado, Strawberry Shortcake, and Cookies & Cream.

I had to wait about 30 minutes but it was well worth it. I predict that more and more ice cream shops will do the same as Sweet Cup, which will really help with the crowds seeking ice cream tacos on hot summer days. Yum!

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The 24K: Coconut charcoal ice cream with whipped cream, coconut flakes, chocolate drizzle, and 24k gold flakes. #Extra

Last Call in Dubrovnik

13 May 2017

Due to the previous night’s adventures, I overslept from all the drinking. But because I drank copious amounts of water, I did not wake up with a hangover. Take that, 30! However, I missed my chance for an early morning hike up Mount Srd, which ended up being fate since it was incredibly foggy and overcast in the morning.

Instead, I went back to Dubravka 1836 Restaurant & Cafe for breakfast and yet again battled the aggressive pigeons.

Afterward, I finally made my way to the City Walls tour which completely surround Old Town Dubrovnik. It was 150kn, which is about €20/£18. The medieval pathways are pretty narrow so if you are a slow walker make sure you step aside to let faster walkers pass …. Sort of like you’re in traffic. Also, this is a one way journey so walk up the stairs and make your way towards the Adriatic. There’s also plenty of vantage points, cafes, and rest stops if you need a break or simply want to look over the sea with a delicious smoothie in hand.
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One of the towers you’ll see along the City Walls tour is Minčeta Tower, which was the filming location for Game of Thrones’ House of the Undying in Season 2 — where Daenerys enters to find her dragons. Did I reenact a few scenes and take some photos? You bet I did! “Where are my dragons?!”

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House of the Undying in Game of Thrones, but Minčeta Tower to Dubrovnik.

After exploring the City Walls I headed to the Old Port where I caught a boat to Lokrum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come to think of it, Old Town Dubrovnik and the walls are Heritage Sites as well. Within Lokrum, you will find a Benedictine monastery. Its gardens were also used to film Qarth scenes for GoT Season 2. I hiked around the island, dipped my toes in the Adriatic, and took a few pictures of the local wildlife. It is a gorgeous island that you can definitely plan a picnic at, especially if cruises are overrunning Dubrovnik. In fact, Robert my GoT tour guide, recommended that if a cruise comes into Dubrovnik the city will definitely be overcrowded. So, it is during this time when people should visit Lokrum.


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Also on Lokrum? A Game of Thrones Media Centre where you will find the Iron Throne!

When I left the island I went back to Barba for some lunch then, with the sky now clear, I headed to the cable cars. I went up Mount Srd and took a few lovely shots of Dubrovnik.

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View from Mount Srd

Afterward, I went back down and back into the city where I walked into a marching band walking through the main path. They stopped at Luža Square, and played, I kid you not, the Game of Thrones theme song. It was fate.

 

I then grabbed some dinner at Pizzeria Oliva and ended my night in Dubrovnik the way it started: drinking wine and D’vino.


Overall, Dubrovnik was truly amazing and I will definitely go back. I’d also like to explore more of Croatia and go on a wine tour or two. It was easy to give myself into my surroundings. I would just sit, relax and listen to the swarm of birds, the waves softly crashing on Lokrum, and even the mating calls of the peacocks. Each city during my Journey to 30 was unique and beautiful in its own right, but Dubrovnik was hands down my favourite. Also, my departure from the country was made all the more better as I witnessed an obnoxious and entitled drunk passenger get kicked off my EasyJet flight. Helpful travel tip: Don’t board a plane while completely belligerent and smelling of booze.

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Dubrovnik: A Game of Tours

12 May 2017

Today was the day. The day I was most looking forward to throughout my entire Journey to 30: the Game of Thrones walking tour in Dubrovnik!!! I woke up feeling giddy and the city bells chiming in the distance really gave a King’s Landing vibe.

I’m not one to skip breakfast so I headed back to Dubravka 1836 Restaurant & Café before I met with my tour guide. I had a seaside table, therefore, I was also right next to the pigeons who were pretty aggressive trying to steal my bread. NOT TODAY, PIGEONS!

Then it was 9:30AM. Go time. Our meeting point was right next to the cafe so I walked over and met Robert, the tour guide, or Bobo as the locals know him. Robert is a current Game of Thrones extra and has been since season 2. His ultimate goal? To be killed off on the last season of GoT. The tour group was small with only 5 of us (plus a baby strapped to a mother’s back and a toddler. Go Mom!).  

Robert led us to our first stop: Fort Lovrijenac, where many scenes were filmed including Joffrey’s name day and various Red Keep scenes. The Fort also provided vantage points overlooking the Adriatic. It also overlooked the scene for the Purple Wedding, aka Joffrey’s wedding scene and [SPOILER ALERT!] his subsequent death. Muahahaha!

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This site was chosen for Joffrey’s wedding scene, aka: The Purple Wedding.

We headed back down the stairs towards Pile Gate and looked at another filming site from Season 2, where Joffrey orders Gold Cloaks to kill all of Robert Baratheon’s bastard children.

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Then we stopped at Pile Gate where Robert talked about filming the riot scene where King’s Landing peasants attack Joffrey … by throwing “cow pie” at him as Tyrion says. Robert was one of the peasants in the background.

 

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Robert proudly presenting his work on the riot scene.

We then walked up more stairs to the infamous steps where Cersei’s Walk of Atonement took place, or, walk of shame. Shame. Shame. *bell rings*

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This was actually taken on a different day, but with far less people than there were when I took the tour.

At this point we also took a little break while Robert went to get replicas of GoT swords! He had an almost-replica of Needle, Arya Stark’s sword, a Lannister shield, and of course, Longclaw, Jon Snow’s Valyrian steel sword. When he asked if I wanted to hold the Lannister shield, I believe my exact words were, “I’m not about that Lannister life.”

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I am no one. #ValarMorghulis

After our photo-op, we walked through the city following the shameful steps of Cersei, and towards Kula Luda, which provided a vantage point of the Old Port. Robert ended the tour here and told us some amusing anecdotes.* Overall, it was such a great experience! I highly recommend completing a tour with this group as all of the guides do have some involvement with the show. For more info, click here.

My Nosh for the Day:

Lunch @ Barba

I had the shrimp salad and salmon sandwich with the Barba Pale Ale from LAB Split Craft Brewery (located in Split, another seaside city north of Dubrovnik). The name of this casual restaurant and name of the beer is purely coincidental. Their menu is simple but delicious, serving seafood only. Most popular dish? The octopus burger. I highly recommend this place if you like seafood.

Drinkies @ D’Vino

Of course, I had to come back again. This time I ordered the flight of white wines. Then I bought a glass of a sauvignon blanc. I stayed here and talked with friendly employees (shout out to Ana!) until I had to leave for my dinner reservation.

Dinner @ Nautika

Nautika is known to both tourists and locals. It’s a high-end restaurant specialising in “Sophisticated mediterranean cuisine” as their website states. I normally do not eat seafood but everything was locally sourced, and hey, “When in Dubrovnik.” I definitely had to take advantage of my location and Nautika’s Head Chef Mario Bunda. And people, the man knows what he’s doing. OH.MY.GAH! My dinner was worth every F***ING penny. I spent somewhere around £80 for everything. The check does look scary in Croatian Kuna though.

I started with a cocktail: Nautika Mule

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My starter: Shrimp Polenta

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Main: Sea Bass on a bed of tomatoes paired with a white wine my waiter chose for me. I apologise everyone, I was too eager and forgot to take a picture of this freaking delectable dish. My bad.

Compliments of the chef:

A matcha goat cheese and HOMEMADE chocolates with figs. I. CAN’T. EVEN.

To be completely honest, I was drunk by the end of my dinner. C’mon though, can you blame me? I had a flight of wine, two full glasses of wine, and a strong cocktail. Oh and I forgot! The aperitif Nautika gave me, which I could smell when it was placed in front of me. After dinner I headed back to my Airbnb and passed out. Best day evvaaaa!

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*Robert’s Anecdotes:

  • One of Robert’s favourite scenes actually involves his former chemistry teacher. He happily watched his former teach being grabbed by the throat by a Gold Cloak in the scene where the Baratheon bastards are being killed.
  • If an extra dies and his “dead” face is seen on camera, that extra can no longer work on the show. Huge red Xs are scribbled across their photos and they’re done with GoT. Because of this, most of the extras try to hide their faces if they are part of the dead in the background. One of the directors encountered this while filming a scene and ordered extras to lie dead on the ground. All of them decided to lie face down. When the extras were told that some had to turn around, the extras would lie face up but threw their arms across their faces. The director had to explicitly state that he had to see some faces. HAHAHAHAHA.
  • Robert personally thanks Malta for preventing further GoT filming there as it was the location for King’s Landing in Season 1. After a squabble, GoT moved to Dubrovnik, for which they are grateful.
  • Dubrovnik extras loved Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) because he explored the city a lot and played the tourist. They also loved Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) because he took the time to learn about the city and its history. They were also pretty unanimous about who they did not like, but this isn’t a gossip site so move along. Or better yet, do a GoT walking tour and ask!

Magic of Dubrovnik

11 May 2017

My final destination during my Journey to 30 was Dubrovnik. And you guys, Dubrovnik took me. I fell in love with the city as soon as I saw the view from my Airbnb (Shout out to Anesa!). I mean, there’s stairs to get everywhere: stairs to my Airbnb, stairs into the Old Town, stairs within Old Town, stairs to get out of Old Town – but having ran a marathon the previous weekend, I was ok with all the extra workouts.

I was originally drawn to Dubrovnik because I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and HBO has been using sites in and around Dubrovnik for King’s Landing, among other Westeros and Essos locations. However, Dubrovnik is so much more than a GoT filming location, and its medieval walls were breathtaking. Like, if I were to retire tomorrow, I’d probably head to Dubrovnik….but real estate is expensive, so, wishful thinking.

When I first arrived I dropped my things off and headed out into Old Town Dubrovnik, the main centre enclosed by the medieval castle walls, which was a perfect walking distance from my Airbnb. Also nearby was the bus stop for the shuttle to the airport and the entrance for the cable cars that go up Mount Srd. So my Airbnb was in an ideal location.

As I took pictures of the beautiful city I made my way to D’vino, a popular wine bar amongst tourists and locals. I loved it so much I went there my next two nights. Thank you exchange rate for the cheap price of Croatian wine! 🙂 I bought the cheese platter — usually for two but because it’s me I ordered it anyway — paired with a white wine: Antunović Graševina Premium 2010. DEE-LICIOUS! #DLiciousDVino™

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D’vino’s Cheesy Platter featuring dried figs, fresh baked bread and Croatian cheeses. Yummy!

I walked around the city a little more and made my way to a restaurant (the cheese platter for 2 was just an appetiser). I ate at Dubravka 1836 Restaurant & Cafe and had a fantastic view of the Adriatic. Also I walked into the place with ice cream in hand because I’m an adult and I decided to have dessert before dinner. Seriously though, great views!

I walked around a little more, and yes, it felt like I was walking through King’s Landing, then I headed back to my Airbnb as I would have an early start the next morning for my GoT walking tour! Woo-hoo!

Tyrion Lannister
“That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.” – Tyrion Lannister, Season 6