Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Brooklyn/Wisconsin Wedding After All...


I wrote to you a while back and you gave me excellent, excellent recommendations for my Wisconsin wedding party in Brooklyn. Perhaps you remember. Unfortunately, he walked out on me a month ago for a younger woman, which was three weeks before the wedding. Not to air our dirty laundry or anything, but I would like to let everyone know how courteous both Love & Brain videography and reBar were in returning deposits and wishing me well.

In the ultimate of ultimate revenge/karma/serendipity, the day that word got out about the cancellation, I was offered a job teaching for a study abroad program on a cruise ship next summer. My summer will be spent cruising the Med, and spending 4-day free-for-all trips in Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Malta, etc. etc. You get the picture.

So, I am looking to you for two things from you and your readers (and I hope that no one minds that these are strictly ANTI-wedding needs):

First, and most importantly, swimsuits. I have recently become a size 2 (for the first time ever down from an 8!!), so I would like to wear my first bikini, and I need to be absolutely vicious! The options that I like so far are: Shakuhachi [pictured above] and Plhi, and I would like for it to be under $100 (grad student income).

Second, I'd like to pool some ideas from your travelling readers about inexpensive MUSTS in my port cities (listed here). I also plan to spend a week in England before the trip begins.

Any and all advice is greatly appreciated.


I know you aren't writing in for a pep talk or anything but FUCK THAT GUY AND YOU ARE BETTER OFF. I know you know that.

On to more important things. That Shakuhachi bikini has been sold out ever since Amy Merrick wore it in Tulum........... But I actually dig the etsy one. And I appreciate that Size I is rated to fit a 4-6. (Because, from one woman who has gone through the post-breakup-awesome-weight-loss thing to another, you may go up to a 4 pretty quick. Which is NOT a bad thing.)

So much love to you, lady. Keep on kicking ass.


  1. This sounds like a great trip! I can see you're starting in Southampton - are you travelling around the UK in that week or planning to stay close to base? It's not the most beautiful of places but there ARE lots of beautiful places close to it. You could travel down to Cornwall which has spectacular countryside and coastlines or the other way along the coast to Brighton / up to London. I'm from the south coast so if you know the kind of things you want to do (countryside / city / coast) then I'm happy to give you some more specific advice!

  2. I second that. Southampton in itself isn't that interesting (although the city walls might be worth a quick visit & Portsmouth which is very nearby has a historic dockyard - HMS Victory & the Mary Rose are worth a look, especially if you like your boats/ships/British Naval history) but it is well placed for other interesting trips, like Helen says.

    If you want interesting coastline, you don't have to head as far as Cornwall. West of Southampton you have Chesil Beach (of Ian McEwan fame) which is an interesting geographical feature as well as the Jurassic coastline in Dorset and Devon (especially Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove) and then further west to Lyme Regis (of French Lieutenant's Woman fame).

    You could also head north from Southampton to Oxford although if you are reliant on trains, it might be easier to go to London and then out again (I wouldn't bother with Reading unless you have a specific person to visit).

    As Helen says, if you have anything more specific in mind, just shout and I'm sure one reader or another can help!

  3. The Plhi suit!! SO rad.

    I was just in Spain, and Cadiz was one of the cities we visited. Unfortunately, it was my least favorite stop...mostly because of the cruise ships/all the cruise ship tourists that mobbed the streets. BUT it's a beautiful ancient city with great architecture, so enjoy walking around and make sure you stop and eat a paper cone full of fresh, hot churros with chocolate dipping sauce. There are also HUGE (I mean HUUUUGE) rubber trees in the park that are really spectacular.

    And yeah, EFF that guy! Have an amazing time!!

  4. So, the only city I've been to on your itinerary is Barcelona, and I spend most of my time as an architecture student looking at buildings, so I don't have a ton of suggestions beyond the obvious Gaudi/ museums/ etc., but...the botanic gardens are awesome, pretty cheap (3.5 euros garden admission), and have a killer view of the city.

  5. This is the lucky lady speaking:

    I was offered a place to stay in London for the week preceding the trip, and I am sure that a week won't be enough to explore the city, so let's keep the recommendations in/around London unless there is an ABSOLUTE must.

    As for my type of interests: I love ruins/architecture, but honestly prefer busy walking neighborhoods with fun little shops and coffee houses. Think Bedford Ave.

    I have heard as much about Cadiz, but I was hoping to check out Cordoba- do you think that is do-able?

    I lived in Morocco, so I have that part covered, and have friends in Greece and France, but need some advice for the remaining stops.

    Thanks guys! I am strong and have a strong support network, so I really can't complain. I am smarter and more beautiful by the day, which leads me to believe that eventually someone who is actually worth being my partner will show :)

    1. Looks like it's about 3 hours and +/- 30 euros by train from Cadiz to Cordoba,might be cheaper by bus. You might also consider Sevilla- 2 hours and 15 euros from Cadiz. Of the cities I visited in Spain, it was my favorite for just wandering around randomly.

    2. Siville is SO GOOD. If you have the time, go there. I took the train and it was FAST, affordable (30 euros I think) and clean. In general the public trans in Spain is excellent. The buses are clean, the schedules easy to understand and use. Anyway, go to Seville if you have time...there are so many great places to eat and the people-watching is so much many stylish Spanish families!

    3. What an awesome time to be taking an amazing trip like this. I'm really sorry that your shitty ex hurt you, but it really does sound like you're better off!

      The etsy bikini looks great - as someone who only wore a bikini for the first time this summer I say GO FOR IT! Regardless of your size now, in the past or later - you'll feel ace running about on the beach/in the waves.

      London tips: For little shops and cafes etc, I'd recommend Hampstead or Clifton Road in the Maida Vale/Warwick Avenue area (which is also close to Little Venice), maybe Southwark too.

  6. So sorry to hear about your situation, but looks like things are definitely looking up for you ;)

    London's Portobello Road and Market are awesome, and Covent Garden and Camden Markets are really nice too.
    Barcelona is a beautiful city to just wander around, but try to do one of the hop-on hop-off busses to see the Gaudi architecture - it is incredible.
    Cordoba has a beautiful old city and is a 2 hour train trip from Cadiz, so if you're docked for 2 days it is doable. I probably wouldnt recommend staying over night there. I found it a bit quiet...

    This might be a bit random, but when you go to Morocco, aside from eating all the wonderful lamb dishes, try a McDonalds burger - the meat is amazingly smokey flavoured.

    Good luck!

  7. Istanbul - do the highlights in the tour books, hagia sofia, blue mosque, I was less impressed with topkapi palace and dolmabace palace but they are interesting. The DO NOT MISS stuff for me was the underground cistern and going to a hamam. Çemberlitas Hamami was the one I went to, AMAZING. I also liked the mosaics in the less visited Kariye Museum/Church.

    As for Spain - try to get to Granada and see the Alhambra - it is life changing, especially if you are interested in architecture. I loved it way more than Seville or Cordoba (though those are lovely also) I'd agree it's not worth spending much time in Cadiz.

    If you can do a boat tour for a day or overnight in Antalya it is incredible. But there are also lots of places to wander and sit and look at the amazing water.

    Let me know if you want more specifics on Turkey.

    1. Ohmygod yes to Granada and the Alhambra

    2. I spent a year living in Spain and of all the cities, Granada was near the top of my favorites list (I made it a point to visit a couple times in the year I was there) - the Alhambra is amazing. Absolutely a must see.

      (You are incredible btw. If my man left me before my wedding I'd be a fucking trainwreck. Keep your chin up. We're all rooting for you)

    3. As for food in Turkey, baklava is amazing, Turkish delight is... interesting. If you see a cart wheeling vendor with ice cream definitely go for it, maybe more for the experience than the flavor. Turkish breakfasts are lovely, fresh yogurt, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread and olives. Deliciously spiced meats and rice for other meals - doy doy restaurant has great food and an amazing night view of the blue mosque. Also don't miss the spice market.

  8. Other than London 10+ years ago, the only stop I've been to on your list is Lisboa (March 2011). Here's some advice (which I think I need to break into chunks b/c Blogger won't accept it all)...

    LISBON / PORTUGAL: general advice
    Comfortable shoes are a MUST. I wore shoes that I think are comfortable in Chicago and my feet ached constantly. It's all hills and very uneven/bumpy - EVERYWHERE is, like, mosaic cobblestone. I felt like an idiot in Porto (where the sidewalks are the same), hauling my rolly suitcase for blocks over the uneven cobblestone. It echoed for miles, I swear. Also, it rained a LOT while we were in Portugal in March (although way more in the North than in Lisbon). I feel like I remember public transit being pretty expensive. If you'll be in Lisbon long, it might be worth looking into some sort of card or pass.

    Maps in Portugal are the trickiest I've ever found (it was the worst in Coimbra) because it's SO hilly there that streets might look parallel on a map but one is literally above another. Or they will look like they meet but one's really dead-ending into a cliff or something. :)

    I don't really have a hotel recommendation if you need them at all. Ours was serviceable. It was in a touristy but VERY central location.

    One random area that you might not visit unless provoked is the Parte Oriental (that's the subway stop, I believe) - over to the Parque das Nacoes. We went over there b/c there were some cool/important architectural buildings. There's a fun in-air cable car thingee and the aquarium is cool.

    A lot of stuff we got out of the Wallpaper City Guide for Lisbon. Shopping wasn't super fun/easy to find for us - lots of stuff in the Wallpaper guide was WHOAEXPENSIVE. We got custom gloves, though, and that was really cool: Luvaria Ulisses.

    1. LISBON / PORTUGAL: eating + drinking
      All over Lisbon there are parks where you can drink outdoors (if you are a drinker). They have kiosks that you can get booze from but lots of people seem to BYO. Most of them are situated such that you are looking out over the city. There's one that we found when we were trying to find a restaurant that ended up being closed at the time for redesign/construction. We were looking for Noobai Cafe (which was kind of hard for us to find in the first place). The park is what you can see to the left here in this aerial shot. Another fun one had a kiosk called Hot Dog Lovers where we drank wine and ate hot dogs. It was in the park that's at the top of a funincular...

      We had a couple of really good meals but I'm struggling to remember where. One was Yasmin, I'm fairly certain. Another was Restaurante Paladar (again, I think - I'm piecing this together right now, almost 2 years later). Both were really good. Portugal is SUPER meat and fish heavy - very light on the veggies.

      Beer in Portugal is LAME. If you are a big beer drink, prepare to be disappointed. Here's my husband's blog post about it: Beer Hunting in Portugal - the Wisdom of the Hunt. We drank a LOT of Vino Verde. He drank port.

      The husband took an insane amount of photos in Portugal if you are interested:

      Anyway, Lisbon is beautiful and we loved it. There's a design museum that we saw closed on our last night that looked really cool. There's tons of places to get lost. But again, bring comfy shoes (everyone there has fat ankles and I'm convinced it's from the cobblestones). Oh, and bring sunscreen. Even if it doesn't look like it'll be nice out, it might be and it's expensive and hard to find (b/c the Portuguese don't really burn/tan). I had to get really really expensive stuff from a fancy pharmacy.

      Sintra is totally worth the trip. It was a short/easy train ride out of the city. We went through the two important buildings there, If you've seen old/fancey buildings before, you've seen it. Walking around the exterior of the one was awesome, though (and if you just do that, it's cheaper or free - I forget), and the grounds are SO SO AMAZING. They are so beautiful and unusual--totally magical. Sintra has some sort of weird microclimate where they can grow, like, everything. Sequoias and shit. It's crazy. We didn't make it to the Moorish castle b/c it started raining (again) and we were all "fuck it--let's go back to the city."

    2. I second everything Hillary says about the roads in Lisboa. If you have the ability to get international data on your phone, do it, because GoogleMaps with GPS was the only way we got around. Also, comfortable shoes. Please, in the name of all that is holy, the shoes. Also, sunscreen. I'm really white and three different Portuguese stopped me on the street to worry about my skin. It was sweet, if weird.

      I only spent three days in Lisboa so the only thing I can really add (besides loving the aquarium so much) is that going out to Belen was worth it, both for the architecture/tower/monuments/view and for the delicious pastries, the natal. Use the takeout line for the natal, trust me.

      Goanese food can be a nice break from the grilled meat/seafood centric Portuguese cuisine.

      Have an amazing time, your trip sounds killer.

  9. Holy guacamole, FUCK YOUR EX, but yeah, looks like you're getting the best revenge! Your trip's gonne be amazing!

    I live in Barcelona. It's great here in summer, it's full of young, tanned, happy, relaxed people. Crowded but fun. Spend your days checking out the Gaudi goodies (Sagrada Familia, la Pedrera and Parc Guell), and nights drinking massive, Barcelona-style G&Ts (Cassette Bar in the Raval) and sampling Catalunyan tapas (Tapas 24, Quimet y Quimet, and Tickets [Ferran Adria's new place] if you wanna spend 150 euros and blow your MIND).
    Also, I always take my guests to eat lunch at one of the restaurant/bars in the Boqueria market and they DIG it.
    There's an outdoor cinema up on Montjuic in summer - not sure if it's still going in August, but that's fun.
    You said you're from a musical family, maybe check what's on at the Liceu or Palau de la Musica; they are both beautiful venues.
    Let me know if you want any more info!

  10. You can wear a bikini as a size 8. a size 10 even. maybe the right bikini at a size 12! Just saying....

    1. At least in Italy, everyone wears a 2 piece - even all the old German tourist ladies of every size. Wear what you feel good in, at any size!!

  11. I've only been to Athens...and that was when I was younger and totally alone (not even a buddy on the trip). So, I guess, as a younger version of myself traveling alone, I'd say to you, "You are going to love it." I did very touristy things and I loved it. The Parthenon, cheesy restaurants, museums, etc (I don't remember much anymore!).

    Took one day trip on a bus to Delphi. AMAZING. It changed my life a little bit.

    Break a leg and go get 'em lady!!!

  12. Hurrahs for you and your AMAZING trip! I'm sure you know but I'm saying it loud - it's going to be HOT HOT HOT but not in London. London will be warm - like sandals and jeans and tee, everywhere else will be I'm wearing my bikini with this cotton dress and flip flops.

    I'm a Londoner - bonafide - my whole life in this (today) very grey city. I suggest dinner at Ottolenghi as a blow out treat. I also love Polpo - no reservations but worth the queue and Trullo - again a little expensive, but special. A secret tip is to visit Hackney City Farm - it's right by the awesome Broadway Market (Saturdays) and Colombia Road Flower Market (Sundays) and it is lovely! Also the restaurant there Frizzante is amazing for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and also very reasonable. Stoke Newington Church Street is really nice for boutiques, foodie stops and general loveliness. Definitely take a walk on Hampstead Heath - head to Parliament Hill for an amazing view and then pop to Hampstead village for coffee and shopping. Primrose Hill will also serve this purpose.
    Big shopping - Selfridges and Liberty - both expensive, both beautifully designed and so worth a little poke around even if you're not buying.
    Have a night out in Soho start at either the Blues Bar, Madame Jojos or the Spanish Bar, get chatting and see where the night takes you! Oh Mildred's is a vegetarian Soho institution too. Callooh Calley is a pricey but special cocktail bar in Shoreditch - you walk through a wardrobe and the toilets are papered in cassette tapes. The Breakfast Club is always fun, be prepared to queue and get chatting - everyone has a hangover and hearing the night-out stories is essential.


    1. I second Callooh Calley - my favourite bar in London. I also second Polpo - amazing and well worth the queuing.

      Go to east London generally - Brick Lane/Hoxton/Shoreditch - good vintage/quirky shopping, bars and restaurants and excellent people spotting. The Truman Brewery (lots of individual quirky stalls) is worth a look, as is Spitalfields Market nearby.

      If you're into food, make sure you go to Borough Market. It's amazing.

      Take time to wander round - often the best way to discover things in London. Camden and Portobello are good for this. I also have a guilty pleasure: going to Sloane Square and Chelsea and gazing agog at all the rich people dropping major £££ in the designer shops. My husband and I like to play 'spot the security'.

      It's worth doing all the touristy things - sometimes I think people think it's not cool to visit the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St Paul's - but where else do you get to see all this fantastic stuff in one city?

      In terms of things to see and do, the V&A is a classic. The Rain Room at the Barbican is also amazing, and I love the Tate Modern - I could spend hours there. Even better since the food trucks pitched up outside! Speaking of food...

      Finally, if you fancy afternoon tea (you so should whilst in London...) steer away from the typical Savoy, Ritz etc. A good quirky budget option is The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell and if you fancy a blowout go to Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental - I was taken here as a surprise and it was f-ing amazing.

      A lot of this appears to be food based. Oh well...

  13. I agree with all of the above - especially the Breakfast Club! Gordon's Wine Bar on Embankment is great. If you want to see some nature, Chelsea Physic Garden is beautiful and very restful.

    Wandering around Bloomsbury is also lovely, the bits of London you see in films and the British Museum is great - even if you just go in to see the spectacular roof. If you want to see some of odd London the Museum of Surgeons (Hunterian Museum) is also in that area with jars full of specimens - gruesome but fascinating.

    If you want a day trip out of the city I'd recommend Oxford. You can get there in under two hours on the Oxford Tube coaches from Victoria. It's a great place to wander around and see all the amazing colleges.

  14. I lived in sevilla for a study abroad program which others have mentioned and woukd go ro cadiz quite often for beach time, cadiz is great fir the beach but not so quaint. The bus ti sevilla is only a little overvan hour and sevilla is so beatiful, friendly people and all the neighborhoods are fun, i highly recommend. Just keep in mind, its considered the hottest citybin europe and can get to 125 degrees, so be prepared since theres not really any places to swim. I also really liked granada (next to cordoba), if you go thete, you must go to the moorish castle and this is were the tapa originated (you still get a free tapa when ordering a drink), another place which is a little closer, 2hrs, is malaga, great shopping, busy nightlife, great food and on the coast. Lastly i would recommend jerez, i think its only 30 min from cadiz and great place fir some sherry tasting.

  15. Both of those suits are super hot, you can't go wrong. And way to go Amy Merrick (once again)! Sorry things didn't work out for you, lady. This trip sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime, and you ex-dude sounds like a big dud.

  16. Acacia Swimwear is so lovely in a different way. Rock on and be strong and flaunt it!