If I owned a second home (not that I even own a first home, but let’s overlook that for a second), it would be in Edinburgh: the city of excellent bookshops, raw history and, as you’ll soon see, some of the best independent cafes.
I spend time here every summer, grabbing as many Festival Fringe and Book Festival experiences as I can, like the cultural equivalent of the cash-in-a-wind-tunnel finale frenzy in The Crystal Maze. It’s an exhausting but essential part of my year, and a chance to see new plays and shows with family and friends.
“It’s Luigi! The actual Luigi!” I hissed at my family as we waited for our coffees to be prepared at Rome’s famous Bar del Cappuccino (50 Via Arenula). Luigi Santoro, an award-winning über-barista, is the much-discussed man behind the place’s success, drawing a steady stream of both nonchalant locals and excited visitors six days a week. Clippings stating his claim to fame lined the right-hand wall as we walked in to queue for our drinks. There he was in print form, captured in the pages of newspapers from Japan and Italy, with his thick moustache and a face gripped in concentration.
Set just a stone’s throw from the exclusive shopping street of Avenue Louise, The Hotel Brussels takes its cue from its stylish surroundings and creates something that never goes out of fashion. I saw this for myself when I took the short walk from the Louise Metro station to the complex, passing Versace, Chanel and Jimmy Choo stores in the process. Stepping inside the building, my jaw began to drop as I took in the seriously chic decor – dark panelling, thick grey carpet and elevators sealed by gold doors. Definitely a classic.
There’s a lot more to Peruvian food than marmalade sandwiches a la Paddington Bear. In fact, asking ‘What do they eat in Peru?’ opens up a can of worms (okay, maybe not such a disgusting phrase) or a Pandora’s box (okay, maybe not such an inedible phrase), or a worm-flavoured Pandora’s box(?!) of suggestions.
The honest answer is that Peruvians eat a very varied diet, blending their own signature dishes with a lot of international flavours, so you really won’t struggle to find something you like on the menu. Many waiters and waitresses have great English skills and will be happy to translate anything you don’t understand, helping you to choose something a bit more out of the ordinary.
Once upon a time, before the arrival of Starbucks and Pret a Manger, there were local coffee shops peppering the British high street, each with their own distinctive style… Now and again, when I’m not shamelessly stocking up stamps on my Caffe Nero loyalty card, I try to make the effort to seek out the smaller companies, many of which focus on high quality coffee and a huge range of speciality teas, catering to an audience that wants more than a one-size-fits-all approach.
On a recent trip to Bristol, a city which is something of a mecca for independent businesses (and formerly the home of Carwardine’s coffee, where my mum once worked), I decided to boycott the recognisable chains and discover the best locally-endorsed places to grab a drink. Three very different shops stood out for me, and I hope some of them will stand out for you.
I was introduced to this quirky cafe by my cousin, who lives in Dalston and has a sixth sense for undiscovered gems when it comes to culture and eating out (she also introduced me to an amazing Turkish food chain called Tas, with baklava to die for). We headed over to the brilliantly-named Tina, We Salute You, for a seriously good coffee and some breakfast, and weren’t disappointed.
Even if the menu wasn’t worth talking about, you can hardly miss the unusual decor – I’ve never seen so many noses in my life, let alone mounted on a wall – as the cafe hosts art exhibitions which change every eight weeks. This means you never know what you’re going to find on the walls, which makes a change from the enforced kookiness of the artwork in Starbucks or Costa.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.