My Holiday Travel Tips

Posted by Krista on December 23, 2015

Gatwick, in April on my way to the Dominican Republic

If you, like me, are going to spend umpteen hours on a plane this holiday season — and in the back of the plane no less — it helps to be prepared. Over the years, I’ve flown hundreds of thousands of miles all around the world and I’ve really learned that you can never be too prepared. One of my worst flights was a few years back, when I loaded up my iPad with movies and TV shows for the long flight from Chicago to Amman Jordan, only to get on the plane and realize I had no battery left on my iPad. Also, the entertainment system on the plane was also broken. (#firstworldproblems, I know.)

The long stretch of boringness during that Amman flight still serves as a powerful, simple lesson for me all these years later. So starting with that, let me give you this gift. My holiday travel tips for 2015..

1. Make sure your iPad is full of good stuff — movies, TV shows, books, and games — before you get on a plane. (I like logic problems, myself.)

2. Make sure your iPad is also fully charged before you get on a plane.

3. Stop saying “It’s impossible for me to sleep on planes.” Try to sleep during your flight. My mindset now is “I must sleep!! I must sleep or I will die!” My family lives in Florida, so by the time I get from London to Florida, I am exhausted. (Especially when I have to connect through Newark like this upcoming flight.) I like to think I am a relatively calm person, but I can tell you that family squabbles are not infrequent within an hour or two of my arrival. I don’t know whose fault this is, but I’m much calmer about it all if I’ve had some sleep. So now I make sure to take two Tylenol PM when I get on a plane and try to rest for an hour or two.

4. Fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for maximum space in Economy. Stretching out is NICE. My work schedule means that it is hard to get away mid-week. BUT! Whenever I can, when I am flying long-haul economy, I try to book tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Flights just seem to be less crowded then, and if you are are really lucky, you will get an entire row to yourself!


5. Nylon tote bags are your friends. I bought a bunch of these puppies and boy am I glad. My normal routine when I get to the airport is to head to the newsstand and buy all the trashy magazines, snacks and the biggest bottle of water I can find. (Hydration, people.) Rather than use one of the plastic bags from the store — the plastic bags ALWAYS rip —  I unroll my nylon tote bag and in everything goes. Tip: Get one in a bright color. Otherwise, you may accidentally leave your new nylon tote bag behind. eBoot makes nice ones.

6. I’ve learned the hard way that some coach seats may have the plane’s audio/visual equipment under them, making it hard to stretch out. So check Seatguru before you board and choose your seat carefully.

7. Check your passport in advance. One of my most stressful travel experiences was a few years back when Virgin Atlantic threatened not to let me on my flight to New York because my passport expired in exactly six months. (I defeated them with logic.) So make sure you are always travel ready. Last minute getaways are brilliant, but not so brilliant if you realise your passport has run out. If you need to renew your passport in a hurry the Passport Office offers urgent passport services to UK citizens and you can have your new passport within a week or even a day depending on your needs. So if you need your passport quickly visit www.passports-office.co.uk/booking.asp for more information. Find out more about your travel destination’s requirements by visiting the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website here: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book.

8. Compression socks are your friends. I don’t care how dumb you might feel or look wearing them. For a long-haul flight when you are sitting down for hours on end, they are very important for circulation. GET THEM.

9. SIGN UP FOR HEATHROW REWARDS. I spend a lot of money in airports. I don’t know why. Actually, I do know why. I am a captive audience. You are too. If you plan on buying magazines and having a meal in Heathrow, sign up for Heathrow Rewards. Like seriously. (They should pay me for saying this, but they’re not.)

10. Most importantly, relax. Don’t stress out if the guy in front of you puts their seat back. Don’t stress out when the US airlines charge you for booze.  (Thank you, United Airlines, for providing wine for free again.) And don’t stress out when your flight is delayed eight hours. Just try to relax! Really.

 

Viet Food, Chinatown

Posted by Krista on December 12, 2015

IMG_1622I know I’m a broken record, but I really love Vietnamese food. I could happily eat it all day, every day. Even pho, which I once wrote off as boring. Pho is now one of my favorite things ever. Particularly for breakfast, which is when it is more typically eaten in Vietnam. (Who knew? This was a surprise to me too.) So when I noticed that Kavey was raving about Viet Food in Chinatown, I made a beeline for it and all its delicious Vietnamese food.

Today was my second visit but I sat in the same exact spot as my first visit: at a stool by the window, watching Wardour Street walk by. How do all these people fit into Londontown? I do not understand.

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I like the decor of Viet Food. They’ve taken it very seriously. I like the tile entrance and the vintage-industrial feel of the loos. I also really, really like the pulsating electronic music.

I also like the very reasonable prices on the menu, although I wonder sometimes how Chinatown restaurants will survive, the way rent prices are going. I would honestly pay a few quid extra if it meant the Chinatown survives. (Please Boris, protect it.)

Chicken Curry

Chicken Curry

For today’s lunch, I ordered the seafood balls — exactly what you’d think they’d be — and the Vietnamese chicken curry. The seafood balls were super, super hot and while they were good, I had higher expectations. (I did sort of fall in love with the tiny little jar for the sauce that came on the side though.) The chicken curry was great and I would gladly have this again. The curry is more subtle than Thai curries. If I were a better home cook, I’d know why. My guess is that the Vietnamese version has more lime and more lemongrass.

The Verdict: I like Viet Food. I like the decor, the service is okay, and I like the prices. I haven’t eaten at enough of the world’s Vietnamese restaurants to make a fair comparison, but I’d recommend a visit if you, like me, love Vietnamese food.

Vietfood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Brasserie Gustave, Chelsea

Posted by Krista on December 8, 2015

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2015 has been the year of saying “Yes!” I’ve been saying “Yes” to a lot of the things that I used to say no to. Firstly, I have more time than I used to have. Secondly, and frankly, I got tired of saying “No.”  Of the many things in life I really can’t say no to, French food ranks highly. Very highly. One day, I will go to France and learn to cook. I promise you, mom. (My mother learned to cook by mail in the 1970s. The Grand Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu. She still has the binders. She wants me to learn.)

So French food. Brasserie Gustave invited me and a +1 to come along for lunch one day, so I brought along Jen and a +2, Baby Arden. (I asked in advance if that was okay.) It was time to introduce Arden to the concept of “Ladies Who Lunch.” Given the speed at which Arden shoved two beautiful madeleines into her beautiful gob, I think she is now a convert, both to “Ladies Who Lunch” and to madeleines. Thank you to the staff at Brasserie Gustave for providing the madeleines. Also thank you to Brasserie Gustave for putting up with our mess because this is how things looked when we left…they get extra points for this…

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But really, our meal at Brasserie Gustave was tremendously lovely. I understand now why Fay Maschler liked it. And Jay Rayner. If you are looking for  a place to take your parents for lunch or dinner, Brasserie Gustave is it. The space during the day is light and spacious, the service is attentive, and the food is deeply French and deeply good.

Deeply, deeply French like delicious, garlicky escargot…

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And deeply, deeply French like perfect, buttery foie gras…

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Richard, our host, was very attentive and kind during our meal. So too our server — the one who brought Arden the madeleines. Richard brought us his suggested wine pairings with each course. (Whenever I am in a French restaurant or in the hands of a knowledgeable server, I put myself in their hands.) My favorite was the Coteaux du Layon from Maison Langlois-Chateau, a honey-toned Chenin Blanc.

For lunch, Jen and I “pseudo-shared” our two mains. I say “pseudo-shared” because of course we were like “We can share!” but really, we each enjoyed our mains so much that there was really the only tiniest bit of sharing there towards the end. (After we had finished talking, you know.) My Rossini was honest perfection, the beef perfectly medium rare, the spinach perfect and well…more perfect foie gras. How many times can I use perfect in this blog post?? I see now that they are offering a Chateaubriand Rossini for two for £70. You should go to Brasserie Gustave with that special someone in your life and get it.

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Jen ordered one of the day’s specials, a baby chicken perfectly prepared. I would tell you what it tasted like but Jen only let me have the tiniest of bites at the end of our meal, so enthralled was she in the entire dish. By this point, I knew the feeling.

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The Verdict: I tremendously, tremendously enjoyed my meal at Brasserie Gustave. If my father ever makes good on his threat to come visit me again, this is where we are going. Richard and his team are fabulous hosts and the food is fabulously French. Prices are a tiny bit high but honestly, it’s worth it. Go go go. (They also get super extra credit for dealing well with an active 13 month old.)

Brasserie Gustave Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I was a guest of Brasserie Gustave. They are very kind hosts. We tipped on our guesstimate of the full bill.

Coffee Workshop at Workshop with Thermos

Posted by Krista on November 29, 2015

thermosHow do you write about a thermos? (Or, well, in this case, a Thermos®.) I hadn’t considered how to write about a Thermos until AFTER I attended a coffee-making workshop at Workshop in Clerkenwell hosted by the PRs behind Thermos. In hindsight, I exhibited very poor planning skills.

Because it’s really hard to write about a Thermos.

It’s easier to write about coffee or well, making coffee. So in many ways, the Thermos PR team were absolutely brilliant in coming up with this event. They chose a great location — Workshop in Clerkenwell — conveniently located down the road from me. They brought in a fantastic barista. And they served us some great coffee. (Or, well, we served ourselves great coffee after we made the coffee ourselves under the expert tutelage of the instructors.)

The Genuine Thermos Brand Beverage Flask keeps drinks hot (or cold) for up to 24 hours, thanks to the double-wall vacuum insulation. The team demonstrated this magic by filling our Thermoses with coffee the night before the event. I had a cup the next morning — 36 hours later — and the coffee was still pretty warm. Definitely drinkable.

The baristas at Workshop showed us how to use an Aeropress and a coffee cone — aka the V60. I like the idea of a coffee cone because it’s so low-tech. I like low-tech a lot these days. Life is too complicated already. Here’s a Vine I made of the coffee cone process:

This was a fun event. I learned a lot about coffee-making and left so caffeinated that I had to go buy a banana afterwards to slow myself down. (The potassium in bananas are good at absorbing caffeine, apparently.) And now I have a nice new Thermos.

I was invited to attend this event. I received a Thermos and a traveling coffee mug in return for my attendance and writing up the event.

Eating and Drinking in Dublin

Posted by Krista on November 22, 2015

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I went to Dublin in early November and truthfully, it was a terrible trip. Nothing worked out the way I planned. I woke up on the day of the departure, all set to head to City Airport, when a text arrived from BA, letting me know my flight was cancelled. Damn London fog! I attempted to rebook online and was unsuccessful. Luckily, my BA Silver status got me through the massive phone queue within 5 minutes but there were barely any options the next day.

I departed for Dublin 25 hours later than expected. So that kinda sucked. But a surprisingly tasty dinner and some Irish whiskey at Cleaver East at The Clarence Hotel set me to rights.

Here’s where I ate and drank in Dublin during my short visit and before a group of guys tried to mug me after I checked out of my hotel on Thursday evening. (Yup. That not-stressful-at-all-thing happened. Always be alert.)

Cleaver East: I was practically the only diner at Cleaver East on the night I visited, and I stayed for a lonnnggg time. Service forgot about me for a bit but once they remembered I was there, we got on swimmingly. The early bird special — two courses for €21.95 — was a great value. Particularly because I ordered it at like 6:40 pm and the special ended at 6:45 pm! Hah! You really can’t go wrong with beef carpaccio in my book, and the pan fried sea bass was a generous portion. I enjoyed my meal here. The Verdict: I’d go back.

Winding Stair: Social media pointed me in the direction of The Winding Stair, a small bookshop and bistro facing the Liffey by the pretty Ha’Penny bridge. In hindsight, my generous starter of smoked trout pate would have been enough for lunch. I could barely finish my main of beef cheeks and colcannon. (Lunch special: 2-Course €19.95, with glass of house wine €25.95) I liked the Winding Stair although I really would like them to refinish the staircase. It has seen better days. The place has a bit of a rickety feel, which might make it loveable to some. Me? I wanted to sand and stain everything. The Verdict: I’d go back for the food and view out onto the Liffey.

The Stag’s Head: While walking through Temple Bar on my 2nd evening, we dropped into this popular corner meeting spot for some Guinness. There’s a comedy club upstairs too so expect a lot of entrances and exits. (It was slightly distracting, the constant “Where is the comedy club?” questioning.) I can imagine the ground floor is unbearable when it’s too crowded. The Verdict: I’m not sure I would go out of my way, but it’s a nice enough spot.

Jule’s: I hadn’t eaten all day on Thursday so before I checked out of my hotel, I stopped into Jule’s for the lobster special. (As you do.) At 19€, it certainly wasn’t a bargain. Tasty enough, but a tiny portion. More fries than lobster. Staff were super helpful and friendly though. The Verdict: On the fence. Would want to consider price-to-value ratio in more detail first.

The Porterhouse: The Porterhouse, with its fantastically wide beer selection and central location, made for a perfect meeting spot. It also had the advantage of being right outside the doors to my hotel, The Clarence. (More about The Clarence in a later post.) Seriously great beer selection, not too crowded and live Irish music! I could have spent more time here. The Verdict: I’d go back here.

I may have enjoyed my time in Dublin, but as you may be able to tell, I did most of my eating and drinking relatively close to my hotel. (I’m selfish like that.) This was partly convenience and partly because my plans were thrown off by my flight delay. I like Dublin though so I’m sure I’ll be back. Always good to visit somewhere where everyone can pronounce your last name.

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