Dinner at New York’s Cafe Gitane

gitane1While in New York for the weekend, one of the things I was most looking forward to was a night out with my friends. When Saturday night rolled around, we had to pick a place for dinner. I left the decision making up to my fabulous NYC girls who are familiar with the hottest places. My friend Tiffany, writer of the amazing fashion and music blog Haute Turntable, decided on Cafe Gitane. After a long walk from the subway, we arrived for dinner around 8 p.m. at the small West Village restaurant. The nondescript exterior of the Jane hotel opened up to a charming part Moroccan, part Parisian cafe full of paper lamps, tapestries and colorful tiles. We sat down in the cushy sofas and took in the scenery. The place had a good vibe, and while full of models and hipsters, it was surprisingly casual and not pretentious.

martini
watermelon mimosa

We started with some drinks; a melon mimosa for me and their Lillith cocktail for my friend. The fresh watermelon juice in the mimosa was super refreshing and so good. The mix of gin, lemon juice and champagne in the Lillith was smooth and tasty, and I’ve decided that I’ll be adding lemon juice to all my champagne going forward. After the avocado toast appetizer (a must-try!), I took my friend’s advice and ordered the signature dish, the Moroccan couscous. It was huge! Definitely big enough to feed two people. I was pleasantly surprised with the mix of pine nuts, potatoes and raisins. The rest of the table opted for the spicy meatballs in tomato sauce (complete with a boiled egg), the heart of palm salad and the steak frites – all of which looked delicious! The service may have been a little slow, but the affordability of the meal made up for it.

I’m not sure how anyone could walk away and not want to return to Cafe Gitane. I’ve heard their brunch is amazing too, so I’ll be returning to check that out during my next visit.

brie

couscous
couscous
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Tea Time!

Tea Time!One quintessential English experience that we simply had to have in London was afternoon tea. I may not be the biggest tea fan, but when in Rome, right? (Or in this case, London).

After researching the best spots for afternoon tea, I complied a list of my top choices – the Thames Foyer at the Savoy, Palm Court at the Langham and the Goring. (Let’s be honest, the last one was picked mostly because it’s where Kate Middleton stayed the night before the royal wedding). They were all so fabulous. Cue the images of us enjoying our tea in facsinators and morning coats. Then I saw the price. 50 pounds per person was a little more than we wanted to spend on our first tea experience.

Luckily our hotel, the London Marriott Park Lane, had a wonderful tea service of its own. When we stumbled across a 2 for 1 promotion on a discount tea website, we booked it without hesitation. We arrived at 140 Park Lane Restaurant and were seated next to a window with a view overlooking a rain-soaked Hyde Park. Our server took our tea order; peppermint for me and earl gray for my husband. And then they brought out the goodies. Oh my. There were tea sandwiches, scones, pastries and more. It was heaven. I also discovered one of my new favorite things – clotted cream. It may sound unappealing, but a scone with clotted cream and jam may be one of the best things on earth. I was so obsessed. So much so that I ordered some off of Amazon when I got home. Seriously.

An hour later, content from our tea, finger sandwiches and desserts, we headed back outside into the rainy London afternoon.

pastries

tea

Tea Time!

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An Afternoon at MOMA

I could spend a whole day in the Museum of Modern Art. When I stopped by on a recent trip to New York, I unfortunately was on a tight schedule. I arrived on a crowded Saturday afternoon. I was fairly certain that many were visiting for the same reason I was – to escape the blizzard outside. Since I only had about two hours to spare, I headed straight to the fourth and fifth floors. These floors house the cream of the crop in my opinion. From Picasso to Warhol to Kahlo, here are my ten MOMA must-sees.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon | Picasso
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon | Picasso
Water Lillies | Monet
Water Lillies | Monet
Flag | Jasper Johns
Flag | Jasper Johns
Gold Marilyn Monroe | Andy Warhol
Gold Marilyn Monroe | Andy Warhol
Three Musicians | Picasso
Three Musicians | Picasso
Starry Night | van Gogh
Starry Night | van Gogh
One: Number 31, 1950 | Jackson Pollock
One: Number 31, 1950 | Jackson Pollock
Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow | Mondrian
Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow | Mondrian
Fulang-Chang and I | Frida Kahlo
Fulang-Chang and I | Frida Kahlo
Girl with Ball | Lichtenstein
Girl with Ball | Lichtenstein
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Where I Stayed in Paris: Marriott Champs-Elysees

When our one year anniversary rolled around, my husband and I had little doubt where we wanted to spend it. There was no better place in my mind to celebrate than one of the most romantic cities in the world. But when the time came to choose a hotel, we were overwhelmed with options. Modern luxury hotel or small boutique location? What arrondissement would be best?

marriot2

Jay Z may talk about staying at “Le Meurice for like 6 days,” and while that wasn’t necessarily in our budget, we did have a fabulous time at the Marriott Champs-Elysees. We chose it after a recommendation from a friend, who actually saw Marriott Chairman Bill Marriott when there. Hey, if it’s good enough for him, it’ll work for me. You can see the Arch de Triumph once you step out of the hotel, and the numerous trains within walking distance make for a great central point to explore the city. The area is pretty touristy (obviously since it’s on the Champs-Elysses), but it wasn’t unbearable. The marble bathrooms (complete with l’occitane goodies!) were the epitome of luxury, and the staff’s complimentary anniversary bottle of champagne was a wonderful touch. Overall we had a wonderful stay, and I’d stay again during my next trip to Paris.

Marriott Lobby

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Checking in at Miami’s Viceroy Hotel

The entrance
The entrance

When I was called to Miami for work and heard we’d be staying at the Viceroy, I was super excited. It was my first time at this hotel, and I’d heard good things. Since I’m usually in Miami for pleasure over work, I often stay in South Beach. I was excited to see a different area of the city, and this Brickell location was the perfect place to do it.

I arrived in the late morning and was unexpectedly greeted by the Easter Island moai that line the entrance. Once inside, I fell in love with the modern lobby and it’s funky accessories. Abstract sculptures, ornate furniture and bright colors keep your attention. The chandeliers are to die for. I want one in my foyer.

I ventured up to my room after check-in. The modern, elegantly decorated room was exactly my style. Did the interior designer know I was coming? There was colorful artwork on the wall, tufted furniture and a beautiful lattice room divider. The marble bathrooms and an in-room espresso machine were a nice touch. (By the way, why can’t all hotel rooms have espresso machines?). The beautiful view of the Miami skyline (especially at night!) was not too shabby either.

Since I was in town for work, I was bummed that I didn’t have time to check out the pool or spa. I was told the spa was designed by Phillipe Stark, which would explain why it looked so amazing. The breakfast at 15th & Vine was tasty and satisfying, with pretty quick service.

Overall, I have no complaints about the Viceroy. This hotel attracted a sophisticated crowd of what looked like both business travelers and tourists, which I take as a good sign. I’ll be trying to make it back again soon, although this time for leisure!

My room
My room
viceroy pool
The rooftop Fifty Miami Ultra Lounge
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Searching for Manhattan’s Best Pizza

You’ve probably heard of “forkgate” in the last few weeks, the stir created when New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio was spotted devouring a slice with a fork and knife. While it may be custom in many cultures to eat pizza with silverware, any New Yorker will tell you that slices should be eaten folded over with your hands. And thus, there lies the controversy.

Well all this talk of pizza in the news made me hungry. So while in New York, I decided to go on a little mission. I enlisted my husband (thankfully he loves pizza), and we went on a quest to find Manhattan’s tastiest pizza. Here’s where our journey took us.

Artichoke Basille'sArtichoke Basille’s

It was easy to decide where we’d first stop – Artichoke Basille’s. This East Village shop has always been a must-visit in my mind. You can’t go wrong with the namesake artichoke slice, and the crab pizza (yes, crab) is also amazing. Even better late night after a few beers at a local bar.

johnsJohn’s Pizzeria

Don’t be fooled by the nondescript interior and tattered booths of John’s Pizzeria. I’ve been to this Bleeker Street sit-down restaurant many times, and it has yet to disappoint. The coal oven is what makes this pizza so good, and my husband claimed that it had the perfect thin crust. It’s always busy so be prepared to wait, and they only take cash!

Two Boots

The third stop on our pizza tour was Two Boots. This place gets points in my book for unique ingredients and creative names for their pies like Mr. Pink, Bayou Beast and Cleopatra Jones. We stopped for a quick bite at the Grand Central location, but there are outlets all over the city. My favorite is the Larry Tate – a white pizza topped with spinach and tomatoes.

lombardis-pizza-new-york-ny-pepperoni-sausage-pizza-610x407Lombardi’s

Lombardi’s claims to be the oldest pizza place in New York. While that’s debatable, it is a fact that this place is a NYC institution. This is classic New York pizza. The best parts? The fresh mozzarella and the crispy crust. We ordered the pepperoni and sausage, and it was a meaty slice of heaven. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Lombardi’s, and while it may not top my list, it’s definitely delicious.

5 days. 4 pizza spots. Countless slices consumed. And our favorite? It was a tough decision, but Artichoke Basille’s was the winner in our minds. This was hard, but someone had to do it, right?

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Eating My Way Through San Juan

If you’ve ever been to Puerto Rico, you know that one of the best things about the island is the food. Lechon, tostones, mallorcas; the list is endless. So during a recent trip to San Juan, my girlfriends and I made sure that we tried everything the city had to offer (when we weren’t lazily soaking up the Caribbean sun on the beach, of course).

Paella at Plato's
Paella at Plato’s

After a long flight and a stop at our hotel to check in, we were famished. Our first stop was Plato’s in Isla Verde, after it came recommended by the staff at the InterContinental San Juan. Oh my, were they ever right. My red snapper was cooked perfectly and had to be at least two pounds! My friend said the seafood paella was on par with the paella she had in Spain. Everyone’s dish was so good. However, we all agreed that the best part was their coconut sangria. Heavenly.

Mofongo!
Mofongo!

We then headed to Old San Juan for some shopping and sightseeing. After exploring the old town, with its cobblestone streets and pastel colored buildings, we walked to Raices for dinner. Located on a busy Old San Juan street, it was packed when we arrived at 8 p.m. We waited and were seated after 45 minutes. We started with mojitos; pineapple for my friend and tamarind for me. An island that’s the leading producer of the world’s rum has to make good mojitos, right? As for my meal, I have one word – mofongo. Their starch-tastic mix of plantains and garlic is a top contender for my last meal on earth. Seriously, the shrimp mofongo was that good.

Enjoying our mojitos at Raices
Enjoying our mojitos at Raices
panaderia espana
Panaderia Espana

The morning after a night out on the town, we were in search of an authentic Puerto Rican breakfast. We did some searching online and decided to venture to Panaderia Espana. After a short walk from our Isla Verde hotel through a not-to-pretty, non touristy neighborhood, we arrived at the unassuming panaderia. This place was full with tourists and locals alike, which I always take as a good sign. This place had everything – coffee, pastries, sandwiches, traditional entrees. It even sold bottled wine! Strong cafe con leche and my medianoche sandwich of roast pork, ham and swiss cheese was exactly what the doctor ordered after a late night. A to-go box full of guava tarts, mango cheesecake and quesitos for later made the trip complete.

Now that I’m home, I long for some of the specialties I tasted on this trip. I’m on a constant quest for a good Puerto Rican restaurant in my city, but there don’t seem to be any! If you’ve been to Puerto Rico, what are some of your favorite dishes or treats?

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Where to go in 2014

Is your new year’s resolution to travel more? If so, you’re going to need this list of my top places to hit in 2014. From beaches to nightlife to architecture, these spots have something for everyone.

MarbellaMarbella, Spain: This one tops my personal list for 2014. The cosmopolitan resort town is a wonderful spot for some R&R after traveling throughout Andalucia. Golfing at one of the city’s many courses, followed by a walk through the old part of town (complete with orange trees!), sounds pretty amazing right about now.

Dalmation CoastCroatia’s Dalmation Coast: Beyonce and Jay Z have been spotted yachtin’ it up here, and can you blame them? This “Pearl of the Adriatic” has sunshine, a beautiful coastline and a party scene that’s made it popular with European trendsetters. Don’t miss Dubrovnik’s city walls for an unforgettable view.

CuritibaCuritiba, Brazil: If you’re planning to head to Brazil for this year’s World Cup, don’t just stop in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Take time to visit Curitiba, the biggest city in the country’s southern region. Spend an afternoon exploring its beautiful botanical garden, or venture to the museum dedicated to architect Oscar Niemeyer. Hungry? The city’s numerous churrascarias offer unlimited options for carnivores, and the region’s large German influence can be seen in popular desserts.

CambodiaCambodia: It’s full of awe-inspiring temples like Angkor Wat, and also home to some of Southeast Asia’s best beaches. Island hop in the Gulf of Thailand, where bungalows go for as low as $10 a night. Yes, $10 a night.

Denver

Denver: It’s long been popular for its mix of natural beauty and big city nightlife, but 2014 is going to be Denver’s biggest year yet. Millions are expected to flock to the city for “green tourism,” but the Mile High city’s other gems are not to be overlooked. Red Rocks Park is a sight to see, and the 16th Street Mall offers good dining and entertainment options.

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New Year, New Blog

Welcome to Adrienne Away! After working as a writer in corporate marketing for many years, I’ve decided to combine my love of writing with my passion for travel. Apparently today is International Day of the Travel Blogger (who knew?), so what better time than now to introduce myself? I’m a lover of travel, culture, cuisine and luxury hotels. I’m thrilled to launch this new project, and I hope you like it. I’ll be sharing photos and details of my travels, plus talking about my favorite cities, restaurants, tips and more. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite photos from my past trips. More to come soon. Stay tuned!

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