Christmas Vibes in Lecco, Lake Como






A pre-Christmas visit to Lecco, located in the eastern branch or “foot” of Lake Como pampered us with sunshine, tasty pizza and the beautiful combo of the lake and the mountain range in the background. The highlights of our extempore yuletide visit included:

A long and sunshine filled Saturday outing which began as a jog, continued as a stroll by the pretty waterfront, turned into an afternoon coffee moment by the lake (tasty freshly squeezed orange juice and espressos in a small café at 6 Lungolario Piave) and culminated in sharing two juicy slices of pizza on a park bench – with the appropriate gelato for dessert. My favourite kind of a workout.

The Xmas spirit created by abundant Christmas light decorations all around town, the  Christmas market on Piazza Mario Cermenati – with booths selling roasted chestnuts, thick hot chocolate, Italian cheeses and ham and knitted wear – and as the most  impressive sight: creative light projections on the facades of the houses in the town centre. And not to forget the classic lake boat ride in Santa’s sled.

And third, feasting on Italian treats, of course. Yummy pizza was found at Il Forno di Nonna Pallina (Piazza Venti Settembre 35). And the best seafood dinner at Mamaioa Bistrot (Via Carlo Cattaneo, 80): fresh and purely delicious. The menu varies according to the catch of the day.

Lecco really delivered. A delicious and sunny getaway on the base of the Alps.


Discovering Antwerp, the Hotspot of Chocolate, Diamonds and Fashion


The city of chocolate, diamonds, fashion, art, antique and architecture. And beer! That’s quite a list of highlights for one city. We visited this Belgian gem two weeks ago and now I’ll share my selected tips.

Antwerp is convenient when it comes to getting there: a 2,5 hour flight from Helsinki and then a half hour train ride from the Brussels airport. We took the afternoon flight on Friday and were strolling along the cobbled lanes of Antwerp in search of an atmospheric mussels restaurant during (late) dinner time. And found a tasty one (Xaverius, Oude Koornmarkt 21)! Let’s dive into the culinary delights shortly.

First, must say that on Saturday, November 16, it was slightly tricky to find a nice and cosy late breakfast spot with two available seats as that day marked the yearly arrival of  Sinterklaas to Belgium,  an occasion we were utterly unaware of. The streets around the Bonapartedok were packed with families, strollers and children who had exceeded their sugar overdose for the upcoming week as well.

The Sinterklaas festivities begin in mid-November as he arrives by boat from Spain. In Belgium he always arrives in the port of Antwerp. Then he parades through the streets, the children are singing and the assistants of Sinterklaas, the Zwarte Piet, throw small spiced biscuits and candy to the cheering crowd. In the coming days children leave a shoe out by the fireplace or on the windowsill in hope that Sinterklaas will come and bring some presents during the night time. The anticipation culminates on the eve of the Feast day when the main Sinterklaas parties take place. This tradition has received criticism because of the Zwarte Piet character but based on what we saw that Saturday, the tradition, or at least the parade, is still very popular.


Now, back to my Antwerp favorites. The best restaurant, without doubt was Fiskeskur (Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai 20b). This place is excellent. We both had a fish curry: super rich and delicious, fireworks for the palate really. The wine list was delightfully impressive, the service was warm, and the mood was cosy and laid-back. Extra points for the Latin rhythms. We found the place by following the tempting fish aroma when we were walking towards the Port Authority.

The architectural wonder: the Port Authority Building. Its architecture combines tradition with futurism. The building is captivating, a real eye-catcher, and the stroll to see it makes for a good (and windy, in November) afternoon walk. Antwerp is Belgium’s biggest port and infact world’s fourth largest port complex and back in the day (like more than 400 hundred years back) it was one of Europe’s most important cities. On the way back the yummy fish curry awaits. Architecturally impressive is also the Antwerpen-Centraal train station, check it out!



The most interesting chocolate experience was the Chocolate Nation (Koningin Astridplein 7), which manifests itself as the Valhalla for chocolate lovers. The visitors are taken on an audio-guided journey to the history of Belgian chocolate. It was quite exciting: the execution was creative and interactive and I bet it appeals to both children and older chocolate aficionados. And, as one would expect, in the end we got to taste many different flavors, in liquid form. As they say, the only thing better than chocolate is more chocolate.

As for the diamonds, didn’t buy any (I’d rather save up for the next adventure, be it big or small); antiques (carry-on baggage pretty much excluded purchasing any antique dressers or mirrors) and fashion: I bought one beautiful leather hand bag from the Old town, an item which I’ll very likely use for years. And the Leonida’s chocolate ended up in a very safe place as did the Belgian waffles: the best one was purchased from a tiny cart on the street while we were on our way to the Grote Markt (market square).

New York State of Mind: My 5 NYC Tips

New York, New York: you are epic, thrilling, bustling, inspiring and exhausting. NY definitely is an iconic city and when you’re there it feels like you’re part of a bigger scene so very familiar from countless movies, series, novels and songs. In SATC NYC was  like the fifth major character in the series.

I want to share my best NY tips with you. Obviously, the list is not all-encompassing, but I hope that it can help you spice & shape your NYC experience with a few selected and tested gems.


Stay overnight in Jersey City


Definitely. Jersey City feels like an up and coming area with good vibes. With the price that we got a tiny (yet stylish) room in Midtown Manhattan, we got a beautiful spacious loft apartment in Jersey City. Jersey pampered us for example with a wide wooden pier which was perfect for sunny morning runs, a cute little coffee wagon where we got our post-run cappuccinos and almond croissants, a top-notch view to Southern Manhattan, a fast and affordable path train connection to Manhattan (20 minutes and $ 2,70), a farmers market and chilled vibes. When there, try also the Hudson Hall Smokehouse and beerhall (on 364 Marin Blvd): a tasty experience wrapped in yummy barbeque sauce and friendly and easy-going service.

Midtown Manhattan is busy and hectic and a good place to stay if you’ll for example take the train from the Penn Station the next morning (we went to Boston), but I really preferred to stay the other nights on the side of Jersey.


Feast in the Katz Delicatessen


Want to have the best pastrami sandwich of your life? The Katz Deli enjoys a legendary reputation and it was here where the famous scene in When Harry met Sally rom com was filmed. I’ll have what she’s having, indeed and yes please. There’s a sign hanging from the ceiling indicating where Meg Ryan’s character sat, pinpointing the exact seat for movie fans and tourists.

We shared the juicy Katz’s Pastrami Hot Sandwich and Katz’s Cheesesteak (the menu promised that this plentiful treat would make Rocky leave Philadelphia): both were purely delicious, tender and filling. The atmosphere in this Jewish-style deli is fast-paced, characteristic and interesting. You can opt for either the self-service way or the full-service seating: we did the latter and it worked well. The price was reasonable ($ 80 for two) considering it is New York and the sandwiches are shockingly yummy.

Address: 205 East Houston Street, corner of Ludlow St


Walk the High Line


High Line: calling it a green oasis might be a bit too much but it’s a verdant park-like public space built on an elevated freight rail line, located at the Meatpacking District in West Chelsea. On sunny days it is really popular. High Line is a nice green walk amid the bustling city. Before or after the day stroll you can visit the Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave) and for example enjoy Japanese inspired tacos for lunch.

See a Broadway show. See Chicago.

If you only have the chance, do this. A great place to get tickets up to 50 % off (to same-day performances) are the TKTS discount booths. We prefer the one on South Sea Seaport (located in the corner of Front and John Streets): there were no queues and we got tickets half price to Chicago of that same evening. There are two other booths as well, one on Times Square and the third at Lincoln Center.

And Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre (291 West 49th Street): it was mesmerizing, radiant and super skilled. The intermission drink from the theatre bar was way overpriced as you can expect but they served the sparkling wine in a big plastic mug with a straw so that you could keep sipping it during the second act. As a side note on how people in the audience is dressed: five years ago, in our first Broadway show I was slightly surprised how casually some people were dressed to the occasion. I remember seeing a bunch of shorts and t-shirts. But hey, then again, the main thing is the spectacular show.

Cross the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset


Cross the bridge to the side of Brooklyn, where you can admire the gleaming Manhattan skyline. Epic views are guaranteed. If you’re an early bird, go for the sunrise experience. We couldn’t help but wonder what it is like to live right next to the bridge where millions of people have a direct view to your living room, bedroom and life. Megacity life indeed.


What else, what else? Here are a few quick notes:

Visit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1071 5th Ave). Afterwards you can enjoy a nice late lunch or light dinner at the atmospheric French bistro Demarchelier (50 East 86th Street).

Remember to apply for your ESTA before travelling to the States.

New York was way more expensive than five years ago. Back then we actually managed go under our NY travel budget (!) Many things can of course be affordable or free, but be prepared for high prices in food, accommodation, experiences and shopping of course.

And last, enjoy and take in the NYC magic with all your senses!