GreatCitySwap: A day in Glasgow

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I’m a strong advocate of travelling even when it comes to small weekend or even 1 day getaways to a new place. When I learnt about new ScotRail initiative called The Great City Swap, it immediately caught my attention. It was basically created to encourage travel between 2 major Scottish cities — Edinburgh and Glasgow — located on the either side of the central belt, yet being mere 50 minutes away from each other by train. ScotRail offers really great fares for tickets — with off-peak return costing as low as £12.70. 
If you visit The Great City Swap page on their website, you can also request a personalised itinerary suggestions for your day exploring the neighbouring city, — it’s never been easier! 
 
Using this great opportunity, we decided to catch an early train to Glasgow on Saturday morning, and arrived on Queen street station before 10 am —ready for a hearty breakfast. Tempted by famous Eggs Benedict at Wilson Street Pantry, we made our way there and we were not disappointed! Great coffee was also a part of the deal 😃
We then decided to check out The Lighthouse, to be honest, mainly because of the terrace on its top floor that provides for a great top view on the city. I always love a good view point, it allows you to see the city form a completely different angle, plus, roofs always look so romantic! 
Swapping our lunch for a traditional afternoon tea, we then headed to Cup Tea Lounge. It’s such a nice British tradition, and we, as a couple of true tea fans, loved how extensive their tea list was! Both of our teas were delicious, as well as the treats on the stand, so this place is also definitely recommended. 
 
For a portion of art we decided to check out Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, located a bit further from the city centre. You can easily catch a train there, and it’ll take only 15 min. The building of the gallery is an astonishing creation in itself, not even mentioning a finely curated collections inside it. With themes ranging from French Impressionism to Ancient Egypt History, everyone can find something interesting here. I was also curious to see a famous installation called The Floating Heads ,which I frequently saw in Instagram before, and it is a very curious and amusing installation, indeed! 50 white heads hung up in the air, each bearing a different expression, from laughter to fear. Definitely worth checking out!
 
And what a city visit without one of its parks! Our choice fell upon Kelvingrove park, located right next to the gallery, and we could tell it was a good decision since the park was full of locals spending their Saturday afternoon, walking their dogs, playing with kids, or simply walking around. Autumnal colours always make it extra pretty in Scotland, and I couldn’t help but take a few extra shots of myself along the way 😃
 
To finish our day, we decided to have a dinner at a new funky Japanese street-food spots called Ramen Dayo in Queen street. As a fan of everything Japanese, I had really high expectations for the place, and I wasn’t disappointed a bit. Their interior, drink list and menu — all looks amazing, and the food was beyond delicious. The fact that they have authentic Japanese soda drinks made it even better. 
 
Since it was Saturday night, we were tempted to try best cocktails in the city, as claimed by trendy The Spiritualist bar. Both drinks that we tried from their science section were creative, Wild Mountain Thyme is most recommended!
It was then time to head back home to Edinburgh, and with trains running every 30 minutes in evenings, it was easy to make sure we arrive to the Queen street station on time to catch one. We had wonderful time exploring a city that is so close and yet so different from Edinburgh, and we’re sure we’ll be back soon, thanks to convenient  ScotRail trains. 

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Edinburgh Coffee and Brunch Spots

It’s been a year that I’ve been living in Edinburgh, and for some crazy reason I did not share much about life here, or some favourite places that I’ve found here during this time. As you probably know (or if you don’t know, then, here’s a fact!), I’m a crazy foodie, and usually whenever I travel, coffee shops/restaurants/street food spots are the first thing I search for. 
So, I thought it’s just logical if I share some of the most favourite places I’ve found during this year in EDINBURGH! I decided to start with coffee and then some brunch places that I really love, so here we go!

Coffee scene

Brew Lab 
Brew Lab is a specialty third-wave coffee shop, located next to the main University campus of Edinburgh. I simply love their “raw” design with red-brick walls and old-school furniture. They serve absolutely amazing coffee, and a particularly amazing flat white. I love coming here to work, there’s just something productive about this space, — maybe the fact that it’s filled with students. They also serve good light breakfast options until 12 pm, and sandwiches and soups for lunch.
Cairngorm 
Having 2 locations in New Town area of Edinburgh (the one in West End being my favourite), these guys really know their coffee. Brewed to perfection, your cup also needs to be accompanied by one of their absolutely amazing grilled cheese sandwiches or avocado toasts. 
Hyde & Son
Recently opened, beautifully designed space in New Town, is in fact, a part of a design hotel Eden Locke (that’s where I start envy people staying there!). The space is just so airy, modern and gorgeous, I could sit there all day long. Serving great coffee along with a few lovely smoothie options and small sweet bites like croissants and doughnuts. 
Milkman 
Tiny coffee shop located in the heart of Old Town, Cockburn street, serving the best flat white there is in the whole world (very subjective opinion, but who said it isn’t right?!). Sit in next to their huge windows people-watching or grab a cup to-go, and have a lovely stroll in the nearby Princess street Gardens (like I usually do).  
Baba Budan 
You really need to know this place to find it, since it’s not located near main tourist routes. Famous for their delicious doughnuts, Baba Budan also serves great coffee, so drop in if you’re looking for something sweet!

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Coffee + Brunch/Lunch
The Pantry 
Now, The Pantry tops my list of favourite brunch places in Edinburgh so far. They have 2 locations, but I’ve only been to the one in Stockbridge (which also happens to be my favourite area of the city). You will probably have to queue if you want to sit in for Sunday brunch, but it’s totally worth it! Waffles, Eggs Benedicts, sandwiches, and so much more — it’s always hard to choose, but then again, there’s no wrong choice here! Coffees are nice, otherwise you can always go for a boozy brunch option with Mimosas 😉 
Soderberg Pavilion 
Soderberg is a famous Nordic bakery chain in Edinburgh, and that’s where I also normally buy bread for home, however, Soderberg Pavilion in Quatermile area is worth visiting for their amazing sourdough pizzas. Lunch, brunch or dinner,  — you choose, but don’t miss this place!
 
Urban Angel 
My choice for a slow coffee with book, nice gourmet lunch or sweet bite whenever I’m in New Town. Their lunch menu changes everyday, and brunch options are served all day, including things like avocado-ricotta toast, Eggs Benedict, French toast and more.
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MILK 
With their main cafe located not far from Haymarket train station, Milk also has a bunch of little coffee pop-ups in art-galleries and sight points around the city. I love their mainly gluten-free cakes, healthy lunch options and their coffee is great!

Weekend Trips from Edinburgh

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Travels are just necessary sometimes. They help you to learn new things and grow, freshen up your thoughts and views on your life, plus, isn’t it just nice to change surroundings even for a little bit? And while proper long trips are not always available to everyone at any time given time, one can always find time over the weekend for a short and easy trip to some neighbouring areas, that don’t ask you to lash out, be it a still in a little town or village, hiking in nature or picnic in a countryside park. 
 
I live in Edinburgh, a Scottish capital, a city with deep cultural and historical heritage. Yet a lot of interesting things are happening around Edinburgh as well, which allows us to always have a wide choice of destinations to visit during our weekends. We try to make it our rule to see at least one new place around Scotland each month, and today I want to share those that became most memorable to us over the past year. 
 

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New Beginnings

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Hey guys!

Another autumn is knocking on our doors, and for me personally it’s pretty hard to realise that it’s here. Not because I’m going to longingly miss the summer, but because I never realised summer was in its full swing. It doesn’t feel as acute as it used to when I was studying at Uni or school, and with living abroad and travelling most of the time it’s almost always like a mix of all seasons as ones with all their bitterness and sweetness.

September always felt like new beginnings to me, and it’s time for me to make these new season resolutions I failed to make on New Year’s Eve or my birthday, and first thing to do is to regularly update this blog. 

Let’s start by setting the mood with my Welcome September playlist, just the way it feels right now.
Let me know if you liked the tunes, and I promise to come back here with regular updates! 

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Roadtrip to Scottish Highlands: Loch Lomond & Glencoe

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For the first time in my life, this autumn I finally decided to make a mood board, to be my inspiration, motivation and a practical to-do list for this wonderful season. With a great surprise and excitement I found out that it really does work, whether it is visualisation or just a stronger focus, and happy to say that the majority of things that was there has been already ticked as “done”, road trip being among them, and I’m about to tell you all about it just now.
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On Nostalgia, Apple Picking and Delicious Hand-pies

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What is nostalgia for you? Is it warm or is it blue? Does it make you smile when you relive old forgotten memories inside your head, or leaves you longing for returning back to the days when..? 

I very much like this bitter-sweet feeling, emotionally moving power. Even more that, I am very much fascinated with the way it works, subtle triggers that evoke it. It is, after all, a deeply sensual experience. Olfactory memories are probably the most powerful, but also the most subconscious of them all, so most of times they come as an overwhelming surprise to us, don’t they? Now, our taste sense is a completely different story. I doubt there’s a single person in the world who does not affectionately remembers some of their very first culinary family dish prepared on special holidays or that bright juicy flavour of freshly picked berries from grandma’s garden. My childhood was not always full of fresh produce because a)  I grew up in Siberia with winter lasting for good 6 months, and b) we were not always well off. Despite these facts or thanks to them, but I learned to appreciate good food and could always tell the good produce from the bad one. 

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Fall for Paris

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How many times did I tell myself that Paris was not my thing? That 2 previous visits to the city were enough, that another trip had no chances of changing it? Well, a lot of times. I was never a girl idealizing Paris, in fact, both times I found myself there before was solely because of the people I traveled with. Both times it was like having to meet somebody famous, and then get disappointed because it felt so overpriced and narcissistic. 
 
Then something clicked. We planned this small weekend getaway to Paris to open our new visa, and this time Paris got me hooked. Here we are hiking in Montmartre (this is just the best verb, because it’s Montmartre, you know? All hills and stairs!), stuffing our faces with croissants,  crepes and macarons (no regrets!), missing on our planned shopping (and saving ourselves from lavish spendings, apparently), drinking cocktails in a gorgeous speak-easy bar… It was a revelation, a new face of the city, cleaner, more intriguing, stimulating. How could I not see it before? 
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This post is about little things that I found Paris consisting of. Call it a recipe for a great time in the city, you can check the places we’ve visited or find your own, just promise yourself to not stick to conventional routes from tourist guides too much. Get lost in the streets, explore, surprise yourself!

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Simple Tourist Route around central London

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I love travelling and I hate being a tourist. Hate being that kind of tourist who just tick places off the must-see list that can be found on the first page of Google search, that is. I am all for finding unique, non-trivial places to explore, and actually trying to understand and feel the city, rather than jumping from one tourist attraction to another. Although, we all do need to see these must-see places, don’t we? 
 
My rules here are short and simple: a) don’t use transport, and walk instead whenever possible; b) always have your eyes open and your camera ready: it’s definitely not only the Big Ben and Eiffel tower that made their home cities famous. 
 
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London Part 1: Sunday in Shoreditch

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It was Sunday, noon, the weather was amazing, and we were wandering around streets of London’s Shoreditch somewhat puzzled. It was surprisingly quiet, and we seemed to be almost the only ones who were out at that hour. Ok, well, maybe everyone was busy brunching indoors, I thought. And then, somewhere in the middle of what I remember to be Rivington street, we were hit with a blaring sound wave of drum’n’bass coming out from a thick brick wall and impressive metal door of some nameless bar. Did these people keep on partying since the previous night?! Or did they just start that morning? Either way, I can’t say I was surprised, as Shoreditch makes you realise right away — it is in no way a straightforward neighbourhood. 

 

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You spot graffitis everywhere you go, little quirky shops appear here and there, trendy coffee places, independent art galleries, indie markets, street performers… A whirlwind of life and modern culture: decadent to some, iconic to others.
 

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Easiest Fig Tart ever

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As a kid I never knew what fresh figs taste like, and what’s more, I didn’t know what they look like.  Where I lived we only had dried version of them, and I grew to hate them over the childhood years, finding the flavour to be too edgy. The first time I saw a photo of fresh figs in some food blog I thought this is the most photogenic fruit ever, but was still very suspicious about the taste. And only about 4 years ago I first tried them from Boqueria market  in Barcelona… now that brought up a new food addiction in me, and I’ve been trying to get my hands on figs whenever I could.

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If you are, just like me, never tried figs before, it’s definitely time to start, as they’re still in season! Perfect in salads, amazing as a topping for your morning oats (caramelized with herbs these become just heavenly!), figs are also fantastic product because they act perfectly both in sweet and savoury combinations.

Here’s a very quick put-together tart, that can be a perfect dinner, if served with a green side salad, or a mouth-watering bite for your wine evening.

 

Quick Fig Tart with Gorgonzola and Thyme
Serves 4
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
137 calories
13 g
19 g
7 g
6 g
5 g
43 g
389 g
10 g
0 g
2 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
43g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 137
Calories from Fat 65
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
11%
Saturated Fat 5g
23%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 19mg
6%
Sodium 389mg
16%
Total Carbohydrates 13g
4%
Dietary Fiber 1g
5%
Sugars 10g
Protein 6g
Vitamin A
4%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
15%
Iron
2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 sheet puff pastry (400grams)
  2. 6 ripe figs
  3. Fresh thyme
  4. 100 grams Gorgonzola (I think any blue cheese will work)
  5. Splash of Olive oil
  6. Sea salt (I used pink himalayan)
  7. Wildflower honey
  8. Pine nuts
Instructions
  1. 1. Pre-heat the oven to 200° Celsius.
  2. 2. Roll out the pastry about 0.5cm thick, make small borders by pinching the edges slightly, and brush it lightly with olive oil
  3. 3. Cut figs into circles and arrange them evenly all over the pastre
  4. 4. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt, then add honey and chopped thyme
  5. 5. Crumble cheese and pine nuts all over the tart, and add more thyme springs
  6. 6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until pastry is crisp and golden.
Adapted from Food52
beta
calories
137
fat
7g
protein
6g
carbs
13g
more
Adapted from Food52
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