Eat here: Sora Margherita, Rome

Sora Margherita
Piazza delle Cinque Scole, 30, Rome, Italy
https://www.soramargherita.com

 

Rome is an incredible city that’s basically a living museum, with good food and rude service. Sora Margherita is a brilliant example of both.

We found a bright yellow door tucked away in a little piazza, and a line at the door 30 minutes before opening time. We joined the queue and hoped they’d give us a seat despite not being Roman. 

I say Roman, not Italian, because many Romans feel they’re an entity unto themselves. They’re often pretty rude not just to visitors from other countries, but visitors from other parts of Italy, too. We had a big leg up on most other international visitors because I speak Italian, but if you think that earned us friendly service…

We were shoved into the tiny restaurant and taken to a table for 6, where we were each sandwiched in between two portly locals. We were handed menus, and left to our own devices for a while. When our waitress eventually came back, I had the audacity to ask what one of their pasta dishes had in it (there were no ingredients listed in the menu, it just had a bit of a vague name indicating it was a special of some sort). I couldn’t tell if she was more offended I dared speak to her in Italian as a foreigner or if I dared question the dish. My husband was mortified; I did my best not to laugh.

The pasta was worth it – a bowl of cacio e pepe, and a bowl of whatever the special was – turned out it was a perfect, plain tomato sauce, smothered in finely grated parmesan cheese, just like Nonna makes. Half a litre of house red washed it down nicely, and we were pretty full. But not our neighbours.

We were full from our deceptively big bowls of pasta, ready to pay and make our way out. But looking around, we realised that the locals don’t stuff around at lunch time. No shared entree and a bowl of pasta; by the time we were done, they’d already made their way through a salad, a warm entree, a good litre of wine, and were starting to tuck into their pasta dishes, while wondering aloud how long their next dishes would take to come out. And then there’d be coffee and dessert.

Sora Margherita is the ultimate Roman dining experience – homely feel, stereotypical cranky service, movie-setting piazza location, and really really good food.

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

Père Lachaise Cemetery
16 Rue du Repos, Paris
http://www.pere-lachaise.com/

Starting to look a bit morbid here, with another post about cemeteries, aren’t I?! I guess that’s at least partly true; I’ve always had a bit of a weird fascination with death. But that aside, I still maintain that cemeteries are very overlooked sites to visit when you’re travelling. They can give you a pretty good sense of a place and its history (are there Catholic crosses on the tombs? Coptic crosses? A Star of David?), what types of hardships its residents have been through (are there a lot of dates of deaths around the time of a war or pandemic?), and they’re more often than not in some of the city’s more beautiful park-like settings. Case in point: Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery.

It’s less than 10km from the Eiffel Tower, and you can get there easily enough on the no. 2 or no. 3 metro train lines. There’s no entry fee and you can walk around at your own pace, but it IS a big cemetery, so if you’d prefer to have someone show you around, there are plenty of companies that offer guided tours.

The grounds are open all year round, but visiting in autumn didn’t hurt as you can see by the perfect gold and red leaves throughout my photos. It’s become well-known as the final resting place of creative celebrities like Jim Morrison (photo below), Edith Piaff, Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust.

Another popular grave is that of Abélard and Héloïse, which I read about in Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad:

“Yet who really knows the story of Abélard and Héloïse? Precious few people. The names are familiar to everybody, and that is about all. With infinite pains I have acquired a knowledge of that history… to show the public that they have been wasting a good deal of marketable sentiment very unnecessarily.”

Turns out a lot of people know them as a love story, a Romeo and Juliet type love story. The real story as told by Mark Twain? He seduced her, they ran away, had a child. They got married, but were soon torn apart by his meddling uncle. She entered a convent and heard nothing from her lover for a decade until a letter arrived. They wrote to each other for a while, but would only meet again in death, when, as per Héloïse’s last wish, they were buried together…

 

13 Cemeteries to Visit in New Orleans

I love New Orleans. And cliché or not, I love it for all the things it’s built its reputation on: good food, great music, and death. Visitors usually go for the first two, but many find themselves oddly drawn to the third in little ways – past life tarot readings, voodoo customs, and the city’s cemeteries, many of which are now now popular ‘tourist’ attractions. The people of the crescent city have developed unique rituals that are both deeply fascinating and incredibly beautiful around the celebration of life and death.

Continue reading “13 Cemeteries to Visit in New Orleans”

How to spend a day in Reykjavik, Iceland

We hired a car for our week in Iceland, but when we arrived in Reykjavik, it was parked out the front of our Airbnb and promptly forgotten about until it was time to head back to the airport. We found Reykjavik to be a pretty easy city to walk around, even in the cold of winter. And despite the shorter daylight hours, you can actually pack quite a bit in to a sunny winter’s day while you’re there.

I’m clearly not a Reykjavik local (and I’m sure a they would have some different ideas on how to spend a day in their city), so this is my visitor’s version of how to spend a day there to take in as much of the city’s mixed bag of offerings as you can.

 

 

1. Get up early and start walking towards the Harpa Conference & Concert Center. Actually, you don’t have to get up that earlywe were there mid-November and this was about 7:30am. You’re not going to see inside the building or anything, it’s just really beautiful in the morning darkness on your way to your second stop.

 

2. Keep on walking south along the water for about 800 metres to the Sun Voyager. This frequently-photographed sculpture that looks like an old Viking long-ship is next-level spectacular during sunrise. It draws massive crowds during the day, so if you want a chance to have it to yourself, it’s worth the early wake up.

 

3. Double back and follow the main road around to the left at the Concert Center, taking you on a kilometre walk to Lake Tjörnin. If you’ve thought ahead and brought a KeepCup full of tea or coffee with you, this is a nice stop to make. If you’ve brought along some bread, too, even better – the birds here loooove a feed.

 

4. Opposite the west side of the lake at the corner of Suðurgata & Kirkjugarðsstígur, you’ll find the Hólavallagarður Cemetery. I love a cemetery visit when I’m travelling, and I’ve been to a lot of them now, but this will always stand out for me. After you’ve been driving around Iceland for a week, you notice that there actually aren’t a heap of trees there; they seem to be hoarding them all at this cemetery. In winter, when the graves are covered in moss and snow, and the light is a little darker and there’s no one around, it’s a pretty unique experience.

 

5. Start walking north again back towards the Concert Center and make your way to Kolaportið Market. Because no day out is complete without a trip to a local flea market, especially in Iceland where everything is generally incredibly expensive!

 

6. You’ve gotta be getting hungry by now, so take a lunch break at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for the best hot dog you’ve ever eaten. Literally the BEST hot dog. You’ve ever. Eaten. EVER.

 

7. A kilometer and a half walk south-east along Skólavörðustígur Street will take you through the city centre, where you’ll be able to check out some of the street art scattered around the city.

 

8. If you’re game, head to one of the many tattoo studios in the city for a more permanent souvenir from your time in Iceland. I had this beauty done by Martin at the now closed Sweet Hell Tattoo Studio, which is a shame because it’s one of the better studios I’ve been tattooed in. If you’re intrigued but unsure, I’ve written a guide to getting tattooed on your travels which might help.

 

9. No visit to Reykjavik would be complete without seeing the city’s main landmark, Hallgrímskirkja, the city’s towering Lutheran church. Even if you’re not much into architecture or religion, you can’t not be left a little in awe of this building and the way it pops up at the end of a main street, like it’s just waiting there to welcome you in. And if you’re happy to join to line with the other tourists, I her the view from the observation tower up top is pretty spectacular.

 

10. It’s time for afternoon tea, now. Head about 500 metres along Vitastígur, and you’ll hit Te & Kaffi. Warm up, caffeinate, get some sugary treats (I highly recommend the choc chip cookies) into you, and get ready to head back out into the cold for one last trek before you call it a day.

 

11. Your last stop is just under 2 kilometres away, north-west, back towards and past the Concert Center. You’re ending your day at the Saga Museum. You can dress up as a Viking in the foyer area before grabbing your headphones and following an audio guide through the museum, watching on as life-sized (and sometimes disturbingly life-like) figures play out scenes from Iceland’s history. It’s a little tacky, a little silly, but it’s also a pretty good history lesson.

 

 

8 Perfect Paris Streets

The only way you’re going to really see Paris is on foot. Because there are dozens of beautiful little walking streets in the city that you’re going to miss completely if you’re in a taxi or on the trains. If you Google “Paris walking streets,” you’ll get hundreds of lists; here are the ones I really liked. They’re all in quite central areas, easy enough to get to if you don’t know the city well, and will give you a really great overview of what you can find if you take the time to wander…

 

1. Rue Montorgueil
Why walk it? Cafés, bakeries and restaurants for the most part, like Au Rocher de Cancale. There are also some beautiful little places where you can get a crepe and some wine while you do some people watching.

 

2. Galerie Vivienne
Why walk it? This little undercover walking street has been made Instagram-famous for is beautifully tiled passageway which is strung with fairy lights overhead. Galerie Vivienne is home to a few old bookstores mixed in with some more modern boutiques.

 

3. Rue Saint-Séverin
Why walk it? It’s one of those story-book cobbled streets up near the Latin Quarter. Start at Boulevard Saint-Michel where you’ll find lots of pretty cafes and restaurants. Turn left on Rue de Petit Pont and you’ll end at Shakespeare & Company for a book fix.

 

4. Rue Cler
Why walk it? With wide walking paths and lots of shops, it’s an easy place to soend a few hours. You’ll find everything from Mariage Frères tea to lots of colourful florists to some delicious smelling bakeries. At the end of street, just past Rue Saint-Dominique, you’ll find the Church of Saint-Pierre du Gros Caillou.

 

5. Rue Mouffetard
Why walk it? This cobbled street on a hill hosts a farmers market of sorts every day except Monday. It’s lined with food stores and stalls – butchers, fromageries, bakeries, patisseries, the works. The croissants from Maison Morange are exceptional.

 

6. Passage Verdeau
Why walk it? For the beautiful old bookstores like Librairie J.N. Santon and other antique shops. It’s a real step back in time.

leading into…

7. Passage Jouffroy
Why walk it? This is another classic walking street, really harking back to the past. It houses a wax museum, a former 19th century brasserie, and Le Valentin, a tea house with the most incredible cakes.

leading into…

8. Passage des Panoramas
This one’s considered to be the first covered walking street in the city. With it’s old tiled floors, a few cafes and some antique collector stores (stamps, coins, postcards), it’s a great way to end your walking day.