Listen To This & Read That

Hey there lovelies!

Fall has finally hit Toronto in full force. The leaves are changing colour, the air is brisk and cool. My sundresses have been put away and replaced with sweaters, and pumpkins and halloween decorations are on every porch.

October (one of my favourite months) always comes around to give me a place to slow down and enjoy. Sure, it also marks the beginning of midterms and crazy stress, but somehow, in the midst of all that, there is some inherent soothing quality to fall. While tackling a pile of readings this Saturday night (lively I know), I made some tea, lit a candle and let the ambiance and the beautiful foliage outside, carry me through my work.

It was calming. Restorative in a sense, and everyone needs that once in a while, especially if another round of midterms are heading your way.

As the seasons change, my music taste generally changes with them. Fall is obviously no exception. My iTunes playlists shift from upbeat pop, to more subdued blues and indie tunes, melodies that mirror the changing colours and brisk winds of October. Today I thought I’d share some of my favourite autumn tunes with you, as well as a couple books I’ve read recently and really liked!

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Written by the author of Eat, Pray, Love. this book was quite a treat. It was quite thought provoking and made me question a lot of habits I posses in relation to my own creativity, which is something I value deeply. If you’re a creative person (and Gilbert affirms that we all are), this enthralling read is perfect for you!

Paris To The Moon – Adam Gopnik

This book is essentially a compilation of articles written while Gopnik (an American writer) was living in Paris with his wife and young son. It is full of delightful accounts of living in, arguably, the most romantic city in Europe, and the trials or raising a child away from the world you were raised in yourself. My favourite parts of the book were always stories of Gopnik’s young son Luke, and the mischief he got up to in the Luxembourg Gardens.

My Autumn Playlist

  1. Noisy Sunday – Patrick Watson
  2. Turn Into The Noise – Patrick Watson
  3. Don’t Be a Fool – Shawn Mendes
  4. Ruin – Shawn Mendes
  5. Mercy – Shawn Mendes
  6. River – Leon Bridges
  7. I’m Not The Only One – Sam Smith
  8. If You Ever Want To Be In Love – James Bay
  9. Sound & Colour – Alabama Shakes
  10. Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes
  11. Lua – Bright Eyes
  12. An Evening I Will Not Forget – Dermot Kennedy

So, I know this was a little bit of a random post…a weird little journey, but books and music have always been important to me and I cannot deny the power of good music in hard times (aka midterms).

If you (like me) are in the middle of a hellish stint of midterms, I just want you to remember to take care of yourself! Eat well, shower, exercise and take time for yourself during this crazy time. No exam is ever worth sacrificing your own wellbeing!

Hope you guys are all having an amazing week!

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Three Days In Madrid

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Earlier last week, my family and I had the pleasure of driving down to Madrid to explore for a few days. I’d never been to Spain before (which is kinda sad because the border is less than an hour away from where we live in Portugal), and was really excited to experience a whole new culture!

Spain’s geography was drastically different from that of Portugal (a lot flatter with big huge farms, almost like prairies) and we were actually really surprised at how quickly the scenery and land changed as we crossed the boarder. While Portugal is all mountains and hills, this part of Spain was impossibly flat and full of fields! Madrid was also totally different from any city I’ve seen in Portugal! It had countless tree lined boulevards (but seriously, there are so many trees in this city) and a bunch of little parks and water features. We visited a few different parts of the city, went to the Royal Botanical Gardens and walked through the stunning Plaza’s scattered throughout!

Personally, I think my favourite part of the city was Malasaña, which I would describe as Madrid’s hipster neighbourhood. I could’ve spent days just wandering the little streets and peeking in to adorable cafes and out of the box stores!

We walked a LOT during the few days we were there, and let me tell you, Madrid is HOT. Like really, really, really hot! If you ever visit in the summer months, light clothing, hats and cold water (or sangria) will be your very best friends! There’s so much to see (because it’s a huge city), so we only really scratched the surface!

As I did with my Porto post, I’ll share some photos of my favourite spots and places because, as they say, a picture says a thousand words!

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The Plaza Mayor (above) was one of our first stops in Madrid! It was so beautiful, and had a bunch of little shops and bakeries lining the square! A great place to grab a bite, the Mercado de San Miguel (which I’ll talk about later), was just outside the Plaza as well!

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The Crystal Palace in Madrid’s Buen Retiro Park was absolutely gorgeous! It was quite the hike to get there from our hotel (and it was pretty darn hot) but the park offers a lot of shade and great photo ops so it was ok! The pond behind the palace also features a bunch of adorable turtles who swim around and wait for you to give them food, which was adorable! As soon as I walked in, I couldn’t help but think about what a great venue this would be for a wedding (in the fall or spring)! It would be a total fairytale!

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We also checked out the Royal Botanical Gardens (which were beautiful), saw the Bonsai collection and went inside the big green house! I loved the three different environments in the green house, and it totally felt like I was hiking through the jungle!

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My favourite blogger, Geneva of A Pair & A Spare, recently went to Madrid, and in her travel guide for the city she mentioned a little espadrille store called  Antigua Casa Crespo, so of course I had to check it out! As it happened, the hotel we stayed in was only a few blocks from the store itself (fate?) and I took the opportunity to do some browsing! I ended up getting two pairs of classic espadrilles (white and pink) because they were only 9 euros, such a great deal and I love, love, LOVE them! The store itself was also adorable and had so much charm!

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We stopped at the Mercado de San Miguel for some snacks, and let me tell you, this place is popping! It’s right outside of Madrid’s beautiful Plaza Mayor, and there are tons of food stalls which sell every type of tapa you can think of. The atmosphere is so lovely and electric! It was easily one of my favourite stops during the trip!

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The above photo is of the gorgeous Royal Palace of Madrid. We didn’t actually get to go inside (it was closed by the time we got there) but I can only imagine how beautiful it is (I think it’s been said to rival Versailles)!

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We only stayed a few days in the city, and while we did see a lot, we didn’t see everything! I really hope I can come back to visit one day to explore a little more thoroughly!

Have you been to Madrid? If so what was your favourite part?

Hope you guys are having a lovely day! I can’t believe it’s already mid August! Summer is flying by way too fast!

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A Lovely Day In Porto

Untitled design.jpgCurrently, I’m lucky enough to be in sunny Portugal on vacation with my family! We have a lot of other family here to visit and escaping the humidity of Toronto in August is greatly appreciated. Portugal is also the perfect opportunity to rest and re-charge from the busy lives we lead in Canada. While Toronto is hectic and always go go go, life in Portugal is way more relaxed.

We’ve been coming here in the summer for just about as long as I can remember, and every year I seem to find some new reason to fall in love with the country. It might be the gorgeous weather, the heavenly bread, or a mixture of the two, but either way, Portugal sure is a spectacular place! Because I love showing off my country and heritage so much, this is going to be one of a few posts highlighting beautiful places in Portugal, and some of the adventures we’ve had here!

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Last week we stayed overnight in one of Portugal’s premier cities (and a UNESCO world heritage site)! Porto is a bustling city perched on the rolling hills of the Douro Valley over looking the Douro river. Like Lisbon, Porto is a mixture of beautiful tree lined boulevards and tiny medieval streets winding up the hills.

Porto is a port city in two ways. First, in the traditional sense, it’s location on the Douro allows it to be easily reached by ships, making Porto a bustling hub for trade. Secondly however, if you’re a fan of port wine, welcome to it’s birth place! Big names in the port industry have enough tours and tastings to keep you busy and satisfied and you’ll have the opportunity to learn about it’s history from the people who started it themselves!

If walking and taking in the sights are more your style, the bright tile covered buildings and ornate cobblestone sidewalks will provide plenty of Instagram opportunities. You can even cruise around most of the city in streetcars that have been running since the 1900s (don’t worry they’ve been fixed up since)! Boat cruises on the river are also a great way to relax and see the city from a new perspective.

Porto might also be one of the best places for avant-garde cuisine in the country, so if you love food (especially seafood), searching the tiny streets for local favourites might take up most of your time!

We stayed overnight at the beautiful Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel, which is gorgeous inside and out, and is in the perfect location for exploring! Our room had river views, we were within walking distance from many of the main tourist destinations in the city and were literally steps away from the river! While there are tons of restaurants around this hub of activity, I recommend hunting in other parts of the city for local favourites and hidden gems. Most of the restaurants along the river cater to tourists and backpackers and while the food is generally edible, it gives a really poor representation of Portuguese cuisine, which is pretty amazing! If you look hard enough, you’re sure to stumble on to a cute ma and pa restaurant that has great prices and equally great food!

Words can only do so much to describe something, so here are some of my favourite photographs from our day trip which we spent walking through Porto’s tiny medieval streets, peeking in to beautiful old courtyards, and riding the old streetcars!

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A beautiful (half) view of the bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel (yup that Eiffel) in 1877. The bridge connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro river! If port wine is your thing, head over to Gaia for days filled with tastings and winery tours from some of the biggest names in the industry!

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A view of our hotel (the orangey yellow building farthest on the left) and the other surrounding buildings which were equally stunning! I love the bright colours and beautiful tiles we use to cover our buildings. Many of the tiles found throughout the country are hand-painted (even today) and many are also 3D (my personal favourites) due to many years of Moorish influence!

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I just love the tiny little streets winding their way throughout the city! If you take these back roads, chances are you’ll stumble on to local secrets and more authentic sectors of the city! Walking the many hills of Porto is also the perfect way to earn your next big meal!

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A collection of adorable little cafes cornered by beautiful tiled buildings! No better setting to take a break and have a drink! When I took this picture there was also a man playing the guitar in the background, so it was extra dreamy.

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A view of old buildings and some laundry out to dry taken from the window of one of Porto’s old street cars! I wasn’t able to take a picture of the streetcar itself because we had to run to catch it, but they’re super cute and if you’re in the city (Lisbon has them too) they’re the perfect way to see everything, with minimal hill climbing!

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Two of the many beautiful doors found in Porto! I love, love, LOVE taking pictures of doors and am happy to add these two beauties to my collection.

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These beautiful buildings of the gorgeous Praça da Liberdade (Liberty Square) are reminiscent of Paris, with their clean white stone walls and domed roofs! The sun was just starting to set and I was so blown away by how different this part of the city looked from the others. This beautiful square boasts some spectacular stone work, and some amazing photo ops (I even caught some seagulls flying around)!

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So, there’s a little look at Porto (though I’ve just barely scratched the surface)! It really is a stunning city, filled with so much history and personality! If you ever have the opportunity, I really suggest visiting!

I hope you’re all enjoying the lovely August weather!! Not sure how this last month of summer has crept up on us so quickly, but I can’t believe it’s almost back to school season!!!

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