All posts tagged: travel

“Synchronised gifting”, Cuban-style

This weekend was a birthday party of a good friend of mine. He was turning 30 and his girlfriend organised a surprise Cuban-themed party in his honour, inviting close friends from all over the world to come and celebrate together. Months of planning and a ridiculous amount of secrecy (try “flying” his brother all the way from his home country without giving anything away) culminated in a great celebration…with quite a bit of mojitos and some late-night salsa dancing. But let me not bore you with all the details but focus on an interesting gifting concept that’s gaining popularity at the moment. I call it “synchronised gifting”. It’s a bit like synchronised swimming in essence, where all participants create one beautiful experience with everyone working in tandem to enhance the overall effect. The idea is pretty simple – it’s obviously great to get one amazing gift, but if there are other gifts that complement each other, the overall “amazingness” is far greater. But back to our Cuban party. His main gift was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Cuba …

Madrid: Where to go and what to bring back

It’s been a while since I had a destination review here. The last one was about Amsterdam (find it here) which many of you found useful (there are also gift guides about Paris, Marrakesh and Bali, if you have a bit of time). Today, I’m going to introduce Madrid with all its stunning architecture, culture and, of course, gifts to bring home. Places to visit Mercado de San Miguel (website) It’s featured in every recommendation/city guide I’ve read about Madrid, and it really is worth it. Head there for an early dinner – the typical dinner is after 9pm, but things do sell out fast there, especially sea food, so 7pm is better. The choice is limitless, so simply indulge. The portions are small enough to try quite a few things (well, we still ended up going there twice). My personal top recommendation would be oysters and champagne. Just opposite the oyster bar is a tiny stall where they serve vodka and caviar (insider tip: if you are Russian, they give you an extra shot). Real Jardín …

Marrakesh: the city where you can find green lipsticks and befriend a pet turtle

Marrakesh is one of those unique southern cities that combine a complete lack of order with such inspiring serenity, that it may just take you forever to figure it out. After spending five days there, I can honestly say – I’ve barely scratched the surface of its cultural richness. In this post, I’ll attempt to remove some of the illusions you may have about the city and replace them with my own personal discoveries. Many people associate Marrakesh with cheap shopping. The famous souks in Northern Medina cater for tourists, and shop owners are more than happy to sell you inexpensive leather accessories, jewellery, national garments and spices. However, don’t expect anything “artisanal” – pretty much every stall sells similar things (my guess is that somewhere outside Medina there is a large warehouse, distributing “touristy” souvenirs to local sellers), so if you really like a particular item, it’s worth shopping around and bargaining hard (you can easily knock off 50% or more, as sellers deliberately set initial prices higher). I am terrible at haggling, so …

Unexpected Amsterdam: Gourmet Food, Quirky Shops and Unique Gifts

What comes to mind when you start planning a trip to Amsterdam? My guesses are the Red Lights District and coffee shops  – after all, you can’t go to Amsterdam and come back without any stories, right? Definitely add the Van Gogh museum to the list – it will change your perception about him completely (for example, Vincent was actually very sociable, had a lot of friends and loved Japanese art…just a few random facts to get you interested!). If, like me, you are not afraid to explore the city and find its true spirit, read on! First of all, Amsterdam is very small, so everything in the city centre is reachable within 20 minutes. Buses and bikes are available for a small fee, if you need to take a longer journey. As this blog is primarily about gifts, let me show you what to bring back from Amsterdam, if you are planning to go there soon. Ignore the big shopping streets around the Central Station. What you really need is the shopping district called …