lake como :: varenna & villa monastero

31 August 2014

On our first full day in Lake Como, we decided to take the train just two stops away from Dervio, to the town of Varenna. It's one of the most well-known towns around the lake, and has a real charm to it - it's not big, but it does boast a few prestigious landmarks including Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi.

The views of the town from the ferry rides we took during our trip:

The streets are all cobblestones and narrow alleyways and people strolling by with gelatos in hand. We saw a couple of boutiques and artists' shops, and there are quite a few hotels higher up as you go further inland, no doubt with spectacular views.

We had had a bit of a late start that day (we had a train situation again. bless the Italians), so once we got there we were more than ready for lunch. We took a walk around, scoped out our options, and settled on a little lakefront restaurant that we had seen in a couple of guidebooks, Vecchia Varenna.

The view was idyllic, and the food was good - I enjoyed my homemade tagliatelle with lake fish a lot, and I think E was happy with his carbonara but thought it was lacking in portion!

Of course, we always had to leave room for gelato (if room is really needed for such necessities) so perhaps that was a good thing.

After sufficiently fuelling ourselves, we paid a visit to the absolutely stunning gardens of Villa Monastero.

Of all the Villas that we explored, this was probably our favourite. It was just breathtaking - the panoramic views of the lake from every angle, the gorgeous plants and flowers that were obviously meticulously kept and looked after, and the perfect serenity of the place was incredible. The best thing was that although we did encounter fellow visitors from time to time, for the most part it felt like we had this huge garden to ourselves - it honestly felt good for the soul.

After a long day of walking and exploring, we decided to have a cosy dinner in our apartment and go for an evening walk by the lake. We were extremely excited when we found a huge portion of burrata (I know it's all the rage these days, but for good reason, trust me - kind of a richer, creamier, more decadent mozzarella) for 4 euros at the supermarket! It would have set us back an easy tenner at Borough Market (probably closer to £15 - it was huge), and lasted us for two dinners' worth of fresh and delicious salad. Made by E, of course.

As much I love to eat out, it was so nice to be able to be by ourselves and have a leisurely dinner "at home" with a bottle of rosé.

Well done if you made it to the end of this photo-heavy post - but our Italian adventures aren't even close to being over yet! (on the blog that is. sadly we have been home for a while now, but home is always good.)

après london

29 August 2014

Central London is filled to the brim with trendy and swanky bars, but I actually don't find myself going to them all that often. Call me a grandma, but it's a pet peeve of mine to go to an otherwise nice bar where they have blaring music that drowns any chance at a conversation with your lovely company. I just prefer to go out for a meal at a place where we can talk without shouting (and let's face it, inevitably spitting) at each other, you know?

Therefore I really haven't explored as much of the bar scene in London as perhaps I should have, being a young woman in her twenties and all. And of course, there are the more chilled out bars around town that I probably just haven't discovered yet and would enjoy if I gave it a chance.

I think that Après London is one of those places!

Having been kindly invited to come along for drinks and a bite to eat, I went with my friend S for a girly cocktails and finger food date.

We were quite overwhelmed by the sheer amount of cocktails to choose from! To start with, we settled on the Candice Cocktail (seen below on the menu) and the Whiskey Sour.

We were very happy with our choices, but wow do these have a kick! It was high time we lined our stomachs with some meat and carbs.

Out of the food menu, which is fairly extensive considering it's definitely more of a bar than a full-blown restaurant, we tried the fries, chicken wings, cheeseburger sliders and halloumi sliders.

Helped go down by a couple more cocktails - I honestly can't remember their names, but one was their twist on a Mojito and the other was ginger beer based.

We were quite impressed with the food - it's definitely a notch up from your standard pub snacks. The prices are quite reasonable, but the portions aren't huge so I wouldn't go there looking for a big dinner.

I do think that the cocktails were some of the best I've tried in London - I can attest to this, because I couldn't leave without trying their Margarita (my favourite cocktail!) and it didn't disappoint.

However, I probably wouldn't have gone for one if I knew what they had up their sleeve... right as we were about to leave, the friendly waiter told us we had special dessert drinks that they were wanting to serve us, which I obviously couldn't turn down. And they presented us with their Tiramisu Martinis.

Poor S doesn't drink coffee so donated hers to the table next to us, but I certainly enjoyed mine - it was smooth, not too sweet and the ideal end to the night.

The DJ starts from around 8/9pm depending on the day so it did get a little louder later on, but it was definitely not a deal breaker (and probably wanted/expected by normal young bar goers!) and I'm quite sure I'll pop in again soon - they also have happy hour from 5-8pm daily (I think 5-11pm on Wednesdays) for £5 a cocktail, which is a seriously good deal.

We felt thoroughly spoilt, but as always my opinions are my own - thank you for having us Après!
You can see more information on Zomato.

disclaimer: we were given complimentary drinks and food for an honest review. all opinions are my own.