Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What to Pack for a Weekend Mini-Break

We're off to a mini-break in the countryside this weekend and I'm really looking forward to it. Even though we've got "big" trips to Iceland and Morocco coming up in the not-too-distant future, I still like to sneak away for an indulgent little mini-break here and there!

I like to travel light, but I also love having options and being comfortable. Once, we arrived to a hotel and John triumphantly unfurled a pair of sweatpants he had stowed away in his bag for the ultimate comfort - how clever! I was jealous. Now, I bring a pair of padded slippers with me wherever I go.

Here's a list of what I usually throw into my weekend bag, if you're interested!

1. Comfortable lounge wear

I learned John's trick and make sure I bring (or even travel in) a set of comfy loungewear: cashmere socks, jersey sweatpants and silky pajamas ... these things are relatively thin, so they can be easily rolled up and stowed away. I absolutely love this gorgeous lingerie set from Wacoal's new Spring/Summer collection, which will be coming with me this weekend. Wearing nice lingerie makes the weekend feel even more like a treat, and the pink/grey combo of this set is so feminine and pretty. (I also love that the bralette is wire-free, yet supportive, which is super comfortable!)

2. A top that's equally great for down time and exploring

Earlier this year, I purged my wardrobe of all the striped tops I owned and was left with this one (which I wear all the time) from Petit Bateau. Although it's the first place I go to for baby gifts, I love their adult line too and their Breton tops are such great quality: thick, warm, and beautifully designed. This is my go-to weekend outfit. I like that it's casual with jeans and sneakers, but smart enough to pair with a black leather skirt, tights, and boots too.

3. A great magazine (or three). 

On weekend breaks, I secretly can't wait to take naps in the middle of the afternoon, read magazines by the pool (if there's one) or watch a really dumb movie/TV show late into the night - it's how I unwind. Our average journey time for weekend breaks ranges from 1 - 3 hours, so I always make sure I bring my favorite magazines with me - again, it feels like a treat!

4. Comfortable shoes for walking

If we're staying in the countryside, we'll probably go for a long walk in the surrounding area, or - if we're in a city - go exploring in town. John and I recently bought these Vivobarefoot hiking boots (we're such nerds!) and they are so comfortable. I like wearing them for walks on rugged terrain, otherwise I wear my Adidas Neos if we're walking around the city.

5. A little black dress

More often than not, we'll be eating in the hotel's restaurant, and I like to dress up for dinner, even if the hotel doesn't have a dress code. I always pack a nice dress and either flats, boots, or a pair of heels to go with it. I've got a simple black dress that works well in the summer, but I'm searching for a good one for the cooler months, if you have any suggestions!

6. A cross-body bag

On weekends, I like to go hands-free with whatever bag I'm carrying. I've had my eye on this L.K. Bennett bag for a while, and it fits hotel room keys, my phone, a lipstick and tissues perfectly. Plus, it has slots for cards.

What do you like to pack for weekends away? Let me know in the comments!

Lingerie provided courtesy of Wacoal. Shop the collection here. Top and cross-body bag provided courtesy of Petit Bateau and L.K. Bennett. All opinions are my own.

Monday, January 23, 2017


Printable illustrations by Samantha Hahn, downloadable here.

10 Actions / 100 Days

Donations to:

Planned Parenthood



Thursday, January 19, 2017

The One Small Change I've Made to My Commute

The other night, after work, I had my gym gear in my bag and was signed up for the HIIT bootcamp class near my house. But as the evening progressed, I was convinced that I felt "under the weather" and that I was too tired to do a bazillion jumping jacks in front of a roomful of women I didn't know to a blaring soundtrack of the Top 40 chart.

Ten minutes later, squashed between a man's armpit and a girl who wouldn't give up reading her magazine in favor of holding on to a rail so she leaned on me instead, I tumbled out of the tube's unbearably busy Central line and was filled with a rage so deep-seated, I couldn't wait to do a bazillion jumping jacks in front of a roomful of women I didn't know to a blaring soundtrack of the Top 40 chart.

I think I practically ran to class that night. And, luckily for me, the warm-up for class that evening involved a lot of air-punching.

Let's just say that I got a great workout.

I live about 20 minutes away from the closest underground station (and about 8 minutes from the Overground) and, prior to the beginning of the year, didn't think twice about hopping on the bus to get to the tube, since the stop was just 30 seconds from my front door.

But. I recently started walking to the station instead - rain or shine - and my goodness. It's made such a big, big difference to my day and my overall mental health. Getting that fresh air first thing in the morning and walking at a brisk pace (because I swear I'm London's fastest walker - ask any of my friends/family and they'll tell you so) makes me arrive at work awake, alert, and refreshed.

In fact, since I've been walking (it's been about 3 weeks now), I've noticed I'm less anxious when I'm in stressful situations (the tube repeatedly stopped in a tunnel for eight minutes at a time the other day and, while two people around me had panic attacks, I was able to stay calm) and I generally feel a little more ... positive.

Another plus? I've been getting to work earlier, which is blissful when you're someone who values "settling in" to her workspace every day before everyone else arrives.

I've also traded out my sugary snacks for apples, oatcakes and cashew nut butter (but who am I kidding - let's see how long that lasts!), which has helped stabilize my blood sugar levels so I don't crash and end up eating anything sweet within reach.

I had no idea something so simple (and, I'll admit, something John had been suggesting to me for ages) would make such a huge difference.

What is your commute like? Do you drive? Walk? Take public transport? Let me know!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Cinnamon Bazaar, Covent Garden

For as long as I can remember, Chef Vivek Singh's collection of restaurants in London - Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen, and Cinnamon Soho - have ranked high on my frequently recommended list.

Cinnamon Club was my first foray into this world of modern Indian cuisine: I was taken by the beautiful setting of the former Westminster Library and the high-end aesthetic, which felt like a real treat when I was still new to London.

In the City, Cinnamon Kitchen is where John and I regularly meet after work for a Friday treat. I go crazy for the breads (a selection of potato paratha, garlic naan and plain naan with a delicious set of chutneys) and cocktails, while the grilled appetizers always appeal to John.

Finally, Cinnamon Soho (near Carnaby Street) is best enjoyed outside in the summer, when the evening is balmy and awash with the setting sun's glow.

Last week, I was thrilled to be invited to Chef Singh's newest restaurant, Cinnamon Bazaar, which opened in Covent Garden in December.

Featuring signature house cocktails created by award-winning mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana (AKA Mr Lyan) and Chef Singh himself, the colorful, buzzing vibe of Cinnamon Bazaar is inspired by the same bustling atmosphere of the bazaars of India.

Indeed, the decor reflects this, with the orange fabric downstairs draping the sky-lit ceiling, and the green shutters, images of plants, and fans adorning the colonial-inspired dining room upstairs. The doors and panelling on the restaurant's bar have been hand-painted with pretty, but playful images of elephants, horses and palm trees. Of the four restaurants, this feels the most intimate and "boutique" and consequently (despite having only paid it my first visit so far) the one that appeals to me most.

If there's only one cocktail to try at Cinnamon Bazaar, make it the Masala Coke Float: aged rum, Karma Cola, and a generous scoop of the restaurant's homemade masala ice cream.

We began the evening with some delicious canapes, including Calcutta spiced crab and beetroot in chickpea batter and chana masala hummus on carom seed papdi.

But the highlight for me was the chaat - mini platefuls of delicious snacks typically served roadside in India, which had been reinvented and presented to us by Chef Singh as appetizers. As he explained, the wonderful thing about chaat is that it "can be completely customized". Some people might prefer more lemon juice, or salt, or spice, for example.

As I excitedly speared a piece of pressed watermelon with amaranth seeds, date chutney and masala cashew nut onto my fork, I remembered the chaat served at the wedding John and I went to in Bangalore last year. We tried everything - each of us going in separate directions before meeting in the middle of the banquet hall with our tiny plates, marvelling at the explosions of taste with every bite. The heat of the spices and the sweetness of the watermelon were at once, complex and extraordinarily pleasing to the palate.

I'd be hard-pressed to name a favorite, but I could have easily had the papdi chaat, crisp wheat with tangy tamarind, yoghurt and chickpea vermicelli - all to myself.

And, as it is with all the Cinnamon restaurants, the plates themselves were pleasing to eye as well - the hues of red, orange and green all reminiscent of the bright and vibrant colors found in Indian fabric shops and markets.

I didn't love the texture of the lamb galauti kebab, but I had a third helping of the curry leaf and cracked black pepper fried shrimp (and couldn't resist stealing a prawn from Udita's plate when she was too busy socialising to notice), which I'll be ordering on my next visit to the restaurant.

I wanted to save room for the mains - I really wanted to. But the chaat and the appetizers were so, so good, I couldn't practice too much restraint.

Still, when the tandoori Kentish lamb fillet and Lucknow style chicken biryani arrived at our table, my appetite magically reappeared.

The last time I ate biryani, it was at Udita's aunt and uncle's gorgeous house in Bangalore, and it was like no other biryani I'd ever tried: homemade, perfectly seasoned, and just ... fresh. The Lucknow style chicken biryani at Cinnamon Bazaar was exactly like this homecooked biryani I enjoyed in India. Even Udita gave her nod of approval across from me, citing the fried onions on top as a sign of "the real deal".

I knew we were in for a treat when dessert was announced: carrot halwa roll with clove ice cream. The outer pastry was so thin, it resembled (and tasted quite similar to) an egg roll. The crunchiness of this shell, when paired with the softness of the sweet carrot and intoxicating clove ice cream, made it a moreish after-dinner treat. I'm eager to try the other desserts on the menu, however, given that I was addicted to Indian sweets by the time we left Bangalore. In particular, the kulfi is calling my name, especially as we almost always order it at Cinnamon Kitchen.

Have you been to any of Chef Vivek Singh's Cinnamon restaurants? Which one's your favorite? If you live in London, or if you're just visiting, I'd highly recommend stopping by Cinnamon Bazaar.

Thank you to Cinnamon Bazaar and Roche Communications for being such generous hosts! All opinions are my own. Cinnamon Bazaar, 28 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7JS. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

How To Stop Spending All Your Money On ... Stuff

John and I recently became joint owners of a travel rewards credit card. You know, one of those cards that enables you to earn mileage points as you spend. As a result, he had a great idea: "Let's take a look at our spending over the past year and see how many points we'd potentially earn!"

I froze. My blood ran cold. An image of all the dresses hanging up in my closet with the price tags still on flashed in my mind.

"That's ... um, sure," I stammered. I started sweating. Profusely.

"So! All we have to do, is dump allllllllll the data from our bank accounts into one spreadsheet," he said, settling down in his study at home. "And we'll categorize everything. Like ... clothes, for example."

At this point, I had to sit down. I began to get defensive and nervous. "Yes, well, surely there needs to be a category for beauty as well, for things like hair cuts and brow waxes. And what about gifts we buy for other people? There needs to be a category for that!"

"Sure, sweetie," he said, already turning his gaze to Excel. "Add whatever categories you want."

Before long, John had finished categorizing his outgoings. "Interesting. We spent a lot of money on holidays last year," he said. "See this?" he asked, pointing to another column. "It's our entertainment spend. It's not that much, so we could think about increasing that, really. And, yikes. A lot went toward the house, but I suppose that was inevitable, given that it was our first year living in it."

Meanwhile, the sick feeling in my stomach was only getting worse. I thought of my lunchtime trips to The White Company; this ridiculous gold pineapple, for goodness' sake.

Finally, It was my turn. I grudgingly sat down with the laptop.

"I don't feel so good," I said, three-quarters of the way through. He hugged me close. "Why?" he grinned.

"Um, well, Zara and H&M are coming up ... A LOT," I said, burying my face in a cushion from the couch. 
"That's okay," he said good-naturedly, but clearly amused.
You see, it wasn't that I was over budget, but rather that ... I HAD NO BUDGET. And every time I presented my card to the cashier, I knew this. And the guilt that had manifested itself into this gnawing feeling in my stomach suddenly rose up and bubbled over during this little "exercise" devised by John.
When I got to the end, I cried. I mean, okay. It wasn't THAT bad, but I was embarrassed about how much I'd spent on, well, stuff!
 I described it to my co-worker as a mixture of, "Shock, horror, and humiliation."

"It was like no stone unturned!" I howled, as she laughed. 

"Well, I can't say I'm really surprised, Jaime," she said. "I've NEVER seen you in the same outfit twice! And, you get packages delivered to you at work all the time!"

Which only made me feel worse.

John was kinder, although he also thought it was hilarious that I found the results of the task so traumatizing. But a week later, I've totally changed my mind about this spreadsheet - it's made me so much more mindful about how I'm spending my money, especially as I have a clear idea of what's going where.

Now, I know that the majority of you probably have an ongoing spreadsheet for all your spending and that you're brilliant budgeting and saving, etc. and you'll be rolling your eyes at me going, "How does a grown adult woman not know how to manage her finances?!" But maybe some of you bury your head in the sand (like me) and gingerly check your bank balance from behind your fingers. If you're the former type of person, then skip on past this post. Seriously, stop reading. You'll just be smacking your forehead. If you're of the latter sort (like me), then here are some (really obvious) things I learned from this little exercise:

1. Stop buying stuff

 Just stop.

2. When you do buy stuff, make it quality stuff.

John always chides me about buying "quality" clothing and less of it (while I roll my eyes and flounce into H&M, getting my quick and cheap fix). But he's right. Quality clothing and shoes last longer, won't tear up your feet (I'm nursing a 5-day old wound as I write this from a pair of new Topshop boots, btw), and buying less means it's better for the environment too. 

3. Reuse stuff.
 I don't think I'm *too* bad at doing this, in that I buy about 20% of my clothes and bags from eBay. But I could be better at not buying new things when I have about 10 of them at home, buried inbetween couch crevices and hiding at the back of drawers (LIP BALMS, ANYONE?)? I'm so embarrassed to admit that I do this.

4. Unsubscribe from ALL marketing emails. Yes, even that one. 

I subscribed to all my favorite brands' emails so I could keep track of the sales. BAD MOVE. Their enticing emails were like catnip to me (it's called clickbait for a reason, after all) and I ended up making unnecessary impulse purchases online ALL THE DAMN TIME. 

5. Stick to a budget.

OMG. Something else this spreadsheet revealed is the horrific amount of money I spend on lunch. And - gulp - breakfast. Have you seen my Instagram feed? "Quiche at London Book Review Cakeshop! YUM." "Gyoza ftw! YUM." "GIANT COOKIE THE SIZE OF MY HEAD! YUM." All those "yums" were making me dumb and dumber about my bank balance.

Instead, I'm either eating breakfast at home or bringing it in with me to work and keeping my lunch budget around the £5 mark (save for one treat day) ... otherwise it's too easy for me to suddenly spend £15 at my favorite Korean restaurant.

How do you budget and manage your finances? Are you super responsible (I bet you are!) or a bit of a Confessions-of-a-Shopaholic-type like me? My friend uses this app and swears by it.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Where to Stay in Amsterdam: The Hoxton

I'm no stranger to The Hoxton: John and I first stayed at the Shoreditch location years ago. It was his birthday, and I pretended to grab the bill at the restaurant, while I actually went to the front desk check in, before surprising him with a mini London staycation. We had such a great time in the perfectly proportioned, design-led rooms, that I vowed to go back someday. And I did: for the occasional drink and pop-up event.

Fast forward to a few years later, the Holborn branch of the hotel landed practically on my (work) doorstep in Bloomsbury, and soon, I found myself there grabbing post-work drinks with friends and attending workshops in the "Apartment" events space.

So, when it came to selecting a hotel for me, John, and my parents to stay at during our Amsterdam trip, I only had The Hoxton in mind. I've always loved the ultra-cool, yet non-pretentious vibe of the brand; the comfortable and cozy, but smartly decorated rooms. I even loved the "breakfast in a bag" concept (you leave a paper bag outside the door of your room and it's magically filled with fresh fruit, yoghurt and juice the next morning).

Situated in the former Mayor's house on Herengracht, an upmarket, well-positioned street on the canal, staying at The Hoxton Amsterdam was an absolute pleasure. I can't describe it in any other way.

Like its London counterparts, The Hoxton Amsterdam is undoubtedly cool. Unlike its London counterparts, however, it just might be the coolest of the three.

Its location on Herengracht makes it an ideal location both for the foodie-inclined (me) and the shopping savvy (also, me). Acne Studios is just a 3-minute walk from the front door, for example.

At night, a well-heeled, beautiful crowd - dressed as if straight from the & Other Stories website - descended on the lobby, which had been transformed into a buzzing lounge space, complete with a DJ. And of course, it was decked out in festive gear - the Christmas tree looking like it always belonged there, nestled between the tables and spiral staircase.

At any one time, you might lose yourself and forget you're in a hotel, thinking that you're at some ridiculously cool Dutch house party instead - save that when you want to excuse yourself and retire for the evening, an elevator discreetly located at the back of the restaurant and bar can whisk you to one of the 111 bedrooms waiting upstairs.

Speaking of upstairs, there's seating for light bites and drinks on the mezzanine-level of Lotti's Diner, which is part of the hotel. It's stunning: replete with leather seats and steel-framed windows leading onto a balcony and stairway, respectively. There's a retro photo booth in the corner, where I took turns posing for strips of black and white photos with my mom and dad; a fantastic way to commemorate our trip together.

After returning from a fun (but exhausting) day trip to Cologne for the Christmas markets, we returned (rather gratefully) to the chilled-out vibe of the Hoxton for dinner, where I had this delicious burger and the best truffle fries I've ever tried (other restaurants tend to use a tad too much truffle oil/shavings, but this little number was just right).

Staff at both the restaurant and front desk are super friendly and very enthusiastic, offering directions, bottled water, and maps at the drop of a hat. Despite a small crowd waiting to be checked in on our arrival, I distinctly remember being greeted quickly and cheerfully. Perhaps I've been living in London for too long, but I couldn't get over how nice everyone was!

It was interesting staying at The Hoxton with my parents, who commented (with both incredulity and awe), "There's no one over 40 here!" I think it certainly appeals to a younger crowd, so if you qualify for a senior citizen discount at the Concertgebouw (AKA my parents), then you might feel a bit like a mom or dad crashing their kids' party. But everyone made us feel very welcome and not the least bit self-conscious.

I loved our stay at The Hoxton Amsterdam precisely for the reason that it didn't feel like staying at a hotel - but rather, a (very chic) friend's house. Funnily enough, I'd really wanted to book an Airbnb for our trip but decided in the end that a hotel would be better suited for my parents. The Hoxton was a great compromise in this respect: un-stuffy yet beautifully designed, smart but relaxed, and perfectly sized.

If you're planning a trip to Amsterdam this year, I'd highly recommend it.

We stayed at The Hoxton Amsterdam at a press rate; all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Why Everyone Should Visit Amsterdam at Christmas

You guys.

Forget Bruges. Forget Vienna. Forget Cologne. Forget - dare I say it - Paris. (Okay, maybe not Paris, but, still.)

Amsterdam is the place to be for Christmas (or, more generally, in December). Or any time of the year, for that matter, but it's especially wonderful at Christmas.

Here's why:

1. Christmas trees in every window, pretty shop fronts, and canals lit up like crazy.

2. It's chilled, laid-back, and easy to navigate (save for close calls with bikes whizzing by).

We stayed at the beautiful and very trendy Hoxton Hotel on Herengracht, which is a terrific, central location - right on the canal. Everything (restaurants, boutiques, galleries) was a short 5 - 10 minute walk away and Museumplein could be easily reached on a quick tram ride. Since we were travelling with my parents, it quickly became easy to split up and do our own thing: John wandering off to explore the art galleries, my dad sketching on a bridge, while my mom and I browsed all the shops.

3. There's wonderful food and perfect opportunities for plenty of hot chocolate and pancakes. 

We filled up on poffertjes, mini Dutch pancakes (and huge Dutch pancakes) and stocked up on stroopwafels but also enjoyed nourishing, healthy salads at Salad & The City.

We had a fabulous dinner on our first night at Blauw Aan De Wal (nestled in the Red Light District, which I booked just to shock my mother), where we sampled the chef's tasting menu du jour with fresh oysters to start. On our last evening in Amsterdam, we gorged on an Indonesian feast (seriously, the plates seemed neverending!) at Sampurna, which I'd highly recommend.

4. The Light Festival makes for a fabulous canal-side walk or night-time canal cruise.

This year's Amsterdam Light Festival featured over 35 works of art by international artists, designers, and architects. Many of them, like the lace installation in the first photo above, were breathtaking. We took an evening "watercolor cruise" to see all the lights from the comfort of a warm canal boat, but I loved stumbling upon them by chance on our evening walks as well.

5. It's full of fantastic museums and plenty of opportunities for culture vultures.

Highlights included a visit to the Rijksmuseum (which I hadn't been to before, despite previous visits to Amsterdam) and the Rembrandt House Museum. John and I were a bit zombie-fied after all the museum visits, so dropped my parents off at the Van Gogh Museum while we went shopping in the Jordaan.

A few days before we left London for Amsterdam, John's dad mentioned that he was attending a concert at the Concertgebouw. Of course, the concert was actually a piano recital by Evgeny Kissin - one of the world's most renowned concert pianists, and a childhood hero of mine (back when I spent hours practising for piano competitions). I was able to grab last-minute tickets for my family and John - for seats on the stage. It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and my mom (although a bit of a bore for my dad and John, who both fell asleep!) I'd previously seen him perform at the Barbican, when he looked like a tiny speck on stage from where I sat in the nosebleed section.

After we rushed back home to prepare for Christmas, I found myself on autopilot for the rest of the holidays - making sure that everyone was fed and having a good time. But after my parents left and I had time to actually process and reflect on their trip over to Europe, I found myself replaying the moments in Amsterdam in my mind: the warm and cozy atmosphere, the incredible hospitality (everyone was so nice, I was beginning to get a little suspicious!), and the beautiful sights and good food the city had to offer.

I loved it so much, I'm considering making a December trip to Amsterdam an annual event!

Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What did you think? We didn't get off to a great start (which I wrote about here), but I've fallen in love with it more with every visit. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Travel Link-Up: A Year In Travel

Happy New Year! This New Year's Day, I'd love to take a trip down memory lane with you and to revisit my travel diary from 2016.

In February, worn down by the slog of London life, coupled with cold and dark weather (still!), we decided to catch some winter sun in the most unexpected of places: Tenerife. Well, it actually made total sense: temperatures were in the mid to upper 20s (Celsius) and because it's in the same time zone, travelling there also meant zero jet lag.

We chose a quiet resort in the more grown-up (read: retirement age) province of Costa Adeje, Vincci Seleccion La Plantacion Del Sur. It was beautiful. Blue skies, gorgeous pools, a stunning spa, and a 10-minute walk to the beach. Perfect. 

If you're considering an escape from the English weather early next year, you can read more about our trip here.

In April, we jetted off for a city/spa break in the beautiful region of Aquitaine, France. 

We began our trip at the magical Les Sources de Caudalie, where we enjoyed Michelin-starred dining, before making a quick stop in Saint Emilion for more gastronomic delights at the Hostellerie de Plaisance.

From there, we drove to Bordeaux, where we stayed in a spectacular Airbnb, and climbed the tallest sand dune in Europe in Arcachon Bay.

Are you planning a trip to Bordeaux next year? You can read more about our trip here, including my antique-hunting tips, if you're into that kind of thing. 

In May, I'd resigned myself to not travelling for a while, but a bout of homesickness saw John book round-trip tickets for me to see my family in Seattle. 

We took a little side trip to Snoqualmie Falls while I was there, where I had an amazing stay at Salish Lodge (which you might recognize from David Lynch's TV series, Twin Peaks!).

If you've never been to Seattle or the Pacific Northwest, I'd highly suggest a visit in the spring/summer. I'm a little biased because I grew up there, but I definitely appreciate the scenery a lot more now as an adult: snow-capped mountain peaks, forests of evergreen trees jutting out to greet you as you touchdown at SeaTac airport, fresh seafood - it's all there. I wrote more about it here, if you're interested!

By June, work had started on our gardens ... and by "work", I mean serious excavations and a total transformation that ended up taking more than nearly four months to finish. But when it was done (and even while it was in progress), John and I ate every single meal outside - and took advantage of our new, beautiful space. I can't wait to share it with you this spring, when the flowers bloom. 

On a balmy, late-summer's day in August, we were chatting to my best friend, Udita, who mentioned that she'd be going to Bangalore, India for her cousin's wedding in November. "You guys should come too!" she said, like she has for the past 12 years I've known her. 

Suddenly, an idea struck us: why not? Was it crazy to go to India for five days? We wouldn't be able to see too much, but we'd be with locals and could get flights using the points John's racked up from all the travel he does for work. 

And, you guys - five days in India is worth it. Granted, Bangalore isn't Jaipur or Rajasthan or Mumbai, but it was raw and real and crazy and so much fun. Blog posts will be up in a couple weeks' time. Until then, here's a photo of the beautiful grounds at The Taj West End.

This week, I just returned from a trip to Amsterdam and Cologne with my parents, which was so much fun. I can't wait to blog about it in the next few days!

Amsterdam looked incredibly festive in December - I loved seeing Christmas trees in nearly every window that lined the canals, not to mention the beautiful Amsterdam Light Festival.

We took a quick day trip to Cologne to visit the Christmas markets there - have you been? So, so pretty. We browsed the stalls with a mug of hot chocolate (for me) and gluhwein (for everyone else), before climbing 533 steps up to the top of the Cologne Cathedral.

Here's wishing you a wonderful 2017. Are you heading to anywhere fun? So far, we've got trips planned to Morocco and Cornwall - we're also hoping to fit in a trip to Asia, the US, and Scotland somewhere in between!


This post is part of this month's Travel Link-Up series, hosted by Emma, Polly, and Angie. Head over to their blogs to read more about their travel wishlists for 2017 and travel highlights from 2016!
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