Summer Shoes for Europe

One of the things I get asked ALL THE TIME is… “What kind of shoes should I buy/pack/bring for our trip to Europe?” It’s a loaded question, as there are so many good options, but I think the main thing people want to avoid is bringing a bad options. (Which there are infinitely more of!) So I think it’s a fair question and a good topic to address. What DO you wear for shoes when traveling?

I used to have a hard stance that you want to look as much like a local as possible… but I’ve softened my views a bit. For the main reason, you aren’t experiencing Europe like a local! Most people are walking way more than most of people who live here do in a day. You need your feet to be really comfortable in a way that those of us who live here do not. Plus, when the rain comes… you keep going. Most of us will tuck back into our offices or homes. I’ve come to be sympathetic for people trying to look local… but having to be on their feet for hours longer than we are.

Plus, I’ve realised that looking like a tourist isn’t the worst thing in the world… as long as you look like a smart one. Those people who try to wear “normal” items that aren’t practical for city life look much more ridiculous. (I’m thinking of you American girl, limping through the street in huge heels that you have never worn for more than 50 feet to and from Valet Parking.) So be a tourist… just be a cool one. In fact, cool tourists are kind of the funnest people to be around anyway.

So I’ve come up with a little round-up of shoes I would REALLY wear here in the summer. Shoes that are comfortable for walking, shoes that won’t slide on and off all day… because that’s annoying not only for you but people you’re walking with. (Experience talking!) These shoes are shoes that aren’t all gladiators and strappy ankle sandals, because… well, it’s a bit colder here. Even in the summer. So while you may have some nice days and some glorious afternoons, you’ll probably still find yourself needing shoes that get you through a morning drizzle or cloudy day.

And if you’re looking for nice shoes that you can walk to dinner and a show in? Well, I’ve tried to find some that will go the distance for you. They’ll get you there without tears, or snapping your ankle in half. (At least, that was the goal.)



*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 28, 2017 and filed under shopping.

Just Another Manic (and Pretty) Monday

Hello from a big bed at 2:19 in the afternoon. Harrison had a weird virus where he had a fever for five days... and then graciously passed it along to his sister. I had high hopes it would be chicken pox, because the timing would be pretty easy and it had been circling our church. But alas, we just got the nasties and have been, more or less, staying inside for the past two weeks.

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C'est la vie! It could be worse, and, if I'm honest, it has perks. Like not wearing real clothes. Or watching so, so many movies. Or not wearing real clothes. Wait, did I say that already?

After a harsh early wake-up this morning, I was feeling snappy where I begrudgingly picked up the house in a fury. (Sorry, Ty, you really are the wind beneath my wings.) But after a few hours out of the house for a coffee date and peek at the Lulu & Nat pop-up, life actually seems pretty sweet. Perspective, people. It's a gracious gift from God.

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I came home to a clean house where the kids are happy, they have food and I have a nice man repeatedly putting up with my floundering through motherhood.

Just this morning, my friend Amber & I were talking about how we once judged moms for "letting themselves go" when they had kids... and how we realise now, it's not letting themselves go. It's, simply, letting go. Knowing that every moment is perfect, and you can't keep it all perfect all the time.

So maybe today you feel like one area of life isn't as pretty as it maybe once was or your friend makes it seem. It could be your squidgy body, your dirty house that always seems chaotic because it is, or the pathetic count of unread text messages that remind you of how your disconnected social life is, or that you haven't had a conversation with your husband that didn't revolve around kids, housework or what to watch on Netflix in ages.

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Just know... you're not alone. And that what you're doing is worth it. Those opportunities can (and, I really think will) come back. It just won't be for a while. Just take a deep breath, let go, and make a conscious trade off for living in the crazy, physical today of raising little kids.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 25, 2017 .

My London | Cowshed Spa at Clarendon Cross

In both of my pregnancies, my hips hurt really badly in the last months. I was constantly on the lookout for a great pregnancy massage in London to relieve some of the stress. I would google "Best Pregnancy Massages in London" endlessly as if I would find newly released information... but sadly, I could really ever only ever find spas own sites. 

I thought it might be helpful if I shared my spa experiences here, so that when you find yourself in that desperate moment- you'll have some real comparisons available to help you find the best London spa for pregnancy treatments.


COWSHED SPA, CLARENDON CROSS

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Tyler got me a gift voucher ages ago for Cowshed Spa. I got too busy in the fall with work to use it and then, to my dismay, had to wait past the first trimester to book any pregnancy treatments. Sigh. Oh well... life in the First World did continue, don't be alarmed.

When I finally got booked in, I was 18 weeks and still hardly showing. As in, I looked more like I had that post-pizza-buffet-glow than expectant-mother-glow. None the less, I was ready for my formal introduction to this classic London spa and couldn't wait for my appointment. 


SETTING & VIBE | Nestled in the quiet heart of Holland Park, Cowshed is definitely aware of its clientele. With an airy entrance that is casually posh, Cowshed makes coming to the spa feel as social and casual as meeting a friend for coffee.

STAFF & SERVICE | Every employee- from the booking line, reception staff, Cafe waitstaff and therapist- was exceptionally kind and made me feel so welcome. Can't say anything but praise for how I was treated from start to finish.

TREATMENT RECEIVED |  Udderly Gorgeous Pregnancy Massage (60 min, £80) & Cowshed Facial (60 min, £80),

TYPE OF PREGNANCY MASSAGE TABLE | If your heart is set on a massage table with a giant hole for your belly, this isn't for you. However, despite my initial disappointment- how they worked around this actually felt great and I'd recommend it to a friend. It involves a comfortable leaning setup for the back massage portion that can only sound odd,  but in the moment felt really relaxing. The rest of the massage was performed on a cozy and huge massage table.

SPA FACILITIES | When I first walked in, I felt like I had arrived at yummy mummy Mecca. I checked in, was directed to the communal table by the cafe and eagerly waited to be shown to the locker room where I could take a quick shower before the massage started. I browsed the newspapers sitting out and peeked at the food options from the cafe.

By sadly, I realised that there were no locker rooms. When my therapist arrived and took me downstairs to the room, my hopes of unwinding in a plush relaxation room with tea and a long shower with Cowshed products wasn't going to happen.

The treatment room was in the basement and fairly non-descript, but the massage bed was big and extremely comfortable. 

THINGS I LOVED | The massage table was fantastic. The products used left my skin feeling amazing. The facial was exceptionally helpful and something I wish I could do every few weeks to keep my face in good condition. (Alas, I'm not that lucky!) I'd love to go back and have breakfast or lunch with a friend before getting our nails done. The staff was also incredibly kind and warm.

THINGS I WISHED WERE DIFFERENT | I did feel a bit cheated that the experience started and ended in the treatment room. I would have loved to spend a bit more time relaxing in a robe somewhere, but that's probably splitting hairs. Still, for the sake of comparing spas in London, it's worth noting so that expectations are met.

COWSHED SPA, Clarendon Cross | 119 Portland Road, London, W11 4LN 




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 10, 2017 .

My Notting Hill | Granger & Co.

While this place may be listed in *both* my London and Notting Hill guides, I figured I should respect the old adage that "A picture is worth a thousand words" and give a full, photographed post on Notting Hill's hippest and most delicious breakfast spot, Granger & Co.


Granger & Co. 

When we were viewing flats for our first move to Notting Hill, the estate agent was bragging that the flat we were interested was just around the corner from... well, I didn't know the name he was talking about, but it seemed like a brunch place that was really popular.

Fast-forward a few years and I've got a new baby and family in town visiting us. We want to eat breakfast and head out to... well, who cares. Maybe that place out the front door that is supposed to be so popular? We went, we got a table and we totally flipped out when we ate our food because it was so good. I felt a bit foolish that I had waited so long to try this place (that we realised was called "Granger & Co.") that had a constant queue out the front door.

Now days, it's one of those places Tyler & I go for sweet memories and great food. We meet friends traveling to London there, we took Harrison there during his first week of life, and now we have weekly morning dates there. 

So while it serves up on sentiment for us, it also makes for a killer meal. (And let's be honest, that's what you really want to care about.)

Without further ado, I present everything you need to know before eating at Granger & Co. 


A Local's Guide to Granger & Co. 

1. The ricotta hot cakes with bananas are the most popular dish. (And rightly so, they are insane.) They're as puffy as clouds, covered in a generous pat of honeycomb butter and served with banana & warm syrup.

2. You're also gonna want to get the sweetcorn fritters. With a side of avocado salsa- think chunky guacamole. Don't skip on this. It's important.

3. Get half orders of each of the above! It's not listed on the menu, but it's a local secret. This way, you can also share a raspberry muffin, an acai bowl or a side of their world-famous scrambled eggs. You'll never taste anything fluffier. 

4. Granger & Co. is Bill Granger's restaurant. Bill is from Australia and Australia makes good flat whites. What does all of this mean? Get a flat white and get a great cup of coffee.

 

 

5. If you have little ones, order one of their adorable babyccinos (foamed milk with cocoa powder on top) and a few chocolate chips on the side.

6. Go before 9am... or be prepared to wait. Again, this is not a "just in case," this is an absolute fact. The lines on the weekend are weep-worthy. Plan ahead if you have plans to go the Saturday market on Portobello Road.

7. If you're not up for the wait, you can go up to the bar and order a coffee and grab a pastry for the road. Service is fast & friendly... and you'll have one of the best cups of coffee in the neighbourhood. (Their flat white is only £2.80!) 

8. There are now three locations- Notting Hill (on the famous Westbourne Grove), Kings Cross and Clerkenwell. All three are exceptionally tasty, and the latter two are often less of a scene than the overly popular Notting Hill location.  (Though you'll only catch me taking baby bump pics outside our old flat if you come to the Notting Hill location.) 

Granger & Co. | 175 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W11 2SB. Open 7AM-12AM.


Find all of my favourite places to eat and shop in Notting Hill in my Travel Guide to the neighbourhood.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 7, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, england, london, notting hill.

My Florence: Ditta Artigianale

Most people dream of foamy cappuccinos and strong cups of espresso served by brisk waiters in sharp suits when they imagine lingering in a cafe in Italy. Most of the stereotypical daydreams also come accompanied by a Puccini soundtrack... or, at least, they do for me.

While I spend a lot of my time in coffee shops, I had always enjoyed that Italy seemed immune to the hipster coffee scene. (In the same way that I really enjoy not being able to use my phone on a flight.) In Italy, coffee should be served standing at the bar or seated with great people watching in a cafe... and not in a modern setting with cool light fixture and bearded patrons with Apple products.

So when my friend, Grant, recommended that we go try Ditta Artigianale in Florence.... well, I wasn't so sure. Somehow the thought of a hip coffee shop in Italy seemed wrong. But Tyler loves "good coffee," and I wanted to see the Pitti Palace so we compromised and crossed the Ponte Vecchio.


DITTA ARTIGIANALE OLTRARNO

This coffee shop on Via Dello Sprone is of the three Ditta Artigianale locations in the city. This local chain has various locations around the city, but if you're looking for a place to stay for a while- this is the one you want to go to.

The coffee is great. The classic latte is perfectly made- thanks to incredible high quality milk. (Good dairy makes everything better, doesn't it?) They shop also has fresh cold-press juices that are served in kitschy mason jar glasses, but taste fantastic. 

If you're feeling hungry- you have a range of food to choose from. Whether it's something small like a pastry or cookie or something a bit more substantial like a homemade croque monsieur or salad- they've got good options that not only sound cool, but they taste great, too.

With cosy nooks for work or chatting, an upstairs for hiding out, and a patio out back for some sunshine while your kids march around like tiny clowns- this is a perfect place to waste an afternoon.... or just for grabbing a great coffee to go on your way to the Boboli Gardens. 

DITTA ARTIGIANALE | Via dei Neri, 32/R, 50122 Firenze, Italy | Open 8AM-10PM


Looking for more great places in Florence? Check out my guide here and my Italy posts here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 6, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, italy, life, travel.