Italian Summer Part One: Puglia

My family and I ate/drank our way through the southern half of Italy for two weeks in July, and I've been so excited to share our photos from the trip. Over the course of 14 days, we (meaning my dad- I was in charge of the glamorous Google Maps navigation post) drove from Puglia (in the south of Italy) to the Amalfi Coast, up to Naples and eventually Tivoli before a final 6 day sojourn in Rome.  Every region we saw was magical in its own way, but Puglia will always occupy a special cubby-hole in my memory (which I will return to, most likely via the smell of good olive oil and/ or salty post-swim wet-bottomed car rides). The locals there were warm and charming, fellow-tourist-sightings sparse, and I can't wait to return. Some of you may recognise these photos from my Instagram feed- I couldn't stop myself from posting a few rather than waiting to compile them into a post. If you are planning to visit and have any questions about our trip I would be happy to answer them in the comments section. 

We rented a car from Hertz, which was picked up at Brindisi airport. We were warned about driving in Italy but welcomed the challenge- more will be said about this in upcoming posts (*coughs* Naples) but driving in Puglia was pretty manageable as it was freeway-heavy. 

We stayed at Masseria Valente- Puglia is littered with masserias, farm + guest houses that often make their own olive oil and/ or grow produce which you can then taste in the restaurant. I originally wanted to stay in either Masseria il Frontoio (where we dined one night, see below) or Masseria Moroseta (the dream) but both were fully booked for the appropriate rooms. We were still very happy with our stay and loved lounging at the pool, and the big breakfasts of ricotta on toast and excellent espresso. 

On our first night we had one of the most memorable meals at Il Principe del Mare Ristoro, and undoubtedly some of the best seafood of my life. Order everything- its not very glamorous with plastic plates and cups but we loved the mussels, tuna, sea urchin....the waiters didn't speak much english but we just pointed at what other people were eating and they got the picture. Most of the restaurants we went to either didn't have a menu, or it wasn't in English- this didn't matter as people were very friendly and happy to help/ recommend dishes. Also, the view didn't suck :-) 

We drove from the Masseria to Bagno Marino Archi for a day of swimming. You pay for a chair for the day and there's a restaurant with great pizzas, which we bought and shared with the locals lounging in front of us as they had treated us to cornettos and beers. The water was perfect and so, so clear. I would go back to Puglia just to swim here again. 

This bag from Abaca was my best friend during our southern adventures- it fits everything and looks cute. My bikini is COS, the bandeau is Nanushka and sandals are from Ancient Greek Sandals. 

After swimming, we explored the sleepy and charming Tricase before having our aperitivo at Farmacia Balboa- a great cocktail bar housed inside an old pharmacy. It was recommended by Ilona Hamer in an interview about her trip to Puglia and I'm so glad we went. 

Another amazing meal at Masseria Nonno Tore, which was very near Farmacia Balboa. Something we were pleasantly surprised by whilst dining at the masserias is that you don't receive a menu or choose your dishes a la carte- the staff bring out dishes made from the fresh produce to be shared, from the antipasti to the primi (pasta) and main courses plus dessert, so all the tables have the same plates (and often, the same wines). This masseria in particular grows most of its produce, including making their own bread and pasta. It was a lot of food but none of the meals we had in Puglia were particularly expensive, though it may be worth speaking to someone when you reserve a table if you have any allergies/ intolerances. 

We spent a day exploring Ostuni, a town near our masseria. It's very beautiful, and we had our first of many gelato breaks whilst taking a time-out from the heat. I don't usually buy a lot of souvenirs but some stores here sell leather sandals of a great quality and reasonable price, which we found were better made than those sold at our other stops in Italy and quite a bit cheaper. 

Another masseria meal at Masseria il Frontoio- a bit fancier than our other meals in Puglia but worth it even for the idyllic location alone. You also get a tour of the masseria and olive oil production in the basement before your meal. 

That's it for the first leg of our road trip- stay tuned for photos from the Amalfi Coast.


A Conversation With: Rachel Nguyen

Three months is possibly the lengthiest hiatus I've been on with regards to posting- I don't have any (good) excuses, but I do have some ideas and content lined up for upcoming posts, so look out for attempts for redemption ASAP. In the meantime, I had a FaceTime chat with Rachel of That's Chic chic-ness and here are a few nuggets from what we talked about when we weren't going off on tangents, which I can either attribute to A) me being a bad interviewer/ conversationalist, or B) Raych  being too fun and easy to talk to. We met in person for the first time when I visited LA two years ago and have had but brief reunions in Paris and London, and yet she's one of those personable yet irrefutably cool girls who can make you feel like you've known her forever. Plus, she has YouTube skills and style like nobody's business. Hope you enjoy the following fragmented bits of our catch-up!

Z: What is your favourite breakfast? Unless you're one of those people that doesn't eat breakfast. 
R: I eat like a bird- I'm not one of those people that likes to eat real food during breakfast- I like to eat chia seed puddings and smoothies. If not that, then I like to do overnight oats. 
Z: You can try putting matcha or cocoa powder in your oats or chia seed pudding- its like a dessert. 

Z: What do you have planned for this week, month, year? What are you looking forward to?
R: I might be going to New Orleans and New York, but I've just been looking forward to coming home after travelling since I was in Tulum for a bit. 

Z: What's one thing that you've learnt from working on your YouTube channel?
R: I've realised that our younger generation- it sounds weird because I'm not that much older- is still pretty regimented in A + B + C in the sense that you have to go to school, do this and this, and not a lot of people know that its possible to get out there and do what you want to do by manifesting it. People think that there are all these necessary steps to take in order to be happy, and at the same time I'm in my own little bubble, so having YouTube as a communication line with my viewers gives me a perspective on what everyone else does and how I can help them overcome these obstacles that they have, to show that life doesn't have to be A, B and C. 
Z: I get that- I have a lot of people email me for advice on college/ university applications. Most of these messages have shown me that people make a really big deal out of what university they go to as if all their future happiness depends upon it. 
R: Exactly- in a way, society telling us we need to have a regimented approach to happiness means that a lot of people are discouraged from 'the hustle' when it is outside the conventional format, say climbing the corporate ladder. 
Z: In that sense it shows that what you're doing is so much more than capturing a style or aesthetic, but a lifestyle in the sense that you have your own avenues to contentment, which is pretty great. 

Z: What was the latest movie/ photo/ song/ art piece (etc.) that you were inspired by?

R: Hmm...the last place that really inspired me was Tulum. It's not an art piece or anything but the entire ecosystem of it- it was definitely a place that I felt immersed in, it's seriously so magical and an environment of purity that is aesthetically pleasing and thought-out. 
Z: I really want to go there. One of my next questions was going to be 'When was the last time you were most content?', would you say it was when you were in Tulum?
R: Yes, definitely. Especially with everything political going on, I didn't realise I had crazy media fatigue, and on top of that a sense of commercialism fatigue- being advertised at all the time and having something that you want. Being detached from social media and news was true contentment. 
Z: I know what you mean about the media being super overwhelming at the moment, and I imagine its worse in the US. 
R: It's just hard because everyone has their very specific viewpoint about what's going on right now. I forget what the phrase is...."an opinion is like an asshole, but everyone thinks that everyone else's stinks"
Z: Haven't heard that before- I like it. 

Z: Are you someone that cries easily in movies? Are you an emotional person in general?

R: When I'm on my period I can get very emotional, but other than that, no. But I will cry in movies- the one movie that gets me sobbing in everytime is The Notebook and Artificial Intelligence
Z: I usually cry a lot in movies and I cry a lot in general- not a huge horoscope person but I'm a Cancer and we're meant to be super emotional and into crying, so I can say that my horoscope rings true in that aspect. 
R: Cancer's are meant to be really really loyal too. 
Z: We're meant to be maternal, but I don't consider myself a maternal person.
R: Maybe maternal isn't really the right word, because you're quite young, but you're very nurturing and thoughtful, which I think are maternal traits. 
Z: That's a very nice compliment, thank you.

(15 minutes later, back to the subject of movies)
Z: One of my favourite movies that I've seen recently is Arrival, if you're into Sci-fi and aliens. 
R: I want to see that- last year I saw The Handmaiden, and I also really want to see A Cure for Wellness, the trailer looks really cool. 
Z: I love Park Chan-Wook's movies (Edit: I've seen The Handmaiden since and it was beautiful). Right now especially since it's award season (Edit: this was a few months ago) I always feel a bit anxious as I'm unable to watch everything. My ex Ran introduced me to film video essays on Youtube and I've been really into those channels, you should check them out (Edit: Here are a couple of my favourites: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Z: Whats a thing that always reminds you of home?

R: I always feel at home if I can get really good asian food. I can have amazing food when I'm travelling, but I won't feel at home unless I have good asian food. 
Z: Same- my favourite thing to do back home in Hong Kong is getting 'set breakfasts' like fluffy egg sandwiches and iced lemon tea. It's really junky food but it always feels nostalgic- there's a place my mum brings me to, and my mum used to go there when she was a little girl when her grandparents would bring her there, and they do amazing instant noodles and pineapple buns. 

Z: Do you get asked a lot about living in LA?
R: I love LA and it will always be home base- its an hour away from my parents, it has the beach and great weather, and a thriving creative world right now. It's finally building into its own aesthetic, and I think the food here is amazing. 
Z: I never ended up going to that restaurant you told me about, Sqirl, but I follow them on Instagram now and I really regret it. 
R: It's my favourite. Yeah, I think its really cool that LA has its own creative field so it has its own look now, even for the food which we can say is 'Californian cuisine'.
Z: Out of the restaurants I ate at in LA, I really loved Gjusta....did we go there together?
R: Did we go to Venice? No (a few minutes of re-tracing hang-outs later) that was Republique. I remember it was Halloween and we went to the fabric store to buy stuff for my costume. 
Z: I think this is actually my favourite part of blogging and Instagram- how crazy it is to meet people around the world you meet online. 
R: Yeah its crazy- blogging has really changed so much of my life through sculpting the landscape of the people I've met. Since starting it, having met key people has had such a ripple effect on the people in my life, I have no idea where I'd be at otherwise. I mean I got a job at Paige because someone saw my blog and wanted to hire me, and then someone at Shoedazzle was friends with someone at Paige and hired me, and then at Shoedazzle I met all my best friends and now we have our circle of friends. If someone didn't read my blog and hire me at Paige, none of that would have happened. 

Z: Speaking of that, and the butterfly effect, have you seen (the movie) Mr. Nobody?
R: No, but my friend was telling about it recently. 
Z: I've seen it three times and its blown my mind every time. 
R: Fuck, I have to add it to my list. Is it like Inception in that way?
Z: I think its better...it slowly plays with your mind as the movie goes on. 

Z: Another random question, but last time we were in Paris we went perfume-shopping, so what is your current favourite scent?
R: Right now I'm wearing Wood Sage and Sea Salt by Jo Malone, but my favourite scent....I'm really heavily tied to scents associated with places I travel to, as a way to try and bring something back with me. We talked about Tulum just now, and there were a ton of mosquitos, and they had this incense (Copal) that they burned everywhere, and it smelled so beautiful. 
Z: When I went to Morocco I bought some jasmine oil, and now I think of Marrakech whenever I smell it. 

Z: Alright, I have one last question: You can think of a question, and I'll ask it to the next person I interview. 
R: I love that- my question would be 'What do you like to collect?'
Z: And what do you like to collect? I'm a hoarder, so...
R: I like to collect a little bit of everything...patches, stamps, perfume samples.
Z: I always keep my museum tickets and train tickets...and hotel shampoos. 

Make sure you check out her amazing Youtube Channel and Instagram for more. (Video/photos courtesy of Raych)

Who would you guys like for me to have a conversation with next time?



Budapest Photo Diary and Guide

And here are some of my favourite photos from our trip to Budapest. Audrey and I had an amazing time pruning in the thermal baths, pigging out on paprika chicken whenever we had the chance, and admiring the city's beauty- Budapest hasn't seen the best of times as far as its history is concerned but everyone was amazingly warm and hospitable, and its worth a visit for the chimney cake alone. See the end of the post for some of our recommendations, and I hope you enjoy the photos.

Shot on a Pentax Spotmatic with (expired...oops) Portra 400 film and Ilford BW film.

Our favourite spots: 

Széchenyi Thermal baths / Gellert spa: We went to Széchenyi but I wish we had time to go to both. Pretty much a must-do if you're in the city- to relax, or to marvel at the cute elderly Hungarians going about their daily soak. 

Fisherman's Bastion and Buda Castle: Touristy but also a must-do, and a good way to walk off all the schnitzel you'll be eating. 

Eat at...
Barack and Szilva: One of our favourite meals- tradition Hungarian fare with a warm but modern atmosphere. Don't miss the paprika chicken and cabbage noodles. 

Beszálló Foodbar: a Vietnamese-Hungarian spot we didn't get to try but was highly recommended by a friend (thank you, Sári!)

Molnar's chimney cake: So good we went back for more- go for breakfast, and share it with two americano coffees from the coffee bar (dipping is highly recommended). We loved the cinnamon and plain (vanilla) flavours. 

Big Fish Bistro: If you get a little tired of eating beef and pork with potatoes and feel like seafood (we also had to come back, as we loved it so much the first time). You can choose your catch at the front of the restaurant, and don't miss the fries. 

Comme Chez Soi: The food in Budapest is generally very affordable, but this Italian restaurant especially, considering how big the portions are and its slightly fancier setting. The staff were super nice, and everyone gets a free dessert. 

Shop at: 
Nanushka: I would wear everything from Nanushka....that's all. 

We stayed at an Airbnb (here) which was lovely but I didn't get many photos of it. If you're travelling this summer and are thinking of booking an Airbnb, you can get a discount off your first stay here