Basic Updates: Oliphant and Nerja

IMG_1663Another five weeks flown by. How does this happen? The last month and a half has been a sunny blur of tapas, classes, excursions and Spanish. I’ll work my way through everything eventually.

First things first: I’ve officially received my first freelance paycheck! $100 to be spent on my upcoming long weekend in London, if not on souvenirs for my sisters and friends. The full story about Oliphant – an interior design and jewelry store – can be found here. Its sister piece – a list of the storeowner’s favorite spring selections – is also available.

Second, a heads up that my next few posts are about things that have happened between today and spring break (which started on March 20th). A lot to say about dressing European, recommendations for restaurants and accommodations throughout Spain, Italy, and France, and various lists of favorite things thus far.

That being said…let’s start with Nerja. At the beginning of our time in Spain, Jake and I took a long weekend together on the southern coast. We stayed in Hostal Plaza Contarero – a small, family-owned hostel that gave us one of the best and least expensive accommodations I have ever experienced. Our private room ended up being about 75 euro for three nights (with its own bathroom, cleaning service, tea and coffee, etc). A 3 minute walk from the bus station, a 10 minute walk to Balcón de Europa, and a 7-minute drive to the caves. On top of the budget-friendly price and ideal location, owners Tanya and Pepe were wonderful. They gave us the most romantic room available with a perfect view of our street (see below), restaurant recommendations, and made sure that we were no less than thrilled with our stay. I can’t recommend them enough.

If any of my readers are taking this advice seriously, I also need to emphasize the following recommendations for restaurants: La Taberna and Pinocchio. The former is a traditional Spanish restaurant with great service and even better sangria; the latter a romantic italian joint with some of the only real pesto I’ve seen in the country. Both provide menus for English and French speakers.

Dinner at Pinocchio

Finally, make sure to make the caves of Nerja a priority during your hypothetical vacation. At first, I was hesitant. Cold, dark, damp caves? When I could be at the beach or sipping margaritas? No, thanks. But Jake convinced me and I immediately withdrew my qualms.

The caves are a natural piece of artwork, adapted into an annual concert hall and attraction. In addition to being a natural piece of artwork carved by elements and time, they are especially moving in their exhibition of music from prior years’ “Festival of Music and Dance.” I was lucky enough to experience Strauss’ “Emperor’s Waltz” – a piece I find to be cathartically soothing and simultaneously exciting, so my prior bad mood was squashed. Tickets for the live concert are difficult to obtain, but information can be found here.

Another post to come later with wardrobe selections for the semester (how to blend in), and eventually some favorites from Florence and Paris.

Stay beautiful.

A little snacking, a little shopping

This weekend was surprisingly hugely successful in terms of shopping. While the intention was to stay at home and do all my work for the next two weeks, instead I ate at all my favorite restaurants, shopped at my two favorite places, and enjoyed the company of my many favorite people.

Starting with the food, here are some fabulous recommendations for anyone touring Litchfield County:

1. Max a Mia: Jake (boyfriend) and I come here for special occasions when we can afford to splurge a little. Between the incredible garlic bread, delectable and sizable entrees (try the stone pies and pasta dishes!), and Bocci Ball dessert…it’s totally worth it. This time, though, I went with my parents and enjoyed a nice, long, paid-for dinner. Love.

2. The Village Restaurant: Owned by local couple Greg and Denise Raap, The Village boasts the title of “Best Neighborhood Restaurant” by CT Magazine and has earned a stellar recommendation by Zagat. The prices are completely reasonable, especially if ordering off the “Pub Menu,” and you can’t beat the atmosphere. Good for your wallet, your stomach, and your attitude.

3. Cugino’s: This was actually an accidental find after Jake and I started searching for a new “night out” restaurant. As college students, our wallets are only so deep and eating gets expensive. Cugino’s has an excellent early bird menu; select entrees $12.99 from 3-6 p.m. Yum.

Now onto the shopping…

So pretty!

I had a field day at Marshall’s, Anthropologie and the flea market this weekend. Having recently discovered the Marshalls chain had a location in affluent West Hartford, I spent one afternoon moseying through the store and picking my favorite items…like this Philosophy Purity one-step facial cleanser for $9.99. This was especially exciting since I’ve been looking for something to replace my usual Clinique Liquid Facial Soap; three years of use has made my skin slightly resistant.

Also, remember how excited I was when I discovered my love for Lollia? Well at Anthropologie, I picked up a clearance bottle of this perfumed shower gel! It’s comparable to something made by Fresh, but the price tag is slightly more reasonable at a mere $9.99. And it smells SO GOOD. I think they also had it in No. 21: Calm, but I preferred the scent of the former. If you have an Anthro nearby: Go. Immediately. Right now. Or else risk missing out on one of the best products I have ever purchased.

(EDIT: Lollia soaps and shower gels are also available on sale via the Anthropologie web site!)

I wrapped up my weekend by spending a few hours with Jake’s mom at the local flea market. And by “local,” I mean “an hour away.” Regardless, I picked up this questionably sold bottle of Burberry Brit for $16. I’d been eyeing it for almost a year and never felt the need to spend the $75 it previously costs. Oh-so-cheap and oh-so-yummy. Win-win.