For Fall Break this year, a couple of friends and I headed down south to Savannah, Georgia. Savannah is one of those small towns with a 'southern charm' , which in this context refers to Savannah's colonial legacy evident by the European-inspired architecture, the city squares and the narrow cobbled streets. As a result of this colonial legacy, Savannah doesn't look like your typical American town. One can easily confuse pictures of the town with any quaint Western European village!

We only had three days to spend in Savannah so we packed loads of 'to-dos' into each day. Although it was a rather short period of time, I believe we got a real feel of the town.

DAY 1

The first day was by far the most active day. We started by heading to the Historic district, and more specifically, the Telfair Museums. There are three of them so we started by just viewing the exterior of the Owen-Thomas House. Thereafter, we headed straight to the Jepson Center. This art museum was definitely my favourite of all the museums as it stood out with its interesting modern art exhibitions. I visited the mixed-media works of Mickalene Thomas which were absolutely stunning. The artist reinvented famous works of 19th Century Europe by replacing the European subjects with voluptuous African American women therefore bringing into question themes of race, tradition and beauty. Thomas also worked along similar themes by reimagining Monet's natural landscapes (as displayed below).

Owens-Thomas House
Jepson Centre
Vertical View of Jardin d'Eau by Mickalene Thomas (2012)
Femme noir nue couchée by Mickalene Thomas (2012)

We then headed to the Telfair Academy, just across the street from where we were. This art museum houses nineteenth and early-twentieth century European art. The museum used to be a mansion so there are some rooms on display. Luckily, we were here on family day so there were easels set up in the sculpture room for the children to let their imaginations run wild. This didn't stop a bunch of college students from joining in on the fun though. I embraced the spirit of Miró and produced a 'masterpiece' of my own!

Telfair Academy
After all that art, we walked down a few random streets and entered the most fascinating shops- one of them being The Olfactory Co. This store sells an entirely European-imported stock range; everything from Dali's melting clocks to Union Jack pillows to Marie Antoinette scented soaps. This offbeat store was amazing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone on the hunt for a quirky purchase!

Olfactory Co.
Olfactory Co.
After walking through the neighbourhoods and visiting some antique shops, we found ourselves at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist right by Lafayette Square. The relatively grand cathedral isn't as dramatic as the ones I've seen in Rome or Barcelona but it had a very serene quality to it. We were there quite shortly and then headed to the Riverfront before the sun set. There was some sort of Latin American festival going on at the riverfront which livened up the ambience so we sat on the benches there for a while and took in views of the river, the bridge and a vintage steam boat. The place was a bit too busy for my liking as it was a tourist hotspot (especially at night).

Cathedral of St John the Baptist 

The Riverfront 
Steamboat @ the Riverfront
At this point, our stomachs were rumbling so we tucked in for a casual dinner at The Public Kitchen. To be honest, the food wasn't as good as I had expected. Everything else was done right - the restaurant's exterior drew people in with its buzzing vibe and the restaurant's dully-lit and glossy interior created a sophisticated atmosphere that could only make people anxious to try the food. However, the dishes were a big let down. My burger was horribly average and my starter was a sad excuse for an escargot.

My spirits were lifted when we indulged in a late-night dessert at the iconic Leopold's Ice Cream Shop. All I have to say is that you must be prepared to wait in line for at least 20 minutes. The place has quite the reputation so there's always a queue no matter the time of day. The ice cream was rich and scrumptious with an overly generous serving that is definitely value for money.


DAY 2

It was a bit of a late start to the day so we had brunch at Goose Hatter's Cafe. After a very affordable and satisfying meal, we made our way to West Broughton Street - the main high street of Savannah. The first stop was at the Savannah Bee Company, which was quite the experience. The store sells honey from all around the world and offers a free tasting in order to sample some of them. The store also sells all sorts of bee-produced items - the main one being Mead. Mead is like the 'wine of honey' so the sugar that is fermented is from honey rather than from grapes. They offered a Mead Tasting for a fee which some of my friends gladly tried out.

Honey tasting @ The Savannah Bee Company

Honey & Mead on sale (photo credit: Chrislyn Choo)
Mead tasting @ Savannah Bee Company (photo credit: Chrislyn Choo)
Savannah Bee Company (photo credit: Chrislyn Choo)
After about an hour at the store, we walked a short distance to the Paris Market. I loved the concept of the store; they sell almost everything in a two-floor wonderland for interior design fanatics. We had a lot of fun here playing around with some of the interesting merchandise and the home furniture. I mostly enjoyed going through their collection of art and fashion books (although they were rather expensive).

Next up on the agenda was a late afternoon snack at Gallery Espresso coffeeshop which was right opposite Chippewa Square where Forrest Gump's iconic scene is shot with Tom Hanks on a bench in a white suit.

Thereafter, we were off to Bonaventure Cemetery. I usually don't visit cemeteries on holiday but I had to make an exception for Savannah. The weather at the time perfectly suited the scene of the cemetery- grey clouds with the sun out of sight. The cemetery is quite a creepy place but one adjusts after a while. The signature Spanish Moss trees were ever so abundant here (and throughout Savannah) which further enhanced the 'haunted' effect. We walked around for a bit and went to some popularly visited graves. Luckily, we were able to leave right before the cemetery closed or else we would have been locked in for the night. Imagine that...

Bonaventure Cemetery
Bonaventure Cemetery

DAY 3

This day was our last day and we had all fallen in love with Savannah too quickly. After a light brunch near the Riverfront, we headed to what Southern Living magazine refers to as "the most beautiful street in North America" - Jones Street. This street is lined with exquisite Georgian townhouses and an excess of natural beauty from the trees that at times form roofs over the road with their extensive branches. I would recommend a relaxed stroll down the entire street to really absorb the area's aesthetic.

Jones Street 
Jones Street 
Jones Street
Our walk lead us to the admissions office of the Savannah College of Art and Design and the college's nearby art gallery/shop right by Madison Square. To no one's surprise, the admissions office's interior was stunning. There was a room within it ( I still can't figure out its purpose) with a man-made tree, turf grass and ground sofas. I wasn't sure if we were even allowed in there but we stayed there for at least 30 minutes just putting our feet up and 'living in the present'.

S.C.A.D Admissions Office

S.C.A.D. Admissions Office

Thereafter, we were off to Forsyth Park (the Central Park equivalent of Savannah). It was quite a large park with a very long walk-way and a scenic fountain in the middle. It seemed like the theme of the day up to that point had been natural aesthetics and slow-paced ambiences. It was indeed. We wallowed away in the park for about an hour and indulged in childish fun at the playground.

Forsyth Park

Forsyth Park
After we got bored with ourselves and a bit hungry, we headed to Lulu's Chocolate Bar where amazing desserts are served. I had quite the tasty cheese platter with foie gras, manchego, nuts and berries as well as a crème brûlée on my way out. I would definitely recommend this spot as a chill destination for the sweet toothed individual.

Cheese Platter @ Lulu's Chocolate Bar
Before dinner, we made a quick stop at the City Market where loads of restaurants and art galleries are located. We were also nostalgic for West Broughton street so we went back and checked out a few more stores - the most interesting one being Prospector Co.

City Market
It was finally time for dinner and we saved the most formal dining experience for the last night at the iconic Olde Pink House. It's literally an antique pink mansion located in the historic district that's been converted into a fine-dining restaurant. The many dining rooms had an air of classic elegance due to the chandeliers, antique vases and frescos that graced the restaurant's interior. The food however was another story; the chefs here desperately need to pay more attention to detail and also need to think through cleverer flavour combinations and techniques to justify the high prices. Otherwise, my meal was just basic and expensive.

Olde Pink House
Olde Pink House
In summary, Savannah is a small town with a very strong character, history and culture. There is a lot going on and it's easy to feel enchanted by the place. Although you shouldn't spend more than a week here, visiting for a few days can be very fulfilling and culturally enriching. It definitely was for me!

I adore Notting Hill, and more specifically Portobello Road. Everything from the pastel houses to the fascinating boutiques to the bustling markets fills my mind with glee. The fun doesn't end there though. There's a 100 year old cinema on this legendary street known as the Electric Cinema. The cinema's stunning interior is graced with red leather furniture, crystal chandeliers and gilded wall decorations - a cinema originally intended for film's aficionados and society's elite.


The cinema provides the ultimate luxurious cinematic experience. The 'average' seat includes a leather armchair and a footstool along with access to a bar at the back of the cinema; you don't have to miss any part of the movie to get a snack! Those in search of even more comfort can opt for a front-row bed or a back-row sofa. What more could one ask for?


If the cinema itself hadn't already blown me away, the movie was yet to do the job. This time round, I was joined by Mr Kowa da Kowa for a viewing of the critically acclaimed movie - Carol. This brilliant film has quickly become one of my movie favourites of 2015 due to its stylistic cinematography and the mesmerising performances from both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. It's a true classic and a film you must add to your list!


After an aesthetic overload at the end of the viewing, we chose to unwind at the Electric Diner. I've been here on several occasions but it never gets boring. In contrast to the the refined ambience of the cinema, the diner takes on a more retro and casual atmosphere.



We both started off with a soothing pumpkin soup (£6) and then I went on to have a delicious grilled salmon dish (£15) with a regrettable side of mac & cheese (£6) accompanied by a zesty glass of Petit Chablis (£13).

The night was over before I knew it and Portobello Road had succeeded in stealing me away for another night. I'll soon be returning to this quaint neighbourhood but in the mean time, involve yourself in a London affair with Notting Hill and enjoy a viewing at the Electric Cinema whilst you're at it!

Details:

Electric Cinema
191 Portobello Road
London
W11 2ED

Tickets details available here: http://www.electriccinema.co.uk/portobello

*I paid £18 for the ticket*

Electric Diner: £10-30pp

Electric Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato




Luna is making waves in the Durham community for serving dishes with a nouveau taste profile through the combination of South American cuisine and American Southern cuisine. The restaurant opened recently on West Main Street so it wasn't long before I decided to try the place out. To be honest, South American cuisine isn't exactly my go-to cuisine (maybe that's because the options aren't immense in London) but I was excited to try something new nevertheless.





Due to the no-reservations policy, we were able to study the menu whilst we stood in line for about 10-15 minutes. The menu is defined by a few key sections so it became our culinary mission to sample most of them.


In the small plates section we opted for the Arepas ($12.25). I didn't think the dish was particularly memorable. The meat was well flavoured and there was some variance of texture from the avocado, but I wasn't a fan of the maize dough. Also, the dish was a tad bit too messy (I'll leave that to the reader to decide whether that's a good or bad thing).


The next obvious choice was Empanadas served with a pork filling ($3.50 each/$9.50 for two with a side). I thought this dish was 'okay'; the complementary condiments uplifted the dish but my socks weren't blown off.



Next up was a selection of Patacon Pisao - a sandwich in which meat is served between two fried plantains. I chose the beef brisket option ($12.75) and it was amazing. The dish was rich and fresh at the same time - a rare quality I might add. Also, the side of succotash was equally impressive with its subtle spiciness and bold flavours.


We finished off with the Polo A La Brasa (Peruvian Roast Chicken) from the rotisserie section ($12.75). I thought this was decent. The chicken was very well seasoned but a bit dry in some areas. We had the chicken with a side of pimento hominy 'mac' and cheese which tasted odd; I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was but it didn't settle with me nicely.


Overall, I was a bit confused by the food at Luna. I couldn't tell if my palette or the food was the problem so it will be difficult to make a firm judgement at this time. Frankly speaking, I thought everything I tried was rather mediocre (except for the brief moment of brilliance from the Patacon Pisao). For now, the only good attributes are the good prices and the vibrant ambience. Not exactly boundary breaking...

Details:

112 W Main St
Durham NC, 27701

$13-25pp

Would I recommend? Indifferent (for now)

Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 





Piedmont restaurant is a Durham staple that has made its reputation off the modern farm-to-table experience. It was one of the classic spots I hadn't tried out so I thought I would visit with my Durham dining crew comprising of Ms. Millz and Ms. Brasiliana. Luckily, it wasn't too difficult to reserve a table because we dined there on a weekday evening.

I admired the restaurant's outdoor minimalist design and it's more farmhouse-like interior; it seemed like they were keeping true to the entire concept of a rustic dining experience.




I started off with the Pan Seared Scallops ($14). The scallops were cooked perfectly, evident by the tenderness. The rosemary cream provided some earthy tones that nicely contrasted the sweetness from the bacon jam and the umami from the oyster mushrooms. Overall, a very rich and well- balanced starter.


I opted for the Striped Bass as my main ($28). This was a decent-tasting dish but it didn't blow me away. The fish was slightly overcooked and the 'forbidden rice' lacked some flavour. The dish was nicely presented (it literally looked like an explosion on a plate) but unfortunately, there wasn't much else to it.


My dessert was a Chocolate Sponge ($8). This was excellent. The chocolate sponge was fluffy and warm, the candied peanut immediately melted in my mouth, the apricot jam provided a pop of acidity and the popcorn gave the dish some bite.


In summary, I would say that Piedmont exemplifies hints of refined cooking and top-notch presentation, although there's still room for improvement. The main dish fell short and the ambience is nothing to cry home about but I was very impressed by the starter and the dessert. I applaud the restaurateurs for abiding by a farm-to-table ethos and I can only hope for a better meal when I return to sample their menu next season.

Details:

401 Foster St
Durham NC, 27701

$30-$55

Would I recommend? Yes

Piedmont Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato