Street Art Tour East London


When writing a recent post about my favourite street art around the world I realised I had never paid much attention to the magnificent work in my own city. I'd always seen it as a backdrop to other activities I was taking part in, like shopping or drinking! This weekend Read more

Book Review: Things A Little Bird Told Me by Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone


It’s a funny thing to admit but I owe a lot of my present situation to Twitter. I found a job on Twitter, which led to a change in career, involving Twitter. I’ve won flights to India, Iceland and Madrid via Twitter and have tweeted my way around the Read more

The Beginner’s Guide To Vegas


My trip to Vegas in February was my very first visit and boy was it an eye-opener. For all you Vegas virgins I’ve put together some tips to know before you lose your v-plates in Sin City! Drinking In The Streets As someone who lives in London, where we are partial Read more

Street Art Around The World


Looking back over my blog and photography archives I can see some patterns emerging with regards to the things I like to seek out and capture on my travels. Cake is definitely one of them, but just as voracious is my appetite for street art. Over the years I have Read more

Review of British Airways Premium Economy Cabin - World Traveller Plus


For our journey back from Vegas I paid extra to fly in the British Airways premium economy cabin for the first time - I knew I would be needing some sleep and was intrigued to see what perks it offered in comparison to the economy flight out. For those not Read more

Share Your Epic Adventures & Win With Blacks & Explore


How would you like to win £2000 worth of adventure travel with Explore and Blacks? More importantly, what would you spend it on? An African safari perhaps, or sailing the Greek Islands, or maybe (this would be my choice) it would be the downpayment on a trip to Antarctica! Read more

Good Reads & A Giveaway


I have read so many books since I last had a chance to write a review post that I didn’t know where to start! Luckily I made some notes along the way and would like to share with you some of my favourites from the bunch. From memoirs, to Read more

How To Book A Good Guesthouse In Sri Lanka


Because I am a lady who enjoys the odd home comfort on her travels I take booking my accommodation very seriously. On my recent tour around Sri Lanka, however, it quickly became apparent that the guesthouses we were staying in weren’t going to be merely a place to rest Read more

» Shopping

A Chic Shopping Experience in Milan

Posted on by Jayne in Cities | 4 Comments

Milan is a shopping mecca. During my recent Italian trip I spent 2 days wandering around the sun-kissed streets on a pilgrimage to Prada (and friends).  But I’m a (now freelance) travel blogger who has a taste for expensive things without the budget to match it. I like to enjoy the finer things in life; rich experiences yet real value for money. Milan was making me lust over designer goods I could never afford. I needed to get myself on the Shopping Express to Fidenza Village by Chic Outlet Shopping!

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West Queen West is Best

Posted on by Jayne in Cakes, Travel Tales | 3 Comments

Like a magpie to glittery things I was drawn back to West Queen West (the two Wests are important) several times during my visit to Toronto. Was it the proliferation of pastel coloured cake shops, the multitude of sweet tea at Tealish or the tongue-in-cheek names of stores like Green Shag that drew me in? That’s a tough call to make!

West Queen West

The best of West Queen West

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Glasgow: the vintage shops and nightlife that rocks

Posted on by Jayne in Cities, Travel Tips | 8 Comments

Visited nearly 40 countries, nearly 27 years old (gulp), UK born, bred and resident and yet I had never been to Scotland. A shocking and embarrassing fact. So when I got an invite last week to a bloggers event that Thistle Hotels were holding in Glasgow I couldn’t say no. I am so glad I didn’t because after just 4 and a half hours on a super speedy and relatively comfy (thank you free upgrade to First class) journey on a Virgin train, I found myself immersed in vintage shops and quirky bars full of friendly Glaswegians.

Get your knit on!

Every bar we entered had some kind of unusual design or quirky activity that would have deemed the venue over crowded and over priced in London. Likewise many of the shops were full of original designs and unique trinkets at irresistibly modest prices. Enhancing the whole experience is the people. Easy to approach, full of good advice and natural charm; not only did the Glaswegians I met make me feel extremely welcome but I wouldn’t have discovered half of the cool places below without their insider advice.

Here are my top picks for quirky eats, drinks and shops in Glasgow:

Lucky 7 Canteen

This is the very first bar I walked into in Glasgow and boy was it a good start. Above a thumping nightclub in a Bath Street townhouse, Lucky 7 is like a trendy timewarp. Candle lighting, mismatched vintage furniture and cushioned seats in bay windows provide the perfect low-key backdrop to watch the Glasgow revellers pass by. On a coffee table sits coloured wool and knitting needles – I added a few lines of  dodgy stitches to a garment someone else had previously begun. As a beverage I plumped for the infamous Scottish soft drink Irn Bru with a generous dash of vodka – something which I am told is a popular drink in Glasgow – and I certainly enjoyed it.

By day Lucky 7 hosts the pop up vintage shop – Postcard Limited. Pretty dresses, dainty bags and teapot necklaces line the tables. You can shop, play scrabble, take up knitting and sip an Irn Bru – what more could you ask for!

Playing games in the back room at Lucky 7 Canteen

The Tea Rooms at The Butterfly and the Pig

Opposite Lucky 7 are the Tea Rooms. Here you can enjoy an afternoon tea of home-made cakes served on mismatched china whilst seated in mismatched chairs. A deliciously quirky afternoon delight.

Hummingbird

I heard of this bar via someone on twitter who recommended their cocktails – it was a spot on tip (thank you Scottish Emma!). This rabbits warren of a bar contains different rooms for different moods, each with their own style and music. My favourite spot was on the mezzanine level overlooking the dance floor where you can sit in giant egg swings hanging from the ceiling. Just don’t spin in them, the bouncer will tell you off!

Having a swinging time at Hummingbird! (Photo courtesy of www.48houradventure.com)

Hillhead Bookclub

In the student hub of the West End almost every doorway takes you through to a cool bar or funky shop. My absolute favourite of the West End venues is the Hillhead Bookclub. The interior looks like a converted concert hall; a dramatic setting of ornate cornering and vaulted ceilings. A mezzanine level borders the 4 sides of the venue and in one corner of this lives a cage where boys play nintendo games and on the other side of the venue is a cage for ping pong tournaments. The hidden upstairs bar is less busy than the main one downstairs and there is even a snug made of cushions you can settle into in one of the windows.

The Bookclub exterior (photo courtesy of www.48houradventure.com)

On sunday the bookclub hosts a ‘Granny would be proud‘ vintage sale. The upper mezzanine level becomes full of stalls selling vintage clothes, trinkets and home-made cupcakes. I fell in love with a stand selling soy candles in china cups and saucers – you wouldn’t find a home-made present like that for £7.50 in London!

Oran Mor

Oran Mor is a restaurant/pub/theatre in a church. Yes, a church, with parties in the spire and punters sitting on pews. This multi functional venue has the tag line; a play, a pie and a pint. I’m in.

Drinking in church

Ashton Lane

The funky lady running Postcard Ltd told me I must check out Ashton Lane and she was right. Postcard Ltd pop up on this cobbled West End street on a sunday along with other unique stall holders like a man that makes cake stands out of vinyl records – so cool! Late night venues like The Loft at the Grosvenor Cafe become flea markets on the weekend and hidden among arcades along the street are more vintage and trendy designer retailers like La La Land. La La Land have an unusually large selection of items depicting moustaches, from greetings cards to necklaces, perfect presents for movember mavericks.

Ashton Lane at night

I could go on and on about the great vintage shops in Glasgow but in the interest of brevity I will simply give honourable mentions to; Vintage Guru, Watermelon and Starry Starry Night in the West End. Another place you must check out if you are a fan of old-fashioned books (i.e those on paper as opposed to a Kindle) is the larger than most and extremely well priced Oxfam Book store on Byres Road. I got lost in there for quite a while!

Spuntini

Combining my two favourite food types this restaurant specialises in Italian Tapas! A great excuse to order all your favourite dishes at once, Spuntini recommend you order at least 3 per person, meaning you have full permission to order pizza, meatballs and lasagne in just one sitting.

An Italian tapas feast at Spuntini

The bars and shops of Glasgow remind of Shoreditch in London; except there is no cover charge on the doors, pints are never more than £3 and sales staff are über friendly rather than pretentious. I’m a huge fan of the scene in Shoreditch but I much prefer its cheaper and friendlier version in Scotland!

Huge thanks to the Thistle Hotel Glasgow for hosting me this weekend. Located 3 mins from Lucky 7 on Bath Street and 2 mins from the subway system which takes you to Hillhead, it’s perfectly located for all the above activities. Thanks also to Red Spotted Hanky (they sell cheap train tickets online and offer a loyalty points scheme) who provided the train ticket to get me there in style!

A Chic, Affordable Break in Madrid

Posted on by Jayne in Cities, Hotels, Travel Tales | 2 Comments

I recently discovered that it is possible to have a chic AND affordable break in Spain’s sexy capital city. Firstly, did you know it costs only 2 euros to catch a bus from Madrid airport to Atocha train station in the centre of the city? Well it’s true. In only 40 minutes and a couple of quid later you can find yourself in the heart of this tasty metropolis. A mere 5 minute roll from here and you’re at the glass doors of Chic & Basic Atocha. Step through these doors and you’re greeted by a stark white reception desk bordered by an exposed brick wall, both of which are offset by a warm smiling welcome from the staff.

Chic reception at Chic & Basic Atocha

Fashion!

The Chic & Basic hotel group has one very simple and obvious concept – to provide a place to stay that is both stylish and affordable. On the reception desk of Chic & Basic Atocha sit fashion books and a bowl of candy – so far so chic. The bedrooms are a completely white heaven, spotless, like a modern art museum. The floor, walls, shelves, desk, sheets, funky sponge head board – all white. All this white frames the view from the window wonderfully, a blue sky and terracotta buildings observed from a pearly white perch.

All white!

Like a fashionista on a budget this place knows what it can afford to forgo without compromising on style or function. Take, for example, the mini bar, something which is expected as standard in a hotel room, yet avoided like the plague for fear of the unknown (expected to be astromonically high) charges. Chic & Basic (let’s call them C & B!) doesn’t bother putting one of these in your room. Instead you can purchase any sweet treats or alcohol temptations from the reception desk, at any time of day, for a decent price.  Likewise with breakfast. C & B doesn’t bother providing a stale continental breakfast for set times which no one ever wakes up for, rather they provide fresh tea, coffee, fruit and biscuits – all day, everday, free of charge. I played around with the filters and fresh leaves of various flavours; my friend attempted her first ever iced coffee on account of the tropical temperatures outside and free provisions inside. Each morning we would make our respective beverages, dunk some biscuits, fill our bags with fruit, and our bottles with iced water and set off for the day knowing we could later splurge on a great Spanish brunch completely guilt free.

Helping ourselves in the Chic & Basic common area

There is certainly plenty of choice for such a thing on the doorstep of C & B. Close to everything essential and yet far enough removed so as not to be kept up by revellers all night – C & B has location, location, location. Walking one block behind the hotel you will find yourself in the night spot of Huertas, a cobbled maze of streets full to the brim with restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs. Whatever your musical preference – Jazz, flamenco, R n B, 80′s – Huertas has got it all. Huertas is also the spot where you might accidently end up indulging in a spot of Karaoke, we sung ‘That don’t impress me much‘ to the Spanish locals and their reaction said pretty much the same thing!

Following the street C & B is on towards Madrid’s centre brings you to Plaza Mayor – not a particularly spectacular square but like a homing device for lost tourists one is drawn there. Take the alley to the left of the square and indulge in some budget shoe shopping. From only 5 euros per pair you can trot away in some Spanish style espadrilles. Don’t stop to eat here though as only 2 minutes away is the joy that is Cava Baja – with equisite tapas from only 1 euro 40 per piece you can afford to try a few. (See previous post on Eating Madrid for more details.)

Approaching Plaza Mayor

It’s not all about food and drink in the hotel’s locale. C & B is also directly opposite the Reina Sofia art museum – home of Picasso’s Guernica, work byMiro, Dali and so much more. Modern Art afficiandos will swoon and even sceptics will salivate. Time your visit well and all this can be yours for free – Saturday afternoon between 14.30 and 21.00 there is no entry charge. Another free treat are the ornate rooms of the jaw-dropping Royal Palace. We visited on a Thursday afternoon and were able to take a peek into a fraction of the 2500 opulent rooms for free just by showing our passports.

Picasso's questionable looking models

Picassos famous Guernica – the highlight of a visit to Reina Sofia

Across the road from the hotel is Retiro Park. A popular spot for locals to cavort on the weekend, the highlight of a visit to Retiro is rowing your own boat across the park’s lake. It costs less than 5 euros for 45 mins on the water, squeeze a couple of people on board and that’s only a few quid each. On a Sunday you can flex your bartering skills in El Rastro, one of Europe’s largest flea markets. Whether rooting for vintage finds or simply attending to catch a glimpse of the locals trading football cards, El Rastro is a Sunday institution in Madrid which can be as cheap or costly as you decide!

Rowing in Retiro Park

It's quite big! The Royal Palace

The ability to walk to all these locations from the hotel only serves to aid the budget. For those trying to stick to something really basic the C & B provides the perfect location for bargain sundowners – the rooftop terrace. On this (all white) furnished suntrap the hotel’s free wifi is also available. You can grab a baguette and beer cheaply from the local shop and blast out your bad music all afternoon – or at least that’s what we did! If you’re ready to move the partying up a notch hop in a taxi (6 Euros from the hotel) to Chueca the gay heart of Madrid and home of yet more bad music. After making friends with some locals we found ourselves in an underground cave of a club called ‘Why Not’ and didn’t emerge for many hours later. On the cab journey home we treated the taxi driver to a generous tip, he had put up with us singing Enrique songs loudly and out of tune the whole way home!

Rooftop Terrace at Chic & Basic Atocha

Many find it hard to believe that a European city such as Madrid can be done stylishly whilst on a budget. The Chic & Basic Atocha proves not only that accomodation can be done elegantly, simply and cost effectively but it is in the perfect position to let you discover the bargains throughout Madrid too. Time your visits to the big sites well and the free entry offered will leave you even more pennies to splurge on shoes and tapas!

I would like to thank Chic and Basic Atocha for their hospitality whilst in Madrid. My stay was partially sponsored by the hotel but the opinions, as always, are my own!

Things to do in Islington – my corner of London

Posted on by Jayne in Cakes, Cities, Eats, Travel Tales, Travel Tips | 20 Comments

For many London is Big Ben, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace. It conjures images of iconic buildings and historical tourist attractions. As a resident for nearly 8 years now I often fail to notice these statuesque emblems. For my London is the sights found in the shadows of these attractions. To me London is a spicy curry consumed on the grubby pavements of Brick Lane in East London. It’s the warehouses of vintage clothes and the dingy basements of sweaty bars in Shoreditch. It’s cupcakes in Portobello (I heart you Hummingbird Bakery) and design shops/cafes like ‘Drink, Shop and Do’ in Kings Cross. It’s riding a bicycle in life threatening conditions and squeezing onto tube carriages in somewhat degrading ones. London is mad, sometimes bad and a bit rough around the edges, but it is real and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Wills & Kate by Bambi

 

Treasure on the Portobello Road

As you will find in most cities around the world there is a little rivalry between the people of different neighbourhoods in London. I live north of the river in an area called Islington. By the power of geography it is therefore decreed I shall not like anybody who lives south of the Thames. Whilst this point is debatable, I will admit to being slightly biased towards my borough. Simply put – it is the best!

Islington is within easy reach of the city centre, both the financial and theatre districts are easily walked or cycled to, but yet it retains an almost village feel. With a long stretch of original boutiques, yummy coffee shops, restaurants of all manners of international cuisine and bars and pubs for every taste -  you need not leave the area of a weekend should you wish as everything is here. It’s buzzy but not bustling, trendy but not pretentious. Maybe I am a little more than slightly biased!

Islington feels like a village within a city

The heart of Islington is Upper Street which is book-ended by Angel tube station (Northern Line) at the bottom and Highbury Corner (Piccadilly Line) at the top. There are far too many great places to list here but my personal picks for a great weekend in Islington are:

Le Mercury – fancy French food at ridiculously cheap prices. Rickety wooden tables and soft candle lighting add to the ambience. A 3 course meal for under $25 dollars adds a smile to customer’s faces.

Ottolenghi – for the most magnificent meringues you will ever see. Seating is minimal in this chic establishment so prepare to queue on weekends or have your treat boxed up and take it away.

Ottolenghi, Islington, N1

The delicious cakes on offer at Ottolenghi (Le Mercury is the black and yellow restaurant opposite)

Keston Lodge –battered leather couches, moody patterned wallpaper and happy hour cocktails priced at buy 1 get 1 for a £1. Frankly the Raspberry Vodka Collins should be renamed after me.

Chilango – I discovered this distributor of magnificent burritos via Justin Morris of 48 Hour Adventure as he is obsessed with them! After much training I can now manage to eat a whole burrito in one sitting. These guys have a great social media presence so follow them on twitter and look out for the giveaways.

Chilango – the home of fresh and feisty Mexican cuisine

Leila – a wonderful female fashion store – who needs a department store full of dresses when Leila have already handpicked the best for you?

Breakfast Club – mismatched furniture, music memorabilia on the walls and a mouth-watering selection of your fave breakfast foods served all day everyday. I recommend the pancake and berry tower, sausage and bacon buttie, eggs benedict, power smoothies, chai tea latte – well, basically everything on the menu. You’ll have to try them all for yourself!

Say no more! Photo courtesy of www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com

A berry makes a bid for freedom

Lucky Voice – a classy private karaoke joint – bet you never thought you would see the words classy and karaoke in the same sentence! Sound proof booths, plasma screen TVs, acoustic effects which make even the worst of us singers sound alright, and a button that says “I’m thirsty” and results in instant alcohol served whenever pressed. Find an excuse to go and you’ll find yourself wanting to come back again and again.

Name that tune…

So how do you like the sound of my ‘hood? Do I have you convinced? Let me know if you are ever in town and I will personally show you why it is the best!

Shopping is personal in Malmo City, Sweden

Posted on by Jayne in Cities, Travel Tales | 6 Comments

Malmö City recently celebrated the birth of its 300,000 inhabitant, which means the ratio of chic boutiques to customers is firmly in the favour of the shopaholic. Malmö is situated in the Skåne region of southern Sweden, a mere 35 minute train ride from Copenhagen airport, Malmö is in fact closer to Copenhagen airport in Denmark than Copenhagen city centre itself. On a damp morning last Thursday I took the speedy Easyjet flight from London Gatwick to Copenhagen airport (1hr 45 flight time) and in a few hours found I had the cool stores of Malmö virtually to myself.

Shopping in Malmö is a personal experience. Sure it helps to have a personal shopper (more on Mia later!) but what really makes shopping in Malmö a unique experience is that many of the stores are staffed and managed by the owner themselves. Away from the chains on the high street are these elegant shops, each one a product of passion. This is evidenced by the design of the store, the quality of the products and the enthusiasm of the people that work there.

altewai.saome – where the shop interior is as cool as the products

The first of this type of store I was introduced to was Uma Bazaar. Just behind Lilla torg (the small square) this store stocks only ecological and fair-trade products, something which the Swedish seem to feel strongly about as a whole. The owner showed me her favourite products, such as eco friendly shoes by Swedish designers that have now made it into mainstream fashion. She spoke animatedly and passionately about all her products and her future plans to introduce a recycle scheme for jeans in the shop. Near the front of the store was a neatly folded cream chunky knit mens jumper – I couldn’t help but reach down and touch it. The owner laughed and informed me that 7 out of 10 women stop to do the very same thing – men take note and buy one now!

Worth a visit if only for a chat with the owner!

Next we visited altewai.saome, owned by 2 young designers who had trained in Milan. The minimal interior of the store was as cool as the clothes it stocked – the walls a stark white setting for dramatic big shouldered garments. Being the end of August most of the goods were reduced by up to 70% off – I couldn’t resist purchasing the blinging little number pictured below! Fellow bargain hunters might want to time their visit to coincide with the end of season sales too, for 70% off = 70% more purchases to be made. Doesn’t it?

Can't resist a bargain!

Well known Swedish designers like Karin Wester got their break by having their designs stocked at Tjallamalla (pronounced Shamalamalama if you are me – much to the mirth of the locals!) Tjallamalla stocks a mixture of vintage clothes and new designers. Designers may submit their new wares to be stocked here and receive a cut upon any sales. It’s a great way of supporting the local talent and Karin Wester is proof that it works. I was distracted by the jewellery – mini plastic chocolate brownies on rings, donuts on necklaces and a frying pan complete with full fry up to be worn in your ear! I’m a huge fan of vintage clothes and whilst Malmö is like most other cities in regard to the price being significantly higher in shops than if you had rummaged in a flea market or car boot sale yourself, coming across boots that Abba would be proud to wear is great fun!

Supporting new designers at Tjallamalla

Abba's original boots at Mani?

Stepping into Malmö’s boutiques is like stepping into someone’s really chic home. We explored stores that looked like the living room of my future dream house. In one place I accidently stepped into the back office as it looked no different to the shop floor! I was incredibly impressed to see so many of the shops had a notebook on the counter asking customers to enter their email address. These books were filled with swirly handwriting of customers eager to know more about their favourite shop – very refreshing in the day and age of spam newsletters.

I wouldn’t have discovered half of these wonderful places without the help of Mia. Mia is a personal shopper and style consultant. Malmö born and bred this is a Swedish woman who knows her fashion and her Malmö boutiques. I was immediately drawn to her warm personality and admirable fashion experience, not to mention her mesmerising chunky jewellery! Although a great sense of satisfaction is usually achieved when one stumbles across these types of places by accident, the insight and introduction into the ownership of these stores provided by Mia completely enhanced this shopping experience for me. She took me to places like Milonga, a store born out of the owners love of tango dancing and Svensson, previously a magazine and now the coolest place on the high street to buy mens jeans. With Mia I felt I wasn’t just shopping but discovering the heart of Malmö too.

Whether you decide to contact Mia whilst in Malmö (her email is mia at stilverket dot se - you really should!) or go it alone, the shopping experience in Malmö cannot fail but be personal. The passion of the shop owners, the fostering of local talent, great products from the ecological to the bizarre and often having the whole shop all to yourself. Can’t ask for more than that!

(I travelled to Malmö as part of a press trip with Visit Sweden. For more information on the Skåne region visit their website.)

Street art and shopping in North Laine Brighton

Posted on by Jayne in Art, Travel Tales | 6 Comments
Brighton is of a hub for creative, arty types and nowhere is this better reflected than in the street art of the North Laine area. As explained in my last postthere are two types of ‘lanes’ in Brighton. The traditional lanes are filled with jewellery shops and coffee brewing cafes where as North Laine is peppered with unique boutiques and organic food stores. The two areas are only minutes apart in distance but worlds apart in ambiance and design. In North Laine the candy coloured buildings are broken up by bold spray painted visions, indeed North Laine is a joy to shop, eat and view.
You know you are entering the ‘hippie’ and ‘arty’ area of Brighton when this greets you.
I spotted this boom box electricity cover outside cute boutique Posh Totty Designs (great for hand-made keepsakes and gifts for new parents) on Bond Street but it seemed to be one of many decorated in this way in Brighton. I spotted another on the beachfront and also one outside Jamies Italian. I wonder if anyone knows how many there are in total?

Travel blogger Candace Rardon checks out this artwork of a mermaid frolicking by the Brighton Pier (I’m sure Candace’s shot is much better than mine!) This piece was hidden down a side alley but can’t help but catch the eye of passing tourists.

Every shop has it’s own unique look and candy colour. Trainers hanging from the phone lines gives the impression that a good time has been had. Look out for Starfish on Gardner Street if you have a penchant for vintage clothing and the Oxfam book shop on Kensington Gardens for a printed treat!

And then we have Pompoko. I have it on good authority from a Brighton resident (that’s you @Travelwithamate) that this is the BEST place to get Dim Sum in Brighton and possibly the whole world! It certainly seemed packed with locals whenever I passed – always a good sign.

So it seems Brighton is not your traditional British seaside town. I’m already planning my next sojourn there from the city!

The Best of Buenos Aires

Posted on by Jayne in Countries | 7 Comments

The circumstances in which I returned to Buenos Aires were much changed but I was hugely relieved to find the city had not.  On a 9 month round the world trip 3 years ago I had spent nearly 10 days in Buenos Aires and found there was much steak to be consumed, tango to be danced and compliments from the beautiful men to be received!  3 years later I was delighted to be returning on business and found Buenos Aires and its inhabitants had lost none of their charm.

Tango dancers on the streets of La Boca

As soon as I knew I would be returning to BA I re booked the Hostel Suites Obelisco for its comfort and location.  By sheer coincidence I was placed in the exact same room I had previously stayed, so despite being in Argentina for primarily business purposes, I clambered onto my top bunk happily.

Most cities are best seen on foot and BA is no different.  From the Obelisco the Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada (with the balcony famed for Evita’s speech and then Madonna’s melody) are easily reachable via a stroll down the manic shopping street of Florida.  If you survive the gauntlet of cheap shoes and tacky underwear you may want to treat yourself to some cake at Cafe Tortoni – the oldest cafe in Argentina.  Take a seat amongst the history and tuck into the locals favourite – dulce de leche.

A Big Breakfast at Cafe Tortoni

From Plaza de Mayo you are only a 5 minute walk from San Telmo, head onto Defensa and stroll all the way down to Plaza Dorrego - the home of Tango.  This may take a while if you are female and look foreign – men literally stop and stare as you pass.  In some countries this may be intimidating but the beauty of the Argentine language and the apparent genuineness of their worship never failed to flatter me!  On a Sunday the cobbled streets become even harder to navigate as vendors spread blankets full of antique and vintage treats.  There are also several mazes full of antique treasures in the markets along Defensa.  The Mercado de San Telmo is primarily a food market but there are a few antique stalls dotted around the edges.  On one corner is a stall overflowing with vintage leather handbags, satchels and luggage.  Expect to pay only 100 pesos (approx £17) for a beautiful bag with a pungent old leather odour!  I purchased a bag from this stall 3 years ago and collected 2 more when I revisited it last week.

If you are lucky there will be couples tangoing around the cobbled square.  The professional shows are also situated in San Telmo - expect to pay 200 pesos for 3 course meal with wine and dancing.  Michealangelo is glamorous but serious, La Ventanais quirky and comedy.  There are many more but whichever you choose the passion and skill of the performers never fails to impress.

For more raw tango head to La Boca.  The coloured buildings, works of art and street performers have gained this area a reputation for being an open air museum.  The surrounding streets are known for being a bit rough so perhaps walking here is not an option.  Make sure you visit the Boca Juniors stadium before you go however and pay tribute to the second hero of Argentina – Maradona.

Evita and Maradona figures on the balconies of La Boca

Upmarket BA is found in Recolletta – designer shops, the cities oldest hotel (Alvear Palace - a ‘Leading Hotel of the World’), a glorious piece of modern art (see picture, the flower opens by day and closes at night) and the cemetery where Evita is buried (also a great market at the weekends) are all found here.  Trendy BA is found in Palermo.  The quirky shops and classy cocktail bars could be mistaken for London or Paris if it weren’t for the unmistakable Spanish spirit – and the odd bottle of Quilmes.  (The MUST TRY beer of Argentina!) Palermo is also home to my favourite restaurant in BA – La Cabrera – so great it now has 2 sites.  Expect impeccable service, sassy style and steak the size of your head – what more could you want for a tenner?!  If you like your meat even cheaper, greasier and loved by locals then El Desnivel in San Telmo is a good bet – be prepared to queue though.

*Actual size of steak at La Cabrera* Make sure you are hungry and prepare for meat sweats!

The final area worth mentioning is Puerto Madero. Not my favourite place (it reminded me of the Quays in Singapore). it’s a modern waterside complex that seems out of synch with the rest of the city. Worth visiting, however, is Siga La Vaca or ‘Follow the cow’. This place is a meat fest! Literally a meat buffet for very little money, it works out about £15 per person for all you can eat meat and a jug of red wine or beer, whichever you prefer.

Basically, if you like steak, shopping, dancing and a bit of hero worship BA is paradise.