Business Travel: Athens, Greece

Business Travel Athens GreeceI am a firm believer in the idea of adding fun to a business trip. It’s not always easy to find free time when you’re traveling all over the place representing your company or brand, but business travelers should carve out time to enjoy themselves whenever possible. Whether you’re traveling to a new destination directly from a business trip, or spending a few extra days or hours in the city where you’re working, business travel can be a fun reward for your hard work. I have been to Athens, Greece, before with the family, but being alone changes your experience. Fortunately, Herodion Hotel and its sister-property, Philippos Hotel, hosted me for a one-night stay and a posh dinner at their establishments.

Cozy Hotel

If peaceful environment and low-key service appeals to you while you travel, the Philippos Hotel is a great choice. The 50-room hotel is located in Makrigianni, which merges into Plaka, on a peaceful side street close to the Acropolis metro station, just a 10-minute walk from the Acropolis itself. It includes a delicious buffet breakfast served at the all-day cafe. I HIGHLY recommend you try the Portokalopita, a Greek orange filo cake. I watched everyone grab a slice at breakfast, and the staff quickly replenishing. 😉orange-filo-cakeAfter sitting in a conference room all day, I basked in the my light, airy room. Drinking a glass of water and snacking on fresh fruit, I sat on my balcony that caught a glimpse of the Acropolis. The quiet street allowed me to collect my thoughts and enjoy the weather in Athens, Greece. Some but not all rooms have Acropolis views – there’s no extra charge for this, so specify if you want one, it’s totally worth it. Nearly all have balconies too, at no extra cost. The Philippos Hotel is an excellent value for money considering the location and the friendly atmosphere.Phillipos-Hotel

Naturally, Modern Restaurant

The Atrium Greek Bistrot restaurant in Herodion Hotel, Philippos’ sister property, is tucked at the back of the front lobby, where you sit under a skylight and can look up to the stars. Atrium specializes in homemade Greek recipes with a modern twist. The reviews online use words like “intimate,” “relaxing” and “magical atmosphere.”Atrium-Herodion-HotelOne of the things that I love about traveling is trying different dishes from around the world. Also, I like to treat myself while I dine, so I usually get two to three dishes to sample because why not?! 😉 Dining alone is a funny thing, some people can do it and others will not. I do not mind it, especially when you have the pleasure of an excellent server who really was a culinary host. Also, a woman, who is traveling the world, dined alone at the table next to me, and she really should have joined me since we talked together throughout our meal. After receiving recommendations from two servers at the Atrium, I started out with Loukoumades, fried cheese from Elassona drizzled in Greek honey, followed by Sea Bass on top of beans and finished with rose ice cream on freshly-made Syros Delight. The server insisted that I also try the Salmon with horseradish cream, served on fluffy “ladopsomo” bread from Kimolos Island. I am sooo glad that he did. It was amazing!Atrium-Greek-Bistrotdav

Getting There

Athens is well served with scheduled flights from Aegean, British Airways, easyJet, AirSerbia and Olympic.

Getting Downtown

There are lots of different options. Metro Line 3 serves the airport while Suburban Rail Services operate from Athens Central Railway Station (Larissis) and Piraeus. Taxis, limo transfers and Uber are also available from outside the airport terminal.

Must-See Sights

A 3km pedestrian zone has been created in the neighborhood of Plaka based around the sacred rock of the Acropolis, site of iconic architecture and art, including the photogenic Parthenon. If you travel off-season, the Acropolis is half-price, regularly €20. Give yourself an hour to climb up and take many pictures of these amazing site. Some 4,000 historical items are on show in the new Acropolis Museum, and for only €5, you do not want to miss it. Tip: Visit the Acropolis Museum before your climb to the Acropolis. You will have a greater understanding of what you are looking at, especially if you do not have a tour guide. Also, start on the top floor of the Acropolis Museum, where you can enjoy the view and take pictures of the Parthenon replica and make your way down. It will take you no longer than 2 hours to enjoy all of the museum. Take a stroll in Monastiraki with its stalls full of colorful spices and window shop on pedestrian avenue of Ermou in the center of Athens.btydav

Culture Club Creative Hub

Traveling on business and need a place to work? It’s the sharing economy to the rescue! Coworking could be just the answer you’ve been looking for, and I HIGHLY recommend checking out Bios Romantso , a cultural center, as well as a creative hub. Set in a 1930s building, it is spread across four floors. The ground level has a cafe/bar and a space for intimate performances. While the basement has a concert area, rehearsal studios and a recording studio. I attended the European Creative Hubs Network Forum here on the first floor. The remaining levels are used for workspaces.

Thank you again, Philippos Hotel and Atrium Greek Bistrot, for making my business trip more homey and enjoyable while I was away from the family.

Business Travel: Belgrade, Serbia

business-travel-belgrade-serbiaSerbia lies at the crossroads of Europe, connecting the East and West, with a diverse mix of cultures. Its landscape is sprinkled with medieval churches and fortresses, and the capital city, Belgrade, rests on the banks of the Danube. I am a firm believer in the idea of adding fun to a business trip. Whether this is your first business trip to Belgrade or you travel here often, Belgrade always reveals a little piece of its heart and soul through its food, fortresses and friendly hospitality. I have been to Belgrade, Serbia, before with the family, but being alone changes your experience.

Cool Hotels

If a small hotel with a sophisticated feel and a superb location appeals to you while you travel, Vila Terazije is a great choice. Overlooking the Terazije Square, this hotel is housed in a cultural heritage building and offers free WiFi and a flat screen TV in every room. Breakfast is served only in rooms, and you can choose what you want delivered for breakfast in bed. I recommend the burek and local coffee, a classic Serbian breakfast.TerazijeBreakfastKalemegdan and Knez Mihailova are only 500 meters away from Vila Terazije. After walking around Belgrade and sitting in a conference room all day, I collapsed in the comfortable bed. Vila Terazije is an excellent value for money considering the location and the friendly atmosphere. If you prefer to save more money, we highly recommend Cricket 2 Hostel, which is close to some of our favorite restaurants and cafes in Belgrade.cricket2hostel

Hip Restaurants

Bright yellow cranes frame the entrance to the Beton Hala, a port-side warehouse now filled with hip new art studios and restaurants. At starkly decorated Italian restaurant Comunale, you see posh businesswomen enjoying pizza, risotto and antipasti with a view of the Sava River through its double-height windows. Founder Aleksandar Rodić created an exciting and trendy space with clear design and big wooden tables and benches. As the name suggests, the idea is to encourage community gatherings or group interactions, while enjoying delicious meals.comunalepizzaMarukoshi Japanese restaurant opened in 2015 in lower part of Belgrade in the Dorćol area. It’s an authentic Japanese restaurant offering tasty Japanese dishes such as Ramen noodles, salads, gyoza, Udon noodles, curry dishes and interesting desserts. It’s a very comfy place where you can relax and enjoy Asian specialties in the heart of Belgrade.Marukoshi

Getting There

Belgrade is well served with scheduled flights from AirSerbia, Etihad Airways, Alitalia, airberlin and Aeroflot.

Getting Downtown

There are lots of different options. – The A1 mini-bus leaves every 30 minutes in front of the Arrivals area. The charge is 300 RSD (2.50 EUR). Taxis are also available from outside the airport terminal.

Must-See Sights

Walk around the Old Town, see the Kalemegdan Fortress and stroll along Knez Mihailova Street  – Belgrade’s main shopping street. Before it was turned into the peaceful green oasis that it is today, Kalemegdan was part of Belgrade’s fortress. The park gradually started to come into existence after Serbia’s liberation from Ottoman rule: trees were planted, paths were cleared and monuments were erected, including the Statue of the Victor (Pobednik) and the Monument of Gratitude to France. Come here for a break from work and go for a stroll on the promenade lining the Sava River.

First Coworking Space in Belgrade

Traveling on business and need a place to work? It’s the sharing economy to the rescue! Coworking could be just the answer you’ve been looking for, and I HIGHLY recommend checking out Smart Office, the first coworking space in Belgrade. Located right off of Knez Mihailova street, you walk through a hall and up the stairs to Smart Office, founded by Miroslav Mijatov. You’ll be greeted by Mira, who will make you feel like you are in your home office. With light jazz music playing in the background, you will have no problem getting to work or skyping with others in one of their conference rooms.SmartOfficeThank you, Smart Office, for making me feel a part of your community and get stuff done while I worked away from my office.

Last-Minute Gift that Keeps on Giving #Path2Peace

path2peaceThis time of year we gather our families and friends and give gifts to show our love, appreciation and gratitude. Our family likes to remember each year on our tree by buying an ornament with a story. I cannot tell you how grateful we were to receive a Rwanda Path of Peace gold basket ornament from Macy’s, so that I can share its story with you. What if your family was able to buy an ornament for your tree or give a gift that did even more than that? What if you gave a gift that kept on giving? The Rwanda Path to Peace product line sold at Macys.com offers sustainable income to Rwandan basket weavers by allowing them to support their families with dignity and purpose.

When you look at the gorgeous hand-woven products sold in Macys.com stores as part of the Rwanda Path to Peace program, it’s easy to see them solely as objects of beauty, but in fact, each basket represents a journey towards reconciliation for the women who made them.rwandaIn 1994, nearly a million Rwandans – 20% of the nation’s population – were massacred when tribal hatred between the Hutus and Tutsis turned into ethnic slaughter. It is one of the worst genocides in human history, and films like Hotel Rwanda just give you a glimpse into its history. After the violence ended, many Rwandan women found themselves thrust into the unfamiliar role of being the sole breadwinner for their families, since their husbands, fathers and sons had been killed.

Now more than twenty years later, Rwanda is a country of both hope and faith. Many women embraced an opportunity to heal. Weaving baskets became a way forward and a path toward peace. Women from both sides of the ethnic divide came together, wove baskets, and created an industry, which today supports thousands of Rwandan women and their families. One American woman helped the Rwandan women – social entrepreneur, artist, and activist, Willa Shalit. In 2005, Shalit showed the baskets to executives at Macy’s who committed to sell them and to go into business with the weavers in Rwanda. Macy’s offered them a hand up, not a handout.

HOW AWESOME IS THIS STORY?! It was a joy opening up the ornament and telling the family what the ornament symbolizes: hope, perseverance, creativity and peace. As a family, we believe in paying it forward by how we use our time and our resources. This Christmas season, purchase a gift for you and someone you love that makes a difference. Buying products like Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace that give hope and employment to women is a way to make sure your hard-earned dollars are making a difference. See the 10-year history of the program.
I was gifted a product from the Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace line, however all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

7 Amazing Things To Eat In Brussels

Brussels has a bamboozling mix of restaurants, food markets and fine dining haunts that are dotted around this amazing city. With so many choices, I asked locals like my friend Pierre Pevée, whom I meet through European Creative Hubs Network and Jean-Alexis Spitz, a fellow blogger from Spark.Me, and found some favorite things that are worthy of eating while you are in Brussels, Belgium.

#1. Belgian Frites from Maison Antoine. I had heard a lot about Belgium fries, but are they really different from French fries? YES! Belgium frites are made with Bintje potatoes that are double fried. This makes them  crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Why we love Maison Antoine is that they offer many sauces to dip your fries in AND the pubs around this friterie allow the fries to be eaten on their premises.

#2. Stoverij from Le Clan des BelgesAt first glance, you may mistake this hearty beef casserole for French staple boeuf bourguignon, but it’s beer, rather than wine, that the Belgians use—giving it an earthier taste. Stoverij usually comes with frites for dipping.

#3. Belgian Chocolate from Pierre MarcoliniPierre Marcolini costs a little more than other chocolaterie because he buys unprocessed cocoa beans directly from the local producers and transforms it into chocolate in his own workshop. This chocolate is worth every bite!

#4. Sirop de Liège from Chez Franz. A sweet, sticky brown jelly made from evaporated fruit juices—dates, apples, and pears are stock ingredients—Sirop de Liège trumps even European’s favorite Nutella when it comes to spreads. Smear it on a baguette for breakfast, or pair it with cheeses at lunch. Chez Franz has an amazing brunch menu, so we highly recommend that you try Sirop de Liège here.

#5. Belgian Waffles + Speculoos from Maison Dandoy
Did you know that there are two types of waffles available in Belgium? Brussels waffles are made from batter leavened with beaten eggs. It is served with powdered sugar, and Liège waffles are made from yeast-leavened dough with pearl sugar. How best to eat a waffle in Belgium is hotly contested. Locals swear waffles should be topping-free. I, however, enjoyed mine with fruit and ice cream. Belgium has an (unofficial) national cookie. These flat, spiced shortbreads are so beloved you can even get speculoos-flavored spread (what America’s call “cookie butter”)—as well as ice cream or gelato. Originally baked to celebrate St. Nicholas Day (December 6), you’ll now find them year-round, and Maison Dandoy offers the best.

#6. Paling in’t Groen from Belga Queen. Luckily, “eel in green sauce” is more appetizing than it sounds. Chunks of white, meaty eel (which has the consistency of chicken, only with a slight gamey taste) are stewed in a thick, herby sauce of sorrel and chervil—hence its bright green color. Belga Queen is a former bank, and it is the perfect backdrop while you enjoy eating this delicious green dish.

#7. Stoemp from Royal Brasserie. A staple of Brussels cuisine, stoemp blends mashed potatoes and vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, carrots, onion and kale. YUMMY! It’s usually served either as a side dish or as main dish with sausage or another type of meat or seafood.

Have we missed any dish from Brussels that everyone should try? Please comment below!

Losing Aaron: Remembering a Superhero from Afar

img_1978This past week has been filled with such sadness, and I am having a hard time finding words to explain why. It took my husband and I almost a week to tell our kids because our hearts were filled with such grief, such pain and such loss. On Monday, October 10, I was reminded about the greatest enemy in life – death. Eight years, I wrote about a sweet young boy, Aaron, who was diagnosed with cancer. For eight years, the world saw Aaron as a fighter, a beautiful soul, a force to be reckoned with and most of all the things, he is most definitely a hero. I say this because Aaron was the first person who I personally knew that had cancer. I really didn’t know much about sarcoma until I heard his mother tell me. Since day one, Aaron showed his strength – his super power.aaron-jadyndscn3272aaron-benUnfortunately, my family would moved away from Aaron and his family a few months after his diagnosis, but we followed his journey online through his parents’ Facebook profile, his Facebook page and also his CarePages.com page. Aaron was a funny kid. He was like any other kid…like my kids, except he had cancer. He didn’t let that stop him from going to school, playing football (and even attending Arizona Cardinal games // cheering for the Denver Broncos, too) and loved playing the outdoors – fishing, swimming or surfing. My family would be fortunate to see Aaron when he visited MD Anderson in Houston a few year ago.img_1981 I think the kids forgot that they were in a hospital, as they laughed, laughed and laughed some more. They ate sweets, talked about Minecraft and acted like zombies. Well, the boys did. 😉 This is how we will choose to remember Aaron – the 11-year-old super boy who defied cancer and is living life in heaven with Our Savior.

Rest easy sweet boy, you fought an unfair fight with the strength of a thousand soldiers, and you did it with grace. No more struggling. Enjoy your feast with Jesus. We love you, and we look forward to seeing you again.

During this time of grief, it has been hard for our family. I have to admit that this IS the truly the hardest part about living abroad – not being able to hug our love ones in good times and times of mourning. Fortunately, for Facebook, we can send messages of condolences. Other ways we learned we can be there for the family are:

Special Delivery
The next best route to communicate aside from the telephone is by email or through the post office. Consider sending a weekly card in the mail for a year — this will be appreciated in the weeks and months that follow the loss when many others have withdrawn support. Consider sending a note of remembrance with a sweet story. If you sense that your friend is having trouble with daily life, you could order practical help for her such as a meal delivery or cleaning service for a set period of time.

Memorialize
In the case of a death, you might consider finding ways to honor the memory of the person. Ideas might include making a donation to a non-profit organization or to the funeral costs, planting a memorial tree, or having a quilt made out of the person’s favorite items of clothing. Tributes such as these show your friends that their loved ones’ are still in thoughts of those around them.