Pierogi, Mulled Wine and Chopin

The first chemical element that Marie Skłodowska Curie discovered and isolated in 1898 was named polonium after her native country. The first woman to win a Noble Prize and the first person to win 2 Noble Prizes used to say that “a scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales”.

On the first day of spring of 1810 a prodigy child was born. His name was Frédéric François Chopin and he left the world with an impressive heritage of over 230 works all involving the piano. A romantic he used to say “Even in winter it shall be green in my heart”.

Tamara de Lempicka was an Art Deco painter and the first woman artist to be a glamour star. She was part of the bohemian life of the Roaring Twenties and friends with Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide and said “I live life in the margins of society, and the rules of normal society don’t apply to those who live on the fringe”. Her self-portrait in a Green Bugatti is truly charming.

What do all these people have in common you ask? Well they were all born in different times in the same city…Warsaw. And as you listen to this Spring Waltz – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmzFDEu2RoA imagine being a child and running around the streets of old times Warsaw. Choose your character, it may be a scientist, a pianist, a painter or it may be just any other child on the street. Once the wandering mood is on read away and let us take care of the rest.

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Old City and Novy Swiat

The Old City of Warsaw dates back over 700 years. But its history hasn’t been smooth. Razed through the ground in the World War II, the Old City has been reconstructed from scratch as was the Royal Castle. The Old City is vibrant, with small streets and all sorts of squares, painted walls and restaurants. We visited before Christmas so the Christmas trees and the Christmas markets added even more glamour to the area.

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The Old Town Market square founded in the 13th century was the venue of celebrations and fairs but also executions. Nowadays is surrounded by Gothic and baroque buildings, packed with souvenir shops and restaurants (one of them even exhibiting a Michelin star) and is home of the Warsaw Mermaid.

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Legend says, she became so enchanted with the landscape that she decided to settle here. Local fishermen thought that their fishing nets have been destroyed by some predator. And so, they decided to get rid of the beast but they heard the beautiful voice of the signing Mermaid and fell over heels in love with the creature. One day, a wealthy merchant caught the mermaid but the sons of the fishermen hearing her cries managed to free her. In gratitude, the Mermaid promised the city’s residents to protect them in times of need. And so it stands here, in the Old Town Square, with her sword and shield to guard the city and its people ever since.

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Novy Swiat Street is packed with coffee places, restaurants and shops for all tastes. If you are in for some student vibe don’t miss entering the University Campus and if you are into some music watch out for the multimedia benches which will play a little bit of Chopin.

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Royal Castle

The Royal Castle was a royal residence starting from the 14th century blown up by the Germans in the 1944 and opened again to the public in 1984 it is today a museum and a place for holding state ceremonies.

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Our favorite room was the King’s Bedchamber decorated with yew paneling and a turquoise colored royal bed.

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Stacja Muzeum

Near Ochota there’s a railway related museum which presents the history of railway in the world and Poland in the inside exhibition

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and in the open-air museum in includes a collection of rail vehicles in Poland from different periods of the railway history including the Bierut’s Lounge Car, renovated baggage and postal car wagon electrical and steam locomotives. For more information visit http://www.stacjamuzeum.pl/en.

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Palace of Culture and Science

Somehow similar to the Romanian House of the Free Press the Palace of Culture and Science is an example of socialist-realist architecture which can be seen from every part of the city. The Palace is home to a cinema, 2 orchestras, 2 museums, 2 public libraries and the Warsaw Tourist Information Point.

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You can go up to the rooftop with an elevator for a view from above of Warsaw. Rumor has it that next door Marriott Hotel has a Panorama Bar where you can get for the same money a better view plus a beer.

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Holy Cross Church

Near the Old City and on your way to Novy Swiat you come across the Church of the Holy Cross which in addition to beeing a spacious and impressive Baroque style church it also contains the urn of Chopin’s heart brought from France by his sister and immured in the left pillar of the main nave of the church.

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Where we ate

Warsaw has plenty of options for food and coffee lovers. Our favorite restaurant was Podwale 25 Piwna Kompania and our favorite coffee place was Café Nero.

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For more ideas on where to eat and chill click here.

Where we stayed

We stayed in Apartament Uniwersytecki at Krakowskie Przedmieście 20-22 m16, Sródmiescie. The location of the apartment is right next to the University 10 minutes walking from the Old City on one side and 10 minutes walking to the Central Station on the other side and the kitchen makes it so easy to have breakfast or dinner at home. There is a metro station a couple of minutes away and Nowy Świat is right there as is also a Carrefour Express 1 minute away from the apartment .

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Rewind 2016

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There’s a sweet noise on the small crowded streets surrounded by flats in all colors of the rainbow and there’s a smell of pizza and oven baked goods coming from all around and all you can hear is Italian words and the face of Gianni, that Italian elderly owner of a traditional pizzeria makes you feel strangely at home. We celebrated the coming of 2017 in Naples, Capri and Procida and as we look forward with curiosity and anxiousness to the year to come we look back with wonder and we are grateful for an incredible 2016

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with leprechauns, Irish pubs and songs, Guinness beer and trips to the Titanic in Dublin and Belfast

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Scandinavian snow, perfect muffins, athletic people going out to ski by metro in Oslo

12744163_818590741602818_1679290715306204204_ntraditions, family time, colorful clothes, days of joy and celebrations at our best friend’s wedding in Jaipur, meeting up with old friends for precious stolen moments of happiness

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Milan Duomo, pizza and pasta with a heavenly taste, espresso, chilling in parks, polenta, discovery of the Navigli area

img_20160520_152111img_20160520_191659wandering the shores of Como Lake and enjoying breathtaking views of Brunate in Comoimg_20160521_095903unexpected trips to Sighisoara and Brasov

img_20160507_211445_edit_edit1beer gardens, charming coffee shops, Berlin wall, relaxing parks, strolls amongst restaurants and pubs of all nationalities just to charm any food lover in Berlin

img_20160815_180024_hdrbeach days and live music at the Black Sea

img_20160730_163533_editday trip to Negotin, Serbia just to have one Serbian beer

img_20160722_142418pagodas, Shan food, night markets and organized street quarters in Yangon

img_0518img_20160918_122523_editboat trips, traditional rowing fishermen, floating markets and lifetime friends in Inle Lake

img_20160920_084311img_0533sunset, sunrise, pagodas, temples and history in Bagan

img_0869img_0884gold leafs, temples, the best Shan food, monks, longest wooden bridge in Mandalay

img_20160924_141903img_20160924_172918the Grand Palace, new friends, live music, sweet memories, Same Same t-shirts and the best foot massage in Bangkok

img_20160926_135550_edit_editdays of shared thoughts, incredible views, swims, beach strolls, Rum Cola in the charming solitary Duli Beach resort in Philippines, El Nido

img_1254img_1294days of chilling and relaxing in Jaipur and Delhi making plans for future adventures

img_20161114_231850_editRoyal Palaces, Christmas trees, pierogi, beetroot soup, large café latte, Christmas markets in Warsaw

15349820_1019346348193922_3613498593471740022_nChristmas market madness in Bucharest with the view of the Parliament House, hot spiced wine and the best atmosphere to wish for

15380714_1020952261366664_6606025568305505877_n15492319_1025481797580377_6451251349531931751_nChristmas parties with memories of childhood and priceless friends

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family and friends time colored in green, flowery, sunny, snowy surroundings to adapt to the seasons but at all times packed with an overload of joy and happiness to last for a lifetime

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Past year has thought us that we are never alone as we carry with us all the family and friends, present or past, imprinted on our skin and it takes nothing more than closing our eyes for one second to feel them all around us. We’ve lost good friends and gained new friends and family just to remind us one more time of how precious every day we receive is and that it’s up to us to not let it waste and fully live every single second of it. We hope in a happy and peaceful 2017, a year of expressing less and feeling more, of being true to ourselves and the others, of taking leaps of faith without a net, of putting dreams into reality today rather than tomorrow, of carefully using the chance given at each and every new day, of still wondering at everything around, new or old, beautiful or less beautiful, of searching for more balance in life, of still believing.

Tips & Tricks Inle Lake

Tips & Tricks Inle Lake

  • for the boat ride make sure you use sunscreen lotion; take a sweater because it can be cold during some parts of the trip due to the speed boat and the wind; use a cap or a hat to protect from the sun or if you ae not a fan of either just use the umbrella that you can usually find on the boat for protection from the sun;
  • expect a diverse weather on the boat ride; during the same day it can be sunny, rainy and cloudy; raincoats and umbrellas should be available on the boat (just ask when you board);
  • boats on Inle Lake are not particularly big; they fit around 4 – 5 foreigners sitting on chairs and the boat driver; careful when stepping in and out of the boat so you don’t fall;
  • there are at least 2 Agoda Bank ATMs; an ATM easy to find is the one in front of Cherry Queen Hotel which one step away from the street going passed the area for boarding the boats;
  • no need to buy the products in the pottery, weaving or cigarettes shops; places on Inle Lake have a tip box for the ladies showing you different processes so if you want just drop a tip in the tip box.

Top things to do in Inle Lake

Our top things to do in Inle Lake

  1. Boat ride on Inle Lake;
  2. Gossiping with Zizi and eating her amazing food (you can find Zizi of her Facebook page Cooking with Zizi and also on Trip Advisor here);
  3. Pottery making;
  4. Watching the cigarettes making process;
  5. Wandering through the city market especially if you catch the fifth day circling of the markets around the area in Nyaungshwe when the market is busier than usual.

Guest post – A Hidden Gem: Why Ghent Is the Best Place to Visit

Ghent is not the first name springing to mind when it comes to places in Belgium to explore – and quite frankly that’s criminal. This Flemish city is a gem which has gone hidden for too long. Here are five amazing reasons why you’ll want to visit Ghent in the near future.

1. Rebel

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At a time when tyrannical leaders seem to be continuously rising to power, it may be pertinent to take a leaf out of the Ghent history books.

Having grown tired of the regime of the Roman Empire and the Spanish King Charles Karel V, in 1539 the people of the city rebelled against their rulers in an attempt to take the city back.

Okay, so maybe they failed (and were promptly paraded through town in their undergarments with a noose around their necks), but you can’t fault their underdog mentality. Inspiring stuff.

2. Uniqueness

What other cities in Europe can boast a shop which sells wallpaper from the past five decades? That’s right, we didn’t think you’d be able to name any.

Ghent is host to a bevy of different, incredibly unique, stores where both locals and visitors alike will be able to find all sorts of bizarre oddities.

Vintage antiques stores are also common, but arguably the must-see shop of the region comes in the form of Bloemenijs – a florist which also serves ice-creams flavored with rose, jasmine and cherry blossom.

3. Atmosphere

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With a staggering 65,000 students in a population of just under a quarter of a million, it’s perhaps no surprise the vibe is buzzing in Ghent.

Alright, nobody wants to be walking around in some kind of constant party zone – and don’t worry, you won’t be – but it’s nice to know there are places you can go if you’re looking for a wild night out.

With 250 different brands of beer on tap across the city, you’ll certainly be able to find a brew of your liking to get the juices flowing.

4. Understated

Bruges has become one of the most frequented cities in Europe across the past few decades – and, in truth, that’s ruined the tiny and picturesque locale somewhat.

You won’t experience any of that in Ghent, with this hidden gem currently remaining for the most part untouched by the hordes of tourists who clutter the Bruges streets.

That’s not to say you won’t also find plenty of visitors here – but the key difference is they don’t outnumber the locals, meaning the city retains a lot of its natural heritage.

5. The Sites

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Aside from the contemporary reasons to visit, Ghent also has a varied number of historical features which will lure in anyone looking for a splattering of culture.

Churches are a particularly affluent feature, with castles also playing an important role in the history of the city.

For anyone with a strong stomach you might even want to check out the torture museum located within the famous Gravensteen castle – enter at your own risk, however.

By now you’re probably starting to understand why Ghent is one of the most underrated cities in Europe. The next time you’re in Belgium, why not take a trip and see for yourself why this majestic locale deserves more love?

Sources:

 http://www.gutenberg.us/articles/revolt_of_ghent_(1539)

 https://www.1cover.com.au/secret-traveller/disappointing-tourist-attractions/

 https://visit.gent.be/en/ghent-statistics?context=tourist

 A story by Andrew Luke :p

 

Guest Post – Liguria, an experience of a lifetime

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Camogli

Liguria is a coastal region in the North-West of Italy. Once in Liguria, your only issue will be deciding where to go first. Liguria is very generous in cities and villages creating a magical environment, so take your time visiting it, experiencing it, living it.

 

I will start by saying that I have never felt so alive and so aware of my existence than in Liguria. The seaside position, the history lying beneath, the cuisine, the sky, the stars, the architecture, the nature, the colors, everything around you creates the impression of another world. It’s not just another Italian spectacular land. In Liguria, with every step, you run into an unique place or building or view or experience.

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Portofino

 

My first time in Liguria, I went to Genova, but I didn’t have the time to visit much for the time being and I only enjoyed the old harbor and the amazing cuisine. And then I kept coming back and started discovering the city, without any plan or guide, just wandering through the streets, taking a trip back in time at the times of Columbus and of the great navigators.

Genova takes you back to your childhood, when you first learnt about history and sea travels. Genova is just that city which you have always imagined as a start of big sea adventures and development of maritime commerce. It’s it, you’re back home, in the memories of your imagination about history in the Middle Ages.

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Genova

 

Leaving Genova behind and moving to the riviera may generate a contradictory feeling: while you’re leaving behind such a special city, the wonders of outer Liguria start to show off and you won’t be able to choose a favorite place. For example, Liguria is host of amazing Portofino and Cinque Terre. Being there, in either of these places, it’s like walking into a photo or a painting. There is no list of things to do there, just be, just let them conquer you, just live the moment and your memories will thank you for ever.

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Camogli

 

But there is more about Liguria than Portofino or Cinque Terre or Genova, in Liguria there are Rapallo and Santa Margherita, the sisters of Portofino, both underestimated due to their vicinity to Portofino. But they’re beautiful and they offer amazing views of the sea and the sky, making them part of a movable existence, making them become part of your existence.

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Rapallo

 

Your trip shouldn’t stop there. You should try also Chiavari or Camogli or Sestri Levante or Bonassola or Framura or Alassio. Ah, che bellezza! You’re in a book you once read or in a photo you’ve dreamt of.

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Framura

 

I cannot describe the feeling of the sun caressing my head or the perfume of the sea in Liguria, you just must go there and see by yourself that this cannot be put into words, but just felt and lived and kept safe in your soul.

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Framura

 

I have dispersed memories screaming of happiness: a walk on the beach at Sestri Levante, a bite of focaccia in Genova, a sip of wine in Portofino, a taste of pesto in a restaurant at Santa Margherita, the seafood in Rapallo, a feeling of chill on a bike through the tunnel in Framura, there rain on my face during a picnic in Bonassola, the feeling of a swim on a hot summer day at Porto Pidocchio, a trip by boat to Vernazza…

I am stopping here, I’ve said enough. The rest, I’ll keep it for myself. Go there and start an experience of a lifetime!

(Story and pictures: Cristina Mihalachioiu)

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Letters from Myanmar – Yangon

This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about” Rudyard Kipling, Letters from the East (1898)

Myanmar is referred to as Amarapura, the Land of Immortality, Yadanarbon, the Land of the Gems and Suvanabhomi, the Golden Land. And we are off to discover how each and every of this skilfull names suit Myanmar and breathe from each of its corners. First stop of this ride Yangon.

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What we did

Shwedagon Pagoda

The Golden Pagoda dates back to 588 BC and it is said to be the oldest stupa in Myanmar if not the world. The complex o Shwedagon Pagoda is accessible on four majestic stairways. The stupa is 99m height and is encircled by the sequence of the planetary posts each representing a day of the week along with its associated heavenly body and animal (in Burmese astrology Wednesday is divided in two, thus resulting eight “days” in total). Around the terraces you will find a replica of the Buddha’s Tooth (a copy of the original held in Kandy, Sri Lanka), the Magic Ruby Enshrined Buddha, the Child-clutching Brahma, a reclining Buddha and plenty more.

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Sule Pagoda

Sule Pagoda is right in the centre of the British style organized streets in Downtown Yangon. Local tradition says that the pagoda was built during the lifetime of the Buddha himself. The pagoda is reachable on four staircases located on each cardinal point. Entrance for tourists is 3 USD and the view is especially beautiful in the afternoon when the sun sets.

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Downtown Street Wandering

Downtown is a display of colonial architecture with entire streets and houses all lined up like in the 19th century.  There are shops and street vendors on all the streets between the 19th Street and the Pansodan Street.  In the evening street food stalls and street “restaurants” with plastic tables and chairs are lined up on both sides of Mahabandoola Road and the streets between 32nd Street and 18th Street with all sorts of barbecue, noodles and fruits.

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Bogyoke Market

Foreign-friendly market built in 1926 covering everything from souvenirs, gems, jewellery, clothing this bazaar looks like a must for shopaholics.

Where we stayed

We stayed at Clover City Centre Hotel Plus. Small entrance lobby with reception at the third floor but otherwise a great spot for a short stay in Yangon. Room was big and clean. Air-conditioning working properly; TV with a few channels, water and coffee complimentary and the well needed safe. Location is great on 32nd Street which makes you stay 5 minutes away from Sule Pagoda and walking distance to 19th Street (one one side) and 50th Street (on the other side).

Where we ate

We went to 50th Street for pies, Bar Book for coffee, 19th Kosan Street for beer, the Black Hat for dinner and live music and 999 Shan Noodle Soup for the best noodles soup in town. Click here for more details on our eating & drinking in Yangon experience.

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What we think about Yangon people

We loved the people in Yangon. They seemed nice and honest and did smile a lot. Most of them wear the traditional longyi – the sarong like lower body garment worn by both women and men. Thanka (the bright yellow face paint) is also usual in Yangon. Kids are curious like in all places and do expect people in the pagodas to ask for pictures with you :p.

Click here for some Tips & Tricks of Yangon

Click here for our Top experiences in Yangon

For more photos of Yangon just click here for our Facebook page.

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Tips & Tricks Yangon

Tips & Tricks Yangon

  • the best views of the Shwedagon pagoda are towards sunset. Just reach around 4:30 pm to allow enough time to visit the complex and than just relax waiting for the sunset and enjoying the changing colours of the stupa; entrance is 8000 kyat for foreigners (roughly 6 USD);
  • choose a place to stay in Downtown; it will make it easier to reach Sule Pagoda and even Shwedagon Pagoda;
  • walking is your friend in Yangon; for longer distances (including for returning in the evening from Shwedagon Pagoda to Downtown) just grab one of the cabs you will easily find on the street; they are pretty cheap (as an example a trip one way from Downtown to Inya Lake was 3,500 kyat – roughly 3 USD);
  • pay attention to the floors in the pagodas especially if it’s raining or the caretakers cleaned the terraces;
  • a small umbrella could prove useful towards the end of the rainy season although there are plenty of places to take cover;
  • you can find these days money exchange machine in the Yangon airport as well as money exchange offices; there are plenty of ATMs all over Yangon and some places even accept payment with cards (Visa seems to be accepted usually);
  • there are no traffic lights for pedestrians; for cars the traffic light is located usually on top of the street in front of the cars; if you want to cross the street usually use the corners and cross when the cars have a red light if possible; same rules as in other Asian countries would apply, look before you cross, don’t run just walk and try to estimate the right time to pass; if in doubt follow a local.

Food & Drinks Yangon

Random order :p:

50th Street – located somewhere between 50th and 49th Street (better enter from Merchant Street might be faster); the bar & restaurant seems a bit of a Irish or Australia inspiration, sitting area, bar area with tall chairs, TVs playing a ruby match with New Zealand starting with the usual hakka; food is diverse from pies to pizzas and pastas and some local food selection also; great cold beer; a little spicy the prices compared to other spots but worth a trip; great WI FI.

19th Street Kosan; located in the bustling China Town where at night streets are crazy crowded with locals and some tourists enjoying food at the plenty of street food stalls; the beer is 640 ml – big Asian style ones; haven’t tried the food as the plate with fries was to dirty to touch however seen tourists also eating at this place so must be good; the place is small with a few tables for the bar part an there seems to be their place also on the left and right side of the bar with eating areas; no WI FI.

 

999 Shan Noodle Soup – you will find this place on 34th Street at the end near the Yangon City Hall; the place has soimg_20160918_122523_editme tables downstairs and tables at the first floor; food is great; must try the noodle soup; sticks and tablespoon you will find in the wooden box sitting around on the table; ah yes and if you are a tea lover there is a hot metallic pot on the table just waiting for you to try; no WI FI.

Bar Boon – in front of FMI C        enter at the end of 3o something street; this coffee places that also serves food seems like a great retreat for tourists; coffee is amazing; terrace with tables in front and also some tables inside; WI FI available though low quality.

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The Black Hat – near Sule Pagoda in Sule Plaza there is this bar & restaurant which is graciously called the Black Hat and where waiters and waitresses wear of course a black hat; the places is decorated in a combined style with Greek style columns, bar with tall stalls and those type of eating tables with sofas on all four sides to remind one of the American buffet style; ah and there is even a piano; the food is great, we had lentil soup, pork ribs and our Asian favourite spring rolls; the walls are decorated with movie stars and singers from the 60s / 70s and Elvis is a star; the piano man and his band start at 8 so plan accordingly.

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