Weekend in Milan – not just the Expo

Today I will be flying to Europe from Sydney to see some good friends and family and simply to make the most of the European summer, which we all love, don’t we?!

First stop of my exciting trip will be Milan, city that I adore – unlike a lot of Italians, for some reasons – and city that gave me so much back in the 4 years I spent there. What I am sharing with you now is MY Milan’s weekend guide that I put together for first timers in the Italian fashion capital.

I can guarantee you that all the places I have listed below are still there, buzzy and active as usual! But I might add some more hidden gems after my visit, who knows… I might discover some new corners of town myself, and share them with you!

These activities will keep you so busy that you won’t have time to go to the Expo. In fact, there is so much more to Milan than the Expo these days.

THE EXPLORING BIT

Not sure what you are after, if more food, more shopping, more cultural events… but I will give you a mix of mi picks here.

Milan gives its best during spring (unfortunately it also gives you a lot of mosquitoes, but you can easily do something about it!), so walking is the best way to get around. I’d recommend you to start walking from Navigli (the famous canal district) to the city center and get pleasantly lost along the tiny streets and the nice canals. On the way to the Duomo (the main cathedral) you will pass through Corso di Porta Ticinese, which is a lovely street full of cafes, restaurants, bars and classy vintage shops.

At the end of Corso di Porta Ticinese just cross the road and you will hit the Colonne di San Lorenzo (Saint Laurence Columns), very characteristic as well, where young crowds of people hang out at night playing guitar, chatting, or drinking a beer and eating a bite on the go. Turn right after the columns and you are in Via Torino – again, more shopping, ice-cream places and cafes – which will lead you right in front of the Duomo. Getting in the Duomo is free, but what you can also do is walking to the top, where the little Saint Mary statue is, for a stunning view over the whole Milan, with the Dolomites all around. Milanese people call it ‘La Madunina’, and it’s the symbol of their city.

Once in the Duomo square you will be in the heart of Milan, and I simply suggest you to go with the flow and discover what the tiny streets around can offer. Which is a lot and very surprising, I find.

Here is some suggestions of where I’d go from the Duomo square:

Walking through the famous – and only recently restored – Vittorio Emanuele Gallery. At the end of it you will find the popular La Scala Theatre.

Take Corso Vittorio Emanuele – more shopping and celebrity spotting – and then turn left in Piazza San Babila (San Babila Square): you will be in Via Montenapoleone, the Chelsea of Milan. Not sure you will be able to afford anything there, but it is worth a visit. It is Milan fashion at his top. A classy icon.

Just behind the Gallery, hidden in a Via Santa Ranegonda, not far from The Scala, you’ll find the best ‘panzerotti’ place in the whole Milan: Luini is a bakery that has become an institution for all the locals. I warn you: queues here can be very long, but it will all be worth it for your fried or oven (my favourite!) panzerotto! Oh wait, what is a panzerotto? a mini calzone, in a nutshell.

Take via Dante – packed with elegant cafes – and you will have the Castle right in front of you. It’s called Castello Sforzesco – the Sforza family which once reigned in Milan lived in there – and it is situated in the most beautiful park of downtown Milan, Parco Sempione. Here is what you will find once inside the park:

  • you can visit the castle itself and walk through the part to the opposite side to see the Arco della Pace (Peace Arch): our own Arc de Triomphe;

  • the Modern Art Museum (called La Triennale di Milano) which never lets you down: great exhibitions, quirky cafe’, beautiful structure and outdoor space

The main museum is right in the Duomo Square, and it’s called Palazzo Reale (The Royal Palace). They always have great quality exhibitions on.

Brera_Milan_Italy_CuriousAbout

Absolutely go to Brera!!!! It’s one of the oldest – and wealthiest – parts of town and you can get there either from the end of Via Montenapoleone or from the Castle. The closest tube station is Lanza or Moscova. The Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Picture Gallery) is here, and it’s famous all over the world for its art school and its art collections. The streets you will have to look up on Google Map are a few, but Brera is so small that I am sure you will walk through most of them without the help of technology:

  • Via Palermo
  • Corso Garibaldi
  • Via Brera
  • Via dei Fiori Oscuri
  • Via dei Fiori Chiari
  • Via Solferino

10 Corso Como, Milan

Another part of town you will HAVE TO go to is Corso Como, again another icon of the fashionable side of Milan. The famous shop 10 Corso Como is where stylists from all over the world come to find inspiration. They also have a cafe area (sit back and enjoy a tea/coffee/wine in their garden), an exhibition area upstairs and an hotel with 3 rooms only, each with a different style.

Have a look at the website in the hyperlink, this is how the whole space is described:
‘Hidden in the heart of 10 Corso Como quiet courtyard behind
a discreet façade of gates and gardens, the garden café is surrounded by
a conservatory of lush perennial plants and seasonal flowers.
When not shopping or visiting 10 Corso Como various showcases,
one can stop to eat in the café restaurant and bar.
Designed to flow between the inside and the seasonal garden outside,
the café offers another aesthetic altogether.’
The best ways to get to Corso Como are walking from Brera (a beautiful short walk through Corso Garibaldi) or via tube (get off at Garibaldi FS).

THE FOOD AND DRINKS BIT

Milan is packed with some of the best restaurants and cocktail bars in Italy, which means you will rarely get disappointed by its food scene. I don’t have specific recommendations for food, but if all you have is a weekend, then head to Brera and Navigli for a treat, and for a great vibe and cool atmosphere. Avoid the Duomo area which tends to attract more tourists and be more expensive.

IN NAVIGLI:

Trattoria Toscana, Navigli, Milan

  •  Trattoria Toscana in Navigli (in Corso di Porta Ticinese): a must for the cool guys in town. Head there for the aperitivo time to capture the cool essence of Milan-by-night in the back courtyard.

  • Traditional pizzeria – which is also restaurant – right in the heart of the canals: La Magolfa. I always go there with my friends, it’s cheap, nothing fancy, amazing real Italian food and super authentic atmosphere (make sure you end your dinner with one of their amaros!).

  • On the main canal, this is one of the best places for the ‘Gnocco Fritto’, the typical Italian fried dumplings (mmmhhh…. delicious!!!): Osteria dello Gnocco Fritto.

IN BRERA:

Da Claudio Fishmonger and Restaurant, Milan

  • Princi: the best slices of pizzas in Italy! It’s not a place for dinner, as in it’s not a restaurant but this is a concept that Italians love: go for some pizza bites – and a cheeky beer – before proper dinner. There are a few around town, but the first – and most iconic ones – are the one in Brera (in Largo La Foppa, right in front of Moscova tube station, on the green line) and the one next to Corso Como (Piazza XXV Aprile, 5). Princi has also opened in Soho – London – now and and it’s always packed!

  • Da Claudio Fishmonger: this place is a normal fishmonger during the day, but then turns into a fashionable and classy aperitivo bar every evening! Go there for some fresh fish and a glass of prosecco before dinner (and for some amazing people watching and celebrity spotting…. and a lot of chatting over a drink of course!!!).

  • Osteria dei Poeti in 40 Corso Garibaldi. Hidden gem for a super authentic and elegant dinner option.

  • Aperitivo in Piazzale La Foppa (next to Princi and to the Moscova tube station): go to Radetzky for more people watching, good quality aperitivo and a glass of wine or a cocktail outside in the little square.


THE PRACTICAL BIT

FROM THE AIRPORT:
  • from MALPENSA: take the Malpensa Express, which is a train within the airport that will take you to Milano Cadorna. From there you can either get a taxi to your destination or jump on the tube.

  • from LINATE the best way is to get a taxi. If you want to spend a bit less you can get the shuttle bus service from Linate to Central Station and from there either the taxi or the tube to reach your final destination.

  • from ORIO AL SERIO: there is only one way, unfortunately and it does take ages… the shuttle bus service to Central…

THE TUBE:

Milan is not like London. There are only 3 tube lines and they take you pretty much everywhere in town. Or you can walk or cycle, which is muuuch better! Milan is small and all the main attractions are concentrated in a relatively small area. It is also a flat city, which makes it perfect for cycling around.

MetroMilan_CuriousAboutBlog

Milan, tube map

WHERE TO STAY:

Stay in one of these following areas so that you can easily walk or cycle everywhere within minutes. Regardless the area you pick, Aribnb is the way to go! You will then get to explore the city like a local and you will make the most of the beautiful Milanese people’s interior design (and trust me… they do know one thing or two about design there!).

Typical Courtyard in Navigli, Milan

  • Airbnb in Navigli (closest tubes: Romolo, S. Agostino and Porta Genova) where I am staying this weekend. This charming and well designed flat is situated in a casa di corte (courtyard house) which is typical of this area of Milan. If you are an Airbnb new user get a voucher on your first booking, by using this link.

  • Isola (closest tubes: Porta Garibaldi and Zara)

  • Brera (closest tubes: Lanza, Moscova, Porta Garibaldi)

  • Porta Romana (closest tubes: Crocetta and Porta Romana)

So I did well and kept my promise: no mention of the Expo in this blog post. We will all be too busy exploring the real Milan instead… the one that you only find in its streets, cafes and squares.

Now, let Milan entertain you!

My Sydney – how much can you fit in Holt Street?

Holt Street is the lovely street I live (and work) in.

It’s a tiny one, in the heart of Surry Hills – the Farringdon of Sydney, I like to think –  and it is packed with great cafes, amazing restaurants and a wine bar. If you fancy a valid alternative to busy Crown Street, then head up to little Holt.

You will find an array of buzzy places and a great selection of cuisines and drinks that will not disappoint you. And you will want to come back. Again and again.

Welcome to my Holt Street:

Vini – Italian restaurant

ViniRestaurant_HoltStreet_CuriousAbout_Sydney

Vini restaurant, Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

Tiny, simple and classy, Vini has captured the essence of Sydney’s new found love affair with trattorias, enotecas and osterias. And it makes me feel like I am back in Milan again!

THE CURIOSITY: Tuesday at Vini is regional night. Chef Stephen creates a four course set menu of typical, classic, seasonal and sometimes unusual foods from a different region of Italy. Four courses $55. Wines are sourced from the region to accompany the food.


121BC – Italian wine bar

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121BC, Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

Imagine a room with delicate lighting and just a long wooden table. This is 121BC. This hyper tiny but super elegant wine bar is my local favourite for a superb glass of wine with friend before dinner. It’s perfect for my beloved aperitivo time! Once again, I am brought back to classy Milan! 121BC only seats 25 people on its long communal table and it does not accept bookings. It serves small truly traditional and delicious dishes and it also features an ‘enoteca’, with a rich selection of wines for you to buy and enjoy elsewhere.

THE CURIOSITY – 121BC is from the same owner of two other Italian favourites: Vini and Berta, both in Surry Hills as well. And they also recently opened a new 121BC wine bar in Hong Kong, check their website here.


Muum Maam – Thai restaurant

MuumMaam_HoltStreet_CuriousAbout_Sydney

Muum Maam, Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

The ambience of this Thai restaurant is very ‘Surry Hills’ style with long communal wooden tables, brightly painted walls, and exposed light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. All your Thai favourites are on the menu, as well as a selection of house specialities such as five crab and prawn rice net spring roll and san jan pad Thai noodles. Great services and vibrant atmosphere too. By day, the street style Tuk Shop serves quick and delicious meals from the cart. By night, Muum Maam serves classic Thai cuisine in a relaxed, cool environment.

THE CURIOSITY: Named after the Thai slang for ‘little glutton’.


Di Bella cafe

DiBellaCafe_HoltStreet_CuriousAbout_Sydney

Di Bella cafe, Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

This Sicilian owned cafe is more than just a coffee place. It’s a roasting warehouse which serves generous breakfasts and delicious lunches. Only open for breakfast and lunch, all the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. And – most importantly – they come with a hint of Mediterranean flavour, thanks to the truly Southern Italian chef. For lunch try one of their risottos or pasta dishes (orecchiette is my favourite pasta there), and for breakfast try their banana bread and ricotta cakes.

THE CURIOSITY: this modern vibrant cafe serves aromatic coffees from their own hand selected blended beans; roasting them right on the premises. You cannot miss the big roasting machine, which prominently sits in the centre of the cafe,


Citta

Citta_HoltStreet_CuriousAbout_Sydney

Citta, Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

A tiny hole in Holt Street, literally four tables inside, three more on the sidewalk. Città doesn’t have a menu, just a glass-fronted refrigerator full of food. Choose something from the fridge, and the guys will cook it for you – toasted sandwiches, spaghetti, ravioli, pasta and meatballs, anything. This super tiny cafe’ is pumping Mon-Fri and the buzz is great. With all the creative and media agencies in the area and the Asos and News Corp office in the same street, it ‘s the favourite of a lot of employees.

THE CURIOSITY: The barista knows most people’s names and will welcome you with a G’day!


Movida – Spanish tapas

Movida Surry Hills Sydney

Movida, Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

Movida is the perfect place where you want to go early (I live next door and it is always – always – busy!) and stay long. For someone who travelled extensively around Spain like me, the tapas are very authentic and won’t disappoint your picky palate. Service is excellent, very buzzy and plenty of good vibes. Match your tapas with some Spanish wine and don’t think about your wallet: you will have a good time!

THE CURIOSITY: This is the fourth addition to the Movida family around Australia: there’s Movida in Melbourne, Movida Next Door, Movida Aqui, Movida at the Airport and they all serve great quality Spanish tapas.


… THE LATEST NEW ENTRIES ON HOLT!

Cafe’ e cucina – Napoli style cafe 

Cafe&Cucina_HoltStreet_CuriousAbout_Sydney

Cafe’ & Cucina, Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

This cafe has only been open for a matter of weeks right in front of my office – News Corp – and my colleagues are already in love with its Napoli-style cakes, lasagne, sandwiches and coffee. I go there for their fresh cold pressed juices and their cannelloni. Top notch!

THE CURIOSITY: this cafe’ has been selected as one of the 10 best Sydney lunches for $10 or less. “Cafe’ & Cucina” means both “Coffee & Kitchen” and “Coffee & Cuisine” in English, but I agree with the owner that it does sound much more poetic in my language, Italian!


Mama’s Buoi – Vietnamese restaurant

MamasBuoi_HoltStreet_CuriousAbout_Sydney

Mama’s Buoi, Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

Mama’s Buoi seeks to emulate the flavour, soul and communal spirit of eating in Vietnam. The restaurant’s crew encourages guests to ‘eat the food like a family’. Mama’s Buoi’s specials are quirky and can get messy and you are more than welcome to make use of your fingers. The Mama’s Buoi philosophy is reflected in the warm and welcoming interior and cosy courtyard at the back. A big graphic reads “ME KHONG” on the wall, and family photos adorn the place and line the menus. Greenery, including herbs used to cook by the chef, thrive on windowsills.

THE CURIOSITY: Sydney’s head chef, Tiw Rakarin uses fresh produce daily. With no cool room, raw ingredients are broken down every morning. Long, slow cooking – six to seven hours each day – provides the pho’s flavour without needing additives.


OK, BUT WHERE IS HOLT STREET?

Buon appetito!

Australia short breaks: Canberra.

Canberra_LakeGinninderra_Australia_CuriousAbout

Lake Ginninderra in trendy Belconnen, right in the heart of Canberra, Australia

Last weekend I drove south of Sydney for just over a couple of hours and went to explore Canberra for the weekend.

‘Why Canberra??’ – people asked me – ‘instead of all these beautiful beaches surrounding Sydney?’

Because of my love for art… and secretly because I have a passion for doing the opposite of what others do or expect me to do!

So, this time James Turrell’s light exhibition was the reason why I left Sydney, Bondi and its beaches.

Tickets got sold out in no time (I had booked mine last year), all the way till June, when the exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia ends. It’s his first time here in Australia and I could not possibly miss it.

And of course he didn’t let me down. The experience of walking in the empty spaces that he created and filled with – at times very bright – light was well worth the drive on Fri after work to the Australian capital city.

IMG_20150221_175058

‘Within Without’, James Turrell, NGA 2010

A blog post dedicated to James Turrell and his genius vision will follow shortly – he certainly deserves a blog post just for him and his work!


7 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CANBERRA

James Turrell wasn’t the only amazing thing that I found once in Canberra. I was overwhelmed by lots of other things, and you should go and get a taste of them too – if you haven’t done it already. So, here is what I have learned:

  1. one weekend is not enough.

  1. but if all you have is a weekend, visit Belconnen (Belco for the locals). It’s an up and coming area of town, very central, with a great choice of trendy restaurants and cafes, but yet super green. My highlights were the 7 km walk around Lake Ginninderra and brunch and its cafes. Belco is here:

  1. be in the action: Kendall Street is a lovely tiny pedestrian-only street packed with some of the best bars and restaurants. In the Civic, just off Edinburgh Avenue.

  1. the museums will blow your mind, also if you are used to the European standards. I particularly appreciated the quality of the collections exposed, the super knowledgeable guides at the War Memorial Museum who told me EVERYTHING about Gallipoli and the First World War (surprisingly free), the architecture and the location of the buildings themselves.

  1. brunch in Canberra is a thing. And it’s cool.

  1. Canberra has an exellent wine region too! On the way back to Sydney go for some wine tasting on the Poacher Way: great wine – without the crazy prices of the more popular Hunter Valley – and a nice ride expect you.

  1. you will need a car. The city has only been build 100 years ago and is spread over a large area of natural reserves, lakes and hills. A paradise of trees and green all around you basically.


FOOD & DRINKS

  • Brunch in Belconnen at Chatterbox: a little all-yellow corner cafe open for breakfast, brunch and lunch, where portions are huge and ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. Prices are totally reasonable too, plus service is really friendly.

ChatterBox Cafe_Belconnen_Canberra_Australia_CuriousAbout

Chatterbox Cafe, in Belconnen, Canberra, ACT, Australia

  • Brunch in Belconnen with lake view at one of the locals favourites Ha Ha Bar: right before (or after) your run walk around the lake, this is the perfect spot on the water, in the shadow of the trees. Very interesting menu, great selection of smoothies and fresh pressed juices with some delicious brunch options.

  • Tapas and drinks at Parlour Wine Room: great atmosphere in this trendy and classy bar. Their tapas reminded me of Movida – my usual tapas place in Sydney -. This is one of the gems in that tiny Kendall Street I just told you about. If I ever move to Canberra I will look for a flat there. Deal.

ParlourWineRoom_Canberra_Australia_CuriousAbout

Parlour Wine Room Tapas Bar in Kendall Street, Canberra, Australia

  • Some fancy cocktails at Lucky’s: this was the perfect choice for some creative and unusual cocktails before heading to the tapas bar. Again, very friendly service – I found that everywhere in Canberra to be honest.

  • Dinner at A. Baker: right behind the Parlour Wine Room, this restaurant is also an amazing bakery with a very fun and relaxed atmosphere, perfect for a Sat night dinner with friends.


WHERE TO STAY

  • Camping: the Cotter Campground is just a 15 minutes drive from town, well equipped, quiet and it’s located right on the Cotter River.

  • Hotel: the Hotel Hotel – no, it’s not a typo! –  is the latest in terms of design and luxury. A collaboration between designers, artists, artisans and fantasists, this hotel is also super central – in Edinburgh Avenue – where most of the above cool and elegant restaurants and cocktail bars are. Not a cheap option (starting from $266 per room per night), but what a stylish experience that is!

  • Airbnb: always an easy choice if you don’t want to spend a fortune, but still want to be comfortable and close to the action. Use this link to get a voucher on your first booking, if you are a new user.


BLOGS TO FOLLOW – FROM PEOPLE WHO TRULY LOVE CANBERRA

These bloggers told me everything I had to know when I arrived in Canberra (as usual, totally unprepared and ready for this new place to surprise me). Check them out if – just like me – all you are after is getting tips from locals who really know the city inside out.

My Sydney – a cocktail bar or a butcher in Newtown?

Setting the scene:

it’s Thu evening, and my friend takes me to a live gig at the super well known music venue in Newtown – the Enmore Theatre – one of those of venues were it’s only you and a few other people (ok, a few hundred… but still, it’s intimate enough!) and you can get seriously close to the stage without getting pushed by a crazy crowd.

The Belle and Sebastian’s gig – a brilliantly smart band from Glasgow, been around for over 20 years, love them! – doesn’t start before 9.00pm.

Listen to this tune to get in the right mood – my absolute favourite from their latest album ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance‘, released this Jan:

I am obviously hungry and I cannot wait till the end of the concert. So we decide to go for dinner and drinks somewhere. We are luckily in the right place: Newtown is full of amazing options!

But no, we decide to go and try out this “cocktail bar” that my friend had read about somewhere… we had the address, Google Map and plenty of time. Easy…. right??!

Unless the cocktail bar at the given address looked more like a butcher shop instead. Confused.

Mmmhhh…. these websites in Australia are never updated, oh it might have closed by now, but people are still writing good reviews about it… and they might have replaced it with an vintage butcher shop…. seriously??

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 8.54.13 pm

The old Betta Meats butchery or the trendy Earl’s Juke Joint?

We go back and forward a couple of times, till I decide that this can’t be possible, I want to try and open the door of this dark “butcher shop” (the once Betta Meats butchery… apparently). Once again, I am really glad to be that stubborn and curious in life! I felt like back in London again, where you often have to cross a travel agency or a vintage shop to get into clubs and bars….

Thanks Newtown for bringing me a bit of that London coolness downunder. I should maybe leave Surry Hills at times and explore your streets instead.

What I find once in was exactly what we were after: the Earl’s Juke Joint. A long cocktail bar with a vibrant atmosphere, highly competent bar tenders, energetic music and overall a great vibe. Very spacious and roomy and with a long list of wines, ciders, tap and bottle beers and of course an exciting selection of cocktails.

Oh, and I am hungry, remember? Well… the only food they serve is a $28 snack basket, delivered straight from the restaurant across the road, the Bloodwood. The basket is filled with anything meat – as you would expect in a butcher shop after all – from bresaola, to prosciutto, to salami and more… Ahhhh, the beauty of being flexitarian in situations like this! Well worth the money. Just on time to walk to the Enmore for a night of energising Scottish music.

EarlsJukeJoint_Newtown_Sydney_CuriousAbout

Earl’s Juke Joint in Newtown, Sydney.

The perfect non-planned Thursday night, with a bit of adventure and some pleasant surprises on the way. Keep surprising me like that Sydney, please.


WHERE IT IS:

Earl’s Juke Joint: 407 King Street, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia

LINKS:

Enmore Theatre

Belle & Sebastian’s YouTube channel


THE CURIOSITY:

The bar is named over Earl Palmer, a New Orleans drummer who created the backbeat for rock ‘n’ roll. The bar pays tribute to the juke joints of the Deep South – informal and rustic with a little bit of loud music for dancing well into the night.

My Sydney – The Paramount Building in Surry Hills

After my post about the Collective Harvest experience, I received a few questions from curious people (I like those!) who wanted to know more about the building that hosts this lovely organic markets on Sat mornings.

The Paramount Building is what you are after!

The once empty, dark art deco building in the heart of Surry Hills (also known at the time as the ‘Hollywood Quarter’) has now been opened up and filled with brilliant natural light, a cafe and a variety of eccentric retailers – a signal of the building’s exciting creative and commercial re-imagining.

See what you can find in the building these days, but stay tuned… this is an evolving space:

THE COLLECTIVE HARVEST

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The Collective Harvest, Surry Hills, Sydney

Every Saturday morning (8.30am till 12.30pm) the rooftop of the Paramount Building gets full of colours and smells from the local produce of farmers around Sydney. Flowers, fresh veggies, fruits, eggs, cheese and bread (and more…) are brought to you by the guys at the Collective Harvest.

Read more about how it works and how to order some of these goods on my blog post.


PARAMOUNT COFFEE PROJECT & TOKYO BIKES

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Tokyo Bikes in Paramount Building, Surry Hills, Sydney

Built into the foyer space of Paramount House is the Paramount Coffee Project, which shares its space with the hyper cool Tokyo bikes. If you are not willing to buy one bike, you can still rent one for the day and explore Surry Hills and surroundings in the coolest way possible. Worth every penny.

But let’s talk about brunch at the Paramount Coffee Project. Exactly, it’s not just a cafe. It’s a project, where the owners have decided to have a constant rotation of guest coffee roasters and residencies, where the beans are ethically sourced and served accordingly to the different interpretations of several Australian roasters.

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Paramount Coffee Project, Surry Hills, Sydney

Do not expect your usual eggs benedict. If you are here for your Sat brunch, then it means you are up for something very different. The chefs have fun experimenting new and old recipes with unique and original ingredients. You won’t be disappointed, Ever. A part from the great food, the whole atmosphere is worth a visit: choose your seat in one of the long shared tables, order a tea (or a coffee, or a juice) and soak up the cool vibe that is surrounding you.


GOLDEN AGE CINEMA

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Retro bar at Golden Age Cinema, Surry Hills, Sydney

Head to the basement for a retro cinema experience which will throw you back in time: from the retro furniture and interior design to the actual selection of movies. The Golden Age Cinema has recently restored and reinvented the old screening room of the Paramount House. It now features a retro cocktail bar and a cinema which show independent movies, big classics and Sydney exclusives. Classy.

Check what’s showing now here.


POP-UP STORES

The first floor hosts pop-up shops where some great global fashion labels sell their entire stock at amazing prices for limited time only.

Last time I was there, the Swedish brand Someplace was selling some great quality clothes and shoes with 80% discount. I am not a fashion addict at all, but I went to the Paramount Coffee Project for breakfast and just could not resist to that Swedish fashion style….

It’s another one of those hidden gems in my local area. You just need to get lucky and be there when a new pop-up store is up. Keep exploring Surry Hills!


VICE MAGAZINE

And if the building needed to be even cooler… Vice Magazine also has chosen the Paramount House at its Australian head quarter! They are located on the roof top, right next to the Collective Harvest. Shame their office is always closed on a Sat morning when I go there to collect my Green Bag full of veggies & fruits…


WHERE IT IS:

80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, Australia


LINKS:

The Paramount Coffee Project Facebook page (website in construction)

  • Cuisine – Modern Australian
  • Prices – Breakfast $7-15, Lunch $10-$18, Coffee $4
  • Features – Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options

Collective Harvest website

Tokyo Bikes website

Golden Age Cinema website

Vice Magazine Australia

Australian wine regions series: ‘Be Consumed’ in Barossa Valley, SA

Another post from my Australian wine region series for all the fine food and wine lovers. I am sure there is plenty of you out there.

Barossa Valley Lavender Field_South Australia

My hat in a lavender field, Barossa Valley, South Australia

This time I visited the stunning Barossa Valley, just one hour driving outside Adelaide, in South Australia – and what a beautiful ride that is! The perfect start of your road trip.

Oddly, what inspired me this time was the soundtrack of the Be Consumed ad that SA launched last year to promote this great wine region:

Did you recognise Nick Cave’s voice? he is one of my favourite singers and that song in particular is aaahhhh, simply amazing! it’s incredible what music can do. In my case, it decided for me on my next trip! And Barossa Valley didn’t disappoint at all.

It did actually remind me of the golden hills of Tuscany and Umbria. And I am entitled to state this, having grown up in Italy – which also means I am very spoiled and annoyingly picky with food and wine.

I could re-live scenes of that ad myself, whilst walking in lavender fields with kangaroos jumping around, whilst eating the hearty and honest food of the region, and talking to locals who are so passionate about their wine and heritage.

I experienced so much in those days driving around the empty – yes, empty! no tourists around, and I was there in the high season – roads of the Valley, but I have selected a few highlights for you:

BarossaCollage_SouthAustralia

Empty roads, perfect pic-nic spot on Seppeltsfield Road and more lavender fields… Barossa Valley, South Australia. 


EATING

Appellation Restaurant Barossa Valley_SouthAustralia

Appellation Restaurant, Barossa Valley, South Australia

  • Vintners: where the locals go – great atmosphere, family owned, interesting menu with exclusively local produce.

  • Appellation: make sure to book in advance. A very exclusive place, expensive but absolutely worth the price. They are BYO, but charge $35 for the corkage. They also have accommodation, called The Louise, again, really expensive but stunning design and high level of service. A very special place.

  • Fino is the newest addition to Seppeltsfield Road and it has already received super reviews since its opening. Fine fine dining once again!

  • FermentAsian: the best Asian-fusion restaurant in the Valley. The Vietnamese chef owner won’t let you down with his dishes. Guaranteed.


DRINKING

Artisans Of Barossa_SouthAustralia

Artisans of Barossa, South Australia

Seppeltsfield Road, where the restaurants Appelation and Fino are, is the heart of the Barossa, where most of the best wineries are located. You cannot miss it: there are a lot of lovely trees all along the two sides of the road, and plenty of options for wine testing one next to the other.

Do not get limited to my list of wineries below. It’s absolutely worth going there for a drive and stop by randomly to try new ones. 

  • Artisans Of Barossa: this a group of 7 winemakers that only sells boutique wine brands. Great atmosphere, views, wine and food.

  • Saltram is set in a beautiful building and they make flagship red wines renowned for their richness, intensity and character.

  • Yalumba, on the way to Eden. This is where I discovered that I am a Riesling kind of person!

  • Jacob’s Creek: even if you don’t want to go there to taste their wines (the Barossa can offer much more…), still I would stop by for some superb food and to chill out in the outdoor area. They have done a really good job there in terms of arranging spaces, architecture and design. And they also have accommodation options.

  • Hentley Farm: beautiful winery, in the heart of Seppeltsfield.

  • Two Hands Wines: another lovely structure and great wines, with spectacular views of the Barossa Valley from their outdoor area.

  • Whistler Wine: big garden, great views of the Valley. They often organise events with live music and more wine and cheese tasting in the garden.


SLEEPING:

Go Airbnb (you can get a discount voucher on your first booking here) or stay in one of the wineries. In both cases, you will have plenty of choice: there are some beautiful cottages available for rent and lovely guest houses in the whole Barossa. If you want to be close to the heart of the Valley, any of these villages are just a few mins drive from each other, just pick yours:

  • Tanunda
  • Eden
  • Angaston
  • Seppeltsfield
  • Nuriootpa
  • Rowland Flat

ACTIVITIES

Barossa Valley Lookout_SouthAustralia

That little dot in distance is me, at one of the many hidden lookouts around the Barossa Valley, South Australia.

There are also a lot of bush walking tracks in the natural parks all around the Barossa. With some stunning look out points:


It’s your turn now: go and discover more hidden gems in the Barossa Valley.

Be Consumed.

Sydney food series – the Collective Harvest experience in Surry Hills

CollectiveHarvest_Vegetables_Sydney_CuriousAbout

Fresh local produce from the Collective Harvest, Surry Hills, Sydney.

Every time I come across something special, every time my eyes see something beautiful or I experience an interesting new something, I can’t help it by wanting to share it with my friends.

Which is exactly what I did last night when I met some good friends for dinner: I told them about my first Collective Harvest’s GREEN BAG experience.

If you too are into real organic food (not the one you find labelled as ‘organic’ at the supermarket), if you also want to support the local producers, if you like knowing where your fruits, eggs, bread and vegetables come from, or if you simply love your body, you will love to experience the beauty of Collective Harvest.

CollectiveHarvest_GreenToteBags_Sydney_CuriousAbout

Choose your green bag from the weekly Collective Harvest selection.


WHAT IS IT?

The Collective Harvest is an online farmers market that delivers seasonal local produce from the Sydney region. They are also the only rooftop market in Australia at The Paramount Pictures building in Surry Hills.

They curate and deliver weekly produce bags which contain only what is best in season.


HOW DOES IT WORK?

Step 1

Collective Harvest source seasonal produce from farmers around Sydney. Week by week.

Step 2

You get a newsletter every Wednesday morning with the list of the farmers selection for that week. You can place the order online right away! Orders are open until 3pm Friday.

Step 3

Collective Harvest meet with the farmers on Friday and Saturday early mornings to pick up the local produce, and bag these goods up to deliver. Just for you.

Step 4

Saturday is the day!!! Either go to the Paramount Building (80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills) or choose the delivery option to your home for just $5 to get your special tote bag.

CollectiveHarvest_GreenBags_Sydney_CuriousAbout

The Collective Harvest Green Tote Bags, ready to be collected on the Paramount Building roof top, Surry Hills, Sydney.


WHY IS IT COOL?

  • it’s extremely easy. It’s a time saver and the quality is unbeatable!

  • this is not a chain

  • there are real people behind this new concept. And you can go and say hi to them when you collect your bag. Which makes everything more authentic

  • it makes you feel very unique: waking up on a sunny Saturday morning and collecting your fresh grocery on the roof top garden of one of the most iconic buildings of trendy Surry Hills (I also found out that Vice magazine has its office in the building, if you ever needed a confirmation that the Paramount was a cool building)

  • it gets to you faster and less fuel has been wasted in transporting across the country or seas

  • fruits and vegetables are collected for you from local farmers on the same morning – you can’t get any fresher than that! … unless you are farmer yourself of course

  • they share inspiring (easy) recipes on the website that encourage use of all the contents in your bag

  • farmers and products change every week. You never get the same bag twice

CollectiveHarvest_Collage_Sydney_CuriousAbout

The freshest organic produce, sourced locally and harvested within 24 hours of being on your plate. Photo credits: Collective Harvest, Sydney.


THE COST?

Choose between one (or more…) of their bags:

Easy!

This was my first time and I went for the Little Green Bag, which wasn’t little at all!!! I will have to be very creative this week in my kitchen, if I want to use up all the amazing vegetables I found in it! Absolutely loving it.

CollectiveHarvest_Sydney_CuriousAbout

Happy with my first Green Bag from Collective Harvest, surrounded by stylish Tokyo Bikes at the Paramount Building, Surry Hills, Sydney.

Here it is what I got:

Grown by Fabrice at First Farm Organics – Kanimbla Valley, The Blue Mountains (organic):

  • Cavolo Nero 1 bunch

  • Flat Leaf Parsley 1 bunch

  • Basil Greek and Purple mixed bunch

  • Striped Butternut half

  • African Gem Squash 1 – 2 depending on size

  • Broadbean Shoots 1 bunch

  • Black Russian Tomatoes 500 gm bag 4-6 pieces

Grown by Erika and Hayden at Epicurean Harvest – Shipley Plateau, The Blue Mountains (certified organic):

  • Winter Radish mixed bunch

  • 3 x Rosa 3 x Purple Daikon 3 x Watermelon

Conventional produce grown in Dural:

  • Sweetcorn 4

  • Snake beans 1 bunch

  • Spring onion 1 bunch

Flowers from My Flower Man


It’s your turn now. The Collective Harvest will be there on the roof top in Surry Hills next Sat. Make sure you have placed your order by then. You’ll find me there collecting my next green tote bag as well, and perhaps getting some breakfast at the superb Paramount Cafe’ downstairs!

The Collective Harvest are very active on social media. Follow them on your favourite network and get inspired by their amazing pictures and real life stories:

Instagram @collectiveharvest
Collective Harvest on Twitter
Collective Harvest board on Pinterest
… and they have a fab blog too!

Stay green!

My Sydney – weekend in Palm Beach

Are you a weekender like me?

Do you love making the most of your spare time and fit some mini-holidays – or STAYcations, as they call them here – in almost every weekend or public holiday?

Well, in this case, welcome to the club!

I am the queen of going on short breaks and exploring new places without taking any time off from work, taking advantage of any long weekends. And less than two years in Sydney have been enough for me to understand that the possibilities for weekenders like me are endless.

The Northern Beaches is one of my favourite destinations, less than one hour driving from Sydney (with no traffic).

I put together this mini-guide recently, for a good friend of mine who was going to Palm Beach over a weekend and wanted some tips on the area.

View of Palm Beach - ocean side - NSW Australia

View of Palm Beach, ocean side. NSW, Australia

FOOD & DRINKS – THE EATING BIT

  • Dinner in Avalon – the Starfish is an Asian fusion restaurant in Avalon, where the main chef is the owner’s Asian wife who cooks only using the freshest ingredients and is very creative in mixing them. One of the locals’ favourite restaurants. I have been back there a few times recently and the food and the atmosphere never let me down.

  • The Boat House is the perfect place to stop for lunch or just a coffee before you start the walk up to the Palm Beach lighthouse. It’s on the Pittwater side, next to the car park. Don’t let the queue put you off – food is great – and if you manage to sit outside in the terrace, you will be entertained by the small seaplanes landing on the water right in front of you. What a stunning location for a small restaurant!

Palm Beach BoatHouse Australia Northern Beaches

The Boat House in Palm Beach, NSW. Photo credit: Urban Usher

  • Cranky Fins is your alternative to the Boat House, if you can’t be bothered to wait in the queue. It’s cheaper, informal, with a funky and young atmosphere, but you don’t have to compromise on great food of course (remember? I am still the Italian picky one when it comes to food and freshness of ingredients…). My absolute favourite for a fish and chips, some Mexican tacos or just a fresh salad after a morning spent swimming in the ocean just across the road! It’s right in front of the golf club. Look up for a corner bar full of latin colours.

  • Lunch/Dinner/Drinks in Whale Beach: the evergreen and super popular among Sydneysiders Jonah’s. I am sure you have heard of it, it’s is very popular as a wedding venue, and there is a sea plane flying you there just for lunch from Sydney. This is a very exclusive venue for a special occasion, but nobody stops you from going there just for drinks… and for some stunning views over the ocean! Booking recommended.

  • Drinks/Dinner at The Mill in Avalon: a low-key – but with a great atmosphere and rustic interior design –  bar and restaurant with a community vibe where friends can relax and gather over a nice glass of wine and good food.


THINGS TO DO – THE EXPLORING BIT

  • Surfing the perfect wave in Whale Beach.
Solitary Surfer in Palm Beach - NSW Australia

Solitary surfer in Palm Beach – NSW, Australia

  • The obvious one: the lighthouse at the end of Palm Beach. You can’t miss it, it’s there at top overlooking the ocean on one side and Pittwater on the other side. The walk is pretty easy and the view is stunning.

  • Day trips from Palm Beach Wharf:

    • romantic river cruise stopping at Bobbin Head for lunch ($40 per person). Get fish and chips at the marina, you can’t get any fresher than that plus the view is of the bay is beautiful;

    • ferry to cross Pittwater and stop at The Basin, get off there and do one of the hikes there. Stunning views and friendly wild wallabies around… On the way back to Palm Beach, get off the ferry once again at Mackerel Beach.

  • Still within Pittwater, Scotland Island is worth a visit (and it can actually be another weekend all together), but you can’t get there from Palm Beach. The only way is to park your car in Church Point and get a 5 mins ferry from there.

Life is a Beach - VW minivan on Palm Beach - NSW Australia

The Australian lifestyle – living on the road with a VW minivan. Palm Beach, NSW, Australia.


WHERE TO STAY:

  • I am an Airbnber. For me the only way (wherever possible) is Airbnb. I stayed in a few different places in the Northern Beaches, but my absolute little gem I want to share with you is this unique ocean retreat in Whale Beach. It comes with amazing views straight from your bed and great breakfasts!


Do you think you can fit all of this into a weekend? mmmh, maybe not. You will have to go back at least twice then!

And as I always tell my friends “do like I do”: simply get lost in the area and its surroundings and discover new places, talk to local people and find your own favourites in Palm Beach.

STAY CURIOUS

Australian wine regions series: Mudgee in NSW

SYDNEYSIDERS: A WEEK-END ALTERNATIVE TO THE HUNTER VALLEY FOR WINE LOVERS

Mudgee Wine Region Vineyard

Vineyard in Mudgee, NSW, Australia.

To my fellow travellers who like me are into wine and good fresh produce. For the ones who are curious to see what else New South Wales has to offer, a part from the already stunning (and over touristy, I am afraid…) Hunter Valley.

Mudgee is your place! A weekend – or a long one, even better – can be enough to get a taste of its friendly inhabitants, its wine, its landscapes and food.

I had the luxury of spending an entire week there, and I used my time to get lost in the Mudgee valley and discover some little gems you might want to go and check out yourself:

My tips on food:

  • For breakfast or lunch this place right in town is simply lovely: Alby and Esthers. Hidden in a courtyard and with a lot of character, it will feel like being in a sweet old European town. They serve lovely cakes, delicious salads, soups and sandwiches, all prepared with local produce.

  • For a great dinner in style book a table at the Pipeclay Pumphouse. I am not a big fun of degustations (I would, but I never manage to get to the end…), but if you are… well, make sure you try this place out. The restaurant is only a short drive outside Mudgee town and the setting is simply stunning. They are also open for breakfast and lunch. Not cheap, but what a service and selection of food, plus they only use local sourced ingredients. I’d book in advance.

  • Wineglass Bar & Grill is a gorgeous little restaurant in the town center. They serve European food sourcing all the best from the region. Try and get a table in the upstairs area, very cosy and great atmosphere. Great for breakfast and lunch, but also open for dinner (prices increase then though).

Alby and Esthers Mudgee NSW Australia

Alby and Esthers – view of the courtyard, Mudgee, NSW, Australia.


My tips on wineries:

  • Lowe – after testing their wine, go for a walk in their vineyards. They have different tracks you can follow just around the main house (max 30 mins) and there are a lot of great pic-nic spots. Beautiful and serene.

  • Logan – on your way out of Mudgee, driving back to Sydney, they are on your right. The modern architecture of the building is stunning! All glass walls over their vineyards, classy. We had a degustation of wine and cheese board (I can handle this one!) overlooking the nature… paradise on earth. Their are also very active with their marketing activities: my suggestion would be to submit for their newsletter to keep up to date with upcoming guest chefs and special events.

  • Rosby Vineyard organises popular wine launches. Something very unique in the Mudgee region, which consists of a day up the Rosby Mud Hut where you’ll have the opportunity to meet the vigneron and learn new skills from their experienced wine taster. As well as enjoying a memorable day of wine, food and beautiful surroundings, of course. Check the calendar with the next events on their website and reserve your ticket well in advance. I am going back myself in March for their next vintage wine launch!

  • Pieter Van Gent provides bicycle wine tours, for the more adventurous among you. In typical Dutch style!

  • High Valley Wine & Cheese: for a unique cheese tasting experience overlooking the beautiful Mudgee vineyards.

Logan Wines Mudgee NSW Australia

The modern Logan building in the Mudgee valley, NSW, Australia.


My tips on accommodation:

  • No doubt on this one: Rosby Guesthouse is the place where you want to be. You will have the whole studio (which is actually muuuuch bigger than a studio!) or you can share the big guesthouse with some friends (4 ensuite rooms and a huge living room area with fireplace) and in both cases you will be overlooking the valley with stunning views of vineyards and kangaroos. Amazing interior design and unbeatable location. As well as fresh organic breakfast included and free access to their veg patch and eggs every day.

Rosby Guesthouse Exterior Mudgee NSW Australia

Rosby Guesthouse – exterior. Mudgee, NSW, Australia.


My tips on bars:

  • Right in the heart of town, you’ll have to try the very cute oldest wine bar in NSW: Roth’s wine bar. They often have live music, their selection of portos is second to none and the fireplace is constantly on. Cosy and full of character.

Mudgee Roths nsw australia

Drinking porto by the fireplace at Roth’s wine bar, Mudgee, NSW, Australia.


My tips on the surroundings:

  • The little village of Gulgong is absolutely worth a visit: founded in the old days of the Australian gold rush, it has over 100 buildings with National Trust classification. Drive 20 mins north of Mudgee, park your car as soon as you get to town and wonder around the little old streets. You will literally jump back in time: the old bakery, pharmacy, historical pub and emporiums will conquer you. Sydney will feel universes away from where you are.

gulgong nsw australia

Typical old fashion store in the streets of Gulong, NSW, Australia.

My advice is always: go and let the place surprise you! You will surely discover much more…

… just try and avoid the summer months: it gets very hot and dry up there.

Happy travelling!

My London – Around the corner from Shoreditch

As much as I put love and effort into it, my post about Shoreditch is absolutely not exhaustive of what East London can offer to a curious traveller.

If you are not lazy – and you can’t be lazy if you want to LIVE London anyway! – and if you are a tiny bit intrigued by what you have seen so far around Old Street, you will want to explore more and see what’s behind Shoreditch.

Simply cross Shoreditch Highstreet and head towards Brick Lane and you will find more quirky art installations, more vintage shops and food markets, and yes – true -, possibly more tourists. But you’ll also bump into some hidden gems in tiny alleyways, if you allow yourself to get lost a bit.


BRICK LANE

As you get to the actual Brick Lane – so called for the bricks once surfacing the whole street – you will soon notice plenty of vintage shops (some unique pieces of clothes and accessories are waiting for you there), modern and edgy boutique design clothing and shoes shops, the best Indian restaurants in town (just pick any, they are all veeeeeery Indian!), and the super popular Bagel Bakery! They have been selling yummy bagels for ages, they are open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, and they are still super cheap – I recall 2 pounds per bagel – with salmon and cream cheese or with salted meat. Super yammy especially in the middle of the night in between a bar and a club! Don’t get confused with the bakery next door, which also sells bagels, and has a yellow sign outside. Sorry next door bakery, but you can’t compare…

Bagel Bakery Brick Lane London

The one and only Bagel Bakery in Brick Lane, London.

Keep on walking (whilst eating your second bagel) on Brick Lane and on your right you’ll see the Old Truman Brewery, which is now venue of the Brick Lane market, with art exhibitions, lots of shops and street food stalls.

You can spend the whole day getting around Brick Lane and its side streets, getting in each vintage shop, trying all the street or Indian food you can fit, listening to the live music in its bars, discovering how many graffitis Banksy has left around and maybe following the steps of Jack the Ripper – he used to kill his victims in Brick Lane area and they are now numerous tours dedicated to his life.

I am a slow traveller. And in this instance as well I would recommend you to take your time and dedicate at least one day to Brick Lane only – at least! You can always go back to East London another day, get off in Liverpool Street (tube) or Shoreditch Highstreet (railway).

Another big market will be expecting you just around the corner: Spitafield market. Not sure I even need to say anything about it. It’s one of the most popular clothes/accessories/furniture/food/anything markets in London! With lots of unique pubs all around it, just to take a break from your crazy impulsive (but totally justified in my eyes) shopping.


COLUMBIA ROAD

The flower market is a very special place. And it’s open on Sunday mornings only (write this down now!).

Now, I hate flowers (… I know, weird, but hey!) and never bought anything there, but I used to go very often, for the atmosphere, the small design shops with some unique pieces from all over the globe, the cafes and the cute little houses…

Despite being such a tiny street, Columbia Road has a concentration of cool places to visit that I will let you discover on your own…. but I can’t help by sharing my picks of that area (why would I have a blog otherwise?):

Printers And Stationers wine food London Columbia Road

Printer & Stationers Wine&Food, Ezra Street, London.

  • Printers & Stationers: you will think… “boring”, but this is actually a quirky warehouse (you will have noticed that I am defining “quirky” a lot of places in East London, but this is what makes East London so cool and different from the rest!) that is now being converted in a restaurant. The owner sources organic wine mainly from France and he offers a selection of gourmet artisan food to go with it. Not to be missed!
  • The Royal Oak: a great gastro pub for your next Sunday roast in the upstairs dining room.
  • Franze’ & Evans: this cafe/restaurant makes everything from homemade breakfast, creative salads, brunch, lunch, and after work tapas, Worth walking those 4 mins away from Columbia Road for it!

HACKNEY

When you reach the end of Columbia road, keep on walking in between the gardens and the houses and cross the main road (Hackney Road). What you’ll find on the other side, as soon as you cross, is the Hackney City Farm with plenty of farm animals to play with (it’s not just for kids!).

Keep on walking on the main street – cars are not allowed there, everyone rides a bicycle in Hackney, and everyone seems to be a writer, an actor or a kind of artist in Hackney – called Goldsmith’s Road. Cross the canal and right after the small bridge you will hit the Broadway Market – outdoor, exactly on the road you are on -. A part from the market (which in my view is becoming too touristy but still sells great organic food), the whole Goldsmith’s Road is fun, full of some really good restaurants, bars and more shops!

broadway market hackney London

Broadway Market in Hackney, London.

Stories on Broadway is the newest bar in the area: from the people behind the Book Club in Shoreditch, Stories continues the “drinking and thinking” ethos of creative conviviality. A place to go and get inspired during the day, which turns in a super lively cocktail bar and restaurant at night. The place to be in Hackney nowadays.

At the end of the road you’ll see London Fields, another lovely park in the heart of London, again very buzzing and surrounded by more gastro pubs. It also features one of the few outdoor swimming pool in London. Great for the – British – summer.

THE END