A glimpse of El Salvador, Part II

In this post I will be featuring El Salvador’s beautiful beaches. Mostly known for its surfing, El Salvador offers a myriad of beach options.

El Tunco

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Surf shops fill up this small town, offering lessons to the experienced and unexperienced. The beach itself is not the best for swimming but if you’re a surfer, it is a must. There are ample restaurants, accommodation options and bars. The nightlife is second to none as all the surfers find a reason to party after a day under the sun.    

El Cuco

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For a serene beach experience with low tide (perfect for swimming!) and vast shores, visit El Cuco – a quaint fishing village.

A perfect place to spend your time at the beach, Vista las Olas Resort offers a great option for lounging on the beach or surfing in the nearby Las Flores.

Intipuca beach which is nearby is also worth visiting.

 

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Moving Countries

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The time has come to move again. As much as I’ve moved in the past years, the same mixed feelings take over me each time. I feel melancholic leaving behind the friends, places and city I’ve gotten to know so well. On the other hand, I feel sheer excitement to discover what adventures lie ahead of me.

Since January I knew I was headed to New York. But it was until this week I could tick off most items of my to do list. Visa: check. Ticket: check. Packing: check. Accommodation: check. Goodbye party: check.

Now all that is left is to enjoy the last couple of days and board my flight. 

Cheers to a new chapter in my life!

A glimpse of El Salvador, Part I

I will be featuring my country, El Salvador, in a few of my next posts. When travelers go to the region, they tend to skip El Salvador. Known as the “pinkie” of Central America, my country is full of natural beauty and culture.

This post features the popular “Ruta de las Flores”, a collection of five scenic towns known for its mountains, flowering coffee plants and unique arts and crafts. The towns are located a few kilometres from each other and can be easily accessed from the main highway.

1. Nahuizalco

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An indigenous town, Nahuizalco is known for its unique handicrafts. Explore the night market, where stalls are lit by candle only.

2. Salcoatitan

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This village housed El Salvador’s first coffee plantations back in 1860. If you enjoy outdoor activities, Salcoatitan is a great town offering mountain biking trails. Click here for trail recommendations between the Ruta de las Flores towns.

Park and Restaurant La Colina

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La Colina was founded in 1996, offering its guests food, recreation and cabins for accommodation.  You will find some of the most typical Salvadoran dishes in a cozy atmosphere and natural surroundings.

3. Juayua

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Also known as the City of the Red Orchids due to the abundant number of this flower in the mountains, Juayua has a rich historical background.

One of the tours which is impossible to miss is the route of the 7 waterfalls, which takes approximately 5 hours to complete. The tourist office can offer you further information and can lend you rappel equipment for the waterfalls.

4. Apaneca

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If you want a picturesque view of the coffee plantations, take the Apaneca Canopy tour.  Don’t miss out on the beautiful lagoons, particularly Laguna Verde and Laguna de Ninfas.

5. Concepcion de Ataco

Known for the peacefulness of its mountains and vivid colors, a couple of days are ideal to wander through the market and walk the pebbled roads. Ataco houses some of El Salvador’s most unique art.

Casa San Antonio

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This beautiful two-floored house in the heart of Ataco is a good accommodation option for 12 guests.

Attack Oh Burgers!

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This new burger joint was opened in 2013 and is already the talk of town. Offering artisanal burgers, chef Oscar Pena has applied his knowledge gained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to bring to El Salvador an exquisite food venture.

 

Amazing Places to Discover

I’m frequently asked what my favorite place is, what amazing trips I’ve done. And while it’s difficult to pinpoint a particular one, here are three memories of unforgettable experiences.

Harbin, China

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I was in Beijing for my gap year and we had a long weekend coming up. My friends and I hadn’t planned much so we desperately went to the train station a few days before to see where we could go. Shanghai: sold out. Guangzhou: Sold out! Xian: Sold out!!! We could only find hard seat trains to Harbin, which at the time we didn’t know much about. Harbin or the hard seats, in case you were wondering. The adventurous in us didn’t hesitate and two days later, off we went to this northern city close to Russia.

My first advice here is: don’t ever buy hard seat train tickets in China. We went into the train, which was full of people sitting down, standing up on the hallways, using the toilet as a seat (with their live chicken in hand). We realized it was a local train stopping every 5-10 minutes. Finally we got a seat and they literally were cold, hard seats. “What were we thinking when we bought this?” is all I could ask myself during the ride. It must have been one of those lost in translation moments.

1,200km and 20 hours (!) later, we had arrived to -30C weather. We went to the famous Ice Festival which was incredible. Life-size buildings made out of ice lit up with LED lights, large snow statues and fireworks galore. The cold weather was nothing next to these beautiful sights. The first Ice Festival was in 1963 and since then, it has attracted China’s best ice sculptors and thousands of visitors each year.

Retrospectively, what made this trip unforgettable for me was the immersion into an authentic Chinese experience and having visited an incredible and hard-to-believe iced theme park. If you’re visiting China in the winter, don’t miss out on Harbin!

Patagonia, Argentina

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Whilst living in Argentina, I didn’t want to leave the country without visiting Patagonia. In particular, the famous glacier Perito Moreno in Calafate. My friend and I decided to go after quickly planning the trip a few weeks before.

The unmissable part of this trip is a 6 hour trek on Perito Moreno. I had never seen views like these. I highly recommend doing this tour with Hielo y Aventura, they are very well rated and I wasn’t disappointed. In other glaciers, you usually get on a boat and get close to it only. This experience was way beyond that. We were on top of the glacier, with high peaks of snow which appeared like frozen snow waves. Their color was the clearest white and blue and we could even walk on top of frozen lakes. The day ended perfectly with a whisky on the rocks to warm us up.

If you are in Patagonia, El Chalten is also worth visiting. Known as the trekking capital of Argentina, this small mountain village is quaint and home to Cerro Grande and the popular Cerro Fitzroy. These two mountains are great for climbing and you have amazing views from the top.

One of my hobbies is trekking and doing this contrastingly on ice and mountains was a great and unique experience.

Cabo Polonio, Uruguay

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It was Easter break and I had failed to make travel plans. Luckily I had a friend in Uruguay who invited me to spend the holidays with her and her friends in Cabo Polonio. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it was 1) a new place and 2) a beach. Enough to convince me.

I’m glad I went, as Cabo Polonio is a beach which is only accessible by 4x4s. The town has a population of 90 inhabitants and has no electricity or running water. Although this would potentially have been a deal breaker for me, I loved it. It was the perfect time away from civilization, modern life, my computer and phone. It was a back-to-basics experience full of beach time, cocktails with the sunset, great food and company.

Due to the lack of electricity, the sky has been one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was full of stars everywhere and shooting stars were easily and frequently spotted. The best time to go is when there is a full moon, as there are parties on the beach.

What I loved about this experience was exploring this hippie town and its sand dunes, eating great food and spending time with friends. Nothing beats basics.

 

The most amazing trips I’ve done have been on an impulse. It is this open mindedness that allows me to explore new places with a great sense of adventure. If you need travel recommendations for any of these places, get in touch!

5 Ways To Style A T-shirt

My friend Kirsty asked me to write a post on different ways to style a t-shirt, so here you go! T-shirts are so versatile – you can dress them up or down. For this post, I have chosen the J Crew kiss kiss tee and will show you 5 ways in which you can style yours.

1. Casual meets Chic

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Pair the tee with lightly distressed jeans for an informal look. Add chicness to your outfit by wearing silver pumps and finally, add a touch of neutral with a camel colored bag.

2. Make a Statement

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Make a statement with a crystal necklace and a bold splash of color. Don’t be afraid to add leopard print and neutrals into the mix.

3. Cozy Up

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Fur vests have become popular fashion items and a basic wardrobe staple. Pair your tee with one, slightly flared jeans and booties. Finally, add a splash of color with a simple pendant necklace.

4. Rock It in Gold

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Layer a white chiffon blouse under the tee and roll up the sleeves. Pair with a gold metallic skirt and black & gold heels. Add a chic element to it with a classy pendant necklace.

  • Silk off white chiffon blouse from Tibi
  • Gold metallic leather mini skirt from Gucci
  • Black heels with gold strap sandals from ASOS
  • Black and gold pendant from Bulgari

5. Sporty Chic

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Wear a sporty look by pairing your tee with slim fit jeans, a knit scarf and sneakers. Finish the look by wearing your aviators.

Which look do you like the most? What other ways do you like styling your tee?

If you like these outfit ideas, be sure to check out my personal styling service!

7 Lessons I Learned About Style While Living Abroad

Having lived in 6 countries in the past 8 years, I have developed a knack for style influenced by where I was at the time. My fashion sense has oscillated over time, but at the moment my style is best described as eclectic chic, representing a mixture of my various international experiences. 
 
Here are the key fashion lessons I’ve learned so far, they will be useful to you when traveling abroad – Enjoy!  
 
1. Browse local stores
 
Local stores (both chains and independent boutiques) have great finds that you would normally not find back home. Boutiques tend to have unique pieces that have not been mass-produced and therefore it’s unlikely you will run into someone wearing the same outfit. For example, I got a beautiful floral dress from a Chinese boutique that is admired by everyone wherever I go!
 

2. Set a budget 

Whenever you go shopping, set a budget before you leave home. Money tends to go fairly quickly, especially abroad. It may sound like a boring task but if you buy within your budget, you will avoid the post-buyers remorse that usually ruins that otherwise great shopping trip.

 
3. Fit is key
 
Fit is everything, especially as people’s general builds are different in each country. I was in Japan once and their coat sleeves run slightly shorter because of Japanese women’s arm length. I loved one of the coats so I ended up buying it anyways and it looks great when I wear it with long-sleeved shirts! 
Have you ever found yourself sizing up or down because they don’t have your size? I must admit I’m guilty of this as well but it’s best to avoid it. If you’re unsure how it fits, ask a friend to take a photo of you to see yourself objectively. Another good alternative is to get those pieces you absolutely love slightly tailored. Bear in mind some items will be easier to tailor, i.e. hems but taking a blazer in, for example, will be slightly trickier.
 
4. Dress to impress…
 
… Yourself! Is your outfit too daring? Too boring? You can never please everyone so dress in what makes you feel amazing. Living abroad you most likely will have a different style than that of locals. Adopt what you like and mix it with your own sense of style. Living in Argentina, I used to wear my favorite LBD from London to go out in the evening. It is a one shoulder dress with a fan-like detail on the other shoulder. Very Lady Gaga – but less riské (by about 10x!). I feel GREAT in it! I turned heads (in a good way) by being true to my sense of style. 
   
5. Don’t be afraid to experiment 
 
Fashion is like art, undefined. Don’t be afraid to use different patterns, materials and layers in one outfit. I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my inspirations mix leopard print with polka dots. Fashion rules are there to be broken! 
 
6. Style can be learned
 
Use celebrities, Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration on style. Check out @alescloset on Instagram for inspiration on how to style your everyday favorites and buy gently worn clothes from all over the world. Alternatively, hire a personal stylist to help you re-vamp your wardrobe! Costly, you say? Check out www.facebook.com/stylingbyale1 for an affordable personal stylist service. Style and creativity can be exercised every day – it’s never too late to start!
 
7. Fashion is fun!
 
All in all, fashion should be fun! Experiment, explore and be true to yourself! 
 
My next move is to New York City – the fashion capital of the world. Stay tuned! What fashion lessons have you learned so far?
 

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Inspired Outfits

I was watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s the other day and absolutely love each and every outfit Audrey Hepburn wears. They are so chic and timeless. I decided to put together look-alike outfits for you to browse and shop. Check out the discounts for La Moda Viaggia readers at the end of the post. Enjoy!

1. Black dress with pearls
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– Dress from Etsy shop MichyLouDotCom. $169 (discount for La Moda Viaggia readers)
– Pearl necklace and earrings from Etsy shop AlexiBlackwellBridal. $115
– Long leather gloves from Leon Max. $98
– Vintage Wayfarer sunglasses from Etsy shop KinkyFlamingo. $76 (discount for La Moda Viaggia readers)

2. Orange coat with fur hat

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– Orange coat from Karen Millen. $430
– Mink fur hat from Etsy shop BenoitEtNatalie. $69
– Black heels from New Look. $28
– Osma vintage sunglasses from Etsy shop KinkyFlamingo. $82 (discount for La Moda Viaggia readers)
– Quilted cross body bag by ASOS. $30

3. Black dress with wide brim hat

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– Black dress with peplum hem from Givenchy. $889
– Black wide brim Audrey hat by Award Millinery Design. $128 (discount for La Moda Viaggia readers)
– Stones stud earrings by ASOS. $11
– Black heels from New Look. $28.

4. Sleep mask and ear plugs

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– Sleep mask and ear plugs/earrings set from Etsy shop talulahblue. $59

As a thank you to our readers, I have partnered with some great boutiques to offer you discounts!

– KinkyFlamingo – Free shipping for all sunglasses throughout February 2014 by mentioning coupon code LAMODA14
– Award Millinery Design – 10% off black wide brim Audrey hat until 31 March 2014. Originally $128
MichyLouDotCom – 15% off her store with coupon code FIFTEEN. You can get her black dress which is paired with the pearl necklace in the movie
BenoitEtNatalie – Message them with the coupon code TIFFANY for a 15% discount. You can get the mink fur hat and much more
AlexiBlackwellBridal – 10% off her store with coupon code LAMODAVIAGGIA10. You can get the statement pearl necklace

Pop-Ups Around The World

Pop-ups, whether it be restaurants, bars, stores or events, have become a worldwide trend in the past years. The concept is that these utilize unused spaces for special events that last a few hours, weeks or some even become permanent establishments due to their popularity.

Read on to discover my current pop-up recommendations!

1. Diner en Blanc

http://dinerenblanc.info

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This invite-only elegant picnic event founded in Paris is held in 25 cities around the world, aiming to “recall the elegance and glamour of court society”. It is usually held at a secret yet popular city landmark which is revealed on the night of the event. All dressed in white, diners are treated to an unforgettable experience, where each brings their own table and a 3 course meal.

The night is full of good food, great company, live music and sparkles. The event only happens once a year in each city, so keep checking their website for when it’s coming to yours! For invites please contact me.

2. Clubhouse Jose Ignacio

http://oasiscollections.com/clubs/clubhouse-jose-ignacio

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Punta del Este in Uruguay is often referred to the St Tropez of South America, becoming one of the chicest places to vacation in the southern-hemisphere summer.

Oasis, a luxury rental company, launched the members-only Clubhouse Jose Ignacio in December 2013 and is open select dates through to April. Reserve one of their guest rooms to enjoy sunset drinks, daily pool parties, guest DJs and an exclusive beach front.

3. The Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop

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This year’s New York Fashion Week will welcome a Marc Jacobs pop up shop where customers will not be able to pay in dollars but rather with their use of the hashtag #MJDaisyChain across social media.

The shop will open February 7 to 9 in Soho, New York. Visit to enjoy a comfortable lounge with food, drinks and accessory giveaways throughout the day.

4. The Pop-Up Hotel

http://thepopuphotel.com

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Pop-ups are not limited to restaurants or events. The Pop-Up Hotel tours Britain, following the most popular festivals, retreats and events. It’s best described as glamorous camping, offering services which you may expect in boutique hotels.

For those of you attending the Glastonbury festival in June, be sure to consider this hotel as an accommodation option!

5. Yoshi Bar

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Students in Seian University of Art and Design in Japan have created a space out of reed grass for them to meet up in the campus. It’s abstract design is such that it is highly portable and recyclable, and was put together in only two days.

Pop-ups appear and disappear quickly so keep yourself updated on what’s going on in sites like http://popuprepublic.com or your city’s Time Out magazine. Have you been to any pop-ups?

8 Markets Not To Miss in London

Markets are a characteristic trait of London. There are many different ones to explore throughout the city and are great for wandering around during the weekend. Below are my recommendations of the ones you shouldn’t miss out on:

1. Borough Market

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Highly popular Borough market is great for a lunch bite or grocery shopping. You can find all kinds of fresh produce, meats, baked goods, condiments and specialized ingredients.

Although there are a quite a few food establishments in the market, I suggest eating from the food carts which are lined up on the side of the market. You can get anything from oysters to Argentine empanadas.

2. Portobello Road Market

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Also known as Notting Hill market, Portobello Road has been a market since the 1800s. It is popular for its antiques but you can find anything from groceries to vintage clothes, cool posters and used clothes.

I love having a coffee or a glass of wine here. Another great recommendation is visiting the Electric, one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK. The seats are leather couches with foot rests and you can get cocktails, beers and snacks before the movie starts. Isn’t this a great combination?!

3. Columbia Road Flower Market

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I must admit this market was a late discovery but one I quickly grew fond of. Columbia Road market offers a plethora of plants and flowers in East London. It’s surrounding shops offer gardening tools too.

A tip is to go later in the afternoon around 2pm as prices are slashed up to half! There are some great deals, whether you want a bunch of flowers or a larger potted plant.

4. Covent Garden

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In the middle of central London lies Covent Garden, located in the iconic Market Building. You can stroll down the stalls and watch live performers around the plaza. Just recently Paul McCartney played an impromptu concert in Covent Garden. The multi-city event Diner en Blanc also organized their first ever London dinner in this plaza, which I was fortunate to attended.

As it’s centrally located, you can do your shopping around the area, grab lunch or coffee in Covent Garden and stroll the market stalls whilst at the same time, do some people watching.

5. Old Spitalfields Market

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Known for its independent designer stalls, here you can find anything from unique clothing items to art and food. After having shopped and eaten, head over to the clubs and bars in Shoreditch which are just down the road.

I loved the diversity of designers I found in this market. After having moved out of Argentina, I met an Argentine jewelry maker who I bought a gorgeous necklace from. Similarly, you find fashion students and independent artists selling their unique designs.

6. Camden Market

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Camden market offers about 100 shops and stalls throughout. This market has an alternative feel to it and you can find a mix of vintage, funky and emerging designer fashion.

Don’t miss out on visiting the Cyberdog store, which is a unique shop that offers futuristic and fluorescent fashion at the beat of trance music in the background.

7. Brixton Village Market

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This is the ultimate place for eating on a budget in South London. There are a vast number of small restaurants offering Thai food, one of the best oven pizzas in the UK, hand made Chinese dumplings and more.

Nothing beats a Sunday lunch at Brixton Village Market, where you can go food hopping from one small joint to the other with a small group of friends.

8. Brick Lane Market

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Last but not least, Brick Lane market spreads across various streets in East London. Here you can find all kinds of vintage clothes, second hand furniture and anything else you can imagine!

I love eating here, particularly Indian food as it’s London’s largest and most famous enclave of Indian eateries. I would also suggest stopping by a shisha bar for a break.

What other markets in London do you like?

Best closed door restaurants in Argentina

Having lived two years in Argentina, dining out was definitely at the top of my list of guilty pleasures. Buenos Aires was the first city where I encountered the ever growing phenomenon of closed door restaurants. The concept typically consists of a dinner party with strangers and a fixed course menu. The setting is usually at the chef’s home, which makes the experience an intimate one. Here are my top recommendations for closed door restaurants in Argentina:

1. Casa Mun, Mendoza

http://www.chefmun.com

One of my favorites, Casa Mun offers it’s guests Asian and Argentine fusion cuisine. Located in the popular wine region of Mendoza, the restaurant offers 40 seats with a splendid view of the vineyards in Bodega Casarena.

I initially went to this closed door restaurant when it recently opened in Buenos Aires, and have enjoyed seeing it grow in popularity over the last years. Chef Mun is a delight to dine with and the quality of ingredients and wine pairings he chooses are exquisite.

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2. Casa Coupage, Buenos Aires

http://www.casacoupage.com

Located in the buzzling streets of the Palermo neighborhood in Buenos Aires, this small restaurant is easy to miss due to the lack of a visible sign in the entrance. Ran by it’s two owners Santiago and Ines, this small installment is cozy and provides high quality food.

I recommend getting the fixed menu with the wine pairings to make the best of this visit. The sommelier is highly knowledgeable and the service is spectacular.

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3. Aramburu, Buenos Aires

http://www.arambururesto.com.ar

This tiny jewel in San Telmo is the only restaurant in Argentina that offers molecular cuisine. Recently, it was featured as one of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America and isn’t short of awards won.

Aramburu is a great restaurant to experience something new in dining. The small individual tables make this the perfect warm and exclusive setting for a date. I thoroughly enjoyed trying something new – Aramburu was the perfect place for that!

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4. Cocina Sunae, Buenos Aires

http://www.cocinasunae.com

Chef Christina Sunae combines her experience from the Philippines and New York to bring to the table an authentic flavor from Southeast Asia. She serves this food from the comfort of her home in Colegiales, which is open from Wednesday to Saturday every week.

I loved dining at Cocina Sunae, especially when I craved spicy Asian food, which is sometimes difficult to find in Argentina. Her cozy environment makes it perfect to dine with a small group of friends.

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5. Casa Felix, Buenos Aires

http://www.colectivofelix.com/casa-felix

This Chacarita neighborhood restaurant in Buenos Aires opens up it’s doors a few months a year to offer it’s guests a pescetarian menu to a maximum of 15 diners at a time. The fixed menu offers the best of Latin American spices and ingredients in a 5 course meal that can include wine pairings.

Casa Felix was my first closed door restaurant dining experience. I found the ambience is ideal to get to know other people who have a passion for great food.

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So there you go! My top 5 closed door restaurants in Argentina. What is yours?