I SPY: Berlin

Nov 30, 2016

Back on track after Thanksgiving?  I'm still a little fuzzy with the time difference, because while you were feeding your face I was in BERLIN, Germany feeding my soul!  Short trip I know.  But hey, when a review is called, your kid free for the holidays, and you land a great deal, you just go!

Didn't take much convincing to hop on that plane because there is so much hype around Berlin lately, and I was curious.  In two words I can describe it as grungy cool.  I wouldn't call it a pretty city, nor a city for everyone.  I found it very grey; the weather, the buildings, the grit.  But the street art and graffiti give it a colorful edge and a vibe which attracts the artsy kind.  Overall it felt young.  The people were really friendly and laid back, and there's an influx of many young investors since Berlin is currently the top city in Europe for start ups.  So much so there are such a thing as start up tours.  Have an idea?  Move to Berlin!

Just like NYC there was a big foodie culture, hipster fashions, pop ups, contrast between old meets new, cafe and club scene, emphasis on the arts, reliable public transportation, posters and ethical opinions, 24 hour shops…so much freedom and creativity I felt right at home.  Obviously!  I love all that stuff.  Besides their trending man buns and techno music!  HA.


Built in 1905 this Evangelical church is set along the canal, on Museum Island.  I didn't go inside but the outside was beautiful from all angles.

An 18th century neoclassical city gate that use to mark the start of the road from Berlin to Brandenburg.  The gate symbolizes peace and unity.

The East Side Gallery was my first must, because this freedom wall is what springs to mind when people mention Berlin.  Happens I also have a thing for walls and street art too, so it was a pleasure to walk the 1km long wall, and view over 100 murals in the brisk cold.

It was moving to learn about the Jews in Germany during Hitlers time and see personal artifacts, and the garden of exile.  But standing in the dark Holocaust tower and experiencing the Fallen Leaves exhibit by Menashe Kaddishman is what made my hair stand.  10,000 iron plates with cut out faces, representing the victims, which the artist encourages you to walk on because he wants the lost to feel visible.  The loud metallic sounds of the plates when walked on mimic the cries of the tortured.

I've never seen a cooler Parliament building!  Tickets must be reserved in advance.  If your there during peak tourist season I would advise you to secure tickets way ahead of time.  It is free of charge, but online registration for tickets is required, and time slots sell out quickly.  Do it on their website.

This was on my list and I never made it because I missed the boat not realizing that it is an hour away from the city center, and tickets need to be bought in advance.  OOPS.  So plan for it in advance if you wish to visit this former cold war spy station.  Tickets can be purchased online.

Photo Credit: IG @dangjessicaa

A main landmark in Berlin, that helped me gain my bearings.  It is 368 meters high.  The tallest structure in Germany and the second tallest in Europe.  You can ride up to the top, but I didn't.  The fog every morning covered the top, so it was pointless.  But maybe you will have good weather when your there.  I'm sure the city views are amazing from up top on a clear day.


Shoppers paradise if your looking for local designers and something unique to add to your closet.  I'm glad I went on my last day, otherwise I could've wasted my whole trip in there!


If your there on Sundays try and catch this flea and food market located in Mauerpark.  I unfortunately ran out of time before catching my flight home.  But that's ok, saved me calories and money!

Photo Credit: IG @vic_blk

As mentioned in a separate post it's a super cute cafe.  Go for breakfast, brunch, lunch or tea.  Closed for dinner.

Doner kebabs are readily available street food in Berlin.  However, I heard from quite a few locals claiming this to be the best.  It was definitely yummy.  However I am no doner kebab expert.  P.S there is a line so go early or avoid peak times.

Their concept shop is set up like a cafe / library with communal tables to plug in and do work, grab a coffee, smoothie or light fare such as soup, salad and sandwiches.  It's such a nice comfy space.  Also their restaurant downstairs is open for dinner and accessible to non members too.

A must try is their currywurst which they're famous for.  It is just as easy as finding a hot dog on the streets of NYC!  Also their pretzels, and waffles are other faves of mine off the streets.

I stayed in an old KGB building!  It's service apartments.  Nothing fancy but clean, modern, and in a convenient location in the Mitte area.  The 'value apartment' I stayed in was tiny.  But the configuration was amazing.  Somehow in that small space they were able to fit in everything including a kitchen sink and stove!  The staff at the reception were helpful in guiding me, and there was a lovely coffee shop Type Hype next door to get your caffeine fix and breakfast.  Would totally stay there again.

Lux Eleven
Rosa-Luxemburg-Str. 9-13
10178 Berlin
T: +49 3093622800


If you want to be like a local rent a bike.  There are plenty of rental kiosks around the city, and it is the best way to tour the city.

Huge sneaker culture over there.  Everyone is wearing them.  Rarely see high heels.  Probably because they're got many cobblestone streets, which would mess up your nice shoes.  So get comfy.

If your there around X'mas time attend a Christmas fair that's set up like a winter village.  There were a few going on in the city with carnival rides, cute stalls, where I ended up buying my X'mas ornaments, street food, and many Gluhwein stalls. Gluhwein is a common drink in Europe, usually a apres ski drink.  If you haven't had it before it is essentially warm red wine.  Keeps your soul warm and friendly!

Three nights in Berlin wasn't long enough, but was an appetizer.  Since it was my first time I did take the touristy route, and could really only cover the East side Mitte area.  There is definitely a desire to go back and make a Berlin Part II to have a chance to explore the other neighborhoods.  But it was a good start and introduction to a new city which I really enjoyed.

I SPY: Let's Taco 'Bout It

Nov 29, 2016

What's cooking in Berlin?  A lot of sausages!  Not unusual for Germany.  But I did discover a really cute cafe serving Japanese fusion cuisine.  A hidden oasis from the city bustle that looked like a greenhouse inside.  House of Small Wonder.  Little did I know that it happens to originate from Brooklyn, NY.  Only found that out just now!

Isn't it a cute brunch spot?  I now have to check out the Brooklyn location to see if it as quaint!  The menu is the same though, that includes typical Japanese dishes such as Katsu Don, and other common comfort foods.  But have you ever heard of 'Taco Rice'?

Let's taco 'bout it!  Their menu's description…Invented in the 60's, Tex-Mex favorite with a Japanese twist: ground all-natural pork, chopped vegetables (avocado, spinach, tomato), Parmesan and fried organic egg over rice.

I was impressed and came home and made it for my boys last night!  I served it on top of garlic fried rice, and used ground beef doctored with McCormick's taco seasoning.  Kids loved it.  Easy, peasy, Japaneesee!  It doesn't take much skill to make, so try it, otherwise if you live in NY head on over to the Brooklyn location for the real deal.

I SPY: Netflix & Chill

Nov 28, 2016

Tis the season to Netflix & Chill?  It's starting to get cold out and it's time to hibernate and avoid the holiday crowds.  I started binging early on my 7 hour plane ride get away this weekend, and ended up super hero obsessed.  Hence the wall I found in Berlin!

Which is your favorite super hero?  I don't have one, and only know them because of my kids.  Although I have joked that I am Super Woman without the cape!  They exist!!  I just watched two Netflix series Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and there's no costume or cape involved.  Not even any flying or other super crazy unbelievable powers.  The scenarios set in NYC didn't feel fiction to me either.  If anything too real.  Now on my daily commute every time I past Harlem 125th street I'm going to be looking out for Luke Cage!  HA.

Trust me I'm not the fiction type girl.  Never been into Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or any Marvel movies…again just watched because of my kids.  Plus I'm typically not a TV series watcher, because I really don't have time to watch TV.  But it was soooo good.  Seriously!  Watch Jessica Jones first and then the sequel Luke Cage.  They're intertwined.  I can't wait for Season 2!

I SPY: Chill Pill

Nov 23, 2016

Home for the holidays?  Post Thanksgiving feast, if you need to A) get away from your family or B) bored and everything is closed then I have a recommendation for you!

Seen Moonlight yet?  Just saw it yesterday and loved it!  Kind of like the black version of Brokeback Mountain.  But much more in depth.  Deals with the struggles in a dysfunctional home, the hood, drug scene, bullying, homophobia, love and humanity.  Ultimately leaves you questioning... do you know who you really are?  DEEP.

Movie theaters are one of the few things open on Thanksgiving day.  If it's playing in a theatre near you take advantage of it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  As for me…I'm taking a chill pill in a foreign country.  Be back Monday!

I SPY: Hoop Dee Doo

Nov 22, 2016

At what age do boys calm down and not need so much physical activity?  Mine do not seem to slow down!  Because of them I use to know every playground in NYC.  Now that they're older I'm learning every outdoor basketball court, soccer field, or dog park for Eddy.  Hoop Dee Doo anything to keep me sane!

Photo Credit: IG @Kaws

Have you seen my recent discover?  As my tween says SICK!  It's not just a court; it's art designed by artist KAWS - Brian Donnelly.  I knew it when I saw it because his signature X eyes are written all over the floor, and Google confirmed it!

The Stanton Street Courts is brand new, located down in the Lower East Side on the corner of Stanton Street and Chrystie Street.  The two courts and four basketball hoops are an installation done in collaboration with KAWS and Nike.  It's a sweet spot.  If you've also got a thing with floors then best you check it out soon before the high foot traffic kills the amazing street art.

I SPY: A Round Of Shots

Nov 21, 2016

Your tequila days over?  Um yeah…long gone!  I have regressed to milk shots.  Not kidding!  HA.

Seen these before?  Dominique Ansel a few years ago created cookie shots.  Chocolate chip cookie shaped shot glasses filled with vanilla infused milk.  YUM.

Now they're available online and in store packaged to serve at home.  They were a hit at my friends-giving party.  Get your guests a round of shots for your next holiday celebration.  They may love you even more if you spike their milk!  *wink*  CHEERS.

I SPY: Table Talk

Nov 18, 2016

Thanksgiving is coming and I've heard some families have banned politics table talk!  Smart?  Yes I could see the discussions getting very heated.  But I also don't think that we should be pushing it under the rug.  Need to find the middle ground.  We are a community and although divided we need to learn to remain respectful, agree to disagree, but still live in PEACE.  I cannot stress that enough!

I was recently at my sons school book fair.  I came across these books and their message was simple reminders of what I keep preaching.  They're all children's books and thus make really easy short reads, but also makes you think.

Read any?  The Peace Book, reminds us of everyday universal forms of compassion and hope.  Dear Malala, We Stand With You, a support to girls rights and equal opportunity.  The Story Of Ruby Bridges, an encouraging true story about the first African American to attend an all white school in New Orleans.

I picked up a copy of each book for my kids, and also to give all my friends who came to my annual Friends-giving pot luck last night.  Turned out to be a mini book club night!  Sounds nerdy, but actually fun and striked enlightening conversations focused with good vibes.  Try it at your Thanksgiving get togethers to keep the PEACE.

I SPY: Brunch' in

Nov 17, 2016

Foodies, can you name the best smoked salmon in NYC?  Many argue it's century old Russ & Daughters.  I second that!  This famous kosher fish house is always packed with a line, and only up until 2014 it was all to go, until they opened their LES cafe.

But what are the chances of getting a seat down in their Orchard Street cafe on a weekend?  A ridiculously painful wait time, which I've never been able to hold out for!

However, I'm going to bring you in on a little secret, or do you already know?  I was on the Upper East side at the Jewish Museum on Sunday and was pleasantly surprised to find out that in their basement they also have a Russ & Daughters cafe.  The legit thing with the same menu as the LES cafe.  This discovery was the highlight of my museum visit!

Smoked salmon obviously a MUST.  I had mine with potato latkes and sunny side up eggs.  Followed by the warm chocolate babka which was heaven.  So good I went back yesterday to pick up a loaf for my Friends-giving party!  YUM.

The Jewish Museum cafe just opened earlier this year in February 2016, so people are still catching on. Your opportunity to grab a table before the crowds discover this hidden gem is now.  Just remember it is a kosher restaurant, so closed on Sabbath (Saturday).  But open Sunday's early for brunch.  Happy brunch'in!

Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Ave @ 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128
T: 212. 423. 3200

I SPY: Trust Me

Nov 16, 2016

So many fishes in the sea, but still hard to find that special one?  Especially when it comes to sushi!  Sushi has become so commercial and even available in our supermarkets.  The difference is the grade of sushi.  The quality of rice.  The authenticity.  Do you know the difference?

We welcome Sugarfish to NYC, that originates from Los Angeles and just opened in our city last week.  Lines have been out the door with wait times I've heard up to two hours or more.  Yesterday when it was pouring out I happened to walk by at lunch time to surprisingly find no line, and immediate seating at the bar.  Talk about good timing!  Thank you rain!!

Damn girl is right?!!  That's their chef special omakase 'Trust Me Lite' + uni, large scallops and ikura. add ons.  I don't eat lite!  HA.  Their raw fish is very lightly seasoned, if at all, so the taste is not masked and as fresh as can be.  Their sushi rice is served warm, cooked al dente, and their secret rice vinegar potion their rice is cooked in adds a touch of sweetness.  Their seaweed crisp, delicate, not soggy.  No details skipped.

Trust me, for price and quality it's the bomb.  Just as good as what I've tasted at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.  No tipping is their rule.  Everything has already been included in prices marked.  The next bad weather day I'll for sure be there again to grab a seat.  You should try and test your luck too.  Rest assured I'm sure we have many dark winter days coming soon, so what else to do?  Embrace it with a happy belly!

I SPY: Art Party

Nov 15, 2016

Got plans tonight?  Come out, dance, and party at the Whitney Museum!  The Art Party is a fundraising event happening tonight, November 14, 2016 from 9pm to Midnight.  Karlie Kloss will be there!  She's a co - chair.

Will she be DJ'ing?  Lets find out!  If not these DJ's are lined up: Lion Babe, Mia Moretti, & Quest Love.  Get your tickets to benefit the Independent Study Program and other education initiatives the museum supports.  Looks like a lot of fun, and I'm excited to see their new Fall exhibits too.  I'll share pictures with you tomorrow if there are not a million photo bombers in my way!

I SPY: Hate Thou Not Trump

Nov 14, 2016

How are you feeling since Black Tuesday?  It was a week of shock and deep thought for me.  Indirectly it hit home especially when your child asks if their father who's not a natural born US citizen is allowed to stay in the USA.  Then you experience random hate pissing matches in the subway, gas station, and store.  You talk to your taxi driver, babysitter, handy man, black, gay and muslim friends and hear what this all means for them.  The anger, uncertainty and hurt all over is real, and you can't dilute it.

I'm fortunate enough that I can choose to leave Trump's ruling if the going gets tough.  But it's not just about me.  It's not a time to be selfish.  It's about all the people involved in my life that make me.  Unfortunately for many they are helpless and rely on us to help protect them and get them through these times of uncertainty.  LOVE must prevail.

Have you seen this wall by Subway Therapy?  It's initiated by artist Matthew Chavez, aka Levee, and he welcomes you to add to the collage.  If your looking for a place of meditation, consolation and a sense of belonging in NYC then you should head down to the L train subway platform on 14th street and 7th avenue.  It was reassuring to know that there are plenty of like minded people all fighting the same corner as you.  As simple as writing a message and sticking a post it on the wall it is it was equally as therapeutic and powerful when you see the thousands of other sticky notes it hangs with.

It doesn't make things all ok.  It will take time to heal.  But recognize we need to move on united and find the silver lining.  Hate thou not trump, and we cannot allow this election 2016 to leave us stuck.  And always...always love thy neighbor.  You can't fight it alone, but as a community we can bring justice.  Yes we can!

I SPY: Rules Of The Game

Nov 11, 2016

What's happening this weekend NY?  This weekend ONLY till November 12, 2016 choreographer Jonah Bokaer, visual artist Daniel Arsham, and musician Pharrell Williams put on Rules Of The Game.

Interested?  It's a modern dance production happening at BAM.  Here's a mini clip.  I saw the premiere last night, and it got me in a zen mood, and my mind off Trump for once.  But I also had Pharrell sitting behind me and was busy thinking how to get a selfie with him at intermission!  HA.  But he was busy with the press, and I thought I could catch him at the end after the show...but he ran off!  Yup, my kind of luck!  TYPICAL.  Maybe you will catch him there?  Get your tickets here and enjoy a cultured night out in Brooklyn.

I SPY: Prime Time

Nov 10, 2016

What's your favorite time of the year?  I'm definitely a summer baby, but I think Autumn is the prettiest in the North East.

Do you agree?  The colors are just oh so vibrant, and I love the warm glow they add to our surroundings.  Magical and picture perfect.  Now is the prime time to catch fall foliage at it's peak.

Thanks to Eddy our dog for making us walk Fort Tyron park last weekend, in search for the largest dog run in Manhattan.  We got lost as usual!  HA.  But it was such a pretty walk.  Got our fix and that counts as our fall foliage sighting for this year!  How about you?  If it's on your list do it this week before all the leaves drop.  It's already November y'all; winter is coming!

I SPY: Wake Up America

Nov 9, 2016

Is it April Fools Day?  Waking up today to President Donald J. Trump is a joke.  This is an enormous disappointment America.

In 2008 when Obama our first Black president got elected my youngest son was born a few days after.  I made him a time capsule.  These are the magazines and newspapers I pulled out of his box last night.  Do you remember the excitement and celebration eight years ago in that historic moment?  It was progress to a better future.

Last night - zero joy, and tears of fear.  The only tiny bit of consolation is if a racist, sexist, bully (the list goes on!) man like Trump can win, my lil' guy with a dream of becoming president one day has a damn good chance with zero credentials.  Vote for Prez. M!!!  The first Asian president?  We will see!

In the mean time wake up America.  We are entering uncertain times and need to take care of each other.  If our new presidents words allows his supporters to feel compelled to act wrongly, please rise to stand up and protect those being threatened.  We can stay united, and continue to shape our communities with good morals and values on our own.  Stay independent and educated.  ALWAYS.

I SPY: The Season Finale

Nov 8, 2016

Are you holding your breath for the season finale of America tonight?  One word...VOTE.

I did; did you?  I'm with her.  Lets pray for the best!

Irregardless of turn out please remember that the next President does not determine how you treat your neighbor.  I've been trying to explain it to my children.  God gave you a mind of your own.  Use it wisely.  You have the power to do good on your own.  Lets make America KIND again.

I SPY: Sugar High

Nov 7, 2016

You asked…do I finish all the food I post?  YES, 95% of the time!  When I don't it either tastes bad or turns me off.  Rarely do I show what didn't make my A - list.  However, I am today because these milkshakes are on a social media frenzy.

Had one of these bad boys before?  Black Tap in NYC is famous for them, but this one I had was at Elm Street Diner.  Same, same.  They're all about a million calories, super elaborate, and definitely have  a WOW factor when presented.  People were stopping in their tracks walking by my table!  Not to look at me, but this craft special.  HA.

How could you miss that?  It's super cute right?  However the size and everything going on throws me off.  I mean…I didn't even know where to begin!  Between the milkshake, decorated glass with candy corn, chocolate covered pretzels, Halloween baubles, whipped cream, plus a slice of pumpkin pie on top it took me a few minutes to figure out how to dig in.  I ended up deconstructing the art, removing the whipped cream, and putting the pumpkin pie on a side plate before I could begin.

It was work to eat!  I couldn't finish it because after a few bites and sips I was already getting nauseous from the sugar high.  So unless you have a super sweet tooth I have to admit these crazy milkshakes were designed for Instagram worthy moments.  Unfortunately not for any gourmet quality I can rave about.  Which raises the question…So is this what our society has come to?  Overloading our senses to catch attention for the gram?  What happened to less is more?  Food for thought!
i * SPY CANDY. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.