cook - recipes

The 5 Magical Secrets to Perfect Homemade Pan Pizza every single time; plus, a recipe for The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Pie.

Note: Scroll straight to the bottom for the full recipe, The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Pie.

Friday nights were pizza night in our house when I was growing up. Pizza Night was a family tradition. The week’s menu was always written out in my mother’s longhand and taped on the inside of the kitchen cupboard. I would come home from school and stare longingly at Friday, wondering why it had to be Broccoli Casserole Tuesday, or Spaghetti Arrabiata Thursday. Homemade Nut Burger Monday was excruciating because it meant four more sleeps until Pizza Friday. No amount of ketchup and mustard could replace melted cheese and marinara.

During the years when my parents were both working full-time, we would order from a local chain, Pizza Pizza. There were inevitable fights about what toppings to order. One of my sisters hated mushrooms. “Gross! They smell like Chlorox,” she’d yell.

If you’re like my sisters and I, you might want to go half and half to avoid costly debates over what goes where.

I always wanted to try the pepperoni. My friends at school wouldn’t eat pizza without the shaved coins of sausage. It was my first brush with the fear of missing out. We were a devoutly vegetarian house.

Our oldest sister was always saying pineapple on pizza was for kids. She was a teenager. She wanted her own pie. 

I was the youngest, and after a few years, Pizza Night attendance thinned out. My sisters had boyfriends, parties, suspicious amounts of perfume on their coats and tic-tacs on their breath. Dad went through a phase of working late, every night, including Friday. Only mom and me were left at home for Pizza Night. 

Homemade pizza pie

I always loved to cook, so Pizza Night became an opportunity for us to experiment in the kitchen. We made pita pizzas. Tortilla pizzas. Microwave pizzas. Grilled cheese pizzas. Focaccia pizzas. Thin crust pizzas. Gluten free pizzas. We even tried cauliflower-crust pizzas. But nothing quite matched the delicious, gooey, crunchy stringy-cheesed magic of delivery, until we found a recipe for homemade baking sheet pan pizza. Because I love you, and I know you’ll put it to good use, I’m going to share the 5 magical secrets of our recipe with you, so you can start your own Pizza Night.

Secret #1: Make your dough as soon as you get home from school, so it can rest for a few hours before you dressed it up and cook it. 

Secret #2: Don’t add anything to your tomatoes! No sugar, no herbs, no oil, no garlic, no salt, no nothing. Just simple, canned and pureed plum tomatoes. When you open the can, you will smell Italy at the base of Mount Vesuvio, and you don’t want to mess with that.

Secret #3: Use exactly one ball of mozzarella. No more, no less. Grate it right before you use it, otherwise you’ll snack on the stringy bits and eat a bunch of it before any cheese makes it onto the pizza and melts into gooey goodness.

Secret #4: Shake lots of cornmeal into the bottom of your baking pan before you add the dough. It will give the bottom of your crust that extra crusty crust crunch.

Secret #5: You can peak and stare into the window to your heart’s desire, but don’t open that door of the oven, until you switch your pie from bake to broil at the end. Watch as the cheese bubbles and browns and turns into the perfect homemade pie before your eyes.

The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Night Pie

Ingredients

Pizza Dough:

  • 2 cups/500 ml lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons/30 ml yeast (2 packets of Fleischmann’s)
  • 4 cups/1 L all-purpose flour (sifted if you’ve got the time)
  • 3 tablespoons/45 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon/5 ml fine sea salt
  1. Dissolve the yeast in water as warm as your hand, but not warmer. You’ll know it’s alive, when it starts bubbling after a few minutes.
  2. On clean flat working surface, make a mountain of flour and salt, then carve out a crater with your hands. 

Note: Keep the flour and olive out out, in case you need to add more of either to sticky hands or a sticky counter.

  1. Slowly add the yeasty water and olive oil, pushing the edges of the crater into the well until gets stick and forms a dough ball. 
  2. Knead until the dough becomes elastic and gently rises back up when you poke your finger into the ball. 
  3. Now, the most important part: Give yourself a break! Wrap the ball up in plastic wrap. Or, you can oil the outside of the ball and place it in a large mixing bowl, then cover the bowl with a damp tea towel
  4. Go and peak every once in a while until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour or so)

Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 28 oz can San Marzano plum tomatoes.
  1. Puree the tomatoes in a blender, or with a hand blender in the can, or dice them up and send them through a sieve. Just don’t add a thing.

Cheese:

  • 1 ball mozzarella
  1. Grate the cheese, immediately before use, otherwise, it will slowly disappear in roaming hands and inquiring mouths. 

Toppings:

  • The best part about cooking is being creative. The toppings are up to you, and there’s no limit, from oysters to kiwis, blue cheese to antelope, you can eat anything on a pizza.
  1. Cut your toppings before hand into bite-sized pieces, so they cook evenly.

Cooking instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees, or as hot as it will go.
  2. Dust your baking sheet with gritty cornmeal. This will add megatons of crunch.
  3. Oil your dough ball and roll it out on a floured surface, tossing it up in the air as high as you dare. When it is stretched enough, lay it out over the cornmeal coated baking pan and tapdance a fork’s prongs over the surface of the dough until it is perforated. 

Note: Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if your dough rips. Dough is sticky, so you can just stick it back together.

  1. Put a big splotch of tomato sauce in the middle and draw spirals outward with a big spoon or ladle. It doesn’t matter if it’s even because it will flatten out while cooking.
  2. Now quickly grate and add the cheese before it disappears, then dress your pizza in delicious toppings.
  3. Bake until the edges start to brown (7-9 minutes), without opening oven.
  4. Switch the oven to a high broil. Wait thirty seconds, then carefully move the pizza to the top rack of the oven.
  5. Count to one hundred, keeping watch for smoke.
  6. Remove pizza from the broiler and enjoy The Perfect Baking Sheet Pizza Night Pie.
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Illustration Fridays

Illustration Friday – Jay-Z on Marcy Ave

This week’s topic for Illustration Friday is transportation, which kind of threw me for a loop. I’ve been thinking about trains a lot for some reasons lately, as transportation and as a motif, so I decided to make a piece that’s a bit of a throwback, weaving together a profile of Jay-z, a young portrait, and his eponymous J and Z train lines in Brooklyn with where he grew up, a superimposed map of the Marcy Projects. Let me know what you think, contact me if you want a print.

Jay-Z, Marcy Ave, Brooklyn

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travel - places

My 10 Favorite Things to do in Beautiful Antigua, Guatemala

1. Arco de Santo Catalina

Anitgua, Guatemala is one of the most beautiful cities in Latin America, and one of the oldest. Originally founded by Spanish Conquistadors after their 15th century arrival, the cobbled streets are lined with gorgeous ruins of monasteries created by an 18th century earthquake, and painted with striking colours. Its affordable cost-of-living and plethora of Spanish schools make it one of the best places in Latin America to slow down for a few months, or sign up for language lessons.

2. Mercado de Artesanias El Carmen

In front of the ruins of El Carmen, vendors setup a market full of Guatemalan textiles and, local artwork and housewares. While you wander and shop, stop at one of the many cafes and restaurants tucked inside the courtyards hidden behind the coloured walls.

3. Cafe in Antigua, Guatemala
4. Courtyard restaurant in Antigua, Guatemala

In the middle of the old city, Parque Central offers a perfect place to chill out and read a book, or watch the locals and other visitors, as you relax and people watch.

5. Parque Central, Antigua, Guatemala

Calles de Antigua Guatemala
Facade, Antigua, Guatemala
Vintage Pick-up, Antigua, Guatemala
El Volcan looms over Antigua, Guatemala

The city is chock full of palaces, churches, museums and ruins, buried in the layers of history that have accrued over six centuries of European and indigenous contact and cultural overlap. It’s one of those places where it feels like there is a new discovery on every corner, and a different cathedral on each city block.

6. Palacio del Ayuntamiento
7. Antiguo Colegio de la Compañía de Jesús
8. Ruins of La Recoleccion
Las Ruinas, Antigua, Guatemala
Museo del Santo Hermano Pedro
Old City Walls, Antigua, Guatemala
Iglesia, Antigua, Guatemala

Certainly, one of the most popular https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2018/mar/30/antigua-guatemala-city-guide-what-to-see-where-to-eat-drink-stayattractions in Antigua, Guatemala is the Cerro de la Cruz, or the Hill of the Cross, which looks back over the city and up at Volcan de Agua, the live volcanos that loom in the distance.

9. Vista from El Cerro de la Cruz

But my favourite thing to do in Antigua is to relax, find a gorgeous bed and breakfast with a lush, green courtyard and a hammock, then kick my feet up and enjoy the peace and quiet.

10. Bed and Breakfasts, Antigua, Guatemala

As always, all of my images are available for purchase, contact me directly for info on prints and shipping.

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travel - places

A Visit to Copan Ruins in Honduras: THE MAYAN STELAE OF COPÁN

Stella and Sky, Copan

If you visit my blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a sucker for ancient ruins and art. Angkor Wat is one of the most spectacular places in the world, a combination of the holy and mundane; the intricate details of the sculpture and the vast open plains of the land create a magnificent juxtaposition.

Stella front view, Copan

A half a world away, in Honduras, Copan is equally majestic, yet because of its locale, often overlooked and ignored. From its heights, the Mayans could see a vast expanses in any direction to the horizon. We visited the ruins after and incredible, tumultuous rainstorm had washed out the roads in the village and the verdant greens of the distant hills were glowing in the light after the storm.

We took a tuk-tuk moto taxi out of the town, bumping and jostling over the rocky turf and around the flood pools that swelled across the earth. At a tiny kiosk, we paid and entrance fee to the grounds, no more than a pittance, and when we walked in, only a pair of stark red parrots greeted us.

Parrots, Copan
Stela of the King close-up, Copan
Stela of the King, medium, Copan

There was an air of stillness and silence on the grounds. The lawn manicured flat as a putting green, our footfalls muted by the slick wet grass. We walked through the open courtyard, past the massive staircase, at the zenith of the steps, warriors hearts were cut out in sacrifice to the gods, so that blood ran down to the stairs and back to the soil.

Stela, profile, Copan

Alone with the stelae, pillars of stone carved a thousand years ago to solidify the enduring presence and looming nature of the rulers and kings in the people’s eyes, I felt watched. Stone eyes tracked our movements. The avian twitter and caw of the birds and the shrieks of the monkeys lent depth and perspective to the loneliness of the ruins. The animal presence of the jungle remained the one constant in this luscious hill country, since before the conquistadors had arrived in the 15th century. On one of the stela, the name of a Spaniard is scratched, the first European graffiti in a new world, a man made blemish older than the founding of most nations.

Stela in relief against the sky, Copan

We walked aimlessly through the trees and and across the lawn till we found a path that circled up and into the woods. An eerie calm remained among the wet boughs, as they dampened the sound of our breath, so only the rustle and drip of water in the leaves remained.

Lone Tree Above Copan Ruins

At the top of the climb, a tree arched out over the edge, and we were greeted with a panorama that stretched out across the plains, limitless, a vision that seemed both timeless and immediately present. At the end of our visit, there was no lesson to be learned, only the act of arrival and departure endless repeated, and the beauty of temporal memories that will soon be forgotten.

Panoramic landscape above Copan

As always, prints of my artwork are available for purchase. Contact me for more info, and thanks for visiting.

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eat - reviews, travel - places

The 5 Best Street Foods in Mexico City

The key to understanding street food in Mexico City is to understand that a taco is a loose concept, like a pizza or a sandwich, with infinite variations, that resemble each other no more than long lost cousins.

Tacos Al Pastor at ‘El Tizoncito’
Late night Tacos al pastor
  1. Tacos Al Pastor

The undeniable king of street food in the nation’s capitol is the taco al pastor. A beautiful confluence of immigrants abutting in a a huge diverse city, the al pastor takes the best parts of a taco (small, biteable, corn tortillas and epic salsas) and the best part of a donair, juicy marinated pork meat (marinated with pineapple) cooked on the ingenious Arabic invention, the vertical frame-broiled spit. Hand’s down the best, you can find these juicy treats all over the city, but my fave is in Centro Historico at the Take out window of El Huequito. I also love the stands on the corner of Insurgentes Sur and Avenida Alvaro Obregon in Roma, after a late night of mezcal and beer chasers.

Tacos dorados

2. Tacos Dorados

This deep-fried tube of delicious is the forebearer to 7-11’s taquitos, one of the tastiest and most gut-curdling snacks in America. In Mexico, the original taco dorado (hard) is perfectly crunchy cigar of corn. If cooked properly, a taco dorado is as satisfying to bite into as a crunchy nacho, and it’s stuffed with juicy, tender meat, then topped with acidic lime and fiery salsa and cooling, fatty crema (like a sour cream, or breakfast cream). Usually served in 3s, tacos dorados are probably best eaten at a taqueria with seats because these will get messy.

Tamale llena de guisados

3. Tamales Oaxaquenos

A tamale is the classic example of ugly delicious, a prepackaged lump of corn masa hand-pressed around a guisado (stewed-meat/sauce and protein combo). The whole tamale is folded in a leaf and steamed, and anyone who has spent time in Mexico City will recognize the famous calls of the street vendors, who peddle around the streets first thing in the morning, hollering “Tahhh-mal-eeeees….Wa-ha-cane-yoooooos…Tahhh-mal-eeeees….Wa-ha-cane-yoooooos” as everyone gets prepped for work. Solid breakfast to go, not to be missed before a big day of walking and wandering the enormous monstruo that is CDMX (Ciudad Mexico).

Ricas Tortas Calientes “Tasty Hot Sandwiches”
Tortas

4. Tortas

A torta is the Mexican sandwich. Stuffed with rotisseries chicken and avocado. Filled with meatballs and drenched in spicy tomato sauce (Tortas ahogados i.e. drowned sandwiches of Guadalajara). Pork cracklings layered with tomato, lettuce, onion salsa and a shot of lime (Guacamayas from Leon, GTO). There are variations for every city and every state in Mexico. These are a favoured street food in CDMX, for locals and foreigners alike, and often offer the best bang for your buck and a huge satisfying meal on a crispy, white bun. I love Ricas Tortas Calientes “Tasty Hot Sandwiches” near the Glorieta Insrugentes, and Metro Insurgentes, at the corner of Puebla & Orizaba in Roma Norte.

A ‘slice’ of Tlayuda con chapulines

5. Tlayudas

A tlayuda is an indigenous Oaxacan dish, akin to a pizza, a huge circular bread, almost like a paper-thin, crunchy cracker with a ‘sauce’ of refried beans and stringy Oaxacan cheese, then topped with a variety of bite-sized bits and pieces. Usually there is some avocado, meat, or tomato slices, and traditionally there are citrus-flavoured chapulines, crisped grasshoppers. It’s a fun dish to share, and can also be set in the middle of a group of friends and picked at while they enjoy drinks and chatting.

Bonus: Hamburguesas

I’m not going to lie to you and say I never touch “American” food when I’m living or travelling in Mexico. In fact, I’d argue that some of the best burgers I’ve ever had in my life were south of the border. There is a long tradition of hamburgers from street vendors in the capital city, and the classic is a patty off a sizzling flattop (a la parilla), served with a slice of tomato, crispy lettuce, and a squirt of mustard and ketchup or mayo (you can’t do moth, that’s disgusting). My favourite spot for burgers in Mexico City is ‘Hamburguesas a la Parrilla’, Morelia 85, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico.

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eat - reviews, travel - places

My 10 favorite things to do in Roma, Mexico City

  1. Stroll through the early 20th century art deco architecture
Art Deco Balustrade, Roma, Mexico City

Roma is one of my favorite spots in Mexico City, a washed up art deco neighbourhood, once covered in graffiti, twice rocked by earthquakes, and now half-gentrified and made famous by a Hollywood movie that portrayed the colourful streets in monotone. Though Alfonso Cuaron’s historical/personal narrative of eponymous name was a great Mexico City movie, it speaks to a place (his Roma) that no longer exists in 2019. Today’s Roma is chill, flooded with ex-pats and rich kids, those privileged enough to live a laid back lifestyle in Mexico’s Capital.

2. Have an espresso at one of the cafes in Roma, CDMX

Cardinal, Roma, Mexico City
Cafe Toscana, Roma, Mexico City

3. Check out the street art, murals and graffiti

Mural across from Forever Vegano, Roma, Mexico City

I’m pretty sure there are outfits that give street art tours, which you could search up if organized tour are your kind of thing. There’s also dedicated instagram accounts for CDMX street artists, that will tell you where to find murals in Roma, Mexico City.

4. Lunch, Brunch, Lounge on a sidewalk patio

Molletes, an open-faced breakfast sandwich

There are a bunch of beautiful little spots to eat in Roma. The more tourists and ex-pats and money that arrive, the more cafes and restaurants open. I like to imagine it has that run of the century Paris feel, when everyone was an artist living in the eye of the storm between the two world wars.

And lest you forget, for most of the years I was living in Mexico during the 00s and early 10s, it was the most violent country in the world. More people were getting killed every year here, than in Iraq. And if you’re under the impression that it’s gotten less violent, you are mistaken. It’s just fairly safe if you’re a foreigner, or a tourist, only staying for a while and hanging out in a posh part of town.

5. Maxim Bistrot

Agua Mineral & Cocktail, Maxim Bistrot, Mexico City

Maxim Bistrot in Roma, Mexico City is one of my favorite restaurants. Chef Lalo, also, has a brunch spot across the street, aptly named Lalo. Eat at both. Go back for seconds.

6. Visit one of the galleries spattered around Roma

Mosaic of Aztec Gods

There are a ton of little galleries around Roma, niche places selling art to the uber wealthy socialites and consignment places, where artists are trying to make a buck shelling the work from their studios.

7. Mercado Roma

Rooftop Patio, Beerhall at Mercado Roma

Mercado Roma is both everything that is ridiculous and wrong with a gentrifying neighbourhood, if gentrification is the kind of thing that bugs you, or you’re into resisting, and yet surprisingly lovely. A wonderful spot to tuck into an overpriced afternoon beer or salt-rimmed cocktail.

8. Street food: puestas, taquerias, pan, enchiladas, quesadillas

Guacamole con chapulines y tostados
Panederia, Roma, Mexico City

As in the rest of the city, the street food in Roma is often better than the food in the restaurants. People setup stalls for a specific number of hours or days of the week, so you might not find your favourite taco from Saturday when you go back Monday, but the food is hot, fresh and delicious when it’s being cranked out. Your best bet is to walk down Avenida Alvaro Obregon, then turn off one of the side streets, Calle Frontera, or Calle Merida or on the weekend head to Jardin Pushkin and Calle Morelia, where there is actually an amazing Hamburger stand. There are also some good stands farther north, near Glorieta de los Insurgentes, by the corner of calles Puebla and Orizaba.

9. Get out your camera, your sketchbook, or just open your eyes

Volskwagen Camper Vans, Roma, Mexico City

The Roma that I love and lived in for a while, when I had nothing to do, no distractions and no bills to pay, had just graduated from school and was wandering around looking for love, is not going to last forever. Nothing ever does. So you better just go down there and take it all in before it gets swallowed up by earthquake-proofed condos, or a terremoto swallows the whole city.

10. La Bodeguito del Medio, Mojitos & Salsa (the dancing kind)

Selfies at La Bodeguito del Medio, El Mejor Mojito del Mundo

This Cuban spot, a spin off of the place made famous in Havana, has been visited by anyone and everyone, and lasted through several reincarnations of Roma and Condesa and the whole surrounding area. It’s walls are covered in vintage photos and handwritten love notes, and I was heres… it’s the right kind of sentimental, and I used to live in the alleyway behind the restaurant, so I could hear the sound of salsa music and cocineros smoking cigarettes drifting up and into my bedroom window. Don’t blink.

As always, contact me to purchase a print of any of my artwork.

Ricas Tortas Calientes, ‘Tasty Hot Sanwiches” at the corner of Puebla & Orizaba, Roma Norte
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travel - places

A Visit to the Confucian Temple of Shanghai

Pond & Pavilion at the Confucian Temple of Shanghai
Wenmiao Road (文庙), Shanghai

I love walking around temples, and often smaller temples, like the Confucian Temple of Shanghai are the most serene and untrammeled spots for a visitor to relax and enjoy a taste of the monastic life, free from the diversion of tour buses and throngs of people, so common at many large religious sites. Located in Shanghai’s old city, off of Wenmiao Road (文庙) in Huangpu District the temple is just around the corner from Wenmiao Market, and was a short walk from my hostel near People’s Square.

People’s Square, Shanghai

The Confucian Temple of Shanghai is small, not nearly the size of its equal in Beijing, but on the afternoon I visited, it had the relaxed, cloistered feel of an oasis in the midst of the largest city in the world, and the constant buzzing roar of Shanghai traffic and swarms of pedestrian masses.

Jade Rock in Landscaped Garden at The Confucian Temple of Shanghai

The koi pond was silent, balanced by a jutting stone and a pure stillness. There are a pair of small benches on an island, a perfect place to read a book or write in your journal and get away from the prevalence of too much screen time.

Lighting incense at Confucian Temple of Shanghai

Across a walkway from the garden, into the courtyard of the main temple I bought a few sticks of incense and lit them on a candle to make an offering.

Stone Confucius at Confucian Temple of Shanghai

Hanging in the tree branches and all along the front of the temple, prayer cards with notes to Confucius swayed in the gentle breeze of afternoon, the sound of paper rustling hanging leaves.

Prayer cards tied to boughs
Prayer to Confucius for help write a book.

After writing my own prayer and fastening it to the bough of a tree with a length of red satin, I entered the temple, said my piece, and then passed by the scrolls of Confucian saying on the way out.

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. -Confuscius

Confucianism

Thanks for visiting. If you’d like to purchase prints of any of my artworks in this post, get in touch and via my contact page.

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Illustration Fridays

Illustration Fridays – Imaginary Friend – Trump and Kim

This week’s topic for Illustration Friday is imaginary friend. I hope the image speaks for itself, it was a lot of fun to make. As always click on my contact page if you want to buy a print of any of my illustrations on this website.

Imaginary Friends
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travel - places

Hong Kong Central and Hong Kong Island – Cityscapes

Construction Worker, Hong Kong

I fell in love with Hong Kong, when I was wandering through the alleyways and navigating the circumspect and meandering hallways of its endless apartment blocks. The city present infinite options for those looking to get lost. It’s an artist and photographer’s dream, an urban kaleidoscope. There are people everywhere, at all hours, usually ignoring you and your camera.

Back Bar, Hong Kong
Man on Bike, Hong Kong
Country Club, Hong Kong

The city has that odd dreamless quality that Manhattan used to have, before Giuliani kicked out all of the homeless and itinerant people and turned New York City into a tourist attraction. It never feels safe at night, there is always an element of discord, but it’s beautiful and shocking in how it surprises.

SoHo Alley, Hong Kong
Tourists, Hong Kong
Mirrored Skyscraper, Hong Kong

The odd juxtapositions, of rich and poor, foreigners, ex-pats, Cantonese speaking locals and the influx of mainland Chinese speaking Mandarin makes Hong Kong an incredibly diverse and miscegenated city. The intense competition for real estate on a tiny island keeps the price of owning a home out of the reach of most, but that is in turn what leads to the maze-like halls and paths of the city’s clustered apartment, stacked and teetering like so many matchboxes over above the bay.

Cafeteria, Hong Kong
Photo Crouch, Hong Kong
Ex-pat Girls, Hong Kong

As always, all my illustrations are available for purchase as prints. If you see one you like, contact me. Thanks for reading, and get in touch.

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travel - places

The 5 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World

This post is for the bibliophiles. If you find yourself wandering around the stacks of a second hand bookshop in a city you don’t live in, after midnight and a few glasses of wine, this post is for you. Title is self-explanatory.

1.Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

Obviously, this is the sexiest bookshop in the world, the history of Joyce, Stein, and Hemingway. The inspiration and setting of many a Hollywood romance, if you haven’t been you’re missing out. Also, Sylvia Beach was a legitimate groundbreaking and rule breaking publisher, which is beautiful in and of itself.

2. Cafe Pendulo, Mexico City, Mexico

Cafe Pendulo is a booklover’s wet dream, a place where you can have a cappuccino or a glass of wine. There is a veritable hanging garden and incredible collection of Spanish language and foreign books; also, the location in Polanco has got to be one of the poshest bookstore in the world.

3. Munro Books, Victoria, BC, Canada

This one is a bit of an outsider, like Canada, it’s a bit drab and plain, housed in a turn of the century bank converted by the Munro husband and wife. Munro Books is famous now for its former shopkeep, short story writer of New Yorker and later Nobel laureate notoriety, Alice Munro. It is a bit out of the way, and beautiful in a very understated Canuck way, but if you find yourself on Vancouver Island, it is worth a visit every time.

4. Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers, Brooklyn, NY, USA

This is one that probably shouldn’t have made this list, and definitely wouldn’t have made the list, if it was someone else’s list, but I love the place. Less well known than the bigger Strand on Broadway, these lovely booksellers in the heart of hipster Williamsburg always have a gorgeous collection of art and coffee table books, and there’s usually another cute page flipper or two around, to catch eyes with while you peruse.

5. City Lights, Chinatown, San Francisco

If this list were about the best, or most valuable or important bookstore in the world, I would definitely have City Lights Bookstore at number one. Home to the readings of Kerouac and Ginsberg and the Beat Generation’s founding publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has a street named after him, and if you’re lucky you might still see him hobbling around North Beach. It’s not just a venerable institution, though, the upstairs reading room, looking across Jack Kerouac alleyway at his old haunt, Vesuvio’s bar, really is beautiful.

The wildcard: Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy

I’ve never been to Libreria Acqua Alta, but by all accounts it is the bookstore of mine and your dreams. Gorgeous, on the canals of Venice, you can drift lazily up, ferried by a gondola to the front door, with espresso in hand, to have you pick of the day’s paperbacks.

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