Travel: 10 Things in Brighton

Oh Brighton. With the exception of Edinburgh (and London of course!) it’s probably my favourite UK city. I mean, gorgeous shops to browse, sea to paddle in AND fish’n’chips to nom on?! There’s not a lot more this gal can ask for!

Now, generally I just spend a few hours. With one of my best friends living close to Brighton, the other in Kent and me in London, our meetups are split over the three locations. It generally means we spend a lot of time catching up (and shopping!) and not a huge amount of time enjoying where we actually are. That said, my main holiday of 2016 was a few days in Brighton – and there’s definitely enough for a short-break…

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1. Go up the British Airways i360

Now, I’m in two minds about this one. We went up a few weeks ago, and whilst the views are stunning – it’s over-priced. At £13.50 for an on-the-day student ticket it was an expensive half-an hour. With no shade in the ‘holding pen’ before you board and it being basically a fish-bowl it was also extremely hot. Perhaps as a date-night (taking advantage of the cocktail bar) or timing it for sunset would be better!

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2. Wander Around The Lanes

Oh, the lanes. My favourite part of Brighton. I’ve enjoyed many hours spent wandering around the jewellery lanes, staring at all the sparkly-pretty things. However it’s the ones further away from the seafront that I love. Cute homeware stores, vintage clothing, mulled wine in winter – it’s my idea of heaven.

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3. Relax on the Beach & Explore the Pier

Obviously I can’t do a post on Brighton and mention either the beach or the pier! I’ve spent many hours on Brighton beach – watching the sunset with W way back in 2012, sunbathing, catching up with my besties and eating far too many fish and chips! If you’re there for the day then I recommend pitching up early to get a good spot (it gets insanely busy in the summer – though walking towards Hove means it’s a lot quieter!). I’d also spend the pennies on some chairs, at only £2.50 for the day they are definitely worth it.

Then there’s the pier. I can never resist a round on the two-penny machines – and whilst the rides are over-priced they can be fun. There will be forever a soft-spot in my heart for my first loop-the-loop rollercoaster!

4. Play Mini-Golf

I do love a bit of mini-golf, and Brighton’s one was a goodie – and not just because I won! I’d recommend avoiding the one half way down the Volk’s Railway as we thought it was horrendously expensive for a game!

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5. Get the Train to the Marina

The Volk’s Railway, just to the east of the pier, is Britain’s oldest electronic railway. Originally built in 1883 it runs from near the pier to the marina – so is a great way to see more of the seafront. Note that it’s currently closed for restoration!

Fun fact: me and W took a picnic up to this end of the beach last year. We were halfway through before we realised we’d stumbled into the nudist area…

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6. Visit The Sealife Centre

Now again this is something that I question is worth the money – but only because I think the other centres are a little better – Brighton’s is a little small and cramped for my liking. That said we enjoyed a turtle feeding demonstration and, as we got in at 9am, it was a relatively quiet way to spend a few hours before the sun came out.

7. Walk Through the South Downs

I confess I’ve never actually done this – but this bit of countryside looks SO pretty from the train (and i360!) that I’ve always wanted to do it. There’s plenty of routes, plus the 100 miles of the South Downs Way to explore. There’s even foodie routes connecting pubs and afternoon-tea rooms! Perhaps that’s a goal to achieve in 2018…

8. Have a Night On the Town

Another one I confess I haven’t done, but Brighton is famous for it’s nights out. If you’re up for a quieter evening, try the alcoholic milkshakes at Burger & Cocktails, or All Bar One for strong cocktails and decent music.

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9. Explore the Museums

Whilst I much prefer to enjoy my time in Brighton outside, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some proper English weather. Whilst not really marketed well, Brighton does have some pretty good museums. I’ve visited and enjoyed both the Booth Museum of Natural History and the Toy & Model Museum. The Booth Museum is not for the faint-hearted (it’s basically full of taxidermy) but it’s free and I personally found it super-interesting.

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10. Eat – Lots!

The key to my heart, if you’ve not already guessed, is food. I’m definitely one of those people who live to eat! Luckily Brighton has a vast array of restaurants to keep all tummies (and budgets) happy. It’s home to some great chain-restaurants (Wahaca and Franco Manca I’m looking at you…) as well as some independents. We’ve loved Wai Kika Moo Kau for vegetarian and vegan food, and there’s enough cake shops in the Lanes to try a new one each visit. We’ve enjoyed afternoon tea, fish’n’chips, and of course there’s Choccywoccydoodah. I’m also desperate to eat at The Salt Room too…

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Have you ever been to Brighton? Any hints and tips for my next visit?

Lifestyle: A Few Days In York

This little break feels so long ago now. A few days away at the beginning of April, designed to make sure I was relaxed and well-rested ahead of my exam period. We wanted somewhere were we could eat lots and explore – and with cobbled lanes, plenty of museums, interesting little shops, cafes and cosy pubs York fitted the bill perfectly.

 photo A Few Days in York 26_zpszho4rki2.jpg photo A Few Days in York 5_zps4z8i7h5s.jpg photo A Few Days in York 6_zpsikgjsikj.jpgThe train up from London takes around 2 hours, and booking far enough in advance meant it was cheap. Rooms in a Travelodge were also a bargain (top tip: saying you’re travelling for business generally gets you a room on a ‘quiet’ floor which is great for a good nights sleep). This meant we were free to splurge on good food and wine for our trip – after all we were on holiday!

 photo A Few Days in York 1_zpso0fn5at9.jpg photo A Few Days in York 2_zpszqgxnip1.jpg photo A Few Days in York 3_zpsnyh8pzkq.jpg photo A Few Days in York 4_zpsb9mxwx4f.jpgWe kicked off with a meal at York’s up and coming best restaurant, Skosh. They’ve received rave critic reviews despite only opening in 2016 and I can see why. Everything we ate was absolutely delicious, the service fantastic – and we ate at the chef’s table so we could see all the cooking going on. We only managed to get a lunchtime slot as it’s pretty difficult to get a table, but if you can squeeze in it’s well worth it.

The evening we whiled away in Pairings; I would love something like this near me in London. Each order a flight of drink (red wine for me, port for him) and customised our own meat and cheeseboard. Several hours of chatting and giggling later, we both concluded it was the perfect way to spend the first night of our break.

 photo A Few Days in York 18_zpsahcpyiec.jpg photo A Few Days in York 16_zps1iw5r5rq.jpg photo A Few Days in York 15_zpswzu3qhxt.jpg photo A Few Days in York 14_zpsdtxjxfpp.jpg photo A Few Days in York 13_zpsryiettmn.jpg photo A Few Days in York 12_zpstqafbsau.jpg photo A Few Days in York 11_zpsc58rkmam.jpg photo A Few Days in York 10_zpsseskg0zp.jpg photo A Few Days in York 9_zpsojjnfly7.jpg photo 2017-04-03 13.05.05_zpsjkkv0uhg.jpg photo 2017-04-03 11.51.57_zpszcsxhckj.jpg photo A Few Days in York 7_zps6zatirui.jpgAfter a quick brunch in Pig & Pastry, we spent our first morning in the Railway Museum. Far more exciting than it sounds, we could have probably spent longer than the morning in there. However seeing as the sun came out and treated us to a very warm afternoon, lazing about in the Park felt like an amazing use of our time. I also picked up a gorgeous bath-bomb from The Yorkshire Soap Company – I had to make advantage of having access to a bath, even in a Travelodge!

 photo A Few Days in York 28_zpsc62bdu8l.jpg photo A Few Days in York 27_zpsig40e78g.jpg photo A Few Days in York 25_zpsknyl3fxx.jpg photo A Few Days in York 24_zps5cvviu3h.jpg photo A Few Days in York 23_zpsfztpnfai.jpg photo A Few Days in York 21_zps96tnngjt.jpg photo A Few Days in York 20_zps0tuww6ba.jpg photo A Few Days in York 19_zpsf8cga7e4.jpg photo A Few Days in York 31_zpsnxuxylsc.jpg photo A Few Days in York 30_zpsl2sw4odl.jpg photo A Few Days in York 29_zpsiwlfdrue.jpg photo A Few Days in York 33_zpscl5eeann.jpg photo A Few Days in York 35_zpszxxrek8m.jpg photo A Few Days in York 34_zps4asfi3jh.jpgOur final day started in Brew & Brownie, before a walk around the City Walls and a mid-morning nap (the breakfasts were huge). The rest of the day was spent wandering the shops, exploring the Shambles and generally enjoying ourselves. Obviously we hadn’t quite eaten enough food, because we grabbed lunch at Betty’s. We avoided the cliche of afternoon tea but enjoyed their Swiss food. I loved my carb heavy Alpine Macaroni, filled with bacon, potatoes and pasta, whilst W’s Rösti was pretty much perfect.

There was a lot we didn’t manage to do in York. We just missed the reopening of the Viking Centre by a matter of days, and we didn’t manage to go and visit the Minster. We did manage (inadvertently I might add!) to have a little kiss under Heart of Yorkshire stained-glass window – legend says if you do you’ll stay together forever, though he’s stuck with me regardless. I’d have also liked to see a couple of museums, and we both want to explore the Yorkshire Moors – guess we’ll just have to head back up there soon!

Have you ever been to York?

Travel: A Wander Through Dovedale

One of my favourite childhood memories involves loading up picnics and dogs into the car and setting off early for a day of walking, picnicing and fresh air. Invariably we’d forget something (the dog leads, on one memorable occasion). Almost always one of the dogs would hare off after some kind of animal. Quite often the same dog would come strolling back, hopelessly pleased with herself, carrying some kind of smelly dead animal. Quite often those day trips involved a trip to Dovedale, on the southern edge of the Peak District.

 photo Dovedale Peak District 2_zpsalhramx3.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 1_zpshyfawocp.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 4_zpsl9djzxj6.jpgDog drama aside, it was always one of my favourite places to go. I was slightly gutted upon moving, at the age of 10, to be told that it was now over 2 hours away and infeasible for a day trip. I’ve visited so many places since, but Dovedale stayed with me. And when looking for a place to break up our journey up North, it turned out to be the perfect place.

We didn’t walk as far as I’d hoped, but we got a good three miles in before hunger pangs set in and the clouds got dark. In retrospect, we’re glad we turned back when we did as the rain on our return was rather heavy, and the path was getting a lot busier – it paid to get there early!

 photo Dovedale Peak District 5_zpsjnz8v4ka.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 6_zpshsvd0zb7.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 7_zpsfdb9ewss.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 8_zpsuhu78nij.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 9_zpsdnyv4ik7.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 10_zpsrrtwhal8.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 11_zpsfvbd2b95.jpg photo Dovedale Peak District 13_zpsjgby9exa.jpgIt was as beautiful as I remembered. Rolling hills, calm river, those iconic stepping stones – though they’ve definitely been evened out at some point over the last 12 years! Something about being by water, whether it’s a lake, river or the sea, just makes me feel so much more peaceful. And this was just wonderful. There was hardly anyone around on our outward walk, leaving us to amble in companionable silence or chat quietly. Perfection!

I’d forgotten quite how beautiful the Peak District is. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy a decent walk. I’m now working on a walking holiday next year – how wonderful would a short break be, plenty of exercise, nice B&B’s (no camping here!) and good food? Sounds like a perfect holiday to me…
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Have you ever been to Dovedale or the Peak District? Where’s your favourite spot in the UK?

Travel: A Trip Up North

What seems like rather a long time ago now, way back in August, we took a last little road trip in W’s car (Steve the Seat has now found a new home, sob). We headed up to where his dad’s family is originally from, Bolton, whilst stopping off at one of the favourite place of my childhood (more about that next week), spending some time in Manchester and generally just exploring the North.

 photo A Trip Up North 8_zps1alyyh0f.jpgIt’s strange, whilst away at uni I actually classed myself as a Northern girl. I said ‘bath’ rather than ‘b-arth’ (I hate people adding the “r” in once you get south of Leicester, my sister had trouble learning how to spell in primary school due to it!). I liked proper Yorkshire tea. I enjoy chip butties. And all my friends where very definitely from the South. Yet actually, I’ve seen very little of the North at all. I mean, I adore Edinburgh, I’ve visited and loved Northumberland, and the Lake Disrict always made for a good (if slightly wet) family holiday with the dogs. But other than that, my experience remains very firmly in the Midlands. This visit definitely persuaded me to try and change that though!

 photo A Trip Up North 2_zpsokiiwdky.jpgThe countryside around Bolton was stunning; if I’m honest not at all what I expected. Rolling hills, gorgeous views, open countryside, plenty of green. Give me a good hill over a flat landscape any day! Bolton was also a pleasant surprise – a decent museum to escape the rain in, a rather enviable new shopping centre in the old market place. And pasties. The Carrs Pasty is something I’ve only ad when W’s dad visited and brought them back for the freezer. And they’re delicious. We made a point to visit for lunch on our first day, then return before starting our journey home to stock up. Crisp buttery pastry, and a mash’n’mince filling that’s intensely savoury. So very different from my beloved Cornish pasty, but so very good.

Manchester, however, is a city I fell suddenly and unexpectedly in love with. I loved the hustle and bustle (that lacked the franticness of London). The Arndale had every shop I could want. There were so many restaurants I wanted to try. But most of all I adored the stark contrasts between the old and the new. Sparkly new offices being built next to the stunning cathedral. I wish I could have stayed longer, explored the city more. I only had a few hours; it definitely wasn’t enough.

 photo A Trip Up North 4_zpscwe6cxek.jpg photo A Trip Up North 7_zpsvxoaj01g.jpg photo A Trip Up North 5_zpspqmgfio6.jpg photo A Trip Up North 6_zpslqpn2osh.jpg photo A Trip Up North 3_zpstisbntcv.jpgIn need to (again) escape the rain we found what is perhaps the most Instarammable teashop I’ve ever been in. Enviable tiles, distressed wood, hanging light-bulbs. But most importantly, the tea was damn good. Everything was loose-lead, provided with an ‘egg timer’ to allow it to brew correctly. My standard English Breakfast was delicious. W’s Hibiscus was sweet and fruity, vivid in colour and so refreshing. The cakes looked gorgeous, but with an evening of Italian food ahead we didn’t indulge. Guess I’ll have to go back soon!

We spent our last morning being all cultural. We visited Salford Quays, had a wander around Media City (including a really rather yummy mac’n’cheese lunch at Pret), and viewed the Lowry Gallery. One of my favourite artists, I really enjoyed the chance to see much more of his work. Plus I couldn’t resist a quick browse in the outlet stores. Finally picking up a pair of heeled brogues I’d been coverting for years for an absolute bargain ended our little trip perfectly!

 photo A Trip Up North 1_zpsln7vjlp3.jpgA gorgeous (though a little chilly) few days. I even got my chip butty!

Have you explored much of North UK? Anywhere you’d recommend?

Lifestyle: 30 Hours in Zurich, Switzerland

A few weekends ago I was lucky enough to spend a short time over in Zurich…though admittedly not for leisure! Switzerland just happens to be one of my most favourite places ever since I first visited four years ago, so it was nice to have the opportunity to see a bit more of the city.

 photo 2016-02-26 15.28.30_zpstwebv6ko.jpg photo 2016-02-26 15.28.28_zpsylvhsr8b.jpgWhilst I didn’t get a huge amount of time to explore, I did have a good wander along a very small section of the lake, had a good nosey at all the lovely buildings, and appreciated the extreme efficiency of their train system (whilst getting confused about which ticket I needed to buy). There was plenty more I would have wanted to squeeze into the two free hours I had to spare, but the cold temperatures and hot chocolate cravings meant I actually saw very little.

 photo 2016-02-26 13.26.55_zpskhrgptpm.jpg photo 2016-02-26 15.31.22_zpssuj4hsxi.jpg photo 2016-02-26 15.30.47_zpsdylawyeo.jpgI did, however, succeed in buying almost too much chocolate for my suitcase to class as hand luggage on the flight home. #sorrynotsorry

Have you ever been to Switzerland? What’s your favourite European city?

Lifestyle: 48 Hours in Edinburgh

Last week I shared how Will proposed in Granary Square, King’s Cross, and how he planned a romantic getaway for the following days in Edinburgh. This is a city very close to our hearts; in fact I was convinced this was where he would end up proposing! We’ve spent a couple of holidays up there throughout our relationship, and I’ve had a whirlwind trip for a job interview too. I absolutely adore the place, so I’ve put together a guide for mini city-break.
 photo Edinburgh Infographic_zpsw3mnmmny.jpg This isn’t a definitive guide to Edinburgh as there’s so much more to do and see, but it really shows my favourite parts of the city, the best moments I’ve spent there, the things I’d really recommend.

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Where to Stay: Intimate Luxury @ The Rutland Hotel

Having always rented a serviced apartment for our trips before, it was a lovely change to spend our engagement weekend in a hotel. Will had picked out The Rutland which turned out to be a perfect choice; excellent service, just the right combination of modern and cosy, an amazing bathroom and the most comfortable (and huge!) bed imaginable.

I loved the fact that we could have breakfast delivered to our room from the bar downstairs – and my Eggs Benedict arrived perfectly cooked. I also sampled the Full Scottish the next morning whilst overlooking Edinburgh Castle; this became the first cooked breakfast I’ve failed to finish!

Where to Eat/Drink: Cocktails @ The Huxley Bar

Sat below our hotel, this bar was the place that cooked up our delicious breakfasts. Despite the slightly limited menu we also had a rather enjoyable dinner here; I highly recommend the Fried Chicken Burger (the spicy jalapeno slaw was addictive!), whilst W really enjoyed his Chilli Dog. A high point was definitely the excellent cocktails!
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Where to Eat: Cosy Soup @ Hula Juice Bar

One of our favourite places, Hula is somewhere we have to visit each trip. They serve a massive range of sandwiches/wraps/bagels, two fresh soups daily (their Haggis & Potato is my favourite!), fresh and tasty salads, and the most amazing cheese on toast. The drinks menu is just as good, loads of fresh juices and shakes. We highly recommend the Pink Lady or Nutty Professor. It goes without saying, but their baked goods are equally as delicious.

Where to Eat: Celebratory Meal @ The Kitchin

I’m not even entirely sure how he managed it, but W managed to secure a last minute table at the Michelin-starred restaurant tucked away in Leith. I’ve got no photos as it was an intimate restaurant and romantic date night – but it was completely worth the money. We chose the Tasting Menu, comprising of;

  • Bar Snacks – 4 flavours of crisp bread, with a cream cheese dip topped with toasted wheat.
  • Amuse Bouche – chilled carrot veloutee, with ginger and lime, topped with seasonal vegetables.
  • Pre-Starter – I had a leek terrine with beetroot, lemon ricotta and quails egg, whilst W had ‘Rockpool’ (a selection of seafood and seaweed in a consomme).
  • Starter – razor clam served in a creamy chorizo sauce.
  • Middle Course – ‘Pigs Head’ i.e. a pig cheek fritter, langoustine, and caramelised pig’s ear.
  • Main Course – a pulled lamb fritter, topped with a lamb chop, served with carrots many ways (pureed, roasted and a delicious carrot tarte tartin).
  • Pre-Dessert – Pear sorbet.
  • Dessert – Scottish sea-buckthorn panna cotta, served with marshmallow, meringue, textures of apple and a sea-buckthorn veloutee.
  • Petit Four – Coffee fancier, orange macaron, salted caramel.

An awful lot of food, the portions were surprisingly generous, and we had some delicious cocktails too. Service was attentive without being overbearing, it was a delight to meet Tom (W was more nervous at that point than the previous night’s proposal!) and the bathrooms were the most luxurious I’ve ever used.

Where to Eat: Burger Overload @ Just Burgers & Beer

This is the place that really sparked my love for a good burger – anywhere do thinks Mac’n’Cheese is an appropriate burger topping is a winner with me!
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What to Do: Festive Markets

We were in Edinburgh the weekend before Christmas and everything looked wonderfully festive. Admittedly the main one running in the gardens by Princes Street was a little tacky, but still quite charming.
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What to Do: Climb Arthur’s Seat (or Calton Hill for the faint-hearted!)

Not for the faint hearted this! We climbed up (using the not-so-easy route!) in the heatwave during June 2014 and it was tough going. The views however are utterly fantastic and I’m so glad we did it.

A much easier and quicker alternative is to talk a short stroll up Calton Hill. We only managed to do this in December for the first time but I really wish we’d done it sooner. A great view over towards the castle, and it was beautiful as the sun began to set.
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What to Do: Picnic on the Beach @ North Berwick

A beautiful seaside town around 30 minutes from the city by train, this is where me and W stayed during our first trip to Edinburgh. The beach is utterly stunning; sandy, atmospheric rock pools and long enough for a proper walk. During our engagement weekend we packed up a picnic, snuggled up on the rocks and watched the sun go down before heading for a hot chocolate in a nearby cafe. Perhaps a little cold, but utterly perfect!

So, there’s a round-up of our best bits in Edinburgh, the places I really recommend people to visit and the bits I highly suggest you do.

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? Where do you recommend?

Lifestyle: A Bank-Holiday Weekend in Devon

Just over 13 months since I last wrote a post titled virtually the same, I’m back from another weekend in Devon. A different area, a very different kind of break, but we still ended up going to our family-favourite chippy!

 photo Devon 2015 26_zps8knklwoj.jpg photo Devon 2015 25_zpsfwoswkii.jpg photo Devon 2015 2_zpsxpqixc7p.jpgMy family have been visiting Devon/Dorset for years. It’s so much quieter than Cornwall, easier to get to, a little cheaper and the roads are much wider. Plus it’s just as beautiful! For as long as I remember we’ve been going down there for the first weekend in March and then again later in the year – though I’ve sneakily escaped from the March visit for a good eight years now. What can I say; it was a little cold for me! This year we stayed in a cottage just outside Sidmouth – one of my favourite seaside towns.

 photo Devon 2015 3_zps7vekha6e.jpg photo Devon 2015 8_zpsnvr89u1p.jpg photo Devon 2015 9_zpszuajafuj.jpgOur first day was earmarked for one thing, and one thing only – a visit to aforementioned chippy. I actually wasn’t as impressed as usual as I found the chips a little pale and soggy, still good though! We wandered along the seafront, getting battered by the strong winds and sprayed by the waves. The sun came out to join us too!

 photo Devon 2015 7_zpsen4yhe02.jpgI found a new life goal – own a beach hut. How lovely would that be?!

 photo Devon 2015 12_zpszfgcpd7c.jpg photo Devon 2015 1_zpsp4iwzonf.jpgSaturday bought a lot of sunshine, a good amount of heat and a lot of wasps buzzing around. There was little chance to enjoy the weather as we’d arranged a family meet-up – it ended up being a great afternoon of seeing cousins I hadn’t seen since I was 14.

 photo Devon 2015 13_zpscc952qum.jpg photo Devon 2015 14_zps8onl79ny.jpg photo Devon 2015 15_zpskey2xrca.jpg photo Devon 2015 16_zpskl5gizda.jpg photo Devon 2015 18_zpstexicpdu.jpg photo Devon 2015 19_zps8l1pdyjd.jpg photo Devon 2015 20_zpsagkvmnrm.jpgThe next day was a bit rainy, a bit grey, a bit soggy. We headed off to Beer, a little fishing village I’d never actually visited before. It’s still a working fishing village, so there’s a bit of a whiff in the air. It is very charming though, I just wouldn’t want to sit for too long on the beach. We had a wander, then retreated to a little hut on the cliffs for shelter, steaming hot drinks and some equally mouth-blistering Devonish pasties. I have clearly got used to London prices as I couldn’t believe I could buy a hot chocolate for £1.50!

 photo Devon 2015 21_zpszlimt6v1.jpg photo Devon 2015 22_zpsidl1skzx.jpgThe next stop was the Donkey Sanctuary. This is a staple whenever we are in the area, it’s free to enter and a great way to spend a few hours. I love donkeys (there’s just something so comical amount them!), and I find the work the charity does is amazing. They all look so well cared for, everything is clean, and not a penny is charged. This time we were lucky enough to finally spy some of the Poitou – giant curly donkeys!

 photo Devon 2015 23_zpsywixjl0x.jpg photo Devon 2015 32_zpsvdhkk5k6.jpgAs the rain stopped we decided to pop into Sidmouth briefly – and ended up being seriously impressed by the dog-friendly beach. We watched the tail-end of the regatta, wandered around the shops (myself being amazed at being able to get on normal width wellies in Joules!), and maybe had a cheeky ice cream…(Maple Pecan Crunch was definitely a good decision…)

 photo Devon 2015 24_zpshrezq6vx.jpg photo Devon 2015 29_zpssqegji4g.jpg photo Devon 2015 31_zps79cwln2j.jpg photo Devon 2015 30_zpsnmuyuq9k.jpgHaving been so impressed with Sidmouth we decided to call in again on our last day (me and W unfortunately could only stretch to a long weekend). The weather was a little kinder to us, the tide not so. We wiled away the morning in the town, lusting over the homewear shops and eating some of the best chips ever (this time the fish suffered – one day I will find the perfect place that does both elements exactly right!). Tide finally out, we hit the beach. The sun made an appearance, the bare legs came out and I braved the sea (knee deep!). We explored some rock pools, got my dog running around and generally relaxed.

A slightly strenuous climb up to the car needed remedying with an ice cream. Salted Caramel was the perfect way to end a perfect weekend!

 photo Devon 2015 11_zps54ydp060.jpgAs this weekend served as a bit of a detox from the internet, from blogging, from life in general, I was a bit unsure about whether to put up a post about it. However I did take some lovely photos (some of these are from my shiny new phone!), and I had such a wonderful time I wanted to share it – as it’s my last holiday in a while I thought I’d make the most of it!

What did you get up to over the Bank Holiday? Where’s your favourite seaside spot?

Travel: Venice Evenings (+ Italy Holiday Tips)

One of the things I loved most about Venice was the evenings. Unlike Rome (which was always busy), the evenings in Venice were so tranquil and relaxing. We spent them lingering over our food, drinking plenty of wine, and on one unforgettable evening we watching the sun set over the sea. Beautiful memories, ones which I doubt I will forget.

 photo Venice at Night 6_zps3qbpvnc2.jpg photo Venice at Night 5_zpsnrpnmjd4.jpg photo Venice at Night 4_zpsr7jdiozq.jpg photo Venice at Night 3_zpsziodxu0c.jpg photo Venice at Night 2_zpsy6k1c8fw.jpgIt’s now been nearly two months since we set out on our trip (time has seriously flown by!), and we’ve had chance to reflect on our planning, what we missed out on, what we should have done. Of course, this is the perfect opportunity for me to type up some advice and get it out to you. So here goes, my top tips for planning an Italian holiday to Rome or Venice…

Budget

Make sure you budget, both for the trip itself (flights, hotels, transfers) and spending money. We found Rome was wonderfully cheap once all tickets had been bought. Venice not so much!

 photo Venice at Night 1_zpshlq4muva.jpgPlan

If you have a few attractions you want to see, it definitely pays to book in advance. In Rome, queues for the Vatican were at least three hours long, and probably similar for the Colosseum. Buy in advance people!

With Venice, the one thing that probably tops everyone’s’ to-do list is a gondola ride, and rightly so. Yet be careful about planning this. Find a starting point which doesn’t mean your time is just spent on the Grand Canal, and budget accordingly. These gondola rides don’t come cheap!

Make Your Own Lunch

This is something I can’t stress enough. I don’t mean going to the nearest supermarket and grabbing packets and crisps and biscuits (just no!), but go to a supermarket with a good selection of fresh produce and build your own sandwiches. On frugal days we picked up rolls, salami and fruit (coming in at €4 for the two of us), on splurge days we grabbed ciabatta, speck ham and mozzarella alongside cherries (coming in at a bank-robbing €6 for two). You’re still getting the Italian experience, but at a fraction of the price of restaurants.

Italian supermarkets are just superb. Ask the bread man what is freshest, ask the woman at the cheese counter what she recommends to go with your meat – we discovered a fab creamy cheese that was a little like a firmer mozzarella. Ask what meat the assistant likes best, watch what the locals pick. Everything is so, so fresh – and it’s just a much nicer experience than your standard UK Sainsbury’s trip!

 photo Castel SantAngelo 11_zps0mnc2bsp.jpgResearch Restaurants

I never want to waste money on a bad meal, so I will always have a search on Trip Advisor before going somewhere. For our first night in each place we went with guidance from our hotel – and both were fine. We dedicated a bit of time the next day to wandering around and looking at menus, before researching during siesta time.

It definitely pays off – the restaurant we visited on our second night in Venice was so good we returned the next night!

Pack Sensibly

Likelihood is you will be doing a LOT of walking, so make sure you are prepared. If you are going in the summer also beware that comfortable shoes may not be so comfortable in the heat – I definitely regretted not taking plasters out and about with me! I would also recommend taking waterproof clothing – read this post to find out why..

Water fountains are pretty common along most streets, so take bottle out and about with you. Restaurants charge for water in Italy so make the most of whatever free water you can find – save the money for wine!
 photo Colesseum 15_zpsbcxci9yt.jpg

Have you ever been to Italy?

Travel: Venice’s Famous Sites & A Gondola Ride

Whilst more a city for wandering and exploring, Venice does have some must-see famous sites scattered about. We spent a day doing most of them – you could definitely spend longer than a day (I’d have loved to explore Doge’s Palace) but we found this was enough. After the chaos of Rome we just wanted to wander!

 photo Famous Sites 9_zpsdqwtxod8.jpg photo Famous Sites 8_zpsygyr3uol.jpg photo Famous Sites 7_zpspasdgjo1.jpg photo Famous Sites 5_zpsginw5pnj.jpg photo Famous Sites 3_zps8pksy204.jpgOne place I really do recommend you take the time to go and see is Murrano. This is a separate little Island, it’s probably around 20 minutes by Vaporetto (which is not a particularly cheap way to get around!), and it’s where pretty much all Murrano glass wear is made. Those little Love Links/Pandora style beads? These are all Murrano glass! Obviously there’s different types. There’s the tacky stuff, stunning glasswear and even the most beautiful modern gallery that we found. It’s well worth taking a wander around, possibly picking up a few bits. Wandering to the left (away from the main street, by-passing the first ‘factory tour’ and walking as far round as you can there’s an excellent little place which does a free demonstration of glassblowing. I was shocked the apprenticeship takes nearly two decades!

The most famous site in Venice is probably St Mark’s square, and whilst it is a lovely site – it’s not as beautiful as the rest of Venice. This was the one place that felt really touristy, and whilst it’s worth a visit I wouldn’t rush here. We did wander around the church, which was absolutely stunning, but didn’t pay to visit the terrace or the museum. Like I said, I would have loved to look around Doge’s Palace, but that’s something we’re saving for our return…

 photo Famous Sites 20_zpsqgncv5fr.jpg photo Famous Sites 18_zpsfzbbqt07.jpg photo Famous Sites 13_zpsehqama1n.jpg photo Famous Sites 12_zpscnyafezo.jpg photo Famous Sites 11_zpsg4oixruj.jpg photo Famous Sites 2_zpsyn30dubt.jpg photo Gondola Ride 3_zps7belq6iq.jpgI’ve already shared our disappointment at the Trevi Fountain renovations, and it seems our luck continued to Venice – the Rialto bridge was also covered in scaffolding. Luckily we managed to catch a glimpse of the uncovered side from our Gondola ride on the last morning…

 photo Wandering in Venice 27_zpsoxd8f6jg.jpgPerhaps not a famous site as such, but one locals were always keen to point out, and that’s a pretty unique clock that can be found in Venice. It’s not exactly easy to tell the time on a clock that has 24 hours!

Having pondered over it for much of the holiday, we decided to splurge on a gondola ride on our last morning. A wonderfully sunny, warm day – it was the perfect weather for a romantic trip. Gondola rides aren’t cheap, but they are government regulated so at least there’s no competitive pricing going on – the flat daytime rate is €80 for thirty minutes. Pricey yes, but one of our only splurges of the holiday.

 photo Gondola Ride 7_zpshtdi8xgy.jpg photo Gondola Ride 5_zpsj25holbf.jpg photo Gondola Ride 8_zpslxm3hxul.jpgWe picked up a gondola on the Grand Canal but away from St Mark’s, a good choice as we were taken through winding passages of the quieter canals. Our gondolier was chatty and friendly, without intruding. He even serenaded us! And insisted we had a quick kiss for a photo…which of course made me giggle!

Venice was just beautiful, but I don’t recommend going on a purely sightseeing trip. You need to take time to wander and explore to get the feel for this place – it’s not somewhere to rush. It’s just beautiful…

Have you ever been to Venice? Where would you recommend visiting?

Travel: Wandering Around Venice

I fell in love with Venice. Completely and utterly head over heels, and I already can’t wait to return. In all honest we found that although there are that many ‘main’ sights to see, there was far too much exploring for just three days. It’s not a place I’d recommend for a short trip!

 photo Wandering in Venice 20_zpsdxirwkyh.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 9_zpslj7ltdqf.jpgOn our first day we were exhausted from the franticness of Rome, and the weather was glorious. After a morning of wandering, getting our bearings and working out how we actually got tickets for water taxis, we decided to put a pause on sight-seeing and head to the beach. The complete opposite end to our hotel, getting to the Lido took around an hour. Word of advice, outside at the back of a Vaporetto is noisy, vibrating and not particularly pleasant. Don’t do it! The Lido itself is an odd beach resort. It’s pretty touristy-seeming, yet the majority of people there were Italians.You have to pay (significantly) for a sunbed or shade, but lockers were €5 for the whole day, returning as much as you like. Unfortunately they also charged for use of the toilets… We just chilled out, lying on the sand, and a fair few dips in the sea. Utter bliss! On our return we came across the cruise ships leaving the port. I have to say it’s a little scary having these beasts steaming towards you whilst you’re in a teeny boat!

 photo Wandering in Venice 13_zpso87ml3xj.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 11_zpsqthfiuna.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 8_zps7z3jnlnb.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 7_zpspqrvnhw4.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 5_zpso0mzj4pk.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 3_zpsk2cuj3si.jpgOur middle day was spent squeezing in the main sights (check in soon to find out more), and our last day was spent doing a LOT of wandering. Definitely not because we were slightly lost…

We walked over hundreds of bridges, and I took a couple of photos at each. I befriended a seagull who sat with us throughout our lunch, dived into several Kiko stores and gawped at all the designer shops.

 photo Wandering in Venice 19_zpsvpyzgtb3.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 4_zpslnfrtr2z.jpgI also managed to get a stunning photo, which reminded me of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Upon sharing my holiday snaps with my parents we realised – I’d take a picture of the exact same view in the painting in their living room.

 photo Wandering in Venice 22_zpsajxucj4r.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 23_zpsvt3bvuyv.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 26_zpsimfzovex.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 25_zpsst5zibsp.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 24_zpsyjylcjrf.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 18_zps0t8kxozj.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 15_zpsacca5ses.jpgMy favourite area was over the Rialto Bridge from St Marks square. It was a lot quieter, very Italian, and virtually no tourists. This also made it far harder to work out where we were…

Eventually we stumbled across a square, thankfully settling down for a Spritz (bitter, cool and refreshing) and some much-needed carbs. We sat in the dappled shade of a tree reflecting our holiday, wishing we didn’t have to leave, making plans to return.

 photo Wandering in Venice 1_zpsy3c5cynt.jpgI’m thinking of combined Florence and Venice for another trip…so picturesque, I just loved wandering around aimlessly in Venice. Anywhere I can get a litre of with for less than €3 is automatically going in my top 10 list!

Have you ever been to Venice? What was your favourite bit?