A few weeks ago saw me and W attend another wedding (the second of the year – we’re taking advantage by stealing all the good ideas!), this time in Cambridge. One of my favourite cities, I couldn’t resist the chance to spend the day after having a good wander.
By chance it was probably one of the best days of the year so far. Beautifully sunny, almost warm – pretty much perfect. We had no plan, other than to just appreciate the winding streets, impressive colleges and beautifully kept gardens.
I did *have* to swing by the Cambridge Satchel shop though. Whilst I’ve never really been tempted with their bags (I find the leather feels a little flimsy compared to what I’m used to) I do appreciate some of their more unusual colours. They have a beige-y mushroom-y mink that I’m particularly lusting after…
Oh, and we managed to have a good catch up with an old friend over a cafe lunch – W went with a traditional cream tea, I let the side down with an indulgent combination of Coffee & Walnut Cake with a Hot Chocolate. Very nice it was too!
Having been to both Oxford and Cambridge relatively recently, I can definitely say Cambridge is my favourite of the two. I’ve really been enjoying exploring more of the UK over the last few years; I have my fingers crossed for a Scottish road trip this summer too!
Are you a fan of UK mini-breaks? Where’s your favourite UK city?
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.
Whilst 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.
I 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?
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. 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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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?
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!
My 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.
Our 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!
I found a new life goal – own a beach hut. How lovely would that be?!
Saturday 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.
The 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!
The 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!
As 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…)
Having 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!
As 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?
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.
It’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…
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
One 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…
I’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…
Perhaps 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.
We 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?
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!
On 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!
Our 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.
I 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.
My 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.
I’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?
Not a well talked about place, I’m very grateful to Libby for recommending this place. We sought shelter after the rainstorm, and were there when the sun came out and the paths (and people) literally started to steam as they dried out.
Not only does the Castel Sant’Angelo provide some of the most stunning views of St Peter’s Basicila, it’s also one of the most interesting castles I’ve visited. It’s not very ‘touristy’, there’s little signs everywhere, you just have to explore. There’s lots of little paths to take, lots of hidden bits to look at.
This photo was a complete accident – my camera has a touch-screen, and I’d forgotten to take touch-shutter off. It was taking photos at virtually every step I look as the camera moved against me. Turns out it is one of my favourite photos of the trip!
I peered through a dusty broken window (as a joke) and found the most stunning painting hidden from view behind it. We wandered through stunning, ornately decorated rooms (not expected in a castle!), peeked through arrow holes, and climbed our way up the narrow, winding staircase out to the top. I’m quite glad the thunder had stopped by that point!
I wore one of my favourite summer pieces – a midi skirt with H&M in a burnt-orange colour. Perfect for travelling as it covers knees (a necessity with a lot of places in Italy), and it packs up really small. I threw it on with a black vest top, then had a white shirt over the top as shoulders should also be covered in the Vatican. It proved useful in the rain too…and protected my blistered shoulders very nicely!
After a good few hours in the castle (at €7 for students, less in off-peak months, it’s a bit of a bargain) we wandered along the river, dodging more blimming selfie stick sellers. The above photo isn’t actually blurry – the paths (and people!) were steaming as they dried out from the rain! We were hunting down a place I’d found mentioned on a school friend’s year abroad blog; the Magnum Pleasure Store.
Not exactly Italian, but W is a huge fan of Magnum’s, eating them probably five nights a week.I knew we couldn’t pass up the chance to visit!
Probably the most expensive Magnum you will ever eat at €4, you choose between a vanilla or chocolate ice-cream filling. It is then dipped in either white, milk or dark chocolate, and scattered with up to three toppings before being finished with a drizzle of more chocolate. Not only is the product yummy, the store is lovely, vibrantly decorated at the front, but quite trendy and ridiculously comfy (and air conditioned!) out back.
Here’s a challenge for you – guess which one was mine, and which one was W’s! The white one was a chocolate ice-cream, covered in white chocolate (duh), sprinkled with salted caramel, hazelnuts and pretzels, drizzled with dark chocolate. The brown one was a vanilla ice cream dipped in milk chocolate, topped with rose petals, raspberry and brownie pieces, drizzled with white chocolate. So, whose is whose?!
Both were damn delicious anyway…
Do you like exploring hidden gems, or do you stick to main tourist attractions? And the most important question – what would you top your magnum with?
Having just come back from our Italy adventures (which are still being chronicled on the blog!), I’ve added up all our spending and I’m pretty pleased with how it went – we did treat ourselves, we did spend €80 on a gondola trip, but we had a damn good time and didn’t splurge too much. It felt only fitting that I share the following article with you – the best ways to travel on a budget!
If there is one thing that many students love to do, it’s travel abroad. Whether you are travelling during the holidays or whether you decide to take time out of university in order to explore the world, heading to pastures new can really help to broaden your horizons. It’s also a fabulous way to learn more about different destinations and cultures as well as to take in some world famous sights and attractions.
Of course, one thing that can get in the way of travelling abroad for many students is their finances. Most students tend to struggle financially during their university years, which can make it difficult to visit destinations abroad. The cost of travelling, accommodation and spending money can really mount up. Fortunately, there are ways in which you can cut the cost of travelling and enjoy travelling on the cheap while still enjoying the opportunity to explore new places. From cutting the cost of flights to benefitting from discount deals on sites such as VoucherBin, there are various options that can help when it comes to reducing the cost of travelling.
There are a number of different ways in which you can enjoy travelling abroad on the cheap as a student. Some of the key steps to take in order to help you cut costs include:
Travel light: These days, you can get some excellent deals on flights from low cost airlines. However, if you are taking a lot of luggage with you, the cost can quickly rise because you get charged for each suitcase you check-in. However, many of these airlines offer a pretty generous allowance for carry-on luggage, and this doesn’t cost you any extra. So, if you are able to travel light you could make big savings on flights.
Save money with vouchers: When you go on sites such as VoucherBin.co.uk, you can get some excellent deals and vouchers to help you cut costs. This includes discounts on attraction passes in destinations such as Berlin or Paris as well as airport parking discounts, transport discounts, and money off deals for holidays. VoucherBin offers a wide range of travel discounts and vouchers, so this is a really smart way to cut your travel costs.
Stay in a hostel: When you are on a budget, the last thing you want to do is spend all of your money on a hotel room. Given that you will spend a lot of time out and about exploring the area it is pointless to spend more than you need to on accommodation. With this in mind, it is well worth looking for a local hotel where you can stay. This can really slash the amount that you have to pay for accommodation, and you will probably get to meet many other students from different places around the world.
These are just a few of the ways in which you can help to keep travel costs down when you are jetting off abroad as a student.
My main tips are to shop around (but on inPrivate browsing – I’m convinced they put the prices up after you’ve looked a few times!), research accommodation and public transport costs, and buy lunches from supermarkets.
Are you off travelling anywhere this year? What are your tips for holidays on a budget?
Alongside the Colosseum this is the most talked about ‘attraction’ in Rome. It’s also another one you have to book a ticket for. It costs no more to book in advance, but you save yourself queueing – and the queue was around three hours long when we arrived at 11am.
It was ridiculously hot and humid that day, and unfortunately that didn’t help us whilst wandering round the museum. By the time we were shepherded into the extremely busy Sistine Chapel we’d both had enough. The crowded room wasn’t somewhere we wanted to spend much time, as beautiful as it was. The whole building was stunning, the detail on the ceilings, the sculptures, the paintings – all just wonderful.
Photos weren’t allowed in many areas, and they were very strict about that – I saw one woman escorted out, having had her camera examined and the offending photos deleted. All my photos were taken in areas where photography was permitted, but they don’t show the beauty of the place. It really has to be seen, and I wouldn’t recommend a trip to Rome without visiting!
My top advice? Take lots of water if visiting in warmer months! It’s a long walk round, there’s no way to by-pass bits, and nowhere to really stop off. On that note, go to the toilet beforehand too…
We also sat in the lush gardens to relax a little, before struggling to find our way out!
We headed towards St Peter’s Basilica, but the queue was snaking along and seemed a good hour long – there doesn’t seem to be a fast-track for this. We decided to give it a miss and settled down in the shade (a good choice!) to eat a packed lunch and watch the most stunning clouds roll in…
Then lightening lit up the now dark sky, thunder exploded, and the rain came down. I’ve never seen rain like it, within five minutes roads were flooded. The queue evaporated, the thousands heading towards the shelter we had previous had to ourselves. Rain blew up, the selfie-stick sellers rain to their cars, returning with ponchos and umbrellas!
The rain began to slow, we made a run for it…only to have to press ourselves against a wall in a vain attempt to shelter again.
A stunning thunderstorm, spectacular to watch…though I was glad I was not up at the top of the basilica’s dome! It was fascinating to experience such a quick change in weather – my photos of the square and the Vatican gardens were taken at most 20 minutes apart.
Have you been to Rome? Did you go to the Vatican?