Some more Italy: The Cities & Islands

Surely, Italy is one of the countries in Europe that attracts tons of tourists from all over the world. It is not such a surprise given the fact that the country is full of things worth visiting. It represents the whole idea of “la dolce vita” where one can have fun, relax, go on a spree and live a good life, at least when on holidays. Besides, there are many places to visit and many things to do. So, if you’re a Londoner and are planning your trip to Italy, here are the things worth including in your itinerary.

Rome, Lazio

Rome is the capital of the country and is part of the region of Lazio. It is full of historical and archaeological attractions such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the Aqueducts, and of course, the Vatican. The churches are beautiful and grand. Lovely squares and parks abound. Moreover, the cuisine is totally delicious. When in Rome, it would be worth visiting the memorial house of two of Britain’s most prominent poets, John Keats and Shelley Percy. Located on Piazza di Spagna, it contains a lock of Keat’s hair, some original letters, books and other mementos of Keats, Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. If you are also interested in seeing Keat’s gravesite, you can do so at the Protestant Cemetery in the Ostiense area.

(Furthermore, if you’re a soccer enthusiast, it would certainly be worth visiting the city during a derby match between Rome and Lazio. It is, according to most soccer related sources, one of the World’s 10 biggest rivalries. You can get into the soccer fever and be in the middle of the spectacle as fans get engrossed in their common passion while cheering, jeering or engaging in banner war.)

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Milan

The shopping capital of the country and of the world, Milan also has its fair share of attractions worthy of being included in anybody’s agenda. There is the mighty Duomo, which took as long as 600 years to complete. You will be amazed at the beautiful Gothic architecture of this basilica. Drop by the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie to gaze upon the world-famous painting of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci.

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Image credit: Pedro

Florence

If you love art and history, Florence is brimming with Renaissance grandeur! Plan for a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David including other art and musical exhibits. The Uffizi is home to the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art, made up of thousands of paintings, antique sculptures, tapestries, and illuminations. It features works by famous artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and Giotto.

Don’t forget the beer! Even if Italy is known for the best wines in the word, Florence proudly boasts some of the best breweries in the country, being hailed as the beer capital of Italy. Some of these would be Beer House Club and Archea Brewery.

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Image credit: Lex Kravetski

Sicily

A trip to Italy is never complete without visiting the amazing Island of Sicily. An extensive coastline made up of beautiful beaches and picturesque towns is just one of the attractions. It is also home to some of the best ancient Greek-Roman ruins such as the theatre in Taormina and the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. There are numerous regional parks where you can go hiking, cycling, horseback riding or to just watch the flora and fauna. The region is also full of water and theme parks that can be ideal when you are traveling with kids. If you’re in Sicily, enjoy as much as you can of the food! Dishes here are a source of pride, a very important “must try”, and they are usually made from the freshest in-season ingredients.

Of course, vacation are always more romantic with a partner too! So you can find UK singles here – and maybe partner up with someone special. Italy is so romantic, so make sure you make the most of it!

Romance on The Coast: How To Enjoy A Romantic Sailing Holiday in the Mediterranean 

During a sailing holiday you can really get away from it all, dipping in and out of daily island life when you wish and truly getting some alone time. If you have never sailed before, it might be a bit daunting and difficult to know where to start. Well, here are a few tips to help you on your way to a romantic holiday sailing in the Mediterranean.

How to rent a boat

The best thing you can do when planning a sailing holiday is to research tour operators and sailing holidays. Checking what they have to offer, their experience reviews and value are all factors to consider. You also need to decide what kind of sailing holiday you want to take as there are a few to choose from.

Bareboat Sailing

If you are a qualified sailor and happy to take a boat out on your own, then you can just hire the yacht and the seas are yours. You have to be quite confident and able to navigate but it can be a great romantic adventure, sailing the seas and choosing where to stop and anchor. Find little coves and bays you can have to yourselves as the larger boats can’t dock there.  There’s nothing quite like setting sail, just you and the open sea.

Skippered Yacht Charter

If you are not a qualified sailor but still want the experience of setting off on your own then a skippered charter might be for you. You are basically hiring a yacht and a skipper to take you where you want to go. The skipper will also show you the ropes if you wish and you can help as much or as little as you want. They are also able to advise you on ports to visit, places to eat and and the most romantic spots to swim.

Flotilla holidays

A good choice if you are beginners who need guidance but also want some alone time. A flotilla is a group of around ten yachts which are guided by a professional crew on a lead yacht. There can be about 30-50 people depending on the size of the boats, however, with your own boat you’ll have your own place for peace and quiet. Choosing to sail on flotilla holidays will give you some experience of sailing by yourself with the peace of mind that your guides are not too far away. Each day you will be briefed on your destination, then away you go!

Luxury Yacht Charter

For the ultimate in sailing luxury you can charter your own fully serviced yacht. You’ll have your own skipper, host and spacious cabins to relax in. It is like a sailing chalet, taking you to a different destination each day. Obviously, these Yachts come at a price but if you are looking for the most comfortable way to sail the Mediterranean without lifting a finger, then this might be the boat for you.

Of course, you might not have you own boat, so you might want to look into how to meet wealthy people haha!

How to choose your itinerary

Depending on how much time you want to spend sailing and how many different places you wish to see will both be factors when choosing your itinerary.

For short island hopping you may want to stay in one destination, for example Greece or Croatia, as there are lots of lovely islands to explore here. Greek Island hopping is quite popular and the scenery is beautiful and quite varied too. The Greek Ionian Islands are great for easy island hopping but for the keener sailors the Cyclades Islands are great too.

If you want to sail to a few different locations then you could take a tour from the likes of Athens to Venice, stopping at Milos, Fiskardo, Kotor, Dubrovnik and Split. That gives you four countries in just ten days. There are similar itinerary’s available depending on how many nights you want to stay and sail.

You must remember that when you are sailing, you are staying in small quarters and you won’t have much space. Keep this in mind when packing, reducing your luggage and being organised will help you stay comfortable on your sailing holiday.

So you see, there are many different types of sailing holidays you can take and a wealth of fantastic destinations to explore in the Mediterranean. Still struggling to decide? Here are a few of the top Romantic destinations to explore when sailing here.

Top Romantic Mediterranean docking spots

Santorini, Greece

A luxurious destination with its trademark white buildings with dazzling blue rooves and fantastic volcanic scenery. Santorini is a must when sailing around the Greek islands. It will always be a popular place with visitors so it will be hard to find a secluded spot. You must however hang around for the truly spectacular sunsets.

Menorca, Spain

Although this island is only small, it has more than 120 beaches which is quite impressive. This means you might find your own little secluded romantic spot to dock and enjoy the serene surroundings. Find your very own slice of paradise and relax.

Navagio Beach, Zakynthos, Greece

Or shipwreck beach to others, this beach is a popular spot with tourists and is quite recognisable with its curved shore and the wreck of a boat on the sand. Many people take a day trip to this beach, however if you have your own yacht you can visit early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the day tripping crowds.

Bol, Croatia

Although this island is not far from the busy port of Split, Bol has managed to keep its serenity as opposed to some other neighbouring islands. Visit Zlatni Rat or the Golden horn, a small stretch of beach on the south coast for a beauty spot to relax in. Put this island on your list if you are planning a Croatian island-hopping tour.

Rimini, Italy

Sat in the Adriatic Riviera you’ll find Rimini, a bustling resort full of lovely well-groomed beaches and excellent local food. If you want to relax in a place with plenty of amenities but a local touch then Rimini is an excellent choice. As Italians favour this area for a holiday destination you’ll see the food is more than enough reason to stop by.

Solta, Croatia

Another often overlooked Croatian island, Solta is small and rugged unspoiled destination. There are still traditional fishing communities and working vineyards and olive groves on the island which add to its charm. It is a place Croatians like to visit but hasn’t much been touched by the rest of the outside world.

Porto Christo, Mallorca

A small, tranquil Spanish town which seems worlds away from the busy noisy clubs of other nearby resorts on the island. Anchor here are you can explore sandy beaches, natural caves and plenty of sunshine. A great stop when sailing the Spanish islands.

Would you choose to take a romantic sailing holiday?

Now you know all about the choices you have with a sailing holiday, would you choose to set sail for a romantic holiday? It sounds like a fantastic idea and with so much choice and the help of expert tour companies you are sure to find the perfect sailing holiday for you.

Romantic things to do in Kiev, Ukraine

Kiev, Ukraine’s capital and one of the most appealing cities globally, is a bliss for lovers and honeymooners. Whether it is on valentines day, a vacation or when you are in your feelings, Kiev has a good number of romantic places you could visit.
1. Declare your love at Lover’s bridge
The bridge has been used as a wedding proposal site by many couples and passionate poets who come to write their love romantic lyrics on the railing. There is a belief among the people of the city, that if you kiss someone while standing on the Lover’s bridge, you will never forget them, for as long as you live. Now you just need to find a date!

2. Create memories swimming with dolphins at Nemo Dolphinarium
Enjoy watching a delightful dance waltz performed by the dolphins with your lover by your side. You can even jump in the water with your heartbeat and swim with these sweet and trained creatures. You can even take pictures! For more intimacy, book an unforgettable and private show for just the two of you.

3. Make wishes, at the Fountain of Desires
Located on the wall of the Intercontinental hotel, the Fountain of Desires receives a huge number of visitors every year. There are 21 bowls in the fountain, with the images of Nike, the famous Greek goddess. The bowls are gold coated and they sparkle like diamonds on sunny days.

4. Enjoy the sunset at Navodnitskiy park
Located on the Dnieper river, the scenic Navodnitskiy Park has a monument at the centre; a bronze boat with the founders of Kiev. The park is perfect for newly weds or people who have just renewed their vows. According to the locals, couples who manage to throw their bouquet into the bronze boat (with their backs turned) will live a happy, peaceful life full of love.

5. Enjoy breathtaking views on the Castle Hill (Zamkova Hora)
From the hill, you and your lover can enjoy awe-inspiring views of the Podol district and the Dnieper river. You will also build the team spirit as you climb up the 120-steps metal staircase, to reach the hill. The hill got its name from the castle built by Prince Vladimir Orgerdovich.

6. Landscape Alley (Peysashnaya Alleya)
Enjoy a romantic walk, looking at the beautiful sunset and a view of the Podil district (on the lower part of the city). On the alley, you will find a range of captivating and romance-inspiring sculptures of fairy-tale characters.

5 destinations to visit in Europe this summer

The Brexit negotiations may have got underway in June but that’s no reason why you shouldn’t head for Europe yourself this summer – especially as by the summer of 2019 it may well not be quite as easy to pop over for some Euro-fun.

There are literally thousands of places just waiting to be visited from seaside resorts to exciting capitals everywhere from Amsterdam to Zurich – but to help you make up your mind we’ve picked five of the very best for you

Crete

Every summer millions of sun-worshippers head for this, the largest of the Greek Islands and a place where there really is something for everyone. If the heavy partying scene of Malia’s not your cup of tea then you’ll find many quieter parts of the island like the area around Souda Bay to the south of the island. Or you could head for Knossos where you’ll find plenty of remains left from the Minoans. If you’re feeling more intrepid you can even venture through Europe’s longest gorge or visit the cave where Zeus was said to have been born.

Monaco

You might think that Monaco’s only for the super-rich and celebrities but it’s well worth a visit if only to gaze in awe at the supercars that prowl the streets and the jaw-droppingly extravagant luxury yachts that line the marina. But the one place that you should include on any itinerary is the Le Grand Casino – but don’t expect to find any Monegasques there as they are barred from entry. In order to stand the best chance of taking money from the super-rich the famed 888casino have designed a perfect guide, the best online casino in the business have enlisted the help of gambling guru Henry Tamburin P.h.D. to perfect players’ skills, this is most certainly the place to learn how to play blackjack.

Barcelona

If you want the best of both worlds with an exciting city break plus the chance to swim in the sea then Barcelona’s a must. It’s a place where life’s lived outdoors whether you’re enjoying the freshest seafood or brilliantly moreish tapas. The architecture’s stunning too whether it’s the ornate and over-the-top designs of Gaudi or the wide boulevards lined by imposing apartment buildings. Football fans should also make sure they take in a tour of Nou Camp which is a little way outside of the city centre.

Berlin

There can’t be many European cities that have played such important roles in modern history as Berlin. All but destroyed in the Second World War and split in two by the Iron Curtain, the post-reunification city has echoes of its past everywhere you look. From the 1936 Olympic stadium and the remains of the notorious Checkpoint Charlie to the stunning Reichstag offering panoramic views of the city, you’ll find more than enough to do however long that you decide to stay.

Rome

A city with a very different, but no less turbulent, history makes the perfect introduction to Italy and Italian culture. Visit the Colosseum and the Ancient Forum to imagine what it was like in Roman times and see the Mussolini-era architecture of the EUR. You’ll find many of the city’s best restaurants along the Via Veneto and, when you’ve had enough of sightseeing, the Romans’ favourite seaside resort of Ostia is only a short train ride away.

 

Best Luxury Experiences in Ibiza

Booking a holiday to Ibiza soon? If you want to fill your vacation with some amazing luxury experiences, you’ve come to the right place! Here are some recommendations for some gorgeous luxurious experience on Ibiza.

Book a 5* Hotel

Luxury is all about the experience – so if luxurious experiences are what you’re after, then book yourself into a gorgeous 5* hotel, even better if you can upgrade to a suite. If you’re looking to stop in Santa Eulalia del Rio, Aguas De Ibiza is a beautiful hotel, and definitely one I’d recommend! Which brings me onto my next idea…

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Dine out in style

Many of the luxury hotels have incredible restaurants too. Aguas De Ibiza actually has a flair of gastronomy, you’ll definitely want to check out the hotel’s restaurant. If luxury food is your kind of thing, you’ll definitely want to give this place a try –  ViCool is owned by chef Sergi Arola (a well known Spanish chef). Take a break from Ibiza nightlife for a night, and enjoy some incredible food instead.

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Hire a private boat

If you want to see more of the island, but also want to stay out in the sunshine, we’re not sure what could top hiring a private boat. Don’t know how to sail? It’s not a problem – lots of companies in Ibiza will hire a boat and a skipper to sail it for you. You just need to lay back and relax, and enjoy the view! maybe take your camera too, for all the incredible views on offer!

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Pamper yourself at a VIP day spa

Pamper yourself after a night of sampling the island’s glamorous nightlife by spending the day at one of Ibiza’s opulent spas. There are plenty to choose from on the island, most of them located inside the 5* hotels. Book a massage or facial, and get yourself looking relaxed and refreshed for the night ahead.

Hire a private driver to tour you around the island

If seeing the island by sea isn’t you thing, maybe hiring a private driver is more your style. You could hire a limo for the day, and explore some of the cute hidden beaches and market towns Ibiza has to offer. Your driver will know all the best places to pull over for amazing insta snaps too!

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Become a VIP

For a bit of luxury during the evening, book yourself a VIP package at one of Ibiza’s many nightclubs. Prices can vary, but there’s nothing like treating yourself to the best service all night. Many VIP packages include a private dance area, a private bar and drinks on arrival. Oh and you won’t have to queue!

 

Top 10 Romantic Destinations in Europe

This part of Eurasia seems to be familiar to everyone, yet it still overwhelms us with its diversity and some perplexing charisma. Europe is not romantic, it is just romance itself. Here, your soul awakens for new feelings and impressions. So now, we wish to tell you about the most dazzling places in this region.

  1. Venice

In fact, Venice isn’t just a city. Nowadays, this may be compared to a large souvenir shop or a fair. The whole area embodies a single tourist spot encompassing over 100 small islands. Each of them has its own allure. Known as the jewel of the Adriatic, Venice has the pretty long and intriguing history reflected in every stone.

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  1. Paris

This city doesn’t actually need any extensive introductions. For already a couple of centuries it is known as the city of romance and love. Indeed, Paris has somewhat a unique atmosphere that makes hearts melt: legendary historical monuments, sophisticated architecture, sweet landscapes create the special French charm.

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  1. Santorini Island

A rare destination in Greece can surpass this one in terms of popularity and enchantment. Officially called Thira, this beautiful volcanic island is actually a remnant of an old eruption, after which an enormous caldera arose. Its views coloured in white and blue have formed the entire country’s image to a certain degree.

  1. Barcelona

If you seek romance in Spain, Barcelona should be your choice. It provides plenty of options – from just strolling down the fascinating Las Ramblas Street to take up various beach activities. But what you really must see are the architectural masterpieces by Antoni Gaudi.

  1. Florence

By all means, this is one of the prominent European destinations. The centre of Renaissance, the city of da Vinci, Boccaccio, Michelangelo, and Raphael – Florence embodies the Italian spirit. Apart from being the country’s cultural centre, it also provides marvelous shopping, exclusive food, and the complete set of fun events.

  1. Vienna

One of two former capital cities of Austrian-Hungarian Empire is located in a spectacular setting beside the Alps, spa resorts, and the Vienna Woods. Famous for its opera, science, and rich cultural heritage, it also attracts people of all ages with modern amusements.

  1. Budapest

Along with Vienna, Budapest was once the capital city of the glorious monarchy. Today, this city is just great for walking – it encompasses thousands of spots worth your attention. Likewise, it is known for wonderful ecology and nearby spa areas.

  1. Rome

“All roads lead to Rome” – this is what we’ve always been told. And we must admit that’s true. It is probably one of the most interesting cities in Europe. Rome is pretty diverse – here, the ancient history mixes with the latest civilization achievements. Monuments of old harmoniously blend with modern megapolis culture.

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  1. Madeira Island

A picturesque island with its capital city of Funchal lies just in the heart of the Atlantic. Especially if you love sailing cruises, this should become your waypoint! Madeira annually hosts numerous events like the Carnival parades, the Atlantic and the Flower festivals, and New Year is celebrated here with gigantic fireworks.

  1. Ljubljana

Slovenia is a small and lovely country located in Central Europe, and we bet its capital city can’t leave anyone indifferent. To be honest, this is one of the most underrated cities in the region. It doesn’t occupy much space, yet it combines great coziness and opulence at the same time. If you visit Ljubljana for once, you will definitely return here again.

This article was written with the help of bridesstars.com.

Three reasons music lovers should visit Vienna this summer

Vienna is a melting pot of culture. From the sprawling estates of grand palaces owned by the elite long ago, to the twisting and turning medieval streets that open up onto the stunning view of St Stephen’s Cathedral steps, there is something for everyone in this fair city.

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Photo credit: Matthias Ripp

This year though, the summer has a lot to offer musicians and dance-lovers of the world over. Here are just three of the highlights from this year’s summer events, and the reasons why this is the place for you this season.

  1. The Vienna Jazz Festival, 26th June – 10th July

Regarded as one of the biggest and best jazz shows in the world, the annual Vienna Jazz Festival sees thousands of performers and fans flock here every year. Shows and concerts take place throughout this city, making use of its incredible backdrop of medieval architecture, including the ornate Vienna State Opera House and the grand City Hall. Some performances are even held at the Ottakringer Brauerei, an old-fashioned brewery, perfect for the sultry tones of smooth, classical jazz.

  1. Vienna KlangBogen, 1st July – 31st August

As one of the motherlands of Opera, you’d be missing out on a musical journey if you didn’t stop by at least one of the many concerts during the KlangBogen – the Viennese celebration of opera. This annual festival has taken place since 1997 at the Theatre an der Wien, and is hugely popular and symbolic of the historic attachment Austria has to this art form. This summer in particular is a momentous occasion for Vienna Opera, as the famous Marriage of Figaro once more returns to the stage. Composed in 1786 by Mozart, it premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 1st May 1786. How fitting that it should return for this year’s festival, and what a treat for those who manage to book tickets!

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Photo credit: Kamil Rejczyk

  1. Annual Music & Film Festival – 14th July to 4th September

In many ways this is the jewel in the crown of Viennese culture during the summer months. This year celebrates their 26th annual edition of the Vienna Music & Film Festival, so every evening during from mid-July to the beginning of September, you can expect the famous square in front of Vienna’s City Hall to be packed with people. With a giant open-air cinema construction that shows countless films accompanied by classical music, the atmosphere is truly magical in this romantic city.

The programme includes many different forms of artistic and musical expression, including opera, ballet and musicals. This event is also free to enter, so the whole family will be able to enjoy the friendly and relaxed atmosphere, as well as a delicious snack, courtesy of one of the many purveyors of traditional Viennese street food.

I hope today’s blog post has convinced you that Vienna is the place to be if you love music and dance. Are you planning on heading out there this summer? Let me know in the comments.

Five Briliant Reasons To Visit Monaco

Hear the word Monaco and what do you think of? Glitz, glamour and the high life. It’s where the rich and beautiful go to play, and we can’t help but want to be part of it. Monaco is very much on “the wish list” and we’ve been doing some research to find out the best spots to visit. Here are our top five reasons to visit Monaco.

Cruise The Coast In A Super Car

The French Riviera is famous for its coastline. Stunning Mediterranean waters sit below winding roads, framed by picturesque views. Two James Bond films have been shot in this stunning location, Goldeneye and Diamonds are Forever. In 1995’s Goldeneye, Bond races his Aston Martin against a red Ferrari along the Mountain Roads, and much of the film itself is set in Monaco.

Now, we’re not suggesting a race in a fast, expensive car, but the idea of cruising in a super car does sound rather fun! Also, there are so many impressive cars in Monaco that you’ll feel left out if you don’t have one. There are a number of companies, such as Europe Luxury Car Hire, that will hire you a fancy car to enjoy the scenic routes. We can’t decide which one is best, but there is something romantic about an Aston Martin – and if it’s good enough for Bond, it’s good enough for us.

Image Credit: LifeinRiviera.com

Watch The Formula 1 Grand Prix De Monaco

The Grand Prix de Monaco has been running since 1929, and it is considered to be one of the most prestigious and important races in the world. The Formula 1 race is held on the actual streets of Monaco which are narrow, have tight corners and a tunnel – it is certainly one of the most demanding tracks in Formula One.

The Grand Prix de Monaco usually takes place in May, which just so happens to be a great time of year to visit. We want to go and enjoy the race, but we also want to visit some of the famous nightspots that spill out onto the racetrack itself such as La Rascasse, Jimmy’z, Black Legend and Moods.

Image Credit: f1madness.co.za

Take a Flutter at the Casino de Monte Carlo

 Another famous pre-, post- and during Grand Prix destination is the Casino de Monte Carlo, which is also featured in several Bond films. This holiday has a theme: Bond, fast cars and gambling – it’s sounding great so far.

Built in the early 19th century, the Casino de Monte Carlo was the vision of François Blanc, founder of the Société des Bains de Mer. However, it was actually the brainchild of Princess Caroline, who was looking for ways to increase revenue to save the House of Grimaldi from bankruptcy. The new casino brought roads and better hotels to Monaco, helping to make it the resort destination it is today – thank you Princess!

It is considered one of the most beautiful casinos in the world and draws in the glamorous crowds to match. It also plays host to the world’s richest poker event every Spring, the EPT (European Poker Tour), which in 2016 had a prize pool of more than €5.6 million shared between the best poker players. We’re probably not ready for that game just yet, considering there were 564 competitors who probably are better in poker than we are (but then again, it’s never too late to start practicing!)

Image Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

To Go Diving Without Getting Wet

Diving is great, and there are some amazing spots to give it a go, but sometimes you wish that you could see all the mesmerising the sights without getting wet. Well, in Monaco you can do that, at the Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium. This impressive building was built in 1910 and sits atop of a sheer 280-foot cliff.

Once inside the Aquarium you can go for an adventure under the sea. We’ve heard that the basement tanks are the place to go to visit colourful reef fish and coral. If we visit we’re definitely going to the top of the building to take in the beautiful panoramic views over Monaco.

To Eat Europe’s Best Brunch

Everyone loves brunch, and although an American institution, it’s now spread worldwide as a must-do weekend activity – especially when you’re on holiday. Each Sunday, The Monte Carlo Bay Hotel host their own brunch and according to sources it’s meant to be a delectable culinary experience, prepared by chef Marcel Ravin. The brunch is held at the hotel’s Blue Bay restaurant from 12:30 to 15:00 on its sunny terrace, and you are welcomed with a glass of Tattinger champagne at the door – brunch, Monaco style. They call it “bubbly brunch” thanks to the champagne that accompanies it.

The Monte Carlo Bay Hotel is only 3km from the Prince’s Palace and 4km from the Oceanographic Museum – so brunch and then a nice walk to our next activity sounds like a solid plan.

Image Credit: http://www.montecarlosbm.com/

 As we’ve been researching we have found absolutely loads of things we want to do in Monaco. It seems like an incredible place to visit. We imagine just wondering the beautiful streets and watching the rich and famous strut their stuff would be a holiday in itself – but we can’t wait to try out these five activities and many more, we definitely won’t be forgetting to take some brilliant photos!

Launch your Turquoise Coast Cruise from Beautiful Fethiye

There are direct flights from the many regional airports of Western Europe to the Turquoise Coast of Turkey for eight months a year. One of the two airports serving the coast is Dalaman in Mugla. It is a modern airport with plenty of capacity and is less than an hour west of the expanding Turkish tourist town of Fethiye, an obvious starting point for those wishing to experience the delights of the warm, crystal blue waters on board a yacht.

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As Turkish tourism has grown, so has the demand for sailing adventures on what is a stunning coastline. The seas are calm for most of the extended season and the sun is guaranteed. Those wanting to relax away from the crowds can do so on fully equipped yachts that are available at most budgets, from standard up to absolutely luxurious. A Fethiye motor yacht charter can offer a personalised itinerary heading east towards Antalya or west past Marmaris and down the Datca Peninsula. There is no need to travel huge distances because there are quiet coves with little beaches all along this coast where there will never be many boats, if any, anchored.

Fethiye
Fethiye itself is worth exploration, on and off the boat. It has grown over the years with its modern marina just metres away from an ancient amphitheatre. The Lycian sarcophagi which are carved in typical Lycian style are scattered around the town, the best preserved situated in the yard of the town governor’s office on the main street and another on the main street going towards the caves tombs and Kayakoy.
The Lycian Amintas Rock Tombs are 2400 years old. They are located in the cliff at the back of the town centre. These huge impressive rock tombs are the symbol of this town and give outstanding views of the archipelago. Kayakoy is the deserted Greek City, ruins that are scheduled to be restored. The Greeks left in the population exchange nearly a century ago when the Turkish Republic was formed.

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There are numerous bars and restaurants, modern shopping but also narrow streets where vendors sell everything from carpets and crafts to spices and souvenirs. Once on board, it is a pleasure to sail out of the bay between islands en route west to Gocek, a small town specializing in hosting those enjoying holidays on the sea.

Gocek
At times there are yachts as big as any in the world anchored in Gocek. It has a modern marina and boats offering day trips around the ’12 Islands’ as the popular tour is known. There are cafes and restaurants for a coffee or beer while the captain buys any supplies he might need. There is shade from the sun at the height of the day and a street full of tourist shops.

Iztuzu
There is never any great haste when cruising these waters. It is tempting to stop in every cove but the next place that has gained a degree of fame is Iztuzu Beach, a 5 km strip of sand that has been given protection because it is a nesting site for the endangered Loggerhead Turtle. That does not mean that tourists cannot enjoy the beach; they are just barred at 8 in the evening for twelve hours during which time many turtles come ashore to lay their eggs and weeks later the hatchlings head for the sea under the cover of darkness.

Ekincik
Just a short distance further west on a Blue Cruise in Turkey there is a sheltered bay called Ekincik. There is a beach and restaurant as well as a pier to tie up. It is a nice place to stop for a swim while the captain cooks lunch, typically kofta (meat balls), chicken, fish, salad and the day’s fresh bread.

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There is no need for a watch on such a holiday. The sun rises in the height of summer very early and sets around 15 hours later though there is minimal drop in temperature at night. The experience however is so good that time can sometimes appear to go so quickly. The answer of course is to come back again in the future and perhaps visit another part of the coastline ‘aboard ship.’

Swiss day dreams

While daydreaming about places to visit the other day, Switzerland suddenly popped into my head. It kind of reminds me a little of New Zealand (the lakes and mountains) and yet it’s a LOT closer (a 4 hour flight, instead of a 24 hour flight!).

This little (famously neutral) country tucked away between France, Germany and Italy is home to some truly spectacular natural scenery, as well as the vibrant cities of Geneva and Zürich.

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Image credit: Kosala Bandara

And yet somehow, Switzerland is not typically one of the countries that comes to mind when planning a trip. It has caught my attention though and considering it is officially the happiest place on Earth (with Britain at No. 21), a little trip sounds quite enticing. Besides, anywhere that we have to thank for the creation of beautiful Rolex watches like these and tasty cheese must be worth a visit, right? I have found myself daydreaming about cheese fondue and chocolate more recently, so here is a list of things to do in Switzerland.

Climb the Matterhorn

As one of the world’s most famous and historical mountains, the Matterhorn is the mountain of mountains. It is an almost perfect pyramid that reaches 4,478 metres above sea level. Located in the Swiss Alps, trekking around this mountain takes you in and out of two countries, the second being Italy. Of course, a sight this tremendous deserves to be done properly, so is perhaps worth a trip in its own right.

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Image credit: Noel Reynolds

Walk the shores of Lake Geneva

Next to one of the most impressive mountains, Switzerland also has one of the largest lakes in Europe. There are any number of activities to partake in, like boating, paddle boarding, jet skiing and hiking. Or, if you prefer, enjoy relaxing on the beaches, sit by a fire pit or enjoy a stay in one of the nearby chalets for probably the most romantic getaway you’ve had in a long time.

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Image credit: Tobias Neuhold

Travel in style

And speaking of romance… how about an old fashioned train journey through the panoramic Swiss scenery. The GoldenPass Line travels through the vineyards and mountains and turns travelling into a real experience. Similarly, the Bernina Express traverses the Alps as one of the highest-altitude rail routes in Europe.

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Image credit: Shearings

Explore the urban areas

After all this nature, any city lover will likely be craving some tall buildings and loud noises. The biggest city in Switzerland is Zürich and with its population of close to 400,000, you probably won’t find quite the big city buzz you had imagined if you’re from somewhere like London, but what you will find is a vibrant and charming city with winding lanes and an interesting mix of old and new. Another city that drew my attention was Geneva. It is known for being sleek, slick and cosmopolitan (after all, it is one of Europe’s priciest cities) but with a bit of the urban grittiness you would expect from a modern city. Plenty of bars and restaurants to dig into one of those famous Swiss cheese fondues, or try chocolate that rivals that of Belgium.

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Image credit: Metro Centric

Beautiful photos of Ibiza – Just because

On gloomy London days, there’s nothing better than looking at some photos from your last vacation. I’m in love with these photos from our latest trip to Ibiza – and I’m definitely missing that sunshine and sea!

Enjoy!

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Backpack through Belgium, the Country of Chocolates

Belgium promises a fun, diverse holiday experience with its array of activities and sights to see. Bordered by Germany, France and the Netherlands, it has soaked up the best of its neighbours with an alluring appeal all of its own as well. The community is mostly bi-lingual and extremely open to tourists, and including the following places in your Belgium travel planner will make your trip a perfect one.

Brussels

The country capital is a must-see stop on any tour and exemplifies the diversity of the country entirely. Take in a relaxed afternoon at the Grand Place which has an amalgam of the historical and the modern with the 15th-century town hall at its heart surrounded by chic cafes placed across this cobble-stoned square. These cafes also boast of architecture from earlier periods of time and tourists can sample some delectable Belgian treats while enjoying the view. From here head to the Rue Charles Buls for some indulgent shopping and get a glimpse of the cheeky Manneken Pis statue.

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Brussels, Belgium, Europe by Hernán Piñera

Musée du Cinquantenaire

If you wish to dive into the rich history of this country or rather monarchy then the Musée du Cinquantenaire is the place to be. It houses an enormous collection that not only encompasses Belgium history but everything from Egyptian relics to early 19th century artefacts as well. The museum itself is an impressive architectural work and only adds to the awe-inspiring aura of its antiquities. Make this part of your Belgium itinerary planner and have a fascinating day!

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Musée du Cinquantenaire, Belgium, Europe by lizzlebob

Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts

A trip to the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts is mandatory as it is home to a vast majority of Belgian artwork that dates back through the centuries. It, in reality, houses a combination of museums – the Musée d’Art Ancien, the Musée d’Art Moderne, and the Musée Magritte. Considering Belgium’s artists have been involved in various art movements sweeping Europe through the years and have even engineered a renaissance all their own, the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts offers an amazing experience.

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Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Belgium, Europe by Paolo Trabattoni

Antwerp

Once you have had your fill of Belgian history and past cultural feats, head to Antwerp which has always been hailed as the port city that keeps the country’s cultural scene on its toes and constantly on its toes. Antwerp is home to the impressive Gothic cathedral, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal. The cathedral looms over the city and is quite a sight from wherever you might glimpse it. Scheldt Riverbank is a picturesque spot with a tunnel that allows pedestrians and cyclists to cross the river while taking in the beauty of the tunnel walls themselves. If you have kids or are a nature lover, make sure to stop at the Antwerp zoo for a fun day.

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Antwerp, Belgium, Europe by Krzysztof Belczyński

Waterloo Battlefield

Head to the site of Napoleon’s most popular defeat, Hameau du Lion (Lion Hamlet) which is a few kilometres walk or cycle ride away from the actual town of Waterloo. Make sure to visit on the 18th of June as an annual re-enactment is usually held on this picturesque patchwork field that is otherwise littered with memorials and historical buildings.

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Waterloo Battlefield, Belgium, Europe by Dennis Jarvis

Bruges

The idyllic town of Bruges thrills many a tourist with its medieval buildings and amazing sites. Visit the chocolate museum and gain insight into the history of those delicious treats, before watching them made before your eyes and then pick up a sample. Maybe you could take a stroll through the Markt which is always alive with tourists and local activity, surrounded by historical cafes and other landmarks, it promises a worthwhile visit.
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Travelling from the Winelands of Portugal’s Douro Valley to the Winelands of Spain’s Rioja

Wine is one of life’s special treats, and I feel like it’s something you appreciate more as you get older. I know that my partner, Pad, is getting more and more interested in the wine he drinks, and we’re both very interested in the history and culture behind the food we eat and the things we drink.

I never really knew “wine tours” were a thing, until I heard of Wines and Tours (I mean, of course I knew you could go to wineries and see where the grapes grow) but the idea of touring such regions and seeing lots of different wineries and experiencing lots of different flavours was completely new to me.

Stepped Douro Vineyards

But if you’re a foodie and you’re enthusiastic about wine and travel, this is basically the ideal holiday. An excuse to take a tour around a beautiful region, sampling the incredible wine on offer as you go. Perfection right?

The company, Wines and Tours, offers a variety of tours from French regions, to beautiful areas of Portugal. The way you can select and combine tours also makes the experience personalised and unique to you.

Here’s what to expect on one of their tours, told by the co-founder himself, Bill Warry…

As you’d expect, port has a starring role in the Wines & Tours three-part trip to the Douro region. We start in Porto, with post-flight relaxation and a Welcome dinner in the luxury facilities of The Yeatman, the famous five-star hotel named for one of the most successful and influential merchant families.

Breakfast at the Yeatman

The hotel’s cellars contain a superbly comprehensive collection of Portuguese wines, and the views of Portugal’s second largest city—with its varied architecture: stately beaux-arts; extravagant baroque; village-style plazas—are wonderful.

In the morning there’s a conducted tour of Taylor’s Port Lodge. This oldest of Port Lodges is just next door to the hotel, and offers the opportunity to learn about the different styles and qualities of port. And the chance to taste a few.

After lunch at Taylor’s Tres Seculos restaurant—which boasts the same top quality cuisine as The Yeatman—we drive to Vinhos Norte, a pristine family winery in the neighbouring Vinho Verde region; Vinho Verde literally means Green Wine, though rather than describing colour, the name suggests the age of the wine. In this region it’s usually designed to be drunk very young. These crisp, fresh wines are mostly whites, but rose and red are also produced.

Understanding wine part-way through fermentation

Wine&boat&stunning scenery

The day’s discoveries are discussed over dinner at a Pombal hotel, and the next morning we visit Victor Marques: farmer, wine-maker and poet. The fabulous barbecues in his vineyards are legendary, and the 20 year old vintage port made by Victor’s father is amazing; quite possibly the smoothest you’ll ever have.

The next day, we take to the river, cameras ready to capture a tapestry of stepped vineyards flanking the river banks, with every bend revealing a scene more beautiful than the last. And along the way, there’s wine to taste.

The river trip takes us to a stone’s throw of the Spanish border, and the final part of the journey is in Rioja country. There, the next couple of days are filled with wine-tasting, food, fantastic company, and raw, rugged countryside; quite different to that of the Douro Valley, but still stunning.

The raw beauty of Rioja

Beautiful Riojan landscape

The whole week-long tour is made up of three different tours from Wines and Tours Ltd; we promote a concept of sequential conducted tours. Essentially, these allow you to choose the length of your wine-tour holiday, and exactly how much you want to taste and discover. 

So why choose one of these tours? And why does it make such a great vacation?

  • It’s different and unique, compared to your usual beach holiday or city break.
  • These areas of Europe are simply stunning. Perfect for a summer getaway.
  • You’ll get to explore different regions, and won’t be stuck in one place.
  • You get to combine your travelling with another passion – wine!
  • You’ll get to meet like-minded people, also interested in travelling and wine.
  • You’ll have an informed guide, and you’ll learn loads.
  • Your guide will take you to the best places and make the best recommendations.
  • You’ll understand wine better, and be told how to handle and study it.

Tranquility at Tua

For more inspiration about these kinds of tours, or if you want to keep up to date with the brand, and what they’re offering, you can also find them on social media too.

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/WINESandTOURS

Twitter: https://twitter.com/winesandtours

Beautiful Copenhagen! Photos, Photos and More Photos…!

Last week I was lucky enough to head to Copenhagen for a few days on a business trip… Which was SO EXCITING!! Especially as it was to Copenhagen – somewhere I’ve never been before.

I’ll be honest – Copenhagen has never really been on my radar, but before jetting off I did a little research and couldn’t wait to visit. The company I work for (I do social media and PR for Tiger Stores) are a Danish Design store so I’m always hearing about the Danish culture, and was pretty excited to experience for myself.

Here are my photos!

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One thing I adored about Copenhagen was the quiet, the calm and the cleanliness of it. There aren’t many cars in the city, and almost everyone rides bikes – so the city is very quiet and peaceful compared to London. In the evening it was noticeable how calm the streets were, there was a lack of engines, transport and sirens… it was kinda lovely.

There were so many bikes in the city, I spent a lot of time taking photos of them. There’s definitely something super ‘instagrammable’ about bikes in the sunshine. It’s kind of fun imagining what kind of person owns the bike…

Like this one below, is totally some rich hippy artist. But he has an adventurous side (look at the wheels). And he’s maybe got a new baby or something (because the plants are a bit overgrown – so he hasn’t had chance to cycle recently). 

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The streets and buildings reminded me a little of Amsterdam, which makes sense as apparently a lot of buildings in Copenhagen were built by the Dutch. Some of the streets were simply gorgeous – especially the street with coloured fronts along the waterside.

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Look at my shoes. I <3 them.

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One of the evenings, my colleagues took me out for dinner at an area of the city called Christiania. Christiania is a part of the city which (for want of a better word) is ‘free’ – it doesn’t abide to the normal laws in the city (for example, people sell and smoke weed freely in the area) and the people there are an independent community. It’s like a huge park set around a beautiful lake with homes, cafes, restaurants and market stalls.

The history of the area is fascinating – and it’s an amazing place to visit for the sheer experience of it. There are only a few photos below (as they ask you not to take images once inside the grounds).

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Next up, a few more random photos from the city and just strolling around…

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The city is seriously so gorgeous… These photos are just random shots from here there and everywhere whilst walking around the city – and it seems like everywhere you look there is something else to take a photo of.

I thought the multi-coloured houses would just be located on one street (kind of like Notting Hill) but they weren’t – they pop up everywhere, which is so nice. You’ll be walking along this normal street one second, and the next minute you’ve turned onto an amazing rainbow.

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Oh and CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT THE PASTRY!?

Holy smokes.

It was good.

My friend Samuel (who was travelling with me) had warned me beforehand how good the pastry was, and I was somewhat doubtful. I’m not a big pastry fan here in the UK – and if I was going to convert they’d have to be something special.

Well, it was. It was squishy, sweet, sticky, crispy, cinnamonny and custardy all in one mouthful. I am literally drooling on my keyboard as I write this.

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And then it was time for home.

I tried to sneak a pastry in my carry-on for Pad, but it got a bit gross so I abandoned it on the plane. Until next time, Copenhagen.

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My favourite European destinations for cheap summer getaways

I know I keep banging on about this – but next year Pad and I are getting married (yay!) read more about that on QuirkyBride.Com (my new blog where I’ll be talking all things wedding related). But whilst getting married is super exciting, it also means this year, our money is going into a wedding saving fund – rather than on holidays. We’ve had some pretty epic holidays this last year and the year before, so it’s likely this year will be a bit different, as we’ll be choosing locations closer to home.

We’re still planning to get away (I don’t think I could do a year without a holiday of some kind!) – but the places we choose will be much closer to home, most likely inside Europe – where we can grab up some cheap flights – instead of forking out £600-£800 for a long-haul flight.

Here are a few of my favourite places in Europe:

Berlin, Germany

This is actually a city I only visited very recently (Pad and I went to celebrate his 30th birthday). It made such a great impression on me, which I totally wasn’t expecting. Berlin is quirky, modern, but also has history to it too, which is culturally important and fascinating.

The flight only took an hour and a half (no jet lag… yay!) and it’s the kind of place you can head to for a few days over the weekend or bank holiday. I’d go back in a flash, I just loved it there, and it’s actually a great city for the transition period between winter and spring. It’s not really a ‘sight-seeing’ city in my opinion, it’s more of a ‘live like a local’ kind of city… But that’s what makes it so awesome.

And also, Berlin is cheap! Like half the price of London cheap. Bonus points for that. 

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Venice, Italy

I went to Venice last year with my friend (and future bridesmaid!) Harriet. I didn’t really know what to expect – I’d seen photos of the city, and heard all about it – but experiencing it for yourself is totally different.

It’s seriously beautiful. Like “Holy crap, I can’t believe this place actually exists’ kind of beautiful. Most of the time, it feels like you’re walking through a movie-set. The water, the bridges, the courtyards – it’s all just perfection. I went in June and the weather was lovely (hot, but not too hot, you know?) so I think May / June would be a pretty ideal time to visit.

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Rome, Italy

Another Italian city (what can I say, I love Italy) Rome is another city that feels like a movie-set. It has so many recognisable attractions, monuments and buildings – you literally never have the opportunity to put your camera away. It’s been a while since I went to Rome, but I’ve been desperate to go back again – especially because Pad hasn’t been yet and we’d get to explore it together with him seeing everything for the first time.

Rome is another place where you can book a getaway pretty cheaply – flights probably won’t cost more than £250 return, and you could get an AirBnB for your accommodation!

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Paris, France

Paris is so close to London, you can get a ferry to france if you’re driving and want to keep the car with you (perfect if you’re extending the roadtrip beyond just Paris, and you’re exploring more of France afterwards), or if not, you can fly or train it. Loads of choices!

It’s awesome, because within a couple of hours you’re somewhere completely different and in a whole new city. In the last year I’ve been to Paris with Pad, and then with my sister Bekah – and there’s always something new to see and explore. Disneyland is my main reason for visiting if I’m being honest – I LOVE DISNEYLAND.

But, you know, it’s romantic too in Paris. I’ve heard 😉

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St Ives, Cornwall

I’d never really been convinced with UK beach locations, until we visited St Ives last year. I can’t even believe how gorgeous the beaches were – and I wish we had stayed longer than a few days, because I probably could’ve relaxed on those beaches for at least a week or so!

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This post was written in partnership with P&O UK

My photos of The Berlin Wall, taken from The East Side Gallery

One of the main things I wanted to see in Berlin, was whatever remained of The Berlin Wall. It’s a random fact, but the Berlin was first pulled down on the actual day I was born. So that was on all the papers and all the headlines the day my Mum was in the hospital giving birth to me. I guess, because of that early connection to the city and to the wall, it’s always fascinated me and it’s something I’ve always wanted to see, and learn more about.

It’s not actually blindly obvious in any of the guidebooks or tour-books where you can see The Berlin Wall, and yet I knew there must be somewhere you can go to see the remnants of it. However small those remnants might be.

We went to Checkpoint Charlie first where there stands a small piece of the wall – but it wasn’t enough, so I went on Google and tried to find somewhere else in the city. What I saw recommended a few times, was The East Side Gallery in East Berlin. It’s a free, outdoor gallery with a large stretch of the wall itself still standing, and covered in beautiful murals and street art.

It’s quite simply; beautiful, powerful and thought-provoking. 

By far the part of the trip that enjoyed the most, and something no one should miss if visiting Berlin. 

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You can see the East Side Gallery in the map below, but it’s kinda that whole road, not just a building. It basically runs right along Muhlenstrabe (the main road) for at least 20-25 of walking.

We got off at the U Schlesisches Tor station (on the U1 line) and just did the quick walk across the river to the east side gallery, which was very pretty… so why the heck not?

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Below are a few photos of my favourite parts of the wall, but all of it was just beautiful. For me, it’s especially beautiful because it’s something that was once so negative and such a point of pain and struggle, that has now been turned into something that represents freedom of expression, and colour and art.

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I loved the verse below, sometimes you don’t need the colours and the the patterns, sometimes words are enough to show the power of what the wall now represents, as opposed to what it once represented.

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I loved this little verse too.

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The image below is one of the remaining walls most famous and iconic parts. In the city they actually sell t-shirts and postcards with this printed on.

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Have you been to the East Side Gallery in Berlin? What did you think? 🙂

Awesome European Cities for a Spring Break

With the winter chill easing off (FINALLY!) and the days getting longer, I’ve been day dreaming about some lovely city breaks. Pad and I are headed off to Berlin soon (yay!) so that’ll be the first city break of the year checked off.

City breaks are our main priority this year, being a newly engaged couple saving up for a wedding – we’re only really planning mini-breaks at the moment, because most of our cash is going towards wedding plans. I’ve also been looking at little cash-saving tips too, like reward schemes and air-miles (etc) which never seemed a priority before – but now seem like the key to organising affordable holidays, and still being able to save for the wedding too.

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One of the handy tips I’ve come across recently (I’m going to be bombard you with tips like these, so hopefully they’re useful!) is that with EasyJet, you can take your pick from dozens of the best city-break destinations in Europe using Nectar points to get a hearty chunk off the price of your flight if you put your Nectar points collected from your 2015 shopping so far towards your booking.

When you think about how easy it is to collect points (I literally go in Sainsbury’s EVERY DAY) and how cheap the EasyJet flights are anyway, these little savings can actually help out quite a lot. As a quick summary, every 500 points is worth £2.50, which can quickly add up. What’s more, you can also collect 1 point for every £1 spent when you buy EasyJet flights through their eShops page on the Nectar website.

So then, the only issue is, deciding where to go! Here are some great city destinations to try out…

Berlin

I include this one because I’m actually heading there myself pretty soon. The city is on of Europe’s coolest cities at the moment and after months and months of people telling me how awesome it is – Pad and finally decided to go, I’ve been stalking the Lonely Planet page the last few weeks, and would absolutely LOVE some recommendations if you have any. It’ll be a little chilly around this time of year, but we’ll be walking around, taking in the sights and then enjoying a glass of win in the evening!

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Prague

Another city on my to-do list, the spring atmosphere in Prague is apparently unparalleled, with the city shaking off its last dusting of snow, the architectural splendour really comes into its own. I think it’s my Mum who originally recommended Prague to me. A city break to the Czech capital will mean enjoying Gothic castles and blooming flower boxes by day then mulled wine (a recurring pattern here…!) in friendly bars come nightfall. I’ve also seen some gorgeous photos of the river by night, and can’t wait to take some of my own.

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Moscow

OK, I’d be lying if I didn’t say my obsession with Russian cities comes from watching the movie Anastasia as a child. I was totally swept up in that whole story, and the animated architecture looked just as good as the real stuff (which I googled years later). It’s another place I’d love to visit because of the fantastic photo opportunities, and if you’re brave enough to face the chilling conditions then Spring is a pretty awesome time to visit before the summer crowds hit. The stunning sights including colourful Russian Orthodox Church domes, a wealth of historic churches, and majestic palaces that transport you back to Imperial times all add up to a highly memorable spring break. Just in time as the city starts to turn green.

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Marrakech

If you don’t want to leave the cold for more cold (fair play… sometimes you just need sunshine) then Morocco is one of thoseplaces that seems to have great weather all year round. My family live in Dubai, so I love the Middle East, and I just know I’d love it in Marrakech. It’s kind of a bonus too, that you can get cheap flights (you know, like france/spain cheap) but you end up in a place that’s totally different and totally culturally worlds apart. Visit the atmospheric souks, take in the stunning work of local craftsmen, and travel to the desert for a once-in-a-lifetime camel ride experience.

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Planning Ahead: 5 Must-See Historical Sites In Amsterdam

As I’ve mentioned before in some previous blogs, over the next year or so, I’ll be sticking to mainly short-haul destinations in Europe – to save extra money for our wedding and honeymoon. One of the destinations I’d love to fit in sometime soon is Amsterdam, it’s so nearby and looks so beautiful and quirky – I’m actually kind of disappointed in myself that I haven’t been already!

There’s not really any excuse, it’s like a 30 minute flight. 

I’m going to be putting a few blogs together over the next few months, so I can reference back to them when we actually get round to going to these places, and this blog is all about the historical sites I’ll be scheduling in when we do visit Amsterdam.

Obviously, Amsterdam is known as one of the most enjoyable cities in Europe to visit, largely because it’s viewed as something of an adult playground (like the Las Vegas of the EU? Maybe). But in addition to modern attractions (and by that I mean ‘fun’-brownies and coffee shops that don’t necessarily make their money from coffee)…. Amsterdam is also home to some truly incredible historical sites.

Anne Frank House

Arguably the best-known historical site in Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House is a lasting tribute to one of the most fascinating stories from the 20th century. For those who may have forgotten the specifics, Anne Frank was a young girl in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in the 1940s. Before her tragic capture and death, she maintained a diary about her situation, which most of us will have read at some point during high school. The story always meant a lot of me growing up so this is somewhere I simply would have to visit. The historical site is the house, still standing, where Frank hid and wrote her famous diary. And if it sounds like something of an outdated attraction, consider this: The Times Of Israel reported just a few weeks ago that 2014 was the fifth straight year of record visits to the house (approximately 1.23 million). I think it’s kind of incredible that her story is still living on, and it’s so important too.

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East India House

Known in Dutch as the Oost-Indisch Huis, this is the former headquarters of the Dutch East India Company, a hugely influential trade corporation (of sorts) that controlled Dutch trade with Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries. Built in the early-1600s and maintained and restored beautifully in the years since, the East India House actually has a strikingly modern design when you consider just how historical it truly is. For me, visiting would be all about taking photos of the beautiful architecture, I love old buildings and seeing old structures.

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Rijksmuseum

This incredible place was first opened in 1885 and remains not only an interesting historical site but a functional and breathtaking museum. Counting only a few attractions among the highlight sights and sounds of Amsterdam, British Airways notes Rijksmuseum right alongside the more modern Van Gogh museum, the floating flower market, and the city’s famous canals… Which definitely makes it worth a visit in my opinion. The Rijksmuseum is as stunning now as ever, featuring an enormous collection of art works from many centuries past, I’ve always had a weakness for art galleries (having studied art all the way through school and college) so I’d love to spend a few hours here. I might not be able to convince Pad to join me, but I’m sure he’d be happy having a beer somewhere nearby!

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Centraal Station

Amsterdam is far from being the only European city with an historic railroad station (London has it’s fair few too – especially since Kings Cross and St Pancras were redone!), but it’s hard to find one with more external beauty than Centraal Station. It opened back in 1889 and oddly enough was designed by the same man who served as the original architect for the Rijksmuseum, Pierre Cuypers. The resemblance between the two is actually quite clear, with the result being that this is one central railway hub that almost looks like a palace on the exterior.

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Canals

And finally, there are the canals, which are probably one of Amsterdam’s greatest attractions. The first few canals were constructed in the 1600s, and the entire network of them is arranged in concentric circles spanning the city, making for a design that is not only beautiful to behold but sensible as well (and efficiency is good!). I don’t think you can go to Amsterdam without feeling overwhelmed by all the canals, and I just know they would be a pleasure to photograph too.  The canals make up so much of the city’s atmosphere that Atmosphere has been referred to by many as the “Venice of the North (and if it’s anything like Venice, it’s sure to be beautiful). According to J Domb’s Travels, the city actually has more bridges than Venice too. Best of all, this is one historical site that you don’t have to go out of your way to visit; you can probably just step out of your hotel door and find one right there.

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Where else would you recommend? 🙂

Glass blowing in Murano, Venice

Murano is one of the lesser known islands just a 20 minute ferry ride from Venice city centre (and the part known more for its touristy hotspots).

During my trip to Venice with my gorgeous friend Harriet, our hotel was actually located on Murano island (you can more info about the hotel here) so we were lucky enough to spend a proper amount of time exploring this more ‘local’ side of the city.

The one thing Murano is really well known for, is the glass making / glass blowing. You can see it all over the island, there are factories and shops scattered along all the little cobbled streets – selling all kinds of stunning glass creations.

Murano Glass Venice

As I mentioned, Murano is only a quick ferry ride from the main city of Venice – so I’d say to anyone visiting, to dedicate half a day coming over to Murano and really soak it all in.

If you’re planning on buying any glass in Venice, you should definitely ensure you’re buying it from the real island of Murano too – as it’s the only way you can ensure it’s genuine Murano product (and not cheap replica glass).

Murano Glass Venice

As you can see in the photos, the glass products are literally gorgeous. The glass comes in all shapes and sizes, and all kinds of creations, you could spend hours looking through the shops and not stumble upon the same creation twice.

There are tiny ornaments, vases, huge glass animal creations – and even magnificent chandeliers made entirely of glass. It’s really something – especially when you know it’s all been hand made only feet away from the shop you’re standing in.

Murano Glass Venice

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Murano Glass Venice

Murano Glass Venice

And it’s not just fragile bits and bobs – Harriet bought some Murano Glass sunglasses whilst we were there – so there are all sorts of things to find.

Murano Glass Venice

For an easy souvenir to bring home, keep an eye out for the beautiful jewellery many of the shops sell too. I fell in love with these adorable little necklaces. And the slightly more decadent beaded ones below too…

Murano Glass Venice

Murano Glass Venice

Murano Glass Venice

After looking around all the shops, head over to the factory – where you can watch live glass blowing demonstrations, standing little more than a few feet away from the artists themselves.

I’ve honestly never seen anything like it – and it blew my mind. 

I never realised how much skill you had to have and how precise and perfectly these men have honed their talents.

Murano Glass Venice

Murano Glass Venice

The tours seemed to be happening every 30 minutes or so, and we simply had to wait outside the factory (where a queue was already forming – so it was pretty obvious where to stand). It didn’t cost a penny to get in, so make sure no one tries to charge you!

Murano Glass Venice

Also, remember you can get a water bus over to Murano for very little cost – there’s absolutely no need to splash out on an expensive water taxi!

Luxury in Murano: LaGare Hotel Venice Review

During my recent trip to Venice with my lovely friend Harriet, we were lucky enough to bag a room at the beautiful LaGare Hotel in Murano, Venice. Here you’ll find a review of the LaGare Hotel, its facilities and amenities. Prepare for lots of lovely photos!

The bedroom

I don’t know about you, but the most important part of any hotel I stay in – is always the room itself. I like a room to be clean, modern, with enough space to relax in – without feeling cramped of on top of each other. The room at LaGare Hotel definitely ticked all those boxes. The bed itself was huge and pretty firm (which is how I like it) so I couldn’t have complained in the slightest. It was beautiful!

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

The bedroom area is positioned on a matinée level, which looks over a mini-living room with a TV and big sofa. There are sky-lights on the ceiling, which you can see in the photo above which was a lovely touch.

In terms of storage and space, was plenty of wardrobe space in the corridor, a big safe for our belongings, and a huge bathroom too – which was super modern and well-lit (important on a girly getaway – for make-up and hair of course).

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

Public areas in the LaGare Hotel 

As well as the private space you have inside your room, the hotel is actually really generous in terms of public space too. On our floor there was a gorgeous lobby area (only accessible to guests) which had sofas, arms chairs, and a private art collection of beautiful Murano glass works.

LaGare Hotel Venice review

Then there is the main lobby on the ground floor, which is next door to the hotel bar and the restaurant. In this area you’ll find plenty of sofas, lounges, and books to fill the time. Everything is decked out to make you feel at home. But not you actually home – a fancy, posh, art loving Italian’s home. Look out for all the art work around the hotel too – you can see how carefully it’s all been selected – so don’t forget to soak it all in.

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

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The breakfast

If you’re staying at The LaGare Hotel in Venice, then you might’ve booked a package including flights and breakfast, so you’ll be wanting to know if the breakfast is any good!

I really enjoyed it. It was far from what you’d get at a big major hotel (the hot options were pretty limited, and the selection was small) but there was still lots of choice, and the food that was put out was never anything less than delicious. My favourite was their little Bruscettas – I could’ve eaten about a 100 of those and still gone in for more.

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

The selection ranged from egg pastries, quiches, fried eggs, cold meats, cream cheese, cakes and sweets and fresh fruit. They also had some juice choices, as well as champagne (for breakfast!) which was a welcome start to the day, and just want you want on holiday.

The little breakfast room was light, airy and really nice. Not too crammed full (that’s quite a pet peeve of mine) and there was even an outdoor area too which you could opt for if the weather was nice enough (which it was when we were there).

LaGare Hotel Venice review

Getting around, in and out of Venice 

As you may (or may not) know, the hotel isn’t actually on the main island of Venice. It’s located on Murano – a smaller island about a 15 minute speedboat ride from Venice. The hotel actually offers a complimentary speedboat to get you around – which is amazing – but you’ll need to book in advance as the speedboat only seat around 10 people, and only makes a few trips a day.

I’d recommend booking all the trips you’re wanting to take on your first day when you check in, and then keep track of which trips you’ve booked places on. They have a boat head into Venice in the morning and in the evening, as well as a return trip mid afternoon and evening. They also do airport transfers too – and will pick you up from the airport if you give them a heads up.

The speedboat is below… 🙂 pretty nice right?!

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

The speedboat leaves from a little jetty right outside the hotel (in the photo above) – it’s not hard to find and the staff will always point you in the right direction if you can’t find it!

What amazed me about the whole ‘free’speedboat’ arrangement was that it was free. If you were to pay for a private speedboat in Venice, to and from Murano it would cost you upwards of 100 Euros. So believe me when I tell you it’s a perk worth having!

The photo below is the view you get from their speedboat as you whizz into central Venice. Picture perfect! 

LaGare Hotel Venice review

Public transport around the hotel

As well as the speedboat, there is also loads of public transport options in and out of the city in the form of water buses. There are two routes, the more frequent (every 10/15 mins) takes you to Fte Nove (a main ferry hub on the closer side of Venice island to Murano). Getting off here will require a little bit of walking to get into the main tourist bit of the city, but the ferry itself only takes 15/20 minutes.

The other is less frequent and takes you right into the heart of San Marco (so no extra walking needed). However this ferry comes less frequently and takes much longer (about 45 minutes in total).

So it’s just up to you which you’d prefer. For us, we got the first option on the way in when our feet were feeling fresh and then got the longer ferry back when we wanted a nice long sit down after sightseeing.

For either option – the ferry stations are all within 5 minutes walk of the hotel door – if that. It’s super convenient.

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

I’d recommend staying late in Venice and then grabbing the water bus back to the hotel later in the night, as it means you can enjoy the sunset whilst you travel! We always got a seat too on the ferry, and at night, there was barely anyone on there – so quite a relaxing way to end the day!

LaGare Hotel Venice review

LaGare Hotel Venice review

Overall? 

It was beautiful and impressed me no end. The staff were so friendly and willing to help with every question. They provided us with maps, brochures, recommendations… you name it.

Granted the hotel isn’t actually on Venice island itself, but to me that meant we explored more of the city and actually got to see and make the most of Murano too. It was nice after being in the crowded hub of the touristy areas, to come back to the calm and quiet of Murano island – where real people live and where the crowds barely exist.

I loved using the public transport, but more than that, I ADORED the speedboat bonus – as it meant we got to live and feel like VIPs.

Would I go back? Absolutely. 

LaGare Hotel Venice review r

LaGare Hotel Venice review

If you’re booking your trip soon, I’d recommend the following websites for great deals and prices:

tripadvisor.com (hotels and reviews)

expedia.co.uk (hotels)

agoda.com (hotels and tours)

skyscanner.net (flights)

 

Revisiting your ‘teenage’ party-holiday destination (and being pleasantly surprised!)

Last weekend I went to see The Inbetweeners 2 at the cinema – and it really made me miss Australia! But, surprisingly, the film didn’t really represent the Australia Pad and I had experienced whilst we were there.

Or maybe we just did a good job of avoiding the annoying ‘gap yah’ travellers…

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For me, Byron Bay was all about peace and quiet, it was one of the most beautiful beaches we’d stumbled across in Australia and we literally just wasted away the days sat on the sand taking it all in.

It got me thinking though, about other popular ‘youth holiday’ destinations that have a bad reputation – but are actually pretty gorgeous once you scratch beneath the surface. One of the places I always wanted to visit when I was younger (and by young, I mean 16/17) was Malaga. And the reason I wanted to visit? The nightlife, the drinking and the potential for matching t-shirts with funny nicknames, and bright green jello shots.

Now, my holiday priorities are a little different! So what is there in Malaga for travellers looking for a holiday with a little more substance?

Well, this Spanish city really allows you to immerse yourself in the life of the locals and see more of Spain than just the tourist trail (delightful as this trail itself may be!).

It’s not all about the bars and beaches once you head out there: the city does actually have plenty of cultural places to visit, not that many of the teens ever get to see them.

Choosing the right time to visit

With around three hundred days of sunshine every year, the Mediterranean climate is ideal for a visit just about any time of the year (but bear in mind that southern Spain can get particularly hot in August). That heat will be nothing if you’re used to Vegas heat or the Middle East but worth bearing in mind if you’re more of a shade person.

You can get affordable flights all year round, I did a quick search here on Thomson and the prices were very reasonable.

Taking in the culture

Once you get out there, there’s a wonderful mixture of history and modern day: the city is a cultural hub and a bustling port town with adorable sights and hip restaurants and bars. You’ll find Roman and Phoenician ruins in the centre of the city, along with a 16th century cathedral with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture all meshed together in one confusing but beautiful building.

Be sure to visit the Picasso Museum, with pieces from his entire career spanning from the end of the 19th century up until his death in the 1970s (this is quite a treat for any art lover) and even those who aren’t keen on the arts can appreciate the magic of seeing a Picasso up close and personal.

No trip to Malaga is complete without a visit to the Alcazaba fortress, which was built in the 11th century and now holds an archaeological museum. On the hill above the fortress, there’s Gibralfaro Castle from the 1300s, which was built to protect the fortress and has amazing views of the city.

Don’t forget to visit the Roman Amphitheatre and La Concepción Botanic Garden, which is considered to be one of the best in Europe.

Eating and drinking

There’s something missing from your trip if you don’t try some Spanish tapas (drooling over my keyboard at the very thought…!)

Malaga boasts traditional tapas restaurants and more modern tapas bars. As Malaga is a seaside city, the seafood is exceptionally delicious. You can eat sardines and prawns which were caught only that morning, so they taste particularly flavoursome. If you want truly fine seafood, try Maricuchi where you can eat freshly caught seafood at tables by the sea.

Where are your teen destinations that you’d like to re-visit?

Get planning: Prepping for Oktoberfest

I’ve done my summer holidays for the year, so now I’m looking forward to October, November and December and thinking about what I can do during those months. One of the main things (and most well known) has to be Oktoberfest.

Now you have a few options, you can go the whole hog and book flights to Germany (why not?!) or you can find a local celebration, such as the London Oktoberfest celebrations. Either way – you’re going to have fun. And drink beer.

But you already knew that right? 

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So how do you go about getting ready? Well first things first, you need a costume. Yes a costume. If you’re going to do it, do it right.

I found this website Oktoberfest Dirndl that sell more varieties of Oktoberfest themed outfits you could ever wish for. I got a bit obsessed once I’d started looking through all the outfits, because I couldn’t decide which was my favourite, and then I had like 8 different dresses in my basket and it all got a bit sad, because I knew I could only pick one.

Well I could’ve picked two, but I don’t know whether I’d  be able to justify it, given I’d only wear it once a year. 

Here are some of my favourites:

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You need to find a group of awesome people to go with! Whilst you could go on your own, or as a couple – you’ll get the most out of an event like this when you’ve got a big group of friends surrounding you. So send out the invites, make a Facebook group… get everyone jumping on your bandwagon basically. The more people you’ve got the more fun you’ll have.

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What should you book? 

If you’re headed to Germany then getting into the tents is free, and sitting down at the tables is free too. But that’s where it ends! Drinks, food, and any touristy bits you might buy will cost money (and it won’t be cheap).

 

For the London festival, depending on the day you go and the tier of ticket you take – will alter the price. For example, there are VIP tickets, for reserved seating and tables, etc. If you haven’t reserved a specific table – then it may be worth turning up early to make sure you get a good spot!

Remember that there are around 14 different tents to choose from (if you’re going to the original one in Germany) so choose wisely when you arrive! Each tent has it’s own unique feeling and atmosphere, and will serve slightly different food and drink too. For a way more in-depth explanation of the tents, this blog post has loads more info and goes into much more details!

When does the festival actually start?

The original Oktoberfest in Germany begins in September and ends in October (figures, because of the name and all!) on the first Sunday in October, or on October 3, whatever is later. It lasts for at least 16 days.

The next dates are:

  • 2014: September 20 – October 5
  • 2015: September 19 – October 4
  • 2016: September 17 – October 3

Don’t forget about the food! 

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Yes, there is beer! But there is also food! And great food at that! Don’t forget to get your fill of the food, and make sure – for every glass you drink, you’re consuming a little food too. No one wants to end up too drunk that they can’t enjoy the full experience (you did pay to be there after all!) so make it a balancing act if you can.

One last piece of advice…. 

Book your hotels in advance, because the city is full to the brim during the festival! Look for somewhere nearby too – so you’re not having to hail a cab whilst you’re drunk! 😉

The beautiful windows of Venice, Italy

When I was in Venice recently, I found myself taking more photos of windows than anything else. The windows were just so gorgeous, I couldn’t not. Here are some of my favourites 🙂 Enjoy!

Beautiful windows in Venice

Beautiful windows in Venice

Beautiful windows in Venice

Beautiful windows in Venice

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Beautiful windows in Venice

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Beautiful windows in Venice

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Beautiful windows in Venice

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Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

Travel myths: 6 lies people tell you about Venice

A couple of weeks ago I went to Venice, and it was brilliant. It’s a beautiful city (feels kind of like a movie set) and there is loads to do and see. But beforehand, I was worried.

Worried.

To go on holiday.

Which is stupid.

But it’s because I’d read up on Venice prior to leaving – I always do read up on a place – and had read all these negative things. Some of these things even made me doubt my decision to visit the city, but when I got there I found I’d been worried for nothing.

Venice grand canal

So here are the lies I’d read about Venice:

1. It’s the most expensive city you’ll ever visit: WRONG

So many travel forums and tour books warned about the price of Venice I found myself getting seriously concerned. But the reality? It wasn’t half as bad as I’d expected. Maybe it’s because I live in London and I’m used to expensive prices, but I’ve also travelled a lot, and Venice wasn’t too bad at all compared to cities like Melbourne, Sydney, NYC (etc). I was told that a meal out for 2 people in the evening would cost upwards of 100 euros… this was way exaggerated.

I never spent more than 25 Euros on an evening meal (and that included a main meal, bread, non-alcoholic drinks, and even a side order in some cases). Granted there would’ve been an extra 10 Euros perhaps if I’d have had a glass of wine – but that’s still pretty reasonable.

The cost of a bowl of pasta in the average restaurant was like 15 Euros, and the price of a pizza ranged from 9 Euros (margarita) to 18 Euros (if you wanted shellfish or prawns or generally expensive stuff on there). Of course, you’ll pay more if you eat out at the expensive restaurants n the tourist hotspots like Piazza San Marco – and if you choose the luxury restaurants with fine dining – but you’d pay more for that any city in the world.

It’s not just a Venice thing. That’s a hospitality-industry thing. 

I think Harriet paid around 18 Euros for this massive platter of shellfish.

I think Harriet paid around 18 Euros for this massive platter of shellfish. Not so bad after all.

2. You’ll pay shit loads in cover charges and tax at restaurants: WRONG

Before I went I’d read up to be careful about cover charge and tax at restaurants – and that hidden fees were common practise in Venice restaurants. I’d read couples claiming they’d been charged 30/40 Euros on top of their meal cost, just for sitting down at a table, or eating outside in the courtyard. WHERE WERE THESE PEOPLE EATING?  Yes – If you go to an expensive restaurant the cover charge will be more. But that’s because they know you’re willing to pay it. Go to normal restaurants and local haunts and the cover charge is literally a couple of Euros. We paid no more than 5 Euros in total for tax and cover charge the entire time we were there.

When you think about NYC and other cities in the US where you’re expected to tip up to 20% – this doesn’t seem too bad at all. 

Enjoying a beautiful meal near the Rialto Bridge. Total bill for 2 people: 45 Euros.

Enjoying a beautiful meal near the Rialto Bridge. Total bill for 2 people: 45 Euros.

3. The city stinks: WRONG

OK, so there were times when  noticed a slight smell. And there was one evening when we were walking down a very scruffy alleyway (way away from the touristy part of the city) and it got a bit smelly. BUT it lasted only a few metres and then it faded. Maybe it might get worse in the height of summer in August, but I can safely say, that in June when I was there the smell wasn’t noticeable or uncomfortable.

I was dreading the smell (I have an overly sensitive nose and may have been a Spaniel or police dog in another life…?) so I was like:

“ohmygod it’s going to smell and I’m going to hate it” but it honestly wasn’t even noticeable. Sure, you might smell it when you first arrive – but then, just as with anything, it’ll fade away and you’ll get used to. I mean, for heavens sake, people live in Venice – so it can’t be that bad. You wouldn’t voluntarily live in a place that stinks, would you?

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4. Public transport is a nightmare: WRONG 

It’s no where near as bad asI’d read on forums. It might be a little more confusing initially because you’re riding a boat, not a bus, but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of. And you know, if you’re ever confused – just ask someone. People are generally friendly and will point you in the right direction. And if you do get on the wrong boat? Just get off at the next stop and go back in the right direction instead. It’s really that easy.

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Waiting for our bus.

All public transport take s a little time getting used to – it doesn’t matter if you’re in NYC, London, Paris, Rome – it can be confusing wherever you are. Take a few minutes to accustom yourself to it – look out for the major stations such as Rialto Bridge, San Marco, etc – and then at least you’ll know what to look out for and where to aim for.

5. It’ll be swarming with Mozzies: WRONG

I read on a view Trip Advisor forums that the mozzies in Venice are awful because of how much water there is there. I stocked up on DEET, got myself in a fluster (I really hate mozzie bites and seem to react terribly to them) and prepared for the worst.

The good news?

I didn’t see a single mozzie during my time there. Not in the daytime, not in the evening. AWESOME.

6. Taking a Gondola ride is over-rated and over-priced: WRONG

I was watching a TV show a few weeks before visiting Venice, that advised people to give the Gondola rides a miss. Claiming they were over-priced and over-rated. I just don’t understand this at all.

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If you’re in Venice, you absolutely must to a Gondola ride. Because it’s iconic, beautiful, romantic, wonderful and a once in a lifetime thing. Yes it’s pretty pricey (official prices are in the image below) but you can share your Gondola ride with other people for cheaper fares, and daytime rides are less than evening rides, s0 you can save money there too. We booked our ride with Viator in advance too online, and that saved us around 20 Euros.

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So yeah. Venice is great.

I was worried for no reason, and I loved every second. It’s a beautiful city.

It is a little expensive in parts – but any smart tourist with a brain knows how to avoid those areas, and knows how to avoid paying 18 Euros for coffee. It can be done on a budget – I even came home with 40 Euros left over (which was about 20% of the total cash I took with me). Not bad going!

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If you’re booking your trip soon, I’d recommend the following websites for great deals and prices:

tripadvisor.com (hotels and reviews)

expedia.co.uk (hotels)

agoda.com (hotels and tours)

skyscanner.net (flights)

My next trip…. Is VENICE!

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When I visited Las Vegas last year, Pad and I stayed in The Venetian Hotel and that was when I first fell in love with Venice. Yes, OK, fake Venice. But still, I figured, if I loved the fake version so much, I’m bound to fall head over heels (crazy Notebook love) with the real Venice.

My friend Harriet and I were looking for somewhere to go for a short break in June earlier in the year, and we both brought up Venice a bit tentatively. We both have boyfriends – and I think we were both expecting the other to say ‘I’m sorry – but Venice is reserved for a loved-up couple vacation, not a girls getaway.’ 

Except that neither of us thought that, and both of us wanted to go. And heck, I’ll go have a super romantic weekend away with my BFF and be done with it. So we’re going to Venice and I can’t wait. I’ve always wanted to go there, so it will be a major bucket list item checked off.

Where will I be staying? 

We’re going to be staying at LaGare Hotel, a new hotel (converted from a very old glass factory) just off the main Venice island. I’m kind of excited to be staying in local Venice, rather than touristy Venice, as I think we’ll see a whole different side to the city. It’s a 10 minute boat ride away from the main island, and the hotel offers a free shuttle – so I figure we’re pretty much sorted.

You can see here which island the hotel is located on. See, not too far!

You can see here which island the hotel is located on. See, not too far!

The hotel itself looks pretty stunning, the perfect retreat to go back to after a long day of sightseeing. I’ve got to the age now where I appreciate a nice hotel and a lovely place to come home to in the evening – and (as much as it pains me to say) my hostel days are well and truly behind me. I like comfy beds, big pillows, aircon and a decent hotel bar too much now to give them up. 

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Who are we flying with? 

I big priority for me with this holiday was that I really wanted to fly into Marco Polo airport. I’ve heard the views are pretty incredible when you fly into Venice and I wanted to be able to take advantage of them!

Most budget airlines don’t actually fly into Marco Polo I found (which was a bit annoying), but luckily I found some really affordable Monarch direct flights which were at good times (no 5am wake up call…. phew), and also flew into Marco Polo (yay!). So I got my bargain prices and my Venice view. I can’t wait to get taking photos on the plane.

What will we be doing? 

To be honest, I’m going without knowing too much what’s on offer. I’ve never been before, so I’m excited to just walk around, explore and stumble across some beautiful places. I did a quick Google search to find out what the main tourist places were (see below) as I don’t want us to miss anything crucial – but when I visit cities I love just finding those amazing hidden gems by myself.

Most people who I’ve spoken to have said the same thing really.

The magic of Venice is just exploring, walking around and soaking it all in. 

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It was the same when I visited Rome. Sure, we knew what the main sites were and we knew what the main things we wanted to see were. My favourite moments though, were stumbling across things by accident. It’s more of an adventure that way.

I’ll also be taking my Autographer on this trip (my first time taking it somewhere since I started working there) so I’m majorly excited to get it out and start taking shots somewhere different to London! It’s very quickly become my favourite little travel gadget and I can’t wait to see the incredible shots it’ll take out and about in Venice 🙂 Credit must go to Toby (my wonderful colleague) for the shots of Venice you see below!

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Have you been to Venice and do you have any suggestions or favourite places? I’ll be there for 3 days – so would love to hear any tips or great restaurants, etc. 

A Very British Christmas

Last Christmas, Pad and I spent the day on Queenstown beach, sipping cider and wearing santa hats (more on that here). Yet the whole time (as amazing as the sunshine was) we couldn’t help but miss the cold, the snow and the British way of doing things (i.e. sitting in front of the TV, having eaten way too much food, watching cheesy movies and getting slowly drunk. And don’t forget the celebratory nap time). 

This year, now back in the UK (and also – now having a newly found addiction to Instagram – something I spent last Christmas without….!) I’ve been talking lots of photos (I’m not exaggerating, this is an awfully long blog post!) gleefully snapping away anything and everything festive. I’m pretty sure Pad is going to be happy when Christmas is over, if only for the reason I won’t be pestering him with my iPhone anymore.

So here is my unofficial ‘Instagram’ guide to a Very British Christmas. 

OK, so the 1st of December rolls around… TIME TO GET A TREE AND A WREATH. I refuse to wait any longer to get my tree up, it has to be the 1st of December. To be honest – if it didn’t seem so keen and weird I would probably put it up in November. We got the wreath from Balham market for £10, and I love it. I’m trying to figure out if I can get away with keeping it up all year round. Because it makes the front door look so lovely

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This is how our tree looked on Christmas Eve, with everyone’s presents underneath, I was so proud of it! We spent Christmas in my new home in Balham, so my mum and sister came over for a couple of days. Pad and I have worked so hard to turn it into a home – and it really felt like the perfect place to spend Christmas.

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How good are baubles?

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Below are some photos of our Christmas dinner. The cooking side of things was relatively stress-free to be honest – as we prepped most things the night before. We’ve never been big fans of Turkey in our family, so we opted for Chicken, Beef and Pork Belly instead. We had mini roasts of all three, so we could just pick and choose.

My little sister was in charge of the roasties, and by ‘in charge’ I mean she was running a army regiment in the kitchen, with absolute precision. As expected, they were a success (big sigh of relief there).

She also managed to get through a record breaking 6 Yorkshire puddings. So good effort all round.

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For dessert we boycotted the traditional Christmas pudding, and went for a gingerbread house instead. It was pretty spectacular.

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Film of choice from Christmas day? Despicable Me of course…. What else!?

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Another big part of our Christmas is family – so we went up North to spend time with family on Boxing day. As with any family, we’re a little dysfunctional in parts, but the love is there. The ‘kids’ of the family (I say kids, but we’re all older than 20 now….!) are all lucky to be a similar age, so there is always lots of talk (and argue) about.

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I’m trying to think of a witty word for “Christmas hat selfies” but nothing comes to mind. Suggestions on a postcard! 😉

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Another lovely part of Christmas is also winter walks! Pad, my mum, sister and I went exploring Greenwich for the day – taking a walk around Cutty Sark, Greenwich Market and Greenwich Park. I’ve been to greenwich a couple of times before – but never had a proper look round the place before then. It’s so gorgeous! Especially the amazing views from the top of the park (for sure worth the big walk up there).

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Love these stunning paper roses from Greenwich market…. Need to remember to go back again and actually buy a few next time.

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Finally, my last ‘christmassy’ thing of the year was my first ever football game! I’ve never been to a match before (like ever) so it was pretty awesome to go watch my boyfriends team play. For him, it’s a yearly tradition, so I was really excited to go to a game and see what all the fuss was about. I loved it!

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Oh take it back. I have one more photo. Here is a couple selfie of our christmas jumpers. Yes, we totally jumped on that bandwagon this year.

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What are your Christmas traditions? What would you miss the most if you were spending Christmas abroad?

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