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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Things do to in Paris when it Rains

Pad and I have a habit of getting unlucky with weather.

When we were in Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong and the USA earlier in the year – thunder and rain seemed to follow is around like a bad smell. Occasionally we’d get excited about a blue sky when we woke up in the morning – only to discover clouds rolling in seconds later.

Saying that though, its something we’ve always made the best of. Yes rain isn’t always the most ideal weather type – but most of the time, if you’re somewhere worth being, with someone worth being with – it doesn’t matter if it’s raining or not.

So, back to Paris.

I thought I’d share a few photos of us looking all drenched!

Paris in the rain tip 1: Find someone tech savvy and nimble to take tourist photos for you. The longer you wait for them to take the photo – the wetter you’re going to get!

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Paris in the rain tip 2: When looking for somewhere to shelter from the rain – choose small cafes on back streets, not big cafes right by the attractions. This glass of Coke set us back 18 Euros! 18! Ouch. At least he looks like he’s enjoying it though hey?

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Paris in the rain tip 3: Paris is still very pretty (even in rain) but make sure you remember to whip your camera out whenever sunshine makes a rare cameo during your day.

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Paris in the rain tip 4: When the rain gets really really bad – just go hide in the Metro, and ride the train until the people getting on don’t look wet anymore. That means the rain has probably stopped.

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Paris in the rain tip 5: If you smile in photos – no one will notice the rain, or that you are soaking wet through.

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Paris in the rain tip 6: This isn’t a tip really, just proof that the above tip is in fact true and correct.

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Paris in the rain tip 7: The Sacré Cœur is kind of windy so doubles up your wetness factor (but the view is proper nice). Approach with caution when in the rain, don’t expect your umbrella to keep you safe.

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Paris in the rain tip 8: Wear boots (waterproof if you can). Under all those beautiful autumn leaves are puddles of mud. You have been warned! 
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Paris in the rain tip 9: Book a nice hotel you can run back to when it all gets too much.

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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!

 

The Beautiful Padlock Bridge in Paris

One of my favourite places in Paris, the Padlock Bridge, is one of those spots you should really try and get down to during your time in the city. Especially if you’re visiting for a romantic getaway with your girlfriend or boyfriend. Yes it is super mushy – but sometimes you have to embrace the romance. You are in Paris….!

You can buy your own padlock to hook onto the bridge from home and bring it with you (might be cheaper!) or you can buy them from the little stalls along the riverbank. It’ll cost you about 4 Euros (I think that’s how much we paid for ours) and they all have markers pens too – for you to write your names on them before locking them onto the bridge.

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Tradition goes, that you buy your padlock, then once it’s locked onto the bridge you throw the keys into the river.

I loved the bridge, and all the lovely couples who were all throwing their keys in the river. This is the kind of thing I love when I’m travelling, it’s a place that really means something – and I loved reading all the padlocks and thinking of all the stories that go alongside them.

I took some pictures of my favourite padlocks I found – but there were so many! I could’ve stayed there all afternoon reading them all. I’d love to make a book of all the padlocks, and have photos of all the couples that match up with them… but can you imagine how difficult it would be to put that together?!

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Here’s our padlock! Maybe in ten years we’ll go back and try and find it again. A good idea (to help out your future self!), is to try and find a padlock that really stands out – and put yours somewhere near there. Then at least you’ll know what to look out for!

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The view form the bridge isn’t bad either so you may as well go take a look (even if you’re not the mushy sort). It’s right next to The Notre Dame as The Padlock Bridge is one of the bridges that connects the cathedral to the riverbanks of Paris, so it’s super easy to find. You could just follow the crowds of loved up couples – and you’re bound to find it that way too…!

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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!

My first time on The Eurostar!

I’ve never been on Eurostar before, so when they offered me some free return tickets to review it, I couldn’t say no. As someone with a pretty intense fear of flying (I know that’s a bit silly for a travel blogger!) any land-based transport is always a big hit with me. I loved being able to visit another country within a few hours, and not having to step foot on a plane. That alone for me is priceless. So, yes – straight up – I’d definitely use Eurostar again.

Our train left from St Pancras International, which was only 20 minutes on the tube from our flat, so getting there took barely anytime at all. If you’re coming into London especially for The Eurostar, you’re probably going to be going into either Kings Cross or Euston anyway by train – and both are super close to St Pancras. As in, literally a few minutes walk.

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We were only heading to Paris for a couple of days over the weekend, so we got an early train on Friday morning, so that we could make the most of all three days. Our tickets said we had to get there 30 minutes before to leave time for checking in and security, etc, but that’s nothing compared to the 3 hours we would have had to be at the airport in advance.

The check-in process is a little like an airport, but much more relaxed and a hundred times quicker. You then get into this nice waiting area with a coffee shop, news agents and a few food shops. We were in there no more than 10 minutes before our train was called for boarding – so I didn’t really pay it much attention to be honest!

One tip I would give though – is to buy your Metro card for Paris from the information desk here. I think it costs us a tad more £22 for 3 days (per ticket)… but it saved us the hassle of buying them in Paris, and it meant we didn’t need to worry about trying to figure out the zones and stuff. Seen as neither of us speak very good French (albeit I do try my best!) this made everything a bit easier.

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We were lucky enough to travel in Business class on the way out, which was a real treat. It meant we had a bit more space, our own private table and also (the best bit….) free breakfast and drinks! There was a nice little bread role, a croissant, yoghurt, fruit juice, coffee and tea and water. Which made for a nice pick-me up at 7am!

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The carriages themselves did look a bit dated if I’m being brutally honest, but the seats are really comfy and we had plenty of space – so I wasn’t really bothered by that. You’re only one the train for two hours anyway!

One thing that did surprise me was how quick the whole thing was. Both on the way out, and on our return trip – the time seemed to pass super quick. Another nice little perk, was that we were above ground a fair amount (I’d say for about 65% of the ride) so I could use my phone with signal and WiFi. Just remember to pack some magazines or a book for the actual ‘tunnel’ part – because you don’t even have a window view during that part – it’s all black.

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On the way home, back to London, the journey was just as quick but we were in economy class instead. I wanted to try both out so I could compare them, but economy was just as good and didn’t put any kind of dampener on the experience at all. It was just like a normal train ride really, a bit like the big Virgin Trains, but with a little more room.

I actually slept better on the way back because it was more cosy – so it’s all just preference really. Sure you don’t get free food and drink – but you can easily stock up on that in the train station before you set off. And the French station Gare Du Nord has loads of cafes and food shops, so you’ll have your pick of the best to eat on the journey.

Here’s my one bit on unrealistic feedback though: I think it’d be kind of amazing if the tunnel was glass and you could see all the fishys. But it’s not. So never mind. 

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!

 

I’m going to Paris!

Ever since we got back from travelling in the summer, I’ve been dreaming of our next trip away – and it’s finally all organised which is so exciting! Pad and I are going to head to beautiful Paris for my birthday (9th November) for a few days. I can’t wait – I grew up visiting Paris and France during the school holidays, so it’s a place really close to my heart. Pad has never been to Paris too – so I’m so excited to show him around and see what he thinks.

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I know straight off that he’s going to love the food… so that’s one thing I can count on! What with all the meat, cheese, bread and wine – I can hardly see where you can go wrong!? I plan on eating 4/5 meals a day. You have to make the most of these things…..!!

How are we getting there? 

I didn’t really want to get on a plane again for a while after travelling, so the Eurostar seemed like the perfect option of transport. I’ve never actually used the Eurostar before (so I’m unnecessarily excited for it!) and the idea of getting a train to a whole other country seems so easy and stress-free. I’m hoping it lives up to my expectations!

So where will we be staying? 

The hotel we’ve chosen is called Hotel Felicien and is actually brand new so we’ll be some of the first people to stop there – I think it opened officially a few days ago. It’s located on the Left Bank, and is only a short walk to the Eiffel Tower – which will be lovely (and save our feet when sightseeing!).

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The main thing that attracted me to it was the modern decor and the central location. It’s always nice to have somewhere romantic to come back to during city breaks – because during the day you exhaust yourselves so much walking around all the things to do and see. It’s nice to have somewhere a bit special to come home to. Another thing we quickly noticed after months of travelling together through big cities is you really start to realise just how valuable a central location is! Oh, and there’s a hot tub on the roof!

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What are we going to do? 

I’m hoping…. as much as we possibly can! I want to cram in all the touristy things, but also just take some time to enjoy the Paris culture and the food and the cafe culture too. Here are some blog posts I’ve been reading for inspiration!

http://ideasaroundthecorner.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/a-weekend-in-paris.html

http://mrsoaroundtheworld.com/2013/01/21/a-lux-weekend-in-paris-with-avenuestory/

http://wonderfulwanderings.com/girls-weekend-in-paris-our-itinerary/

http://www.roamingtales.com/2012/05/09/paris-weekend/

I’ll talk more about what we did in more detail after we get home of course! With plenty of photos too – I’m not going to lie – the photos are probably what I’m most excited for! My camera has felt a bit neglected since we got home from travelling.

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I’d absolutely love any recommendations for restaurants, cafes (or anything else really) – so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

A beautiful sunset in Rovinj, Croatia

I’ve kind of got my heart set on returning to Croatia next summer in 2014 – and it’s not hard realising why after seeing these gorgeous photos from last time Pad and I were there.

We actually visited in Spring rather than summer last time, so we didn’t really get to explore the beaches and jump in the sea (wayyy to cold for that!) what we did plenty of however, was eating out, drinking coffee, eating ice-cream and enjoying watching the sunsets over the ocean.

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For me, Croatia feels a bit magical – almost like a film set? Then, when I started watching Game of Thrones – I was like “ahhh this is totally what Croatia reminds me of!”. It’s feels very old-worldy, traditional and almost secret. We stayed in the town called Rovinj, which isn’t really a hot-spot of UK tourists at all, so because of that we felt like we’d found something a bit special. The main town sticks out into a little peninsula, which is kind of a cross between Venice and Dubrovnik, and we loved walking along the cobbled streets and tiny alleyways.

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Our favourite thing to do whilst we were there was actually something as simple as watching the sunset… but I guess it’s pretty easy to understand why when they are this beautiful! The great thing about Rovinj is actually how many lovely bars and restaurants there are right by the waterside, so there are so many options and choices. Pad was dead-set on trying some of the amazing sea food on offer in the town (I’m allergic to shellfish – so I could do no such thing unfortunately!) and his little face lit up when he saw all the choices on the menus. I’ve included some photos of the food below too – because a good food photo is just as awesome as sunsets, right?!

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Have you been to Croatia? What would you recommend doing or seeing? Any tips would be so appreciated, especially if I do get my wish of heading back there next year! 

Hotel Review: St Ermin’s, London

We got invited to spend a night at the beautiful St Ermin’s hotel in London, so I wanted to write a little review about what we thought about the hotel, it’s amenities, etc. We were bowled away by the hotel in all honesty – and (to cut a long story short – in case you just want to look at the photos!) I’d recommend the hotel to any tourists visiting the city on vacation.

St Ermins Hotel London Review

St Ermins Hotel London Review

The thing I loved most about the hotel was how traditionally English it felt. I think, if you were visiting the hotel as a tourist from the US, Australia, NZ, Japan, Asia…. etc, you’d really appreciate all the little English details and the decor because I’m guessing that’s what you’d be coming to London for! Why stay in a super modern hotel, when you can stay in something historic and beautiful like this?  The lobby (pictured above) was just stunning and totally had the wow factor… it looked like something out of Disney movie.

St Ermins Hotel London Review

St Ermins Hotel London Review

We stayed in a standard double room, and (as you can see) the amount of space you get is just amazing. This is rare for a central London hotel, so didn’t go unnoticed. I’ve stayed in a few hotels in London city centre before I lived here, and never did I get a room that was this big and airy.

After a year of travelling the world – we had our fair share of hotels and room sizes – and this room is definitely one of the most generous space-wise. We actually looked at the floor plan on the fire-escape map (you know the one they stick on the back of the door?) and our room was surprisingly the smallest on the floor… so the other rooms must feel even more spacious than ours did.

St Ermins Hotel London Review

St Ermins Hotel London Review

There were lots of cute little personal touches too, which I was entirely expecting – as St Ermin’s is a 4* and not a 5* hotel. However, the hotel gives off such a luxury feel, and it really does feel very 5* because of all the details they pay attention too.

This is what welcomed us when we arrived in our room:

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As well as some complimentary fruit….

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A hand written note from the hotel manager….

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And plenty of plug options for international travellers…

St Ermins Hotel London Review

The bathroom gets high marks too. Nice and modern, bright and clean and full of lots of goodies too. Another thing (which is always massively important to me and a girl with long hair!) was the bigger-than-average shampoo and conditioner dispensers. Those tiny little bottles are never enough for me – so this was a pleasant surprise!

Oh and they were White Company too – poshness!

St Ermins Hotel London Review
St Ermins Hotel London Review

St Ermins Hotel London Review

But how does the hotel fare in terms of transport and location?

Well it’s about an 8 minute walk (I timed it….) to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and St James Park. But, saying that, the underground station St Jame’s Park is less than a minute’s walk around the corner which is probably the biggest selling point of the hotel. After a long day of sightseeing, it’s really handy to just be able to jump back on the tube and know you don’t have a trek back to your comfy room.

St Jame’s park is on the District and Circle lines – which is probably the best line to be on for touristy, sightseeing kind of things. You have South Kensington (for all the big museums), Westminster (for Big Ben and the London Eye), Embankment (for gorgeous views and Covent Garden) and Tower Hill (for the tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Shard…. etc).

On top of all that, just look how romantic the hotel is in the evening….

St Ermins Hotel London Review

To find out more about the hotel, you can check out their website here…. www.sterminshotel.co.uk

If you have any more questions about the hotel, just let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them! 🙂

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My favourite ‘cheap eats’ in London

I love finding those amazingly good-value-super-cheap eats around big cities, so thought I’d put together a post about my current city – London. London is known in the UK (and the world probably!) for being expensive and overpriced, but to tell the truth there are dozens of places in the city you can eat for under £10 (food and drink included) and they’re not even that hard to stumble upon.

Here are a few of my personal favourites….

If you’re in Soho – try out Bi Bim Bap

For yummy asian cuisine at ridiculously cheap prices then Bi Bim Bap is my favourite place to head. The restaurant feels like a quirky cafes, and the service is friendly and quick. Don’t expect to pay more than £10 here for a main course – I think the average price is about £6/7 and the portions are huge. For something a bit fun order the raw beef in the traditional stone bowls, and watch as it cooks right there in front of you – I was gobsmacked the first time I went there and ordered it! The food is just delicious (did I mentioned that already?) and the ingredients are fresh and tasty.

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If you’re near London Bridge – head to Borough Market

For some street food at affordable prices, you can’t really go wrong with Borough market. It’s very cheap (considering how central it is!) and the food is a consistently high standard too. Stick to the street stalls and market venders for the cheap-eats, I’d recommend Roast sandwiches – if you’re patient enough to queue! Thee is also an amazing pulled pork sandwich shop (pictured below) which is always a great shout too.

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If you need a reliable chain restaurant – head to Wasabi

I LOVE WASABI. I know it’s a chain place, but it’s so tasty and so good. I swear, if I could eat Wasabi every day, I totally would. You’re looking at about £5 per meal here then an extra £1 for a drink, if you’re thirsty. The portions are more than generous, and it’s all freshly prepared that day. I’d go for the sweet chilli chicken (drooling….) but they also have cold dishes and great Sushi too.

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If you’re in North London – head over to Camden Market

Camden Market is the quirkier, funkier, busier younger brother to Borough Market. Expect more crowds here, and expect to struggle for a seat! Saying that though, the choice of food is really varied and the prices are very cheap. It’ll cost you about £5 for a meal – maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less – depending on what you have! Camden is best enjoyed in the summertime, when you can sit down by the canal and enjoy the views.

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If you want pizza – head to Franco Manca’s in Brixton

Probably the best pizza I’ve had in London and I know at least a handful of people who would agree with me. I live in Brixton – so that’s the restaurant we visit, but there are also restaurants in Balham and Chiswick too. The pizza is unbelievably fresh and the ingredients are hearty and well put together. I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes for it to arrive too – which is always a bonus! I won’t say much more – the photos will do the talking!

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What are your fail-safe cheap eats in London? Let me know!

Did you enjoy this post or find it helpful? If so I’d love if you could spare a second to vote for me in The Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2014. Just click here to get to the voting site. Thanks a million!

A Girly Weekend in Dublin

As far as European city destinations go, Dublin wouldn’t make my top 5 – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy this city. We headed over for a girly weekend, for my friend Philippa’s 21st birthday, with a few of us flying out from up North and me and Esther flying out of London.

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A definite plus for Dublin, is how close it is to the UK and how cheaply you can see the city and get there. I think the flights cost us £35 each way on Ryan Air which is super cheap and the flight barely took an hour. Our hostel we stayed in was also super cheap as we stayed in a dorm room. I’d recommend hostel dorm rooms to anyone visiting Dublin on a budget and in a group – because the likelyhood is – you’ll end up having the dorm to yourself if you can fill it up. There was five of us, which was perfect as it felt like our own little room. Even better, when we getting ready to go out – it was like those slumber parties you have when you’re growing up when you all gather at someones house to get dolled up. We even managed to share the one bathroom without too much hassle – which is impressive for 5 girls!

What should you see in the city? 

To be honest, we probably didn’t see everything the city has to offer – but we did as much as we could in the little time we had there which was only a couple of days.

But number one thing on your list should definitely be The Guinness factory.  I’m going to write about that in more detail next week, but in a nutshell, this is basically the biggest tourist hub in the city and where most tourists flock to whilst they’re in town. It’s good fun and worth the ticket cost, if only for the trip up to the bar afterwards – even more so if you’re a big Guinness fan.

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Next on your list, should just be enjoying the city.

We didn’t get the best weather (as you can probably tell from the photos!) but the city is still lovely to walk around. Take a walk around the university (where some of the world’s smartest minds once studied) and take a look around some of the churches (especially Christchurch Cathedral), Dublin Castle and all of the cities beautiful cobbled streets. There is a free eBook I found by cheap flights (click here) that has some other suggestions in more detail – so that might be worth having a look at too!

Along all those gorgeous cobbled streets, you’ll find cute cafes, cosy pubs (if you didn’t already get your fill of guinness!) and quirky boutique shops. The Dublin needle is another iconic landmark of the city too found on the other side of the river  – but don’t worry, it’s kind of difficult to miss it!

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When the sun goes down, get dressed up and experience some of Dublin’s famous nightlife. It’s hard to be disappointed by the atmosphere and nightlife in Dublin as the locals are so friendly and welcoming- and if you’re visiting on a Friday or Saturday night, expect it to be packed.

My favourite pub was the one pictured below – where we spent hours listening to an irish band play – with a little bit of dancing too of course! Irish music is so much fun, and it’s a little bit different to what you get in the UK, so make sure you give it a try and get involved in the Irish culture.

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A few other options for your time in Dublin…. 

National Gallery of Ireland (for art lovers)

National Museum of Ireland (for history lovers)

Dublin shopping district (for fashion lovers)

Dublin Writer’s Museum (for book lovers)

Dublin Zoo (for animal lovers)

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What was your favourite thing to do in Dublin? I’d love to hear more recommendations! 

The Vatican, Rome… What to wear and when to go: Basically everything you need to know when visiting.

So I’m going to be writing about some of my favourite European destinations over the next few weeks – and Rome is definitely one at the top of that list. I love Rome – all the history and the culture just makes it an absolutely magical place to visit.

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One of the main attractions in Rome (and one you should definitely visit during your trip) is The Vatican. Like many religious sites world-over though, there are often lots of rules and regulations surrounding entry and people usually worry and fuss before their visit, thinking that maybe they’re going at the wrong time, maybe they’re wearing the wrong thing… so on. I know for sure we worried about this aspect of things, so I thought I’d put together something to keep things simple and hopefully tell you everything you need to know.

What time should you visit? 

Places like this are always going to be busy – so you’re not going to avoid queues no matter what time you turn up. Early morning is always going to be packed because not only do you get the keeno-tourists who are up at the crack of dawn, but you also get the school trips. Saying this though, try and avoid The Vatican on the last Sunday of every month because this is known as “free-sunday” and (as anything free tends to do) it attracts big crowds and more people than usual. Sometimes on Wednesday the Pope may be in town – so (if I were you) I would probably try and avoid The Vatican at all costs then too.

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How much does it cost? 

So, as far as I know the price for entering the Vatican (which includes all museums on the property as well) is about 15 euros – which isn’t bad at all – as you could literally explore the area for a whole day. For students, getting into the Vatican is only 8 euros, so if you have a student card take it along and don’t forget to claim your discount.

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What should you wear? 

As The Vatican is a religious site, you need to be respectful when you dress for your visit. Whilst the dress codes aren’t quite as strict as other worldwide religious sites such as The Grand Palace in Bangkok – do be mindful and sensible.

If you stick to no bare shoulders and no bare knees you should be OK in The Vatican (and this applies to men and women) – and that is mainly a show of respect. You can see what we wore below, which might help you in deciding whether your outfit is passable. If you’re ever unsure, just pack a little scarf or shawl in your bag so you have something to throw on incase. Short shorts and vest tops won’t cut it though, so leave them at the hotel.

The best bet, if you’re ever a little unsure, is to pack a spare option in your bag that is way more conservative than the one you arrive in. That way you have a plan if anyone disputes your outfit.

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What is there to see? 

LOADS!

The Vatican Museums are fantastic and of course the famous Sistine Chapel is just beautiful (be careful with your camera in here though – as the security guards reserve the right to delete all images from your memory card if they catch you taking snaps!); the museums inside have lots of different sections and things to look at, like I said – it’s enough to keep you busy all day.  A few of them are:

The Pio-Clementino (classic antiquities)

Gregorian Etruscan and Egyptian museums

The Raphael Rooms

The Gallery of the Candelabra

Gallery of Maps and Gallery of Tapestries

St. Peter’s Basilica (which was my favourite part – and I would recommend completely!)

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I’ll be writing a little more about Rome over this week so stay tuned. Let me know if there are any extra questions I can help with! 🙂

Finding Authentic American BBQ in London: Red Dog Saloon!

One of the main reasons why I love America so much is the FOOD. All that BBQ stuff, meat, ribs, burgers, cheese – oh my gosh, I am literally drooling on my keyboard as I type.

For me, it’s one of the major things cities like NYC has up on UK cities like London. In fact, ever since we landed back in London, we’ve been seeking out the ultimate USA-style meat restaurant – and that’s how (and why) we found Red Dog Saloon.

Basically, as soon as I saw the menu – I knew we were going to love it. And the initial signs were good when first took our seats too, that this was actually going to be a great success and a genuinely American experience. First off – the staff were super friendly and efficient. This is something that you get everywhere in the States, nothing is ever too much hassle, your drink is never empty and you’re never waiting more than a few minutes for service if you need it.. So yeah Red Dog Saloon just nailed it there.

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But let’s talk about the most important thing. THE FOOOOOD. 

Before I start talking though… Just take a look at the photos I took. Because I think they will be enough to convince you that Red Dog Saloon is worth a visit.

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Pad took one bite of the burger above and proclaimed “This might be the best burger I’ve ever had” which was a momentous moment.

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If you’re the kind of person who likes a challenge – then take on their famous “Devastator” burger. Which is pictured above. Whilst neither of us opted for it (after the chicken wings for starters – I just didn’t feel brave enough!) I couldn’t help but take a cheeky snap of one as it was brought out of the kitchen. I mean… just look at it.

If you were just staring at the screen then for a few minutes, thinking “what does this piece of burger heaven consist of?” then let me kindly elaborate….

3 x beef patties

pulled pork

6 rashers of smoked bacon

6 slices of american cheese

Next time (and trust me, there will be a next time) this is what I’m ordering. And I will finish it like a champion!

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The atmosphere in Red Dog Saloon is great – and is actually one of my favourite parts of eating there. It’s a lot to do with the super awesome staff, but also the buzz that surrounds the place. The atmosphere is fun and young and busy both inside and out because the restaurant actually opens up into the street – which I love.

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Every few minutes you’ll hear a gasp of awe coming from a nearby table as a waiter plonks a Devastator burger in front of them, and then the room will erupt in laughter as everyone else looks on with curiosity as they try to attempt it. They also do a hot wing challenge – and we were lucky enough to witness a group of stags try and attempt that – which needless to say was hilarious.

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So. To conclude. Go here. Eat lots of meat. Be happy. 

London and Instagram are a match made in heaven.

Now I’m back living in London, my Instagram has taken a bit of a beating…. and I have been absolutely obsessed by Instagramming all the beautiful London-ness and summery-ness. It’s been almost a year since I lived here last – and it’s kind of lovely to see everything through a tourists eye’s again. I missed this place!

Needless to say my Instagram feed has been an endless stream of London landmarks.

Here are a few of my favourites…

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St James Park

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Big Ben and Westminster Bridge from The London Eye

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Big Ben

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Shoreditch

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Shoreditch

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The Shard (taken from Borough Market)

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Notting Hill

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The Shard

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Borough Market Courtyard

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St Paul’s Cathedral taken from One New Change

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Victoria Embankment

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Victoria Embankment

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Camden Lock

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Camden Market

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Camden Bridge

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Tower Bridge taken from Black Friars Station

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The Gherkin

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St Paul’s Cathedral

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St Paul’s taken from Fleet Street

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Shad Thames

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Earls Court

Just looking through this post, you realise just how much London has to offer – which is actually one of the reasons I just adore living here so much. I love how different some of these places are (you could never compare Shoreditch and St James Park!) and yet they are both such fun places to visit and are so very London in their own specific way.

To follow me on Instagram (just in case you fancy even more London photos) my username is ellerosenz 🙂 Say hello!

Where is your favourite place in London? 

Finding the Perfect Sunday Roast in London

As a girl who grew up in Yorkshire – the elusive ‘perfect Sunday roast’ is something I’m always searching for in London! In fact, it has been Paddy and I’s mission for quite some time to track one down worthy of writing about. On Friday night we totally found that place.

May I introduce you to Roast London.

We’ve walked past Roast many times as it actually sits right above one of our favourite London spots – Borough Market. In fact, we’ve actually eaten at Roast’s smaller street stall (found just below the restaurant in the market itself) for lunch a few times, each time afterwards, vowing to each other “one day we must go and eat at the actual restaurant’ with very serious eye contact and firm nods whilst chomping on our pork and apple sauce sandwiches.

So anyway, on Friday night we finally got to try Roast out, and it totally lived up to expectations (yay!).

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It’s pretty hard to miss the gorgeous building, and I’ve well and truly put Roast into my “If I get married in London – this is probably where I want to do it” list. I’d recommend going in the late afternoon / early evening like we did – because you get to really appreciate the beautiful views from the huge windows. We were lucky to have a window seat ourselves and it was lovely being able to look out over the market below and watch the world go by.

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Now onto the important stuff… The food.

All I can say is Wow.

Here is what we ordered to start with:

– Haggis Scotch Eggs (first time I’ve ever tried Haggis… and it was delicious!)

– Courgette Spaghetti

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The scotch eggs were so good, we came straight home afterwards and googled similar recipes to try and make them ourselves. So that’s the weekend cooking project taken care of!

For main courses we ordered:

– Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Roast Potatoes

– Roast Pork Belly and Apple Sauce

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I’m sure I don’t need to go on and on about how good it was (because there is a photo above which does it more justice than words ever could!) but it was yummy. We were already making plans to go back before we’d even left the restaurant.

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So. If you are in London, and looking for a proper-English, proper-delicious sunday roast dinner then go here. I always tell friends from abroad to try a traditional roast dinner when they come to the UK – so now I’ll basically just be ushering them to the front door of Roast.

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Local Alternatives to London Tourist Attractions

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So when you’ve lived in a big city like London a long time, you learn to avoid the touristy areas… especially on your time off and during the weekends. It’s not that you don’t like tourists – but sometimes it can make your life a whole lot easier when you don’t need to worry about tripping over suitcases on the tube, and getting stuck behind a family of 8 lost tourists when you’re in a rush.

Anyway, you begin to learn, that locals have their own alternative versions of most things tourist do! So here is my list for London. Handy for tourists wanting to branch out a little, or London locals who want new places to explore!

For a picnic in the park

Tourists go to: Hyde Park

The locals choice: Almost every local neighbourhood in London has it’s own green area or park, so for something a little less touristy and more in touch with normal London life try and find one of those instead. Clapham common is one of the most popular in South London, but if you insist on staying north of the Thames, then Regents Park or Holland Park are great alternatives. If you fancy making that extra bit of effort, Kew Gardens or Richmond park are beautiful and take about 40 minutes from central London on the district line.

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For amazing steak

Tourists go to: Aberdeen Angus Steak Houses

The locals choice: Probably (for me anyway) Hawksmoor. Aberdeen Angus steak houses can be found on every corner in the tourist districts of London, but if you’re after a fancy meal and an amazing steak – you could do so much better! Hawksmoor goes beyond the expected – and I’ve never once had a single thing to complain about after visiting. They go above and beyond!

For a foodie experience

Tourists go to: Borough Market

The locals choice: I love Borough Market but it’s no exaggeration to say it’s one of London’s busiest tourist attractions. Instead head to quirky Brixton Village where you’ll find a slightly more authentic London experience, with some truly great food choices. My favourite? Franco Manca’s Pizza…. the best pizza in south London for sure! If you’re not feeling Brixton, then Chelsea (right outside the Saatchi gallery) holds a weekend food market too full of organic and home-made goodies.

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For Primark

Tourists go to: Oxford Street

The locals choice: OH MY GOD STAY AWAY FROM OXFORD STREET! Instead, go (literally about 10 minutes down the road) to Tottenham Court Road Primark instead. IT’S BIGGER and BETTER and there are about half as many people in there – which means no broken ribs. Wahoo! You’ll even get to try stuff on in this Primark (because unlike the Oxford Street branch) you won’t need to queue up for 40 minutes to use the changing rooms.

For an incredible view

Tourists go to: The Shard or The London Eye

The locals choice: You don’t need to pay loads of money for a breath-taking view of the London Skyline. There is a shopping centre next to St Paul’s cathedral called One New Change, which has a pretty spectacular rooftop terrace (and it’s free to go up there!) which potentially tops both of the touristy views (in my opinion anyway).

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For quirky shopping

Tourists go to: Camden Market

The locals choice: Head to Brick Lane instead of Camden for a more relaxed experience without all the crowds, but with equally quirky shops and retailers. Brick Lane is found in quirky Shoreditch, so you’ll have plenty of places to explore afterwards too.

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For a night at the cinema

Tourists go to: Imax at Waterloo

The locals choice: There’s nothing wrong with the Imax (it’s pretty epic actually!) but it’s definitely a treat and the prices reflect that. For something a bit more affordable (but equally as awesome) head to The Aubin Cinema in Shoreditch (sofas and arm chairs!) or the Ritzy in Brixton… those little independent cinemas are so much more fun than the average!

For dinner by The Thames

Tourists go to: The Southbank

The locals choice: Head out to Hammersmith or Putney for something a little bit more ‘local’ but equally as delicious. Instead of the big food and restaurant brands you’ll find on the Southbank, in Hammersmith and Putney you’ll find traditional pubs and riverside beer gardens. I used to live in Hammersmith and my favourite riverside pub was The Crabtree.

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For London from the river

Tourists go to: A tour company

The locals choice: The Thames Clipper of course! Instead of forking out (probably around £30-40) for a water-tour of London, use the Thames Clipper instead. This boat serves all the main areas of the Thames from Embankment all the way to Greenwich, and even has food and drink on board to purchase! You can hop on and off and even use the balance on your Oyster card to pay for your ticket. Just be sure to avoid using it during rush hours, because this is what many locals use for their commute to work – so it can get pretty busy during peak times!

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For something a bit special

Tourists go to: A West-End show

The locals choice: There are loads of things to do in London and all the west-end shows are incredible, but I’d recommend (for something a bit special) to go to Harry Potter World! Sure, it’s located a bit out of London in Watford Junction, which is why a lot of tourist never make it there, but it’s relatively easy to find and it’s worth the effort!

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Where are your favourite spots in London, when you want to avoid tourists?

Did you enjoy this post or find it helpful? If so I’d love if you could spare a second to vote for me in The Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2014. Just click here to get to the voting site. Thanks a million!

Review: Five Guys Burgers – London

Pad and I are MASSIVE fans of meat.

Most places we visit, the first thing we look out for (not even exaggerating here) is a BBQ place, a steak place or a burger place. Usually we’ll have also harassed friends or family before hand for recommendations, which is how we stumbled across some amazing places such as Quality Meats (NYC) and Hawksmoor (London). Other times we ask taxi drivers, hotel staff or random people on the street (just kidding about that last one). In New Zealand our favourite Rib place in Queenstown was recommended to us by our taxi driver who drove us from the airport to our apartment when we first moved there. I think we returned to that rib place at least once a month.

Anyway – I’m rambling.

Five Guys was a place that we found all by ourselves. We were strolling through Leicester Square on Friday night looking for somewhere to enjoy a few drinks in the sunshine – and I suggested this bar called The Longacre – just off Leicester Square, where we’d drunk a few times at before moving abroad. However when we got there – the bar was gone, and in it’s place was this massive burger place called Five Guys. There was even a queue to get in – wrapping right around the building.

We’d just eaten steak at Hawksmoor, so weren’t about to join the queue and see what the fuss was about. But we agreed to come back the following day to try it out. After all, if people were willing to get in a ‘disneyland’ worthy queue for a burger – I was going to need to find out why for myself.

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Five Guys feels like an authentic USA diner. And after spending 3 weeks there less than two months ago I think I can say confidently they’ve got the vibe just right. It’s busy and bustling but it’s fun and energetic too. They’ve managed to get a great balance. It’s fast food style – but you’re paying more than you would at McDonalds…. though I’d argue it’s worth it.

Two bacon and cheese burgers (with pickles), a medium fries (to share) and two drinks (re-fillable) cost us £26.50. Not bad for a spacious casual-dining experience in the heart of Leicester Square / Covent Garden. Oh, and trust me – the fries portions are so huge – you won’t need a medium one to yourself. We didn’t even finish ours and we were sharing it.

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The burger was yummy, it had good quality meat and squidgy bread, which is my favourite. I hate it when you get a burger and the bread just crumbles around your grip. Pad remarked as we ate:

“This has good structural integrity”  – Yes we are that serious about our burgers.

Saying that – it was no Fergburger. But if you’ve not been to Queenstown (NZ) you won’t quite understand what I mean by that. If you have been there and tried Fergburger you’ll be nodding your head in agreement. And also (maybe) drooling on your keyboard.

For Five Guys, on my burger scale, I think I’d give it 7/10.

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So overall? I’m impressed!

For sure I’d go back. I liked the layout and the ordering system and despite it being busy, we barely waited any time at all for our food to be made. There are plenty of seats (upstairs and downstairs) and you can get re-fillable drinks which is a real rarity in London and a bit of a treat. Plus they have these touch screen drink things – which are totally fun, so it’s worth going to give those a try too.

The burgers are fast food style – but they taste great and it’s an american style diner – so that’s what you’d go there looking for. If that’s what you’re after, something fun and fast – you’ll love it.

Oh and the staff were super friendly too!

Top marks all round.

 

Getting back to the real-world. With a thump.

I’ve been back in London for about a month now – which is partly why the blog hasn’t been updated in so long (sorry about that!). I still need to blog about our time in the USA and the last part of Hong Kong – put for now I want to talk about being back home.

After 9 months of travelling, we were thrown back into London life, myself with a new job and with a new flat to find on top of that. The flat thing we got sorted pretty quickly luckily. After an intensive morning flat hunting in Balham (and feeling kind of deflating… because everywhere was out of our budget) we took a quick bus ride over to quirky Brixton. The first flat we saw we took, straight away. Right there on the spot.

It’s a cute one-bed place, right opposite the underground station (yay for a short commute!) and it has everything we’d ever need within a 2 minute walk (literally). And yes, that totally includes a McDonalds. And an M&S food.

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The print above I ordered via Printstagram, and honestly it’s the best money I have ever spent. The print is about half the size of me, and now sits in a huge wooden frame in our living room. It has all my favourite travel photos in it – and every time I look at it I can’t help but smile. I needed a reminder of our time travelling (I’m scared I’ll forget all those incredible memories we made!) so this is the perfect thing to have hanging on our wall. Every time I walk past it a different photo will catch my eye – and I’ll get a smile remembering when it was taken.

A bit about Brixton…. 

Brixton is my new neighbourhood.. and so far we’re just loving it. Sure Brixton might not be the classiest London neighbourhood – and quite often it has a bad reputation with people who have never been there. But honestly – right now, there is no where I’d rather be living.

Brixton has a fantastic independent market (with some incredible restaurants and coffee shops), lots of bars, pubs and restaurants, good shopping on the high street, awesome public transport – and an amazing independent cinema, The Ritzy (which I’ve already become a member of). Sure, it’s no Fulham (where I lived before leaving for travelling) but it’s exactly what we want right now, and we love it already.

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Pizza at Frano Manca’s in Brixton market. Best pizza ever? Yeah that’s right.

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Clapham Common (a 5 minute bus ride from our front door). A lovely place to spend those sunny Sunday afternoons. We sat here all Sunday in 25 degree heat drinking cider and reading, and I swear I almost thought I was back in Oz.

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The most lovely part of being home though? 

Being in a city I love, with all the people I love! I think I must have taken it for granted before, but when travelling I really realised how much I missed having friends and family around me regularly. The funnest part of these past few weeks has been catching up with everyone. Late nights with lots of wine. Catching up over drinks after work. Slobbing out with my baby sister (because let’s face it, that’s what siblings are good for). It’s been amazing to see all these wonderful people again! The only problem being – I want to fit everyone in at once, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough days in the week. Or more precisely – the weekend.

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Travel blues?

A little. So yeah, Pad and I have settled back into London life pretty well. It’s amazing to be back. And there is no where I’d rather be right now. But sometimes I do catch myself reminiscing a little too long about the freedom and adventure of travelling. I miss waking up in the morning and having no idea what would happen or what we’d see. And mainly, I miss the ocean and the water. After 9 months of being constantly near beautiful lakes or beautiful beaches – I find myself craving the ocean more than anything else.

I want to feel the sand in my toes. Or the adrenaline rush as you jump into cool water. I miss the beautiful overwhelming feeling you get whenever you look at a horizon that falls over the ocean.

I miss Queenstown too. I miss Queenstown a lot. I miss waking up to our stunning view and seeing those incredible blue waters of the lake outside. But I’m also learning to accept that (for now anyway) it isn’t somewhere we can live longterm, and my romance with Queenstown had to be an amazing but brief one. Because, in all honesty, New Zealand is an awfully long way away. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be going back for holidays. We definitely will.

So for now at least London life is what we’re after, and what we’re loving. 

London is a pretty stunning city to live in anyway – and it still feels like a bit of a novelty being here every day again (proven by how many photos of London I’m currently instagramming…. oopsie). There is nothing quite like the embankment on a sunny day (which luckily, we’re having in abundance at the moment)!

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Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 20.38.14So life is good.