Staycationing – A bank holiday getaway in the UK

This year, instead of hiking through an airport with your passports and wheely case – try taking a staycation instead. Pack up your car, fill up the patrol tank, and take a road trip to somewhere new. You don’t need to leave the country to have an adventure.

Since moving out of London and getting cars, we planned to do more road trips this year. And actually, once summer rolls around – you might be surprised how lucky you get with the weather.

We took the Easter weekend to take our first staycation, and ventured off to the East Coast of the UK, taking in the country lanes, the British seaside, and two beautiful hotels in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.

The first hotel we stopped in was called The Salthouse Harbour Hotel. It’s located right on the front of Ipswich Neptune Marina, in the most picturesque spot imaginable. I’ve included a couple of photos of the views below.

Honestly, the hotel could’ve been anywhere in the world. When the sun was out, it felt like we were in some sunny European marina fishing town. The marina is full of bars and restaurants, so if you’re there for a couple of nights, there’s plenty to try. It was lovely to just walk along and soak in the atmosphere, and do some people watching.

The room itself was just utter perfect. I made the sweeping declaration that it was one of the ‘top 3 hotel rooms I’d ever stayed in’. The room was spacious, comfy, modern and quirky. There were little luxuries scattered around the room, as well as little unique details – and the combination made the whole thing gorgeous.

No little detail was overlooked and all the fixtures and fittings felt so intentional and well thought out. The bedroom contained a huge copper bathtub (see photo above) and the re was even extra bath products next to the bath, and extra towels within reach of the bath – so you didn’t need to worry about running to the bathroom.

In the evening I took a long bath (who could resist with that HUGE bathtub?!), enjoyed the sunset from our balcony, and then we ventured down the hotel’s restaurant ‘The Eatery’ to enjoy some delicious food.

The menu (click here to take a look) is traditional flavours and combinations with modern and fun twists. Honestly – it was great food. I’m still drooling over the steak and peppercorn sauce… They also do afternoon tea and breakfast there, as well as a fab cocktail menu for after dinner. Which we definitely took advantage of!

The next morning, we woke up refreshed and ready to explore. There are plenty of beaches within driving distance of the hotel, and we wanted to make sure we had time to check out a couple of them! I haven’t explored many UK beaches, so I loved seeing these new places.

The best beach we visited was Southwold Beach, about 40 minutes in the car from our hotel. The beach has plenty of space for walking and exploring, as well as a quirky pier with restaurants, shops and arcade games on. I ADORE piers, and Southwold pier is definitely a contender for top spot.

Oh, and the adorable coloured huts that line the beach…. They are the most photogenic, instagrammable things ever. So cute and so typically British.

We ate lunch at ‘The Boardwalk‘ restaurant which is right in the middle of the pier. It’s a gorgeous restaurant, with big windows looking out the sea on either side. The menu is varied, lots of seaside classics and fish dishes (as you’d expect!) – all really yummy and fresh.

That afternoon, we headed towards Bury St Edmunds, a beautiful little town about an hour drive from Southwold Pier. I’d never been here before but I was so pleasantly surprised by how quaint and pretty it was. We stayed at The Angel Hotel, which is right in the centre of town. The town is full of cute little coffee shops, independent boutiques, and big name retailers too. The perfect little market town – ideal for a weekend getaway.

I’m already planning to revisit soon, it’s just my kind of place!

The hotel we stayed in was called ‘The Angel‘ hotel, owned by the same company as the hotel we visited in Ipswich. You could really tell – the hotel had the same attention to detail and quirky little fixtures and fittings. The exterior of the hotel was just stunning too – see the photo below!

The style of this hotel is a bit more ‘country’ rather than modern – but it totally fits in with the town and the building. The room was cosy and cute – but still had the wow features, like the HUGE bed and the HUGE bath.

The location of The Angel is just ideal for exploring the town, literally a 30 second walk and you’re right in the middle of the shops. There is also a big car park right outside the hotel too – which makes things super convenient.

If you don’t feel like venturing too far though – the restaurant in the hotel is just amazing – and they have this quirky, cool underground bar called Wingspan which was so unexpected and lovely. I love any bar with character and a story to tell, and this had those things in buckets.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to take a staycation this year, and given you two pretty great recommendations of where to stay!

 

Fabulously British Events to Attend in 2017

Not planning to head abroad this year? Or maybe you need to fill in some time between vacations, with some fun days out?

This blog post will be full of fabulously British events you could attend during 2017, so grab you flask of tea, or your fluke of champagne – and let’s begin!

Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is a horse racing event, one of many that happen during the year in the UK. These kinds of events are always high in attendance and it’s an extremely lucrative event, the money alone from betting profits is huge. If you’ve never experienced The Cheltenham Festival – it should definitely be on your to-do list. It’s a little bizarre, but you get to put on your best clothes, make a few cheltenham festival betting 2017, and maybe win a bit of money too. The actual race prize money is second only to the Grand National, so this is a pretty important event in the racing calendar – meaning it always attracts crowds, and the atmosphere is always great.

 

 

 

Image Credit. 

Wimbledon 

Another iconic event in the UK – and another event which definitely has to be experienced! You can of course book tickets in advance, but not everyone does – sometimes it’s more fun to get there in the early morning and wait in line with the die-hard fans and the Wimbledon oldies who come back year after year. If you choose the more spontaneous route, you could end up on any of the courts watching any of the games – and that’s kind of where the fun is! And of course, don’t miss out on Strawberries and Cream on Henman Hill.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 

The busiest month in the city – but it’s pure magic and so much fun. If you love theatre, and you love experiencing new things – then you will love Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival. It’s worth researching ahead to see if there are any must-see performances, but part of the fun is also stumbling into street theatre, or into a one-man show in the basement of a pub. You never quite know what you’ll find or what you’ll end up watching.

London Pride 

For a feel-good day out with purpose, then London Pride is amazing. It’s different every year, but it’s always fun, it’s always energetic and it’s always an experience!

 

A Guide to the UK’s Top Art Galleries

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Photo by Will Calcutt

If you’re a fan of art, you’ll be glad to know that the UK is home to some really awesome art galleries where you can satisfy all of your artistic desires. From period art to modern pieces, no matter what your taste in art you’ll definitely be able to find somewhere right here in the UK to spend the day looking in awe at the amazing displays. We’ve put together a line-up of some of the best art galleries in the UK so whether you’re looking to visit for the day somewhere close to home or want to spend a weekend away in a city that’s buzzing with art culture, we’ve got the best options for you.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a must-see for any art lover. Run by the largest trust of independent museums in the UK, there is a massive variety of art-related things to see here, covering fine art, ceramics, jewellery, metalwork and even more. Wander to the museum side of the building, and you’ll find plenty of interesting information about archaeology, natural history, and industrial history in the Birmingham area. If you’re planning to explore the city a little bit more during your visit, why not visit IHG.com to find a great hotel.

Victoria and Albert Museum, London

If you’re planning a visit to the capital city, a day at the Victoria and Albert Museum is definitely a must. The largest museum of art and design in the UK, you’ll be able to browse a massive collection of over four million objects which spans an impressive five thousand years. It’s also the perfect destination for those who love fashion, with the permanent fashion collection at this museum being the largest and one of the most impressive in the world. With regular exhibitions and something to interest every type of art lover, if you’re going to visit just one art gallery in the UK, this should be it.

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Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

With over 95,000 different pieces on display in the permanent collection, the National Galleries of Scotland is one of the best destinations for any UK art lover to visit. With National, Modern and Portrait sections to browse through, this trio of galleries will definitely keep you busy for hours on end. A visit to Edinburgh is definitely not complete without a browse at one – or all three – of these amazing galleries.

The Design Museum, London

The world’s top leading place for all things design, you’ll find exhibitions on architecture, fashion, product design and graphics along with much more at the Design Museum in London. The collection here is home to over three thousand objects, with designs from all the creative industries that have shaped the world as we know it today.

Which are your favourite art and design galleries in the UK? No matter which type of art you like to browse, we’d love to hear your best recommendations – leave your response in the comments below!

Follow Alice on Her Adventures throughout Classic British Hotels

Those seeking adventure in the UK need look no further than a fantastic tour through Wonderland via a handful of Britain’s legendary hotels. 150 years ago, Lewis Carroll’s immensely popular and influential novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was released and it has gone on to become one of the most well known and adored stories ever created.

Alice’s Story

The tale tells the story of a young girl called Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated with odd anthromorphic creatures. The narrative structure, imagery, bizarre characters and play with logic have made it popular with adults and children and it remains a crucial piece of work in popular culture, most notably in the fantasy genre.

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Celebrate the Novel’s Birthday

The brilliant and surreal story has been re-imagined countless times over the years, but those that consider themselves fans of Carroll’s work can envelope themselves within this world at a number of classic British hotels this summer. Not only is this an excellent way to celebrate the novel’s 150th birthday, but it is also a chance to see some of Britain’s most breathtaking scenery whilst staying at landmark hotels.

Classic British Hotels has 10 hotels around Britain, all of which enable you to follow Alice and her adventure through the hotels that they have on offer. Explore stunning grade II listed gardens in South Devon reminiscent of the Queen of Hearts’ garden, uncover the Welsh town of Llandudno and the sites inspired by Carroll’s tale, enjoy afternoon tea in a small luxury hotel near the magical hillside setting that inspired Beatrix Potter – another famed British author. At each hotel you will find a fun and unique way to celebrate the magical story against a beautiful backdrop.

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Britain’s Own Wonderland

Visiting these hotels and the stunning natural surroundings; you will soon see how Lewis Carroll could be inspired to create such a magical and mesmerising world for Alice’s great adventure to unfold in. Whilst the major cities around Britain have a lot to offer for visitors and will be many explorers first port of call; the countryside and smaller towns provide a wonderful insight into the true beauty of the country with rolling green hills, colourful flowers, diverse wildlife and clear blues skies.

Follow in Her Footsteps

For any real adventurer, Alice in Wonderland will be an important story which awakens the explorer in you. As popular with adults as it is children, the fantasy world that Alice explores and the characters that she encounters is symbolic of travelling and adventure. This makes following her adventure through a handful of Britain’s most famous and stunning hotels the perfect way to celebrate the 150th birthday of Lewis Carroll’s seminal creation.

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The 3 Most Scenic Drives in Great Britain and Ireland

For road trip fans, driving through the scenic routes of Great Britain and Ireland is an absolute must. Home to some of the most wonderful views on earth, Great Britain and Ireland offer a range of roads where drivers can take in stunning views of rolling countryside, mountains, rivers, waterfalls and even the sea. If you are planning a road trip in Great Britain or Ireland for the near future, there is a whole range of routes that you can take where you will be guaranteed breath-taking scenery and some of the best views of your life. Here are just five of the most scenic road trip routes in Great Britain and Ireland.

Scotland’s North Coast 500 Route

Often dubbed Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66, the North Coast 500 route is filled with absolutely stunning scenery which is not to be missed. Named one of the top six coastal routes in the world, a road trip through Scotland would not be complete without a drive along this relatively new yet well-renowned route. The 500-mile long route offers views of some of the most scenic parts of the country, including unmissable mountain ranges, Dunrobin castle, and gorgeous beaches. The whole route can be completed over the course of a long weekend, however if you really want to take in the awesome views, a longer trip is recommended with plenty of stop-offs.

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Photo credit: Giuseppe Milo

Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route

Driving along this scenic coastal route in Ireland, you’ll be able to take in some stunning views as well as see some of the locations used in popular television shows such as Game of Thrones. Along the route, a stop-off at Antrim is a must for Game of Thrones fans, where you’ll be able to see the hugely popular and commonly photographed natural phenomena the Dark Hedges, which make an appearance on the well-loved HBO drama. Further along, Game of Thrones fans will be even more excited to see Ballintoy Harbour, which is used in the show as the location for the Iron Islands. If you visit at the right time, you may even be able to see the actors filming the show.

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Photo credit: Steven Hylands

Yorkshire Wolds, England

Off the M62, a drive through the Yorkshire Wolds of England is definitely worth it when it comes to the stunning countryside scenery on offer. The 135-mile route includes picturesque seaside views as you drive through Bridlington, along with stunning lakeside scenery as you drive through the country towns of Pocklington and Driffield in East Riding. With long, straight roads overlooked by big skies and gorgeous horizons, this route is an easy one where you can relax and take in the breath-taking views of big, rolling hills and quaint traditional villages. With a range of restaurants and hotels on the route, there’s no need to complete it in just one day.

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Photo credit: Mobilus In Mobili

When driving around the UK there are a few tips to keep you moving smoothly. First there’s petrolprices.com, a free service that guides you to the cheapest petrol stations close to where you are…. Always handy if you’re on a bbudget, and would rather save pennies for something more important!

Secondly, there’s yourparkingspace.co.uk which will come in handy in the major cities, allowing you to pre-book daily and overnight parking. This is especially useful is busy tourist cities like York, London, Leeds, and Edinburgh.

Which are your favourite roads to drive down in Great Britain and/or Ireland? We’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.

Typically British – Visiting the Cheltenham Festival

One thing I’ve never done (but always, deep down wanted to) is visit one of the many ‘racing days’ in the UK. They’re these strange cultural events here in England, where you get people dressed up to the nines just for a day out placing bets and watching horses race. Coming up soon is Cheltenham Festival, one of these famous racing days.

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Image credit: Charles Dyer

There aren’t many events in life that allow for proper dressing up and formal wear. Of course, there are weddings, christenings, maybe a cruise holiday or a posh birthday party… but aside from that, it’s a rare thing being able to get all dressed up for a day out. And as someone who loves getting dressed up, any excuse is a good excuse!

The festival is also a chance to put on some bets – which – I have to admit is kind of fun. I love Vegas, and I’m not too snobby to admit that gambling is fun, and even if you loose, it was kind of brilliant giving it a go. I know a lot of people who take the gambling side of the races seriously – so if that’s you maybe take a look at William Hill and see the kind of odds and tips they’re giving. Honestly – if it were me, I’d probably just be choosing the horse’s name that I liked the most, or that made me laugh – which probably isn’t the best way of choosing a winning horse.

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Image credit: Charles Dyer

What makes it special? 

I think it’s just one of those things that is typically British. It’s a British tradition and it always looks like a lot of fun for those who make it along. There’s nothing wrong with embracing a bit of history and tradition once in a while – and, especially for visitors who are new to the UK, it might be a really cool experience. Definitely something different from all the usual touristy things!

What can you expect?

Well aside from the dressing up, gambling and drinking, it’s also a lot of fun to watch, as with any sport.

These athletes (and by athletes, I’m referring to the horses too – seen as they do all the running) have trained for months (maybe years) and the excitement is enough alone to make for a really great atmosphere and experience. The first day is always one of the most looked forward to.  There are several races, including the Supreme Novices Hurdle, Arkle Chase and Champion Hurdle.

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Image credit: Charles Dyer

But it’s not just the first day that has races, there are 28 races in total at the Cheltenham Festival, and these tend to be spread out over four days of non-stop racing. So any time you visit, there is bound to be something to see! Some of these races include…  The Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the World Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup and as these are so popular they tend to inspire a big crowd of onlookers and betting interest. Any one of these will be entertaining, especially if you’ve never been to the races before!

Why you should visit Newcastle #TheTyneIsNow

Separated by the River Tyne and united by seven awe-inspiring bridges, Newcastle and Gateshead combine to create a vibrant city-break destination guaranteed to surprise. I made it an aim to see more of the UK this year, and Newcastle is a city I’ve always wanted to visit and explore.

Newcastle is known for being fun, friendly and welcoming, and NewcastleGateshead offers award-winning dining, nightlife and shopping as well as a variety of often unique attractions and things to do.

Graeme Peacock

For further inspiration visit www.NewcastleGateshead.com  or follow @altweet_pet on twitter.

Here are some amazing things you can do in the city!    

Great North Museum: Hancock
www.greatnorthmuseum.org.uk
Free Entry
Featuring natural history displays, objects from Ancient Greece, Ancient Egyptian mummies, a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a planetarium, the Great North Museum: Hancock brings to life the world (and beyond) all under one roof. Closer to home a large-scale interactive model of Hadrian’s Wall within the Roman display connects visitors to 2000-years of history in the North East.

Tyneside Cinema
www.tynesidecinema.co.uk    
This iconic cinema offers visitors more than just movies. As the last surviving newsreel theatre still operating as a cinema full-time in the UK, this Grade II listed building is steeped in original Art Deco design. Visitors can experience a unique slice of history by enjoying FREE building tours and archive newsreel in the gloriously restored Classic Cinema.

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
www.balticmill.com  
Free Entry
Cementing itself as on of the UK’s most prestigious galleries by hosting Turner Prize 2011 and attracting a record 150,000 visitors, BALTIC showcases the best in contemporary art from across the globe with a changing programme of events and exhibitions. It also offers stunning views of the NewcastleGateshead cityscape from the level 4 viewing platform and level 5 viewing box.

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Seven Stories: National Centre for Children’s Books
www.sevenstories.org.uk
Children £6 / Adults £7 / Family £19
Seven Stories is the only place in the UK dedicated to the art of children’s books, and one of just a few such places in the world. Working with some of the biggest names in children’s literature (from Judith Kerr to Philip Pullman) a changing programme inspires children and grownups to choose, share, read and enjoy the best in children’s literature.

Life Science Centre
www.life.org.uk
Children £7.50 / Adults £12 / Family £29.50
Life Science Centre introduces visitors to the wonders of the human body and is an exciting place where science is explored through hands-on displays and demonstrations. It’s also home to a 4D motion-ride and planetarium and attracts internationally claimed events including Maker Faire UK and BODY WORLDS Vital. In the winter, its outside space is transformed into an open-air ice-rink.

The Cycle Hub: Hire a bike and explore the Quayside
www.thecyclehub.org  
Bike hire starts from £15
NewcastleGateshead’s iconic quayside attracts many thousands of visitors every year. Home to seven magnificent bridges including the Gateshead Millennium and Tyne Bridges and offering exquisite riverside dining at a range of bars and restaurant, there’s no better way to explore than by bike. Situated to the east of the Quayside The Cycle Hub provides bike hire and handy place to rest, relax and refuel on those longer bike rides.

tyne Bridge Quayside Day

Laing Art Gallery
www.twmuseums.org.uk/laing-art-gallery
Free Entry
Renowned for bringing some of the best known historic and contemporary artists and sculptors to the North East, Laing is home to an impressive permanent collection including important works from John Martin, William Holman-Hunt, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Henry Moore. The building itself brings together the historic and the modern with public artwork, Blue Carpet, providing an entrance to the Victorian building.

Newcastle Castle.
www.newcastlecastle.co.uk
Children £3.90 / Adults £6.50 / Family £15.90
Following a re-imaging of the two sites, the Castle Keep and Black Gate re-opened to the public in March 2015 as Newcastle Castle. The newly united attraction features a curated exhibition within the Black Gate telling the story of the vagrants, vagabonds and villains who dwelled within the castle walls over the centuries – bringing the building to life for visitors for the first time. The Keep is one of the UK’s finest medieval stone castle donjon’s still open to the public. It sits upon the site of the original timber castle from which the city takes its name and boasts outstanding views of the cityscape and River Tyne from its rooftop.

Gibside
www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside
Children £3.70 / Adults £7.20 / Family £18
A taste of the country on the edge of the city, Gibside is just 20 minutes from the city centre and offers fine Derwent Valley views, winding paths and refreshing open spaces alongside elegant buildings and ruins. A Georgian ‘grand design’ on a spectacular scale and the vision of coal baron George Bowes, the Palladian chapel is an architectural masterpiece, and the once grand hall is now a dramatic shell.

Angel of the North
http://goo.gl/An5MNW
No visit to NewcastleGateshead would be complete without a trip to see one of the most widely-recognised pieces of public art ever made. The Angel of the North by Antony Gormley was unveiled in 1998 and kick-started a cultural revolution on Tyneside. It stands 20m tall with a wing-span measuring 54m. Truly a sight to behold and set on greenery just off the A1; it’s also a great location for a picnic.

Angel of the North

Undiscovered gems for weekend breaks in the UK

This post is sponsored by The 7th Chamber

As Christmas approaches I love exploring the UK and the various towns and villages hidden away amongst the countryside. I don’t know what it is about Christmas time, but all those fairy lights, christmas trees and market stalls seems to make the UK pop to life. Even the smallest village becomes this magical movie-set from something like ‘The Holiday’.

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Growing up, I love exploring the local villages – and the village I grew up in (Holmfirth) always looked beautiful around the festive time of year. Now I’m in London, as well as taking advantage of how beautiful London looks at Christmas time,  I tend to explore villages around the south of the country – using the rail network to get around.

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The great thing about the UK, is how easy it is to get around and explore. Especially in London, with companies like Southwest Trains and Cross Country Trains – who stop off at some gorgeous little towns and villages. I never realised how many castles and palaces there were in the South of England until I started exploring by train!

Here are some cute places I’d recommend:

Brighton – quirky and fun with great nightlife

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Hove – Near Brighton but more posh

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Melton Mowbray – Market town famous for pies

Tip: You can actually win a pair of first class train tickets by sharing the video below! Make sure you @crosscountryuk and #mytripfortwo – good luck! 

Arundel – It has a castle!

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Whitchurch – Bunting, churches and tudor cottages

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Hampton Court – Royalty and beautiful buildings

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Tyneham – Countryside and Cliffs

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Where would you recommend visiting in the UK? Leave suggestions in the comments below! 🙂

Staycation at The Langham, London

Pad and I have ALWAYS wanted to stay at The Langham Hotel in London – ever since we spent 5 glorious nights at their hotel in Mongkok, Hong Kong. We splashed out on a suite in Hong Kong and promised ourselves “One day… We’ll stay at the London one”.

When Booking.Com asked me to review their Apple Watch app and spend a weekend having a mini staycation in London, using their app to book the getaway, and then using the watch to plan and find my way around – the first hotel that sprung to my mind was The Langham. So I unpacked the swish watch, and got down to the booking process.

Ordinarily The Langham would be a little bit out of our budget. We love stopping in luxury hotels – but we usually opt for quirky luxury and boutique luxury which is a little less pricey than the classic luxury of The Langham. However, as I expected, the hotel was discounted on Booking.Com and I was pretty stoked to realise that they had a discount of 30%. Needless to say, I got a bit tap-happy when booking ourselves into a club room!

Booking.Com is usually my go-to website for this kind of last-minute stay for that exact reason. I like seeing the actual discount I’m getting, mainly so I can feel smug about it later on.

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The Langham Hotel… 

Was everything I was hoping it would be. Each Langham seems to take on the personality of the city it’s in… In Hong Kong our hotel was futuristic mixed with traditional Chinese features and architecture.

In London, the hotel is classic and elegant, reflecting the older parts of the city and the old-fashioned luxury you’d expect from an old movie. It felt like we’d sneaked into some upper class person’s apartment for the night.

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The bed was MASSIVE – which is my favourite part of any hotel room. I like to be able to lie across it and not touch the edges. That’s my judge of a good bed.

The room also came complete with huge fluffy dressing gowns. Again, the marker of a good hotel room!

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Using the Apple Watch… 

I’m not a very ‘techy’ person. Pad loves his gadgets (especially his Apple gadgets) and whilst I do appreciate a smart appliance (and have lots of them), I generally only have what I need.

For me, the Apple Watch was a bit over-kill on the technology side of things. For me, anyway. 

Pad would probably use it every day and love it. As would many of my friends. And I can see how useful it is. It was nice to be able to see notifications without digging my phone out of my bag. Or use the maps feature when we got a bit lost.

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I did find the Booking.Com app pretty useful too – and I’ll be honest – I didn’t expect to. Had I been using the app and the watch two years ago during our round the world trip – it’d would’ve been so helpful.

Before it arrived, I thought the app would be way to confusing and fiddly – but it was actually the opposite. I guess the advantage of the apple watch, is that brands are having to really simplify the whole user experience, and that’s what has happened with Booking.com’s offering on there. It’s made the whole process much more simple, which can only ever be a good thing!

Some Beautiful Cornwall Beaches (Just Because!)

Last year Pad and I visited Cornwall together for a friends wedding, and stopped in the little town of St Ives. I’ve never been a big fan of UK beach resorts (I prefer getting on a plane for my sunshine fix…) but even I have to admit, St Ives was just GORGEOUS.

Some of the Cornwall beaches we saw down there were on a par with some of the beaches I’ve come across in Australia and LA. They were seriously lovely.

We’re already planning a second trip for this summer (it’s only a train ride away, so why the hell not?) but for now I’m just dreaming of the sunshine and daydreaming over the gorgeous photos I took of the beaches.

Enjoy!

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As newly confessed Cornwall converts – please please leave me some recommendations for other beautiful spots of Cornish beachyness! We’re looking to explore a little bit more this summer, so I’d love to know abut even more hidden gems.

Top 5 UK City Break Destinations I Plan to Visit This Year

With a wedding to plan in the next 18 months, I’m going to be booking some UK and Europe

getaways this year, as opposed to the long-haul holidays Pad and I usually go on. We’ll be saving

our next long-haul holiday for the honeymoon probably, which we’re hoping with be in Australia

and New Zealand. So, I thought I’d do a bit of research on some great UK destinations we get visit over the next year,

which might make for some lovely city-break over long weekends. The best thing about all these

places is you can get there via train, rather than plane (hurray – no flying!) which always goes

down with me!

 

1. London

I live in London, so this doesn’t really count for me, but I imagine it’s the best city

destination for other people in the UK who don’t live in London! And you know, even

thought we live in London, sometimes Pad and I will book a central hotel for a night over

the weekend, or go out for afternoon tea, and treat it as a mini holiday. The city is still

beautiful, whether you live here or not, there’s nowhere I’d rather spend the weekend, so

it’s probably a good job I live here! You can book your trip to London with Railbookers.

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2. York

I grew up about an hours drive from York, and whenever it was my birthday, I’d always

ask for a day in York. I love the city, it’s small which makes it perfect for exploring over a

weekend, and it’s got so many cute little attractions and things to do and see. My

favourites have to be the York Minster, The Shambles (like stepping into a Harry Potter

movie!) and one of my favourite restaurants, called Oscar’s.

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3. Edinburgh

My boyfriend (now fiancé!) is desperate to go to back up to Scotland, so I think we’ll be

planning a little jaunt up North sometime soon. I’m keen to stay in the city for a couple of

days and explore the castle and shopping (of course), and then perhaps rent a car and

explore the local countryside afterwards for another few days. Pad has mentioned visiting

Loch Lomand which is a few hours drive from the city – and it looks beautiful so that fine

by me!

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4. Brighton

My FAVOURITE day trip from London, and one of my favourite summer-cities in the UK.

Brighton is so quirky and cute, and it HAS A BEACH so it’s already better than 90% of

places in the UK. Pad and I are frequent visitors to the city, but haven’t been in quite a

while, so we’ll definitely be going a couple of times this year, seen as it’s so close! My top

tip for visiting Brighton, is to ignore all the mainstream high street shops, and head

towards The Lanes (which is full of independent shops and boutiques).

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5. Stratford Upon Avon

Just outside of Birmingham, and famous for its links to Shakespeare, this little city is so

pretty and quaint. It’s great for pad and I, because we have family in Birmingham, heading

to Stratford Upon Avon is only a short train ride from there. It’s the kind of place you just

want to stroll around, stopping off in the little shops and cafes, etc.

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A weekend in Birmingham… (Our second home!)

Pad’s parents live in Birmingham, so we’re always in the city. It’s also where I went to university – so it’s a city I love and one I love returning too. Sure, it might not have the best reputation to people who don’t know the place – but it’s actually a great city, with loads of awesome stuff to do.

Last time we went to the city, we stopped at Hotel La Tour, a new luxury hotel in the city centre, a few moments away from the Bullring shopping centre and the main shopping part of town. I’ve stayed in a few of Birmingham’s city centre hotels, and this has to be one of the best. The hotel was modern, simplistic, and just lovely – definitely highly recommended!

It also had a lovely view across the city, which was a nice surprise too!

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In the evening, we headed out to Bun and Bowl for Pad’s birthday – a new restaurant in the city, and one we all absolutely loved. As lovers of burgers, and all things BBQ – this place was basically our ideal restaurant. There’s not really anything else like this in Birmingham, so it was awesome to give it a try and be pleasantly surprised!

You can find Bun and Bowl in The Cube, which is this fancy new development at the back of The Mailbox. Definitely a nice chance to get dressed up 🙂

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The next morning we woke up to an amazing full English breakfast at the Hotel La Tour – which set us up for even more birthday fun. I’m a sucker for a good hotel breakfast – and this place definitely offered up an awesome one…

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Yum!

You need to eat at Meza in Tooting Broadway right now. Trust me.

Pad and I are London-food-lovers. We spend our weekends hunting out new restaurants, amazing hidden gems and hyped up eating hot-spots. We even have a list of restaurants pinned to our fridge full of our friend’s recommendations, that we cross off each time we eat somewhere.

Meza in Tooting Broadway was one of those places which we tried out on a limb one evening. Pad’s friend from suggested it for an evening out, so the three of us trodded on down and had the most pleasantly surprisingly, and ridiculously cheap, lebanese meal ever.

Since that night, Pad and I have been back about 4/5 times. It hasn’t got less delicious or less amazing. This place is awesome.

I have to admit – I’m kinda biased. Lebanese food (and middle eastern food in general) is one of my FAVOURITE genres of food. Holy crap I love it.

Give me everything smothered in humous and scattered in Coriander and I’ll be one happy lady.

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Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 16.53.02Meza is a humble restaurant though – and if you’re expecting some flashy, posh eatery – this ain’t it.

It’s found on a suburban street in zone 3 of London, in an area that isn’t exactly known for being a tourist hotspot, I doubt any tourist in the history of ever has been to Tooting.

Not only that, but it’s kind of found in the front room of someone’s house. There are about 5 tables – and that’s it. If you weren’t looking for Meza – you’d walk straight on past it.

Pad and I have done that several times in fact – and we were looking for it, and we’d been there before – so that probably says something!

Don’t let it’s unassuming exterior but you off though!

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It’s one of the best restaurants in London and by far one of my new favourites. The food is consistently good, the service is quick and the staff are SUPER friendly. And it’s just so damn cute in there. Teeny tiny lovely restaurant.

On a Friday and Saturday night – you’ll need to book… what with there only being like 6 tables and all. 

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Anyway – I hope I’ve convinced you to give this place a go. If you’re based in London, or ever in South London and feeling hungry – this is the place you need to be. Let them fill your belly with their delicious grilled meat and lamb kibbeh.

If you go on a Sunday they do a platter deal, which consists of all sorts of amazing yummyness, and costs @12 per person. WHICH IS THE BEST DEAL EVER.

I’m am actually drooling on my keyboard as I write this. 

They don’t have a website (I told you it was a small and humble kind of place) so I can’t help you out with a link, but here’s their address:

34 Trinity Road
London
SW17 7RE

And their phone number: 07771 333157

Review: Harrods Afternoon Tea at The Georgian Restaurant

Don’t you think cake is awesome?

And scones too? With jam.

If you’re nodding your head in agreement right now (and maybe drooling a little bit on your keyboard) – then you’ll love this blog post about Harrods Afternoon Tea.

At the weekend, I went for Harrods Afternoon Tea at the newly refurbished Georgian Restaurant, which is located on the top floor of Harrods in London (one of the biggest and poshest department stores). It’s been re-done by the same guy who designed the interior for The Bellagio in las vegas – and the same luxury and opulence is reflected.

Don’t worry though – you don’t need to be dressed up to the nines to enter. The dress code is smart casual.

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The restaurant is huge, and the tables are nicely spread out – with each one offering a different kind of seat or chair design. There are some lovely big, stylish arm chairs, some huge chaise lounge type sofas, curved booths, and traditional cushioned dining chairs. I like that they varied the tables and chairs – I think it adds character and gives the place a really special atmosphere.

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There are also lovely views over the local area, of chimneys and rooftops. I love that kind of view (reminds me of Mary Poppins) so I had to take a few snaps of that before we left!

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The room is bright and airy, mostly because of the incredible sky-light in the centre of the room, which dates back to the 1920s. If you love history and feeling like you’re stepping back in time – a Harrods afternoon tea might the perfect thing for you.

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But enough about the room (as beautiful as it was!) we went there for the food! The afternoon tea is £39.99 per person and that includes unlimited tea, and a traditional afternoon tea platter, which consisted of perfectly formed sandwiches, fresh baked scones, a selection of beautiful cakes, and a special Harrods Trifle (which was beyond yummy).

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One thing I liked (and where the Harrods tea differed from other afternoon teas I done, such as The Shard) was the generosity of the place. The portions are sizeable anyhow, but if you’re not filling up – you can always ask for more.

We had two lots of sandwiches, two lots of scones and the cakes (which we ended up taking home in a very posh doggy-bag). All these second portions were offered to us too – it wasn’t something we had to ask for. The waiter simply noticed we were running low, and asked if we wanted a stock up.

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My favourite part of the Afternoon Tea would have to be the scones (smothered in clotted cream and strawberry jam) and the egg mayonnaise sandwiches (which were soft and delicious and had the crusts cut off). Freshly baked scones are such an unbelievable treat, and they were lovely and crispy on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside.

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Are you a cream or jam first kinda person?

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Would I recommend the experience? Definitely.

It’s one of the nicest Afternoon Teas I have ever had, and I felt spoilt rotten by the staff, who couldn’t have been more attentive and lovely if they’d tried. Everyone had a smile on their face, and our waiter, Lee, was brilliant at making sure we always had what we needed.

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A glimpse of St Ives, Cornwall

Last weekend I visited Cornwall for what was (minus a school trip in Year 8) the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of British seaside resorts, I always thought they were a bit cliched and cheesy.

Saying that though, Cornwall massively surprised me and I can’t wait to go back. It has beaches that (in sunny weather) could rival some of the beaches we came across in Australia. And the best bit? It was only a train ride away and didn’t involve custom checks, airport lounges and turbulence.

Yay!

I thought I’d share a few photos with you of the place we were staying, a little town called St Ives. So enjoy!

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Below is a photo of the hotel we stayed at called Tregenna Castle. Whilst the hotel isn’t in the centre of town (about a 10 minute walk up the hill) you’re treated to some of the most amazing views of the ocean and the town from the hotel rooms. Worth the climb!

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st ives cornwall beach

Below is Pad and I enjoying the views. If you’re thinking ‘wow these two dress smart’ I can assure you we don’t usually look this good. It was for a wedding!

st ives cornwall beach

st ives cornwall beach

There are 3 main beaches in St Ives you can enjoy. A quiet beach by the (very tiny) train station, a surfing beach on the opposite side of the town to the harbour, and the harbour itself – which acts as a mini beach when the tide is out.

Below is the harbour… pretty!

st ives cornwall beach

st ives cornwall beach

There are loads of restaurants and cafes around the harbour-side, so it’s nice just to sit and enjoy the view whilst eating tea / having a drink. There are loads of benches to sit on too – so I would grab a piece of shortbread from the local bakery and enjoy the view with a biscuit instead…

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The other beach (photos below!) is a surfing beach. The sea is a little rougher and there is a nice coastal walk around it with incredible views. And if you get fed up of the walking you can just sit on the grass and watch the surfers.

st ives cornwall beach

st ives cornwall beach

The third beach (and my favourite one of the lot) is by the train station, a tiny bit out of the main town area. The sand just looked perfect, and the water was so blue. There were even some cute cafes down there too.

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st ives cornwall beach
st ives cornwall beach

Have you been to St Ives? Which beach was your favourite?

Garsons Farm Esher: Escaping from London for a few hours!

When you live in a city like London, sometimes you find yourself craving somewhere other than city streets and hustle and bustle occasionally. Luckily, in London there are plenty of options just outside the city, where you can get your fix of fresh air and green stuff.

Garsons Farm Esher is one of those places. I’d heard about the farm from my boss initially, who had headed there with his family to do berry picking and when I saw the photos of strawberry fields and raspberry orchards I knew I had to get down there at some point in the summer.

Luckily, our lovely friends Cheney and Lloyd frequent the farm every month or so, so offered to take us down there over the bank holiday weekend.

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The farm is brilliant, just a big amazing vegetable drive-through. You make your way through the farm by car, stopping at the various stop-off points depending on what you want to pick. The veggies on offer vary depending what season you go in. We got to choose from; onions, potatoes, marrow, courgettes, cabbage, apples, raspberries, blueberries, cucumbers and strawberries.

Below are the cabbages… I could literally frame the shot below. Who knew cabbages were so pretty?!

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The kind of lovely to just walk around and pick your own stuff (straight off the tree, or from the ground) and know you’re going to be able to cook it all up later. Maybe you take that for granted if you’re a country bumpkin, but it’s quite a novelty if you live in the city!

Garsons farm London

Garsons farm London

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Garsons farm London

 

The best bit was by far the strawberry field. We each filled up our own mini-buckets full to the top and then the entire weekend all Pad and I did was eat strawberries. And not just lame strawberries, proper ones. Massive and red and amazing.

Garsons farm London

Garsons farm London

Garsons farm London

Garsons farm London

Garsons farm London

Garsons farm London

 

 

By the end of the morning we had so much stuff we could barely carry it all (see the green bags in the photo below). When you’ve got all the stuff you’re after you simply go weigh it at one of their weigh stations and pay for your stuff. And then you stand their gobsmacked as you see how little they charge you. We paid £18 and we got SO MUCH STUFF. All those bags in the photo below are full to the brim with fruit and veg.

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Garsons farm London

Do you have any secret hidden gems for escaping your local city? I’d love for you to share them 🙂

Hidden paradise in London: The Berkeley Hotel rooftop pool review

When you live in a city like London, holidays and time off are majorly important, because getting out of the city (if just for a day) is a bit like resetting your stress scales.

London is a big city, frantic at the best of times – and you can start to feel little frazzled at times. It’s because of this I wanted to start looking for hidden gems in the centre of London. Places you could escape to in under an hour, that make you feel like you’re somewhere relaxing, calm and a million miles from the hustle and bustle of zone 1.

That was how I stumbled upon The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. I had read about it in Time Out Magazine back in June and as soon as I saw the gorgeous rooftop pool I knew I wanted to visit and check it out for myself. It looked like everything I’d been hoping for – somewhere I could visit just for a day (that’s all I needed!) but feel like I’d had a mini vacation afterwards.

From the moment I stepped onto The Berkeley Hotel’s rooftop pool area… I knew this was my new favourite place in London. I mean look at it…!

Berkeley Hotel London rooftop pool review

There are loads of different packages you can opt for when visiting The Berkeley – full list here on their website – ranging from about £125 – £570. All spa packages include a treatment (sometimes 2 or 3), rooftop pool access and in some case food and drink too.

When you arrive, you’ll be shown around the spa changing rooms, given a locker, dressing gown and slippers – and then taken up to the pool where your lounge beds are waiting for you! The lovely thing about the rooftop pool area is how calming and un-cluttered it feels. There are only 10 beds next to the pool (and about 8 in a private garden next door to it) so it feels really exclusive and private.

Berkeley Hotel London rooftop pool review

Berkeley Hotel London rooftop pool review

During the day, there were only around 8/9 other people that came and went. Two girls doing the ‘mother-to-be’ package next to us, and a couple of business women further along the poolside who were there for a couple of hours. Later in the day, a few guys came up who were hotel residents and did a few laps in the pool before heading into the gym.

It was so quiet and chilled out and at times it felt like we had our own private pool. If that isn’t perfection, I don’t know what is.

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We got seriously lucky with the weather, it’d been raining in London all week, and luckily we managed to organise our spa day for the one day it was actually sunny! They do have a retractable roof too though (just in case) and the sun loungers are all under-cover anyway – so you don’t really stand any chance of getting rained on.

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We arrived at the spa about 11.30am and stayed until around 4.30pm, just reading, relaxing and swimming… It was the perfect little mini-escape. The spa even have copies of Cosmo and Vogue scattered around for a bit of light reading.

Once you’re there – you don’t even have to leave for supplies as they have a little lunch menu and drinks menu especially for the pool area. We got the smoked salmon, chicken escalope (I’ll never learn to pronounce that) and the strawberry smoothies.

Oh and they gave us these little cracker things with mint dip and hummus dip to start with WHICH WAS AWESOME. I could have just swam in the dip (never mind the pool).

the berkeley hotel spa food

the berkeley hotel spa food

the berkeley hotel spa food

the berkeley hotel spa food

the berkeley hotel spa food

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

The above is a wheatgrass shot I decided to try… Have you ever had one? I can’t say I liked it, but as long as it had the promised nutrients, maybe it was worth it! 😉 I definitely won’t be trying one again for the taste alone. It’s no really my cup of tea!

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They have a few tables around the pool you can eat at – so you don’t have to venture far from your comfy lounge beds. We choose a table by one of the windows overlooking Knightsbridge, and the view was phenomenal.

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Overall I had an awesome time at the spa, and wouldn’t hesitate to go again. It is the perfect city-getaway… and you don’t even have to leave the city.

It’d be lovely for a hen-do too or birthday party too, the little private garden area can fit about 10 people in it and would be an amazing place to spend the day celebrating something like that!

So overall it’s awesome and gorgeous – and if you’re looking for somewhere in or around London to enjoy a spa day then I’d tell you to go for it. I took so many photos (who wouldn’t?!) so I’ll just let the rest of the photos do all the talking.

Enjoy!

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

Berkeley hotel london rooftop pool review

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!

Top picks: The best UK getaways for summer 2014

When my holiday allowance is dwindling (and so are my purse strings) it seems like the ever-fashionable stay-cation is a more and more appealing option. I’ll be going to LA, San Francisco and Vegas in a couple of weeks, but I’m planning to blow my budget on that holiday – so for a mini break later in the year, a little mini-holiday closer to home seems like the best idea around.

I thought I’d write a little post about the research I’ve been doing, and the places appealing to me the most right now. Of course – as a city girl – I’m looking for sunshine, countryside and maybe even a beach (if I can get it).

So here are my top picks for UK getaways!

1. Abersoch, Wales

Abersoch holds a place in my heart, as it’s where I used to camp every summer with family growing up. It is a beautiful little beach town, with quaint beach huts, a gorgeous (and huge!) beach, and unexpectedly good weather. It’s even good for surfing too – if you drive out to the local beach called Hell’s Mouth.

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2. Larne, Ireland

Getting from London to Larne is pretty easy, what with the handy ferry routes (and I love a good ferry!) so this seems ever more appealing. I’ve never really explored Ireland properly… I’ve been to Dublin, but I’m dying to see more of the gorgeous countryside and explore all of the lovely landscapes and countryside.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wordridden/

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wordridden/

3. St Ives, Cornwall

Pad and I are actually heading to a wedding here in October, so I’m hoping the weather holds out for us! It should be beautiful, and I’m so excited to see more of Cornwall, especially with friends there and for a wedding. We’ll be driving down I think, but we’ve contemplated getting the plane too – I guess we’ll decide a bit closer to the time.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/herry/

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/herry/

4. The Berkeley Hotel, London

London’s most gorgeous rooftop pool – I’ve been invited for a spa day here in August and I’m convinced it’s going to feel like a mini holiday, even though we’ll only be there for an afternoon. It looks like heaven on earth! It’s funny, because there are loads of indoor pools in London – but an outdoor is really something special.

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Where are your best picks for UK mini getaways? Any suggestions would be awesome! 🙂

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!

Live Your Lunch Hour

Since being back in London and being back in a full time job, sometimes it’s difficult to find time for yourself – especially finding time to enjoy the city you’re living in. London is an incredible city to live in, there is so much to see and do, but when you live and work here – usually you’re limited to weekends and evenings to get out and explore.

I was recently approached by Flexioffice, who are currently running a campaign to help people claim back their lunch hour. Why is this even a thing? Well, apparently only 30% of UK employees actually take their lunch break – with 70% skipping it. I hate to admit it, but I’m part of the 70% of those who skip it or give it a miss.

An average working day for me starts at 8.20am – when I leave my home in Balham (South West London). I usually get into my office about 9.15am – after grabbing some breakfast from the Pret nearby first. I’ll finish work usually around 5.45pm, which gets me home for 6.30pm (maybe a little later, depending on how crowded the tube is).

So, when it comes to lunch, I’d rather run out and grab something quickly (and then eat it at my desk), if it means I can leave on time later in the day. But – Flexioffice got in touch and suggested, that for one week – I claim back my lunch break. That I take the hour and head out and enjoy it. Enjoy the city – and take advantage of that free time I’ve been given in the middle of the day.

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My office is located in-between Goodge Street and Warren Street underground stations, so there is plenty within walking distance to do, and loads of amazing restaurants and cafes too. I’ve decided to share below some of my favourites, just in case you ever find yourself in the area – and ever feel like trying a few of my recommendations!

Franco Manca Pizzeria

I’m pretty lucky to have my favourite independent pizza chain right on my office doorstep. We have one a 5 minute walk from our house in Balham (not the reason we choose the house…!) too, but it’s great to have one so close to where I work too. Franco Manca’s is amazing, and really affordable. Not to mention the freshest, yummiest pizza outside of Italy.

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Abokado Sushi

Most days on my lunch break, I nip out and buy a few sushi rolls for lunch, then eat them at my desk. My favourite sushi place near my office (and probably in London) is Abokado. It’s a 5 minute walk from my office, and they always have a ton of choice too (I’ve never known them to sell out before 3pm). They have all kinds of gorgeous roll combinations, and it’s so affordable too. It’s about £1.50 for one roll of sushi – and I’d usually get 2 or 3 to fill me up for the afternoon.

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Pure

If I’m feeling like I want something light and healthy – then my absolute favourite place for lunch is Pure. Pure is an amazing salad shop, but if you don’t spot anything in their ready made salad bar that interests you – then you can make you’re own salad and they’ll mix it for you. They have dozens of ingredients, and it’s like an adults version of cinema pick and mix. My favourite combination is; caesar leaves, bacon bits, egg, parmesan cheese, garden peas, chicken and caesar dressing. It’s a little more expensive than what I’d usually spend (my mix-it-yourself Caesar salad combination usually costs about £7) but it’s a treat and it’s always delicious. And the portions are MASSIVE.

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Another great way to spend an hour around my office is shopping! I’m a 10 minute walk from Oxford Street (yay!) so there are always plenty of shopping options there, more than enough to fill an hours lunch break! Another guilty pleasure of mine is the flagship PaperChase store, right opposite Goodge Street station. I could spent hours just milling around that shop, not that my bank account would thank me for it afterwards! They even have a little coffee shop on the 1st floor, with lovely big windows you can people watch from.

What are your favourite things to do in your lunch break? Or do you hide away at your desk usually, like me?

I’d love to hear any suggestions you have – especially around the central Soho area! 🙂

Autographer Travel Camera – Review

I’m a huge photography geek, so when I was invited to try out the new Autographer camera on my recent trip to Bath, I leapt at the chance. I have 4 cameras in my collection, from an old-school polaroid camera to new mirror-less SLR cameras. But, saying that – I don’t have anything like the Autographer, a camera which intelligently and automatically takes photographs as the light and heat changes around you.

Sounds a bit fancy right? Yes – that’s true – but it’s the ultimate in camera gadgetry.

Here’s the product info, you can find on their website:

Autographer is a new type of camera which has been custom built to enable spontaneous, hands-free image capture. Its world leading technology includes a custom 136° eye view lens, an ultra small GPS unit and 5 in-built sensors.
These sensors are fused by a sophisticated algorithm to tell the camera exactly the right moments to take photos. You’ve never met a camera like this before. 

Autographer’s five sensors record a range of data which helps the camera decide when to take a photo. The readings are saved as metadata against each image which can be used as filters within your collection. Experience a new level
of creative control through data.

The idea is, you clip the camera on your shirt, coat, t-shirt, etc – and leave it on throughout the day to capture the moments just as you saw them. The camera doesn’t need any prompts to take the photos as it sense changes in lighting, heat, direction (and some other stuff) and whenever it senses change or movement, it’ll take a photo.

I thought this was kind of awesome, and I was so excited to give it a try.

First off, let’s show you some of the photos it took… So you can see what it’s capable of. I’ve tried not to edit these too much, so the results are pretty much as they were taken.

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Positives: 

– great little gadget, and it added a lot of fun to the weekend

– Looking through thousands of photographs (which were all a surprise) was really fun

– The camera is small, light and easy to figure out

– You’ll feel like an under-cover spy (which is kind of cool)

– You don’t need to worry about it capturing photos, and it let’s you fully enjoy the experience of being handsfree (no panic attacks that you’ve lost your camera or left it somewhere!)

– The fish-eye effect that it puts on photos is quirky and fun

– The memory is great and the device can literally hold thousands of photos. I took about 2400 and that was over a day and a half. The memory was about 30% full I think.

Negatives: 

– People do notice the camera, and will give you weird untrusting looks

– You won’t get to be in your photos, unless you remove it from your shirt and take it selfie style. I took one above to show you. This is kind of annoying – as a traveller and photographer it’s important to me to actually be in some of the photos I take!

– If you see something amazing, there’s always a chance the camera won’t have captured it. And you have no way of knowing until you upload the images.

– The quality of the images isn’t great. They blurred easily, and more often than not they were over or under exposed.

– A lot of the images will be a bit ‘meh’ and you’ll have to filter through the bad for the occasional good one.

Overall? 

It’s a fun product and it’s a worthy member of any photographers camera collection. It doesn’t replace an SLR though, and (to be honest) I’d rather just carry my bulky camera around and be sure that the images I’m taking are high quality and composed exactly how I’d like them to be. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy using this camera though. It was a lot of fun browsing the images and there were a few gems in there – and a few hilarious ones too. Whilst the images weren’t quite as good as I might have hoped, I think that probably had to do with the weird weather, and also that I’d never worn it before. Maybe this is the kind of thing where you need a bit of practice?

I’m also keen to try the camera out with a more photogenic surrounding. Bath in rainy weather probably doesn’t do this camera justice. I’ll be heading to the beautiful white sandy beaches of Dominican Republic soon and I’m excited to try it out there too. I have a feeling those images will be stunning using the little Autographer gadget. Stay tuned!

Have you tried the Autographer? What did you think?

Review of Grays Hotel Bath – An Instagrammers Paradise

You know sometimes, when you flick through those interior and home magazines – and you’re like… ‘Yes. Very nice. But nobody’s house actually looks like that’ well last week I was proved wrong.

We went off to Bath for the weekend to celebrate Pad’s birthday (it’s somewhere I’ve never been before, so that was quite exciting) and we were invited to stay at Grays Hotel Bath, a Boutique Bed and Breakfast, a brand new hotel just outside the city centre.

I was expecting it to be nice (their website does a pretty amazing job at selling the property to you) but when we got there I was a bit overwhelmed by the gorgeousness of it all.

It’s basically exactly how I want my house to look. It’s like they went inside my head and built my dream house, right down to tiny little details such as tea towels. So basically, this is just a blog post of pictures. So in 10 years time when I have a proper house and a little family, I can just look at these photos and recreate everything I see here. I’ll also review the hotel too – but there’s not much to say other than: It was perfect.

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When I spoke to the owner, he told me it was actually his wife who painted the beautiful art on the walls. This one in particular, I loved. All the little details were so wonderfully thought-out and put together too – things like the flowers in the corridors, and the bed frames.

That’s what sets this place apart from a hotel – because in hotels, usually the rooms are all the same, identical even. I had the privilege of looking round the majority of rooms at Gray’s and they were all different. Each has it’s own character, and it’s own theme. But each is stunning.

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Breakfast the next morning was served until 10am, but I got the impression that was pretty flexible and you wouldn’t have been turned away if you were late rising. The breakfast room was sunny and bright (even on the rainy day we were there) and the breakfast was hot and fresh and delicious. There were several options (from a full english, to cereals and toast) so something for everyone really.

We both went for the full english. Obviously.

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What do you think? Are you impressed by Grays Hotel Bath? Do you prefer B&Bs to hotels?

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!

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?

Follow me on Instagram here: http://instagram.com/ellerosenz

Review: The Aqua Shard London

I was invited up to The Aqua Shard to celebrate my birthday with a guest (I choose my lovely little sister) so I wanted to write a post about the experience. The Shard is something I see every day on my way to work, so I was really excited to actually go into it and see what all the fuss is about.

Before I start… I should point out that unfortunately the weather wasn’t really agreeing with us (such a shame – as the views are magnificent!) so the photos have turned out a little fussy. The views still look pretty awesome – if you can see past all the rain drops and clouds.

First thing’s first, the restaurant and bar itself definitely has the wow-factor. As you’d expect the windows are floor to ceiling and the whole place feels very up-,market and luxury.

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My one, and only criticism (let’s get the bad bit out of the way first hey?) is that the staff were a bit snobby. Maybe this is because Aqua Shard is an exclusive venue, but still, I expect a friendly greeting and a smile when I arrive anywhere – and I didn’t really get that here. I have a habit of being the most cheerful person in a room, but at Aqua Shard my super-enthusiastic “hello!” to the reception staff was greeted with a frosty stare.

Saying that, our waitress was fantastic.  So it is just hostess and reception staff that need to be a bit more welcoming (they didn’t even say goodbye when we left, they just handed us our coats and moved onto the next customer…). The Aqua Shard is a treat, and a once in a lifetime experience for many people – so I think the staff need to appreciate this and embrace their enthusiasm, instead of brushing it off.

I don’t usually write negatives in my reviews unless absolutely necessary – but I think this feedback is constructive for Aqua Shard. My favourite restaurant is Hawksmoor in London, and is a pricy place that is always a bit of a treat. Saying that, I go back time and time again because the staff and service are incredible every time. I’ve never encountered anything but lovely, friendly, welcoming people there – so it’s made a lasting impression on me.

If Aqua Shard want to ensure they get people returning again and again, they need to ensure the service is as incredible as the views.

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But, let’s move onto the good stuff!

The food was lovely. We opted for the afternoon tea package, which included sandwiches , cake, biscuits and scones. The presentation was great and it arrived really swiftly. I’m not sure the table was entirely big enough (we did have to cram everything on) but that was the last thing on our minds – as the food was so yummy.

You also got a choice of tea included with the food – we opted for the English Breakfast variety. I’m not a huge tea connoisseur so I can’t give huge insight into this – but it was pretty tasty!

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The below photo is the view from our table – probably one of the best views you’ll get anywhere in London? I’m so glad we booked an evening appointment as the city really lights up at night, and I’ve always preferred cities at night time than during the day. You can see St Paul’s in the distance in the photos below – so pretty!

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This photo is looking out onto the city (you can just about make out the Gherkin). The photo doesn’t quite do it justice however – because of all the rain on the window!

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And finally… the toilet! I couldn’t help getting a snap of the Loo (a loo with a view… haha). I’m always the first to see what the toilets are like whenever I go anywhere remotely luxurious… so The Aqua Shard toilets didn’t disappoint….

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Would I go again? Yes I would. The views are so incredible and The Shard is so iconic – that it does make a great location for a special night out. I just hope that the staff improve in their friendliness, as that would have made the experience perfect.

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!