Travel

How to spend 24 hours in Toledo

 

 

These are photos of my second time in the lovely Toledo but my first time doing any sight seeing! It’s only about 40 minutes driving from Aranjuez, and just under an from Madrid, and the route there is also so so lovely.  I wasn’t expecting the weather to be as cold, because in my head Spain is always hot, right, even in late October? Toledo was bright sunshine but only around 12 degrees, windy and definitely freezing in the shady spots. That didn’t dim the fact of how charming it is, and why you should go.

Why should you visit?

The old town is small enough to easily walk round and comfortably feel that you have seen a good amount if you were to go for a short weekend trip.

It’s also a place where you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money. There is tons to see and enjoy as you walk around- it has a great atmosphere and lots and LOTS of historical buildings.

It’s been named a World Heritage Site and has a culturally rich heritage with a mix of Jewish, Muslim and Christian influences.

Where to stay?

Well our hotel was in a very peaceful location, overlooking the water and hillside, but it was also a bit of an uphill walk to get into the heart of the old town. Basically, I think we are fairly fit and it was an effort for us so if you choose to stay here be prepared for that! The hotel itself though (apologies for no internal photos) was very nice inside. The staff were lovely and the breakfast was plentiful. Perhaps I wouldn’t rave madly about it as there wasn’t anything that made it stand out or be unique, but we had a solid nights sleep, the room was lovely, and filled up on the buffet breakfast,  so it’s certainly not a bad one! It was also very reasonable at around £50 for both of us for the night, and breakfast was an additional £6 each a night. The prices appear to change throughout the year- we booked via booking.com. Consider staying on a Sunday night, around your plans, as that will bring the price down.

Have a look at the hotel directly at: https://www.casonadelareyna.com/en/

I’ve previously mentioned that we have wanted to stay at the Alfonzo XII https://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/toledo/hotels/hostal-alfonso-xii/a/lod/eb7e5c82-5d9d-493a-8ae8-aa20e09f5aaa/360759

 

What to see?

The top things to see in Toledo include the Cathedral as per most cities, and the Alcazar.

You can also buy a ticket for just 9 Euros which encompasses a great range of attractions including the Monastery, Maria El Blanca Synagogue and the Jesuits Church. I had seen photos of the Monastery and really wanted to go, so we chose this one, but I dare say they are all amazing and what tremendous value! See the below photo for details of the “Tourist Bracelet” offer. We didn’t buy this as didn’t have long enough. Instead, we just chose one, which we loved.

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The Monastery

We paid only 2.80 Euro each for entrance to the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes which is quite incredible when you see these photos and how beautiful it was! We arrived here at about 10.35am on a Monday morning and were among the only people in the building to enjoy it properly and get some awesome photos. It is sheer peace and serenity and well worth a look. It wouldn’t take you more than an hour to walk around it.

http://www.sanjuandelosreyes.org

And I really loved playing with the light coming through the windows here:

 

The Cathedral

Built from the 13th century, entrance to the cathedral and the bell tower cost us 25 Euros for 2 people. The entrance fee came with free audio guides. We left here having completed viewing of the caethdral and the tower at around, 1pm and at that time on a Monday, the que was huge! So go early where you can.

Going up to the Tower was cool- there was only 10-15 of us in the group.  Here are some of the views from the top.

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We were able to fit in the Monastery and the Cathedral on a Monday having stayed over the nigh before from 10.30am-1pm comfortably, get back to Aranjuez and then onto Madrid for a 6pm flight! Anyone who knows me knows that rushing around, as well as relaxing, is TOTALLY UP MY STREET!! 🙂 But for your first time, I totally recommend a nice Fri-Monday visit and soaking up the Toledo charm at a steady pace.

I don’t have any “where to eat” recommendations unfortunately, and felt that there was a dearth of nice restaurant’s here. Anyone have any they’d like to suggest? Please comment below!

Travel

How to spend a weekend in Manchester

So, Manchester- have you been? It took me until I was 36 to go! It’s the 3rd most visited city in the UK, after London and Edinburgh. Famous for its music scene above all else, and as I write this I’m playing the Stone Roses for added effect. Oasis, Morissey and The Smiths, New Order and Joy Division and in recenter times The Courteeners all came from here.

Prompted by the birth of a baby (now a year old) I had such a wonderful time visiting friends here, who made a very sensible decision and relocated with their family to Manchester from London a couple of years ago.  They now have the loveliest house at half the cost, in the loveliest street of Levenshulme (an up and coming suburb), with the loveliest sounding community around them. Lovely lovely lovely all round! It’s a great place to have a family. And it’s always funny to go to places where people have actual space in their homes, where they actively know their neighbours, and where the rat race of 3 zillion people all trying to get to work at the same time as you just isn’t the norm- as it of course is in London. It’s so refreshing!

I came up the day before staying with them, in order to do some much needed Manchester city tourism. I stayed at the Hatter Hostel on Newton Street and would only recommend it here for its location in the Northern Quarter – it was pretty dire inside! A new hostel friend who I met there said the place had a certain “charm” to it, but I think he was being polite 🙂 Charmless living area, freezing cold and barren bunk rooms with broken curtains and single pane glass letting some more of that lovely cold in, ahhh and did I mention dirty?!? The duvet poking out from the duvet cover was a very dark shade of grey- yuck!!

Across the road from the hostel however is the sublime Esra and Gill café and I urge you to go. Stay somewhere ELSE in the Northern Quarter, and go! I tried a few of the very lovely cafes in the area and this was definitely my favourite. The veggie breakfast and the cakes are to die for though. Prices on a par with London, but well worth it. Check out their website too: http://www.ezraandgil.com/Home.html

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Here is my list of recommendations for other places I loved:

Tourism

The Town Hall looks super gorgeous, but FYI is unfortunately closed at the moment for refurbishment, until 2020. It had been on my list!

However, John Rylands Library was also on my list and that was very much open. This neo-gothic building doesn’t look like your typical library! It can take as little as an hour to visit and is free to visit, seven days a week so well worth adding it on your list to admire this beautiful building. Its linked to the University of Manchester, so you will see some students studying in there too.

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Food

Mackie Mayors had been recommended to me by a few Manc’s who had simply described as a food hall with nice food.  Also situated in the Northern Quarter (are you seeing a pattern?!) Well the food is amazing and the setting is an old market hall built originally in 1858- a very gorgeous period building, perfect for dates and special occasions or just a chill out with your friends on a Friday night.  We were over-awed with the choice- Italian, Spanish, Vietnamese and more. http://www.mackiemayor.co.uk/

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I had a voucher for Gingers Emporium. The Salted Caramel and Peanut butter- oh my goodness! Sheer heaven. Honestly, you have to go and enjoy this. It’s definitely up there on my best ice cream experiences. Not much seating area- perks of going during the day if you can. They also sell milkshakes and other sweet treats- http://www.gingerscomfortemporium.com/

 

No photos I’m afraid, as I think we were too busy talking and eating but my friend and I ate in My Thai and that was gorgeous, authentic, wholesome- and cheap! http://mythairestaurant.co.uk/manchester-john-dalton-street/

Shops

Afflecks Palace: a popular shopping mall in the Northern Quarter with all things alternative. Here you will find cool clothing shops, tarot readings, tattoo parlours, crystal shops, and much more (and Gingers Comfort Emporium is also located here on the first floor!) https://www.afflecks.com/

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Visit “Oklahoma”- an independent and unique gift shop, with bright, fun, novel gifts. I picked up a gorgeous picture of Frida Kahlo in here 🙂

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Experiences

Richmond Tea Rooms. My friends treated me to an afternoon tea in this gorgeous building with its Alice in Wonderland theme: https://www.richmondtearooms.com/ with yummy scones and really friendly staff.

 

Recommended to do:

-Do stay in the Northern Quarter. It’s where it’s “at”! Avoid Hatters of Newton Street, unless you want to feel a bit icky and depressed! Not worth it, not even for one night.

-Walk! I walked from John Rylands on one side of the city centre, took in the City Cathedral, China Town, through to Canal Street, the cities beautiful, trendy and LGBT friendly area https://www.canal-st.co.uk/ There are so many old buildings, you’ll find yourself constantly stopping. I do wish I’d walked by the Opera House though (https://manchestertheatres.com/operahouse.htm) as this looks small bit beautiful and worth checking out.

-Coming from London? Yes it’s 5 hours on the coach but if the trains are expensive which I was finding when checking 12 weeks ahead, check out the Mega Bus for cheaper options.

-Wrap up warm! It was pretty cold when I went 😀

Travel

How to spend 3 days in Nuremberg

First of all, if you’ve chosen to come to Bavaria for your German excursion, you’ve made such an excellent choice and I am so happy for you. It’s beautiful- you’ve seen that already on your online searches!

I first came to Munich in 2007 and so it has been 11 years since I’ve made it back to this region. I have had a longing to visit the old city of Nuremberg for some time. It sounds odd, but initially I was keen to see the court house which took down the war criminals who destroyed the lives of so many. That and how “chocolate box pretty” the area is- quite a contrast in reasons hey? Flights are only around £45-50 if booking ahead with Ryanair from London Stanstead, so an absolute steal.

First of all, if like me you are travelling alone, you might like to have a think about whether this is a week of required alone time for you, or how social you want to be. For instance, I decided on my arrival in Nuremberg I would stay for the first night in a hostel in the old town, to orientate myself to the city and be in prime location for exploring. Then I decided on 2 nights in an Air BnB, to be able to write and read, and walk around in my undies basically without any disturbance! I think I made an excellent choice 🙂

Nuremberg

Where to stay:

Take a look as I did at Air Bnb, but should you fancy a hostel then The Five Reasons Hostel and Hotel is an excellent find, at just over 25 Euros for a dorm room per night http://www.five-reasons.de/home It’s at the bottom of the Old Town, literally 20 steps from the Opernhaus UB station and right by the Old Town wall. As it’s a cross between a hostel and a hotel, it’s magnificently clean, high ceilings and modern minimalist décor. The staff are super nice and the showers and bathrooms are probably the best of any hostel I stayed in! It actually felt quite luxurious. Each room has a locker with a key provided (1 returnable Euro to use) and a night light beside each bed which is also super handy so you don’t have to worry about your valuables.

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I just loved the location of this hostel- right next door to the Old Town Wall

I  also recommend Air Bnb whether you are travelling solo, a couple, or as a group. For £35 a night, I stayed in Muggenhof. The UB station is only a few stops away from the centre of Nuremberg, and the UB is so so simple to use. It’s a guaranteed option for a good nights sleep and sometimes THAT is priceless!

What I did

-I visited Albrech Durrer’s house https://museums.nuernberg.de/albrecht-duerer-house/ Built in the 15th century, it’s in remarkable condition and amazing to see the size of the home where artist Durrer and his wife Agnes lived. The audio guide and rooms are lovely and as always, visit early for more space for your imagination. It’s in a beautiful part of the old town, nearby some of my favourite streets.

-The Memorium Nurembrug Trials are sombre, poignant and necessary for us to reflect: https://museums.nuernberg.de/memorium-nuremberg-trials/  It felt surreal when I was there. CourtRoom 600 where the trials took place was open and free that day, as sometimes it gets used. (* note, both this and Albrecht Durrer’s house are on a special card where you can pay 9 Euros for them and 5 other museums, or 6 Euros separately. Information at the reception desk of all places. For further information go to http://www.museen.nuernberg.de )

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-The Castle. Great vistas from the top looking down on Nuremberg. I didn’t pay to go inside so can’t comment on that!

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-I visited the area marked the Zirkelschmiedsgasse area- streets such as Mostgasse,Schehengasse and Pfeifergasse. All just 5 minutes from the Five Reasons Hostel incidentally and fairly close to the Hauptbahnhof. Built in the same age range as the castle- mid 11th century, so one of the oldest existing parts of the old town. I got the impression it’s an area that a lot of tourists don’t visit as I was alone and in bliss snapping away! This is a must see if you like tiny doors, cobbled streets and colourful buildings such as this one:

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-Following on from this, keep WALKING!!! Inevitable and a must if you want to capture the many many beautiful houses and old areas still available. If you’re good at walking, covering the Altstadt or “Old Town” is easy. I walked and walked, and walked on repeat! Here’s where I absolutely loved and recommend:

1) Walk from Weisser Turm UB station past the BlackBean Café just behind the water fountain at Ludwig Platz (I stopped here for a kasekuchen and tea and it was delicious). If you’re looking at the BlackBean café, take a left to Josefplatz and continue down what I believe was Muhlgasse until you find the area of Unschlittplatz as mentioned. EPIC: my favourite part of the old city.  2) Linking on from this, the area of Karlstrasse and the area near Karlsbrucke (the bridge) is also a quaint and quieter area away from the Townhall or Rathaus area. There is a cafe here overlooking the river- I think it was called Kulmbacher. Didn’t try it, but in the morning it was so peaceful- heaving come afternoon. Walk on to Unschlittplatz as you have to walk over a wooden bridge which will gives you some epic sights either direction. This is in the area near the Hangman’s Bridge, just south of the river  3)As  you walk up in the direction of the Castle or Albrecht Durrer’s house stop to enjoy the street of Oberekramersgasse on the way. I visited this street several times, I couldn’t get over the houses!

These little areas are fairly close together and if you get off at Weisser Turm UB station this all flows through nicely 🙂

-I didn’t want to leave Nuremberg without eating the infamous little sausages it’s known for (with sauerkraut) and I couldn’t leave Germany without stuffing myself with their cheesecake or Kasekuchen that I adore! For a gorgeous dish of the sausages, and waiters and waitresses in traditional Bavarian costumes, try the Bratwursthausle just by the Rathaus area: https://die-nuernberger-bratwurst.de/willkommen/

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What else I recommend

-Buy a 10 travel ticket multipack from the machines (which you can click to change to English) for around 12 Euros, a steal as each journey is 3.10 Euros and therefore makes sense if you are planning to stay for a few days. Otherwise- if staying in the Old Town throughout your stay (my Air Bnb was just outside) this might not be needed for you! You can walk in and around the Old Town easily enough.

-If in Air Bnb, try the shops Norma, Aldi, Lidl for cheap and good food buys. Water in these shops can be as little as 11 cents for a bottle!

-If needing to pick up extra toiletries try the stores DM and Muller is a bit like Superdrug or Boots (Pharmacy/chemist equivalent)- also at good prices

-Brezen Kolb are great for cheap and tasty filled breaded pretzels if looking to buy something out and quick and easy for lunch!

-Stay in the old town for the first night- it is a great way to orientate yourself to the city!

-Enjoy Konigstrasse in the evening for people watching, and an ice cream stop as a few Gelatria’s along here. I stopped at Dao’s, an Asian restaurant for a meal and it was gorgeous food- and very reasonable too!

-Look at the Flixbus to leave Nuremberg, if like me you are planning a trip out! https://www.flixbus.com/  It was 8 Euros, and 16 Euro return at the time of my booking for a 3 hour journey to Heidelberg. It cost 20 Euros on the train on a spur of the moment decision to visit a friend in Bamberg which was an hour away also- so also not too bad.

If you go, be sure to tell me if you tried and enjoyed any of these areas or trips!!

Travel

How to spend 2 days in Heidelberg!

I have to admit, despite having planned Heidelberg as part of my trip to Nuremberg, I was initially a little sad to leave Nuremberg and arrive here. But then I woke up!

This is a super beautiful little town, with lots of similar and beautiful colourful houses and cobbled streets and a definite romantic vibe. The OldTown or Aldstadt also felt to me maybe about a quarter of the size of Nuremberg, and therefore was really easy to quickly become familiar with it.  In the end I was sad to leave!

Here’s a few things I recommend for you to do during your stay:

-Enjoy a drink at Café Grano- overlooking the Kornmarkt Square, and watch the world go by. Soon as I saw it I wanted to go in- you know when you just have one of those instant love affairs with somewhere? It’s simple, but it’s lovely. I sat reading and sipping an amaretto and coke in the window seat here and that afternoon it lashed down with rain a bit and I was cosied up inside. One of those “my life is bliss” moments.

 

-Stuff yourself with the best cakes at Café Gundel, a bakery since 1896. https://www.gundel-heidelberg.de/ So good, I came here several times! The bakery is ALWAYS packed out which says a lot. There is a lovely space for seating outside but inside is pretty roomy and beautiful too. I recommend anything with erdbeeren (strawberry) here, the kasekuchen (cheesecake) and a pastry if looking for a morning desert called the Mohnschnecke which was delicious!

 

-Visit the incredible Schloss Heidelberg: https://www.schloss-heidelberg.de/en/home/ Amazingly and as I experienced, this is captivating and free to visit at night which i totally recommend (but you cannot go inside at night time, just around the castle and its grounds). In daytime, the daily tours to take you inside are AMAZING. An adult ticket was only 7 Euros, plus I paid an additional 5 Euros for the one hour tour (the options were either a tour with a guide to see inside the castle, or the same price for an audio guide to take you outside the castle). The tours at the time of writing are from 11.15am, on the hour every hour (see website for further details). I walked up twice, but the cable car price is included in the ticket. This was my favourite part of Heidelberg and I was sad glad to see it by day and night. The castle has been burned down, looted and hit by lightning twice! Therefore what remains is really quite spectacular.

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The incredible facade and structure of Friedrich’s Palace

 

-Walk over the Alte Bridge and cross over on the over side of the River Necke for gorgeous views of the Aldstadt and the castle.

 

-At night time stroll down the Hauptstrasse or “main street”- for people watching and gorgeous buildings such as the Hotel Ritter. Get a cocktail from Dr Flotte. Happy Hour is there daily from 6-8pm, and they offer take away cocktails (yes you read that right- welcome to Germany where you can enjoy a drink legally on the streets!) for just 5 Euro- mm and strong ones too!! 🙂

-As always, I love the tucked away streets which run parallel to the main street, the Hauptstrasse. Get walking and check out Unterestrasse and Pfaffengasse running down to the river, the Necke. They take your imagination roaming free ….mostly because not everyone is on them, and the buildings are simply divine. I walked around here at 9am on a Saturday morning snapping away and was the only one doing it, which was lovely. Heidelberg is a really lovely place to chill out in 🙂

 

As always, please let me know if you go and if you found any of these recommendations useful!

x

Journal, Travel

Cadiz for Ricky’s birthday

So some ago Ric turned up with an exciting plan for his 40th, a group of us heading to Cadiz in Spain and having a wonderful party weekend! I mean- how wonderful! I love how much he planned it and how far in advance- because that’s what I’M like for events, let alone for one as big as this one!

So basically, an amazing opportunity to party with one of my best friends, in order to party with some of his best friends from Spain and London in the beautiful country and climate that is Spain.  Plus, I’ve never been to Cadiz (this was written out of the 3 week backpacking trip I did around Spain in 2016), so an extra big tick! 🙂

Ruben and I purchased our flights in January this year (return with Ryan air to Jerrez- not overly cheap, I guess because it was May) and our Stanstead Express train tickets in advance, and set our alarms for 3.40am! We travelled with our friends Rodolfo and Antonio and had a car ready to be collected on arrival…

Cadiz might not be the place you think of when you think of Spain. It wasn’t somewhere I’d necessarily heard of until 2016 and planning my backpacking trip. We drove about an hour from Jerrez airport to the coastal region of Canos de Meca, but stopped on route in Cadiz which is the oldest city in Western Europe, and explored a tiny, tiny part of the old town.

From there, we headed onwards to our costal region, where Ricky had rented 5 bungalows, each with living room, kitchen, double room and twin room with single beds. Each bungalow had its own grass area with a barbeque, and just down the lane was a swimming pool.

We had such a great time! Each night was a party, Ric’s friends DJ’d, we watched sunsets and made BBQ’s together and had our own private time too. lLittle sleep, as to be expected, but super, super chilled!! Going in May is a bonus as the temperature was already getting high, but it was low season so no where was busy as yet, and we had excellent food and service everywhere.

Here are some of my favourite snaps from the weekend!

 

Accommodation recommendation (car required to explore local area- we booked via Firefly who were quite straight forward): http://www.arenaymar.es/ If there is a group of you, like us, it’s just perfect. As we were there off season, we saw no-one else and had the entire pool to ourselves.

Restaurants recommended in the area of Canos De Meca:

El Pirata (we had some wonderful fresh fish here, including grilled calamari which was sublime)

Los Pinos: on arrival we stuffed ourselves with plenty of Tapas, a home made burger and home made desserts and it was truly lovely. Check them out via Trip Advisor; https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g580273-d2201373-Reviews-Restaurante_Hostal_Los_Pinos-Los_Canos_de_Meca_Barbate_Costa_de_la_Luz_Andalucia.html

Sightseeing recommendations in the area of Canos De Meca: 

-I didn’t see as much of it as I would have liked to, but visit the town of Conil de la Frontera. A gorgeous and relatively untouched little Spanish town, full of charming white houses and small hotels overlooking a beautiful beach, and about a 20 minute drive from Canos de Meca. My cousin was staying in Conil at the same time as we were in Canos de Meca, and she and her family took a 35 minute ferry to Tangier in Morroco! So, pretty cool!

-Visit the lighthouse at Cape Trafalger and watch the sunset with a bottle of wine

 

I’ll finish by saying- what a birthday! It was truly epic and I was soooo thrilled to be able to be there for such a special person and friend xx

 

Travel

Top tips for beautiful Paris!

Paris. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did! This is nothing more than due to, despite the fact I live in the UK’s capital city, the fact I would prefer to see other countries smaller cities than their capital. I was bowled over by Paris and how beautiful it was. We planned the trip sometime ago, and decided to go by Eurostar from London, as this year they seem to have made their prices cheaper than ever (£60 each return). We stayed 1 minute from the metro stop “Voltaire” in a very sweet little Air Bnb apartment. The owner was a wonderful guy called Yvon and thanks to similar words between English, Spanish and French, plus the added assistance of Google Translate (invaluable I’ll be honest!) we were able to more than get by. We adored the food, had perfect weather and found Parisians a wonderfully accommodating and friendly bunch! Maybe that’s because we’ve been in London a long time and are used to the hustle and bustle of cities, but honestly, the stereotype of Parisians being “rude” was so NOT our experience. We roughly spent about £250 in total, each for the accommodation, travel and expenses whilst there from a Friday-Monday. We fell in love with it!

Here are the highlights I’d totally recommend!

  1. Visit the Catacombes! (http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/homepage-catacombs-official-website). I heard about this via The Wandering Quinn’s blog post on Paris and was instantly, ghoulishly fascinated. Over 6 million bones were placed here in these underground tunnels, from the overflowing Parisian cemeteries of the 17th and early 18th century, and Ruben tells me the French resistance set up home here during WW2 (not directly at this site of the tunnels- where the bones are is just a small fraction of the size of the tunnels).

    Ruben, on first hearing about this, thought I was a complete weirdo. Turns out we both “enjoyed” it (if that can be the right word). It’s also really rather sad, but just something you’ll never see again. We had read heard horror stories about the queues and how bad it might be. Perhaps visiting in April was the help there, or going on a Sunday afternoon, but I think we waited only about 50 minutes-1 hour and paid the normal adult price of 13 Euro each. Definitely unusual, definitely fascinating. There are 130 steps to go down, and it can be a bit narrow and wet in places, so best to make sure you and your party are fit, well and healthy before considering it!

  2. Visit the district of Monmartre– watch the Parisian skyline at night, so beautiful! We actually visited Monmartre during the daytime AND the night, as it just connected with us and we were keen to return. It’s the home of Moulin Rouge, and has a sophisticated but down to earth village feel, many cafes and bars and people eating and drinking outside. The beautiful skyline from the church the Sacre Couer is well worth a visit. People always say food in Paris is expensive. Well, the mains might be what than what’d we’d pay for a main meal in London, but we found set menu options from 12 Euros in Monmartre! For us, it was buying a soft drink in a Parisian restaurant where we really noticed the price difference- a coke was 5 Euros in most places!

     

  3. Stroll around Luxembourg Gardens and find a tranquil spot with a good book on a deck chair
  4. Get off at Assemblie metro stop and walk along the River Seine until Notre Dam. People watching along the sidewalks here is just lovely, especially on a sunny Sunday afternoon when everyone’s out! We queued on a Sat morning for Notre Dam itself- no more than 20 minutes. We also foolishly paid for the Treasury inside the Cathedral- recommend you don’t waste 5 Euros on this exhibition- unless we missed something there didn’t appear to be anything too spectacular here!
  5. Absolutely visit the Louvre– but in the evening if you can! Swarms of people including many large groups is just. not. fun! It’s well worth it the price; 15 Euros per adult, but about 10 times the size of the Victoria and Albert museum in London, with access to Napolean III’s apartments which are just beautiful. These photos don’t reflect the large numbers of people who were present with us, but it also probably wasn’t the best idea to have left this visit until the very last day. Go mentally and physically prepared and you’ll love it!
  6. Buy a combined ticket for Saint Chappell and Conciergerie– 15 Euros combined ticket (or 9 Euro entry separately). The Conciergerie is all that remains of the royal Palais de la Cite, built as as early as the 6th Century, then becoming a judicial court and prison. It housed thousands of prisoners, including Marie-Antoinette, the very last Queen of France before the French Revolution and makes for a very nice and informative visit. Saint Chappel is small, and does not take more than 20 minutes to admire. It was built to “house the relics of Christ”, and was home to Kings of France until the 14th Century. No photo can reflect how beautiful the colours in the chapel were.
  7. Buy a pack of 10 tickets for the underground for just under 15 Euro! We used approximately 5 of these each a day, which therefore cost us around £7.00, which is what you would spend on a day pass in London for the underground. Be savvy and plan your day around similar areas- you’ll do soooo much walking, and don’t therefore use these tickets for “just one stop” as therefore it won’t be worth it.
  8. Visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It’s absolutely beautiful. Get off at the metro stop aptly named the same, and look over to your right- the cemetery is just there. We visited on a quiet and sunny Sunday morning and paid 2.5o Euro for a map (which you will need) to look for the graves of artists including Jim Morrison from the Doors, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf (whom we couldn’t find, sadly)

9.The Eiffel Tower of course. It’s something I thought would just be a bit “pah” and a cliché up close. It wasn’t! There’s something definitely romantic and captivating about it, and we didn’t go up (we said next time we will!) but being close was good enough, and here’s to the next time!!

We spent our days in Paris walking, eating the best of food (I’ve always hated pan au chocolates in the UK, now I realise how they could be tasting!), enjoying the random drinks and cocktails you have to have on a break away, and simply being in the moment. Paris, je t’aime: we can’t wait to return!

What were your highlights of Paris, and anything you’d particularly recommend?

 

Travel

Why we loved Porto, Portugal- a perfect weekend getaway

17-21 Sept 2016

Every couple of years, my mum and I like to get away together for a mother and daughter break. We have been pretty lucky and enjoyed Istanbul in Turkey, Palermo in Sicily, Cologne in Germany and of course this trip to Porto. I have to admit, we didn’t consult or do the “must haves” when in Porto. We walked the streets, took local buses to the beach front, ate lovely sea food, drank several huge gin and tonics for 5 euros (errr, that was me, not mum) and enjoyed our most gorgeous air bnb with separate bedrooms and a terrace each! We did the hop on-hop off (mostly “on” to save mums legs!) sight seeing bus, but basically were relaxing, not especially sight seeing. We had the most glorious weather and the best and freshest pastel de nata everywhere we stopped. We found the Porto locals who we chatted to super friendly and wonderfully accommodating.

So, I can’t give you the “you must go here” recommendations I would love to. But I would say, what a city and definitely go! It’s so beautiful, it’s a photographers heaven and friends who have been have done the porto wine tours and loved those also. It was 26 degrees when we were there in September! Just perfect 🙂 Trains, or the metro run frequently from the airport into the city and most people we spoke to spoke basic or good English as they are used to tourists.

Our travel and accommodation costs:

£90pp for flight with checked in luggage

£120pp for 3 nights accommodation a very beautiful an Air Bnb property: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/8188740 (Noticed that there have been no reviews on the property since 2016, so that is a little odd but just so you can see how gorgeous this place was!)

Food and drinks were generally cheap- I don’t have the exact figures but don’t imagine we spent more than an additional £150pp and of course the best thing about an Air bnb is being able to prepare breakfast there and cook if you want to.

All in all it was a great time with my mum and we look super happy in my photos which I love. Just a few snap shots below 🙂

 

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My dear mum with her eyes closed, but looking lovely in the sunshine on one of our terraces!