How to Plan a City Break

Planning a trip

If any of you are like me, then when you go away, whether it be for a short city break, holiday, or a long trip travelling, then you’ll like to be prepared. I mean, packed a few days before, with about 3 different lists, guide books galore, and various maps of your location with hotel, train stations, and airports circled and ready to navigate.

Or maybe, you’re a chilled out traveller, who picks up their currency at the airport, and books accommodation a few days before.

I have done both kinds of holiday, and both have their merits, but everytime I’ve done a city break without planning, I’ve always left regretful that I’ve missed out on things, or not done enough. I’ve always been a planner, and thought I would share my tips for getting the most out of a holiday.

1) Before booking, pick up a guide book…

and see what’s there, check what time’s/days/months the attractions you want to see are open, and make sure your trip cover’s those times. Let me tell you, I once went somewhere in europe for a mini-break on a sunday and monday and there was NOTHING open. We spent about 4 hours watching TV in the hotel room because there was nothing else to do. A mistake I will never again make.

2) Make a shortlist of things you would like to do.

Divide them into ‘Musts’Would like to’s’ and ‘ if we have a day spare’s’  This way you can be flexible when your there – if you are round the corner of a ‘Would like to’ with some time to spare, pop-in. Likewise if you are in the middle of a must, and having so much fun you don’t want to leave and head to that thing that you think might be cool, but you aren’t really that fussed (*cough* me and famous churches *cough*) you don’t have to rush off to make sure you fit it in. It also mean’s if you’ve booked perhaps a few days more than you needed somewhere – you can fit that church/museum in that will make you feel good and cultured.

3) Make sure you can be flexible

Don’t get too caught up in the schedule that you are rushing around and don’t have any time to relax and do the things that you enjoy. Sit at a street-side cafe, do a bit of shopping – whatever makes you feel like your on holiday!

4) Walk.

I always try to walk, or get buses rather than tubes so that I get to see as much of the city as possible. When you are travelling underground, you miss so much of what is going on – and you never know what you might discover. It’s also the best way to get your baring’s in a new place. So don’t forget to schedule in a bit of extra time to take a wander round the back-streets.

5) Know why you are going.

If it’s a girly weekend away, find an alternative guide book and look up a few local shopping hotspots so you don’t just end up in Zara again.

Research some restaurants and bars, you don’t have to go to them – but have some back-up’s if you don’t find something easily. If you are travelling hundreds or thousands of miles to a new city – there’s nothing worse than ending up shopping and eating in places you could’ve gone to down your local high-street because you weren’t prepared and didn’t know where to look to find the gems.

What are your top travelling tips? 

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Life Lately: Exploring London, and Finding Good Things

So, since I’ve been a little on and off recently with this blogging malarkey, there are a few things I’ve been up to recently that I haven’t shared, so thought I’d do a little summary post for you all. I’ve been exploring and found some lovely new places around London to head to this summer. All these photo’s are just some snapshots I took quickly on my iphone, the kind of one that you take, and eventually gets deleted (because at the end of the day, there are only so many photo’s of wine a girl needs) so what better place to store them than on here.

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Wine and Puppy’s

Less of a discovery more of just an excellent thing. But sipping on Rose whilst sat outside with a puppy at your feet…bliss.

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The London Riviera 

This fun little pop-up is sat right outside Boris Johnson’s office at More London. It has cocktails, coffee and food, and lots of cute little stripey summer outdoors bed furniture things (you know what I mean) to lie down on and relax if you’ve had a long day shopping or walking in the summer sun. There are also flamingo tables. Yes, that’s right, I said Flamingo tables. Find one. grab a cocktail or coffee depending on your mood and possibly the time of day, and *ahhh* relaxation in the city at it’s most kitsch.

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Eating Ice Cream 

Nothing beats Ice cream when it’s summer in London, and if it comes in a waffle cone then I’m pretty much sorted for the day. This beautiful stuff by the Benugo cafe in Hyde Park was pretty special, and beats a Mr Whippy any day. (I did post about my trip to Hyde Park here if you want more ducks, and summer fun!)

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The Rum Kitchen

What a discovery. I’ve always been a fan of Kingly Court in a kind of walk through or sit and eat a sandwich on the benches, but haven’t really been paying close attention to it. And my word has that place gone through a bit of a transformation. It’s now a thriving little hub of cute restaurants, bars and shops and well worth a visit. We picked the rum kitchen as destination of choice, and all the cocktails (all rum based – unsurprisingly) were gorgeous, and a little bit different from the usual too. Plus sitting in the window and looking out at this view, as the sun sets is a pretty lovely way to spend an evening.

What do you think? Have you made any new discoveries in your city recently?

Travelling – Fantasy’s and Fears

Travel

Travel

‘I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list’ 

So if you’ve ever entered the world of pinterest, you may have seen a inspirational travel quote or two floating around, and these are often followed by pictures of lots of incredible places all over the world, that no I have never been to, and in reality probably will never go to. It’s not that I don’t want to. Believe me, I can think of nothing I would rather do than spend the rest of my life seeing those places – that is – as long as I could snap my fingers and be there.

People often talk to me about travelling, and all the marvellous places they’ve been, and want to go to. I always feel a little like I can’t join in when the conversation turns global. I have travelled to a few places, and only ever really on holiday’s. I’ve never been backpacking, I’ve only once been to a different continent and that was to the USA – again on a very comfortable family holiday.

People often tell me I’m just the sort of person who like’s being near home. Although that is I guess in some way the case – I do feel more comfortable at home, of course I do, who doesn’t? But there are several reason’s I’ve not yet made the time to travel.

‘And then I realised. Adventures are the best way to learn’ 

I’ve been busy. Terrible excuse I know but I have been. When everyone else was on a Gap Year – I was doing a foundation course, then already a year behind I couldn’t start uni any later. Every summer I needed to work, or had week’s of work experience and internship’s lined up, and I never made the time to go anywhere. I also thought it was more important, and that I could travel any time, and everywhere would still be there when the time was right.

‘If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine – it’s lethal’ 

Well guess what destinations have always been top of my list?  Venice is sinking, and Cuba’s on the path to Starbucks and Mcdonalds. Suddenly I’ve found myself in a full time job, with quite little holiday time, and restrictions on when I can take it, and I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to go.

But then, I brought this on myself a little. This is surely what I wanted when I put in all those hours over summer volunteering and interning – surely this is what it was for?

But in reality, I didn’t make that choice because I would have rather one than the other. Really I was scared. I was scared of the flights, the trains, the hostel rooms. I was scared of getting mugged (when I live in one of the areas of the country with the highest crime rates…make’s no sense) scared of eating something that has a secret nut in it that might kill me. I’ve made excuses and found reasons not to go, and now my anxiety has come to fill me with fear of what I’ve missed out on.

‘Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it’ 

Well if you are still reading, I hope you’ll be pleased to know that I’m taking steps to overcome this. I’ve booked a week in Paris in August- it’s not far, and it’s not new – but I am going completely solo! I am terrified, but also excited. Hopefully it will help me get over some of my fears, and I’ll be travelling a little further away from home in no time!

Here are my 5 most longed for trips. I may put them on my before 40 bucket list (I think before 30 is probably a bit ambitious, as some will probably be quite expensive, and time consuming!) If you’ve been to any I would love to know your recommendations.

My dream trips 

Thanks for listening to my ramblings!

A British Summer and Another Button Down Skirt.

Brighton 6

Stormy Seas

After making plans for a weekend trip to the seaside, booking a BnB and train tickets, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I read the weather forecast and it showed high winds, and lots and lots of rain. As it is now officially summer I decided to just pretend that this wasn’t the case, and we ventured on regardless.

Thankfully,  Brighton is one of those places with enough to do, that even a storm can’t ruin the fun. (I actually have always really enjoyed being by the sea when it’s stormy  – it  makes me feel like I’m in a dramatic scene in a period drama movie – not sure why…). But back on topic, we had a lovely day strolling the laines, eating cake, and making up new rules to play at the 2p machines in the arcade. In one of few breaks in the rain we managed to take some rather windswept photos, so I could share my weather inappropriate outfit with you.

cars

Green house

pier

Brighton

What I Wore

Jacket-Vintage / Shirt-Zara / Skirt-Topshop / Shoes-Topsop

I’d been very reluctant to go for a button down skirt as it’s just become a bit too trendy, but my only other denim skirt is a rider, and I was need. I had a Topshop voucher, and this one had to do. But then, I haven’t taken it off since I brought it. It’s easy to wear, comfy and incredibly versatile. Ignore the hype, if you want one then buy one!

I stupidly decided that a non-waterproof, hoodless jacket would suffice and of course I wouldn’t need an umbrella – don’t be silly this is BRITAIN it’s always sunny and it never rains – ever! You’d have thought that after 24 years of holidaying round the English coast I would’ve learnt my lesson, but alas, no. I got very wet, yet again.

To top it all off, my favourite comfy walking shoes that were the only one’s I had brought down with me, are not only velvet (yet again, excellent choice considering you had actually checked the forecast Milli) and they then also got a hole in the sole. (The ever fantastically well made Topshop for you ladies and gents) So naturally, my feet got very wet also.

But the moral of the story is never let a bit of rain, wet feet, and a crumpled shirt spoil the fun!

brighton pier

Brighton 5

old pier

 

Afternoon Tea at The Wallace Collection

Tea and flowers

An Afternoon Treat

After seeing some beautiful photo’s of the restaurant at the Wallace Collection all over Instagram, I wanted to give it a go myself and booked a little treat. (Instagram fomo is real!).

So of we trotted up to Marylebone on a sunny sunday to see what all the fuss was about! I’d never been inside The Wallace Collection building before, let alone the restaurant, but it is a pretty special place! A glass roof, pink walls, and pretty tree’s give the illusion of being sat outside on a terrace in Italy (albeit eating traditional english afternoon tea…).

Me at Tea

Skip to the good bit…

Of course, nice environments, and pleasant staff are important, but I’m sure you’ll all agree with me when I say that the food is what matters the most right! Well, good news, it was lovely! Some of the sandwich flavours weren’t my cup of tea (s’cuse the pun) but I can be fussy sometimes (slash I just can’t cope with cold egg it’s seriously gross why was that ever invented!) and my company for the occasion scoffed them up quickly enough!

The scone’s were tasty – and the tiny cakes were not only especially cute, but also especially delicious! It’s hard to pick my favourite between the miniature Lemon Meringue Pie, and Raspberry Chocolate Mousse Heart!

Cake Stand

Tea pot and cakes

After the tea we had a look round the collection, tried on some armour (not kidding, you can do that!) and had a little look round at the art work on display! I’m not the hugest fan of galleries full of very old paintings…it felt a little pretentious, but I did enjoy looking at the special weaponry, and The Laughing Cavalier made me smile a lot! It’s definitely worth a visit, as it’s free to enter as well!

Then a wander round Marylebone, and some fantasy house shopping in estate agent windows was definitely called for! Myself, and guest both concluded that we were far to full for dinner. So at £17.50 per person, for the setting, service, location, and food I decided it was worth every penny for a well deserved occasional treat!

If you’d like to see what I wore for the occasion, check out my outfit post here!

 

 

 

Summer activities in London!

London

May is my favourite month in the city, for the following reasons:

  1. The temperature is just about right so the tubes aren’t too sweaty, but you aren’t too cold waiting at the bus stop.
  2. The evenings are lighter so you don’t feel the need to go to bed straight after dinner, and can actually GO OUT after work.
  3. We get not one, but TWO bank holiday weekends, and best of all,
  4. ALL THE FUN THINGS START HAPPENING!  I did a little round-up for you.

Open air Cinema’s. 

There is something pretty exciting about watching a film outside. It’s something that you can’t do at home unless you have a very impressive set-up so it always feels a little bit special.

There are so many great open-air cinemas in London – and around the country – in the summer months. Even free one’s. Last year, I saw the Truman Show at More London for free, sat outside with a view of Tower Bridge, and The Thames behind me and it was bloody well lovely.

There is a great selection now of companies running these kind of events, and venues all over the city, so see if anything takes your fancy.

Check out some of these options: Rooftop film club, The Luna Cinema, Film 4 Summer Screen, Pop-up Screens.

Outdoor Eating/Food Events

Everyone loves a bit of Borough Market all year round, but there is no doubt that Al Fresco dining/(eating on the street) becomes a lot easier when the sun warms up.

Lewisham Model Market has opened in the last few weeks, and I am excited. A disused, and pretty derelict 1950’s indoor/outdoor market gets transformed every weekend evening until September for a street-food market like none South East London has ever seen. I went last year, and whilst the food was good, it was a little over priced, and it was reallllyyy busy so hard to find a seat etc. but if you are in the area or don’t want to stray far from home it’s definitely worth checking out.

Midnight margaritas! (Yes that is a practical magic reference - and no I know it's not midnight!) #margaritas #wahaca #cocktails #guacamole #fdblogger #foodpic #instafood

Udderbelly and Wonderground

I have a great love for the Udderbelly team at Southbank. They bring a little bit of the Edinburgh Fest down with them every year (well technical it’s before that but you catch my drift.) They have some brilliant stuff going on here. Cabaret’s, circus acts, comedy, and theatre. All stuff that’s a little bit different, and fresh. Don’t miss Sh*t-faced Shakespeare (they perform shakespeare whilst one cast member gets progressively drunk throughout the show) or Showstoppers: The Improvised Musical for a fun and unforgettable night.

Outdoor Theatre

The Globe season starts in April but you have a better chance of avoiding those pesky April showers, if you go slightly later in the season. As a semi-regular Globe visitor I would recommend visiting in the slightly cooler spring months than the heat of Summer. I will never forget standing through Henry VIII for over three hours in 25C and not for good reasons. The shows are almost always excellent.

Similarly, the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre kicks off it’s season with Peter Pan from the 14th May. Now I’ve never seen this version, but if there is flying (it’s Peter Pan so I hope there would be) then I imagine it will be pretty magical to see Pan and Wendy flying through real-life tree’s.

Well, that should be enough to get you started. Let me know if you check any of my suggestions out! I’m also currently working on a  detailed guide to South East London. So if you have anything you’d like to see go in that please let me know.

Chocolate Week Part 2: A Chocolate Tasting with Cocoa-Runners

Choc tasting

The Tasting Zone

It was a little cautiously that we entered into The Tasting Zone at The Chocolate Festival not knowing quite what to expect. What we got however couldn’t have been a better experience. An hour of trying different bean-to-bar chocolate’s from chocolatiers across the world

The most useful thing I learnt was that the trick to finding a decent bar is to ask where the beans come from. If they don’t know, it’s made from Belgian Chocolate and that means bad. Belgian chocolate is bad. End of story. (I didn’t know that before either, but the guy had reasons and it all made a lot of sense at the time!)

choc tasting 2

Cocoa Runners

The tasting was led by Cocoa Runners, a company who offer a subscription box service for bean-to-bar chocolates. In the subscription you get four large bars of fancy chocolate each month, and it is all wrapped in incredible insta-worthy packaging.

They really seemed to know their stuff, and all the chocolate we sampled was delicious, so if luxury chocolate is your thing, and you fancy a present getting delivered every month, you can find out more here. 

(Please note I do not own the photo of the chocolate)

The Chocolate Festival

choco Swan

Easter

It’s nearly here. Four whole days to lie on the sofa, go for walks in the sunshine (hopefully) and eat so much chocolate, hot cross buns and lamb that you can barely move when it comes to getting up for work on Tuesday.

Having made a trip to the Cheese, Wine and Chocolate festival I now feel like an expert on the stuff…

The Festival

After treating ourselves to some champagne and lots of incredible cheese, we took a wander round the Chocolate Festival, that this year has hijacked some of the floor space of The Cheese and Wine Festival in the Business Centre in Islington.

Now, as cheese and chocolate are pretty much my two favourite things in life, I was having a pretty good day. Stall after stall of free samples of some of the best cheese and chocolate not just in the UK, but world over.

Rococo chocs

Added bonus was Lush Cosmetics were there showing off their collection of chocolate based beauty goodies, and offering chocolatey treatments to the festival punters. Some better know brands like Rococos chocolate’s and Paxton and Whitfield Cheese where there, but it was a fabulous place to discover some exciting new brands (particularly in chocolate) who – from what I learnt in my tasting are doing pretty groundbreaking things in the world of chocolate.

But there will be more on my fave brands, and tasting experience later…