6 Alternative things to do in Berlin

Husband and I visited Berlin three summers ago. We had just quit our jobs to embark on a year long trip around the world. Our first stop was Copenhagen where we spent a wonderful few days eating Danishes and being tourists. My brother-in-law joined us for that first city, and after he left, we ventured on to Berlin.

Here are a few of the things we recommend to friends.

Go on the Alternative Walking Tour, here

Street Art Street 2

One of my favourite things to do on a city break, is go on a free walking tour. This one was a bit different than the usual and took us through markets and curiosity shops, past artists squats and to a riverside beach club.

Sing your heart out in Mauerpark

Mauer Park Karaoke Pit

On Sundays this leafy green park, which was once slap bang in the middle of no-mans-land, turns into a massive flea market full of stalls selling trinkets and secondhand clothes… aaaaaand there’s a giant karaoke pit! We didn’t partake in the singing – for the sake of our fellow patrons, but we massively enjoyed seeing people from all over the world belt their hearts out. If you go late in the day, you can get some really delicious food for cheap as the vendors lower their prices to sell the last of their grub.

Be a film geek at the Messedamm underground pass

As we were speeding walking through this underpass to make our bus to Bremen, it recognised it from a scene in the film Hanna. Once you’ve recognised it – you’ll notice it pops up in the cinematic world a lot!

Drink all of the Fritz Kola

I like Fritz KolaAll the varieties of Fritz Kola

You’ll often find me in Brew Dog on a weekend, not because I like beer, but because they sell my beloved Fritz Kola which is the best soft drink ever, in all the land. Try it. Try all of it!

Be silly in a Photoautomat

PhotoautomatYou’ll run into more than one of these as you wander round the city. The cheapest, and in my opinion best souvenir you can buy. Pop in a couple of Euros and SMIIIILE

Stand above the Government in the Reichstag Building

The Reichstag 2The Reichstag 1Did you know you can visit the dome of the Reichstag Building for free? You can walk up the dome and peer down into the debating chamber of  the German Parliament. All you have to do is sign up here.

 

Glamping in Blackpool

Glamping Pod at Stanley Villa Farm

Last summer, my mother-in-law kindly gifted us a Red Letter Days voucher for our wedding anniversary. We finally cashed it in this spring to go glamping near Blackpool and now, as we are almost nearing autumn, I am going through the photos we took on that trip.

It was a quick trip away, but refreshing all the same. A much needed reminder that time out in nature, even briefly, can be restorative.

We stayed at Stanley Villa Farm in a cute little house shaped pods although I think glamping is a wee bit of a stretch. The pods, whilst insulted, were still a little chilly over night. And the site is next to a working farm with accompanying working farm smells – which we mostly got used to. The toilets were those toilet/shower wet room combinations which I really dislike… because everything gets wet, including the toilet roll. Still, snags aside, we really enjoyed our stay.

We relaxed and read, but before long I started to think about my belly. After a quick, and probably uncharitable, Google search of ‘is there any decent food in Blackpool?’ I found The Cottage which came with Rick Stein’s seal of approval. It was a short car ride away and found it hidden on an unassuming back street. The staff were incredibly warm and welcoming and the food was delicious. Quite often, fish and chips can make me feel greasy and heavy but these tasted really clean and light. The fish was succulent and the batter crisp. Fluffy chips and a couple of slices of buttered, white bread rounded out the meal. Heaven, with a dollop of homemade tartare sauce.

Fish and Chips at The Cottage, Blackpool

We made our way back to the site for the night are were treated to the most insanely beautiful, pink sunset. There are fire pits outside each pod, with wood for sale on site and I wish we’d thought to bring some marshmallows to toast. Next time, for sure.

Sunset at Stanley Villa Farm

Morning came and we made breakfast. I think my favourite part of camping is cooking outside – there’s something so satisfying about breakfast cooked on a camping stove accompanied by a hot mug of tea to keep you warm before the sun fully comes up for the day.

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Blackpool

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Blackpool

We drove home after breakfast (with a quick detour to Yorkshire to visit my poor uncle who landed himself in hospital), feeling satisfied and content.

B is for Bridgewater Canal

Inspired by Roger Oldham’s ‘A Manchester Alphabet,’ I’m exploring this fair city, from A to Z. Read about my wanderings around Ancoats here.

Today’s post is brought to you by the ‘water taxi’ sign that I’ve passed on my way home from work, most evenings, for the past two years. I decided it was time to finally follow the sign and find out what these water taxis were and where they would take me.

Bridgewater Canal - waterfall

The waxis (that’s WAter taXIS), I learnt, leisurely glide up and down sections of both the Manchester Ship Canal and the Bridgewater Canal, stopping at points of interest along the waterways. Since Bridgewater starts with the letter ‘B,’ it provided the perfect opportunity for my next alphabetical exploration.

The canal stretches for over 40 miles between Runcorn and Leigh, with Manchester sitting at the heart of it. Commissioned by the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, it was built as a means of transporting coal from his mines in Worsely, in to the city.

Bridgewater Canal - barges

My cousin came over for the day again and filmed our wanders, but I don’t think I’m going to invite her back. That girl is a rain magnet –  we had beautiful weather all week until she arrived on Sunday morning.

p1110301.jpg

Places we went, places you could go.

Mamucium, map
Strategically situated at a site overlooking the confluence of the rivers Irwell and Medlock, the Roman fort of Mamucium was built. Manchester was born here, in AD 79. Her first inhabitants, merchants and military. Today, you can see a reconstruction of the North gate and its ramparts, and walk around its foundations.

Mamucium

Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, here
Liverpool Road
Open daily 10am – 5pm

I’ve only been to MOSI once since I moved here which is a poor show on my part. We started our visit by fortifying ourselves with cups of tea in the Warehouse cafe where we also had some really tasty pastries. We spent a couple of hours taking in the exhibits and could have stayed longer if not for our water taxi booking. The museum has a number of talks and activities on throughout the day and whilst they are aimed at youngsters, we found them enjoyable and entertaining.
Manchester Museum of Science and Industry - entranceManchester Museum of Science and Industry - Tim Peake spacecraftManchester Museum of Science and Industry - engine

Manchester Water Taxi, here
A thoroughly enjoyable 50 minute boat ride took us from Castlefield to the Trafford Centre. Whilst it might not be the quickest way to get there, it’s certainly more fun than sitting in a car. Keep an eye out on their Instagram page because they often post discount codes for tickets. Also, it took us a minute to find the boarding point because of the direction we walked along the canal. The stop is round the corner from Albert’s shed,  where you’ll see their sign. Or, if you’re standing outside Barca, look across the canal and you’ll see a duck house – that’s where you need to wait.
Manchester Water Taxi #WAXI - arrivingManchester Water Taxi #WAXI - all aboard

Old Trafford
Though I technically live in the red part of town, I’ve never actually visited the stadium. The water taxi stops here however which would make a nice day out for a football fan -unless, I suppose, you support city.

The Trafford Centre
We only paused here for a comfort break on this occasion but I’ve been enough times before that I have a favourite parking area and place to eat.* Though I still haven’t had my picture taken on the staircase in the food quarter. Maybe next time? But probably not – can someone please explain the appeal??

Worsley
We skipped the village on this trip as the clouds were fast turning grey, but there’s plenty to see and do, enough for a day trip in itself. Including the Monton heritage trail which is a really pleasant walk on both cold wintery days and warm summer ones.

The Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green, here
Opening times: Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun: 1.30 – 5.00pm

Still a work in progress as volunteers continue to build new exhibits, but worth a visit to learn about local history. The surrounding area was once full of collieries, long since demolished. Now the museum houses Lancashire’s only surviving headgear (the steel frame in the picture below) and engine house where you can find a winding steam engine. It’s a thing of beauty and they run it on a few days throughout the year – I wish we could have timed our visit for one of those days. Although I’m not sure I dare go back. Seemingly, the reverberations of my coins hitting the bottom of the donation box sent two pin-boards flying off the wall of the visitors centre and crashing on top of a collection of commemorative plates. It was a heart stopping moment and luckily nothing broke but jeepers! That could’ve been baaaaaad.**
The Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green - entranceThe Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green - machinery

*the Orient car park. Perfectly placed in the middle of the centre so you can do a full circle and don’t have to walk back on yourself. Plus you enter/exit through the food court. Park in the section on the right and go all the way to the back – you’ll find a space  there whilst all the lazy bums fight for a spot closer to the entrance.

**what actually happened is that the command strips had given up at a most in opportune moment, but I still feel guilty.

6 Alternative things to do in Athens

Greece, Acropolis

Following on from my Paris tips, I wanted to share a few gems for another European city I love.

I first visited Athens in November  2014 and loved it so much that I went back the following summer for a week. The off season was my favourite – cool but sunny weather, far fewer crowds. The hike up to the acropolis was warm but pleasant however I imagine it can get unbearably hot in the summer sun.

Here are a few of the things I enjoyed.

Buy sandals from The Poet
Agias Theklas 2, Athina 105 54

Something of a legend in Athens, the Poet’s shop is THE place to buy a pair of authentic Greek sandals. You’ll be joining the likes of Sophia Loren and Jackie Onassis who all have owned pairs. Surprisingly, for such good quality pair of leather shoes, prices average a mere 35 Euros. The experience of buying a pair is fantastic as well -­ you get properly measure up for your sandal of choice and they alter the straps so they fit your feet perfectly. Just don’t make the same mistake I did and try and go on a weekend afternoon. The shop gets overwhelmingly busy as it is tiny so I left and returned the next day, first thing in the morning and spent a leisurely hour picking out my sandals and getting them sized for my feet. The leather gets darker with wear (in a good way) so you never know exactly how your shoes will end up looking.

See a film at Cine Paris
Kidathineon 22, Athina 105 58

Set in an unassuming courtyard on a busy street in Athens, this charming little nook is a great place to escape and watch a film, under shadow of the Acropolis. The films are shown in English with Greek subtitles and range from classics to more contemporary fair. Popcorn, snacks and drinks are available for cheaper than we’re used to at home which makes it hard to resist! As the sun sets the Parthenon lights up and it can be hard to keep your attention on the film when a great piece of ancient history looks so majestic, up on its perch.

Eat gyros at Bairakta
Pl. Monastirakiou 5, Athina 105 55, 

Greek street food at its best. Gyros are meats wrapped in pita, covered in tzatziki, with a few fries thrown in. Do yourself a favour and get only the gyro to go here. They are delicious and dirt cheap. The sit down food however is overpriced and disappointing. Walk up the road to Puro where you can buy freshly pressed juices to wash your meal down with and then pick up a few pieces of whichever type of baklava looks good at any one of the numerous bakeries in the area. The aim of the game is to try as many as possible ­ because how will you know which is your favorite if you don’t test them all out?

Fresh Baklava, Acropolis

Visit a Greek Island

Island hopping around Greece is on my bucket list but until that day comes, I’ve satiated myself with some of the more easily accessible islands. Aegina is a short 40 minute ferry ride from the mainland port of Piraeus, which is easily accessible by metro. You can visit the island in a day to get a taste of island life but if you’ve got more time, I would highly recommend spending at least one night. Hire a taxi, or take a bus to the opposite side of the island and visit the Temple of Afaia for a history fix. Gorge yourself on fresh seafood on anyone of the restaurants on the sea front.

Go on a free Athens walking tour

I’ve been on a lot of free walking tours around the cities of Europe. I find that when I don’t have much time, they’re a great way of getting my bearings whilst learning some of the local history and getting insider knowledge about where the good places to eat/see/go out are. This particular tour was one of the best I’ve ever been on. Our guide was a Bostonian transplant who had lived in Athens for over a decade. His live and enthusiasm for the city was evident and he took us around some of the sights.

Lucy, the Palace Dog

Watch (or learn!) traditional Greek dance

A trip to the Dora Stratou Theatre will not disappoint. Between May and September, you are invited to see a performance of traditional song, dance, music and dress ­ just the way it would have been performed in Greece years ago. You can even take a dance lesson (which is given in English) if you’re so inclined!

6 Alternative things to do in Paris

Eiffel Tower reflection{eiffel reflections}

For the last few weeks, I’ve been sorting through my photos so I can get some printed and make an album or two. I’m really enjoying reminiscing about all the wonderful travels I’ve experienced. I love travelling. Like, LOVE love. But I also love planning holidays, so if you make the mistake of telling me you’re thinking of going somewhere that I’ve been before, you will find yourself the recipient of a list of places you should go and things you should do.* In that spirit, over the coming weeks, I’m going to share a few of my favorite spots around the world.

And what better place to start than Paris?

The city holds a special place in my memories. It was the destination of my very first foreign holiday, aged 8. We booked on to a coach trip, the youngest people on the trip by far, apart from one other mother-and-child duo. Whilst the rest of us were ferried around from site to site, they went out on their own, only returning to the coach in the evening for the trip back to the hotel. I remember thinking they were very adventurous. Later, it was the place I visited on my very first holiday without an adult. R, my long-time travel buddy, and I spent a weekend exploring the sites. I practiced my French, we climbed up the Eiffel Tower and spent a day at Disney. I didn’t pack a coat. It was cold. I’ve since learnt to listen to my mother.

And then, back when husband was boyfriend, it was the place we visited on our very first holiday together; my birthday present to him. I found 1p flights with Ryanair, we traveled with hand-luggage and city hopped by plane – on to Girona and then Perpignan. It was the start of many adventures together.**

1EFB5AD8-CC08-47F1-8BBB-1712F87729E7

So if you’ve got the Eiffel Tower, Laudurée and The Louvre ticked off your list, here are a few places that I am confident are worth your time visiting.

Walk the Parisian High Line
Step back New York! Hidden away in the 12th arrondissement is the original highline ­ The Promenade Plantée. Around the corner from Bastille, you ascend a staircase that takes you to the start of the 4.7km long park which was once a train line. Walking amongst the Parisian rooftops, through bamboo walkways and along the track you can sneak a peek into the windows of those lucky people who get to call this city home.

Eat at the Pink Flamingo
There are a few branches of the pizza shop, but the one in the 10th arrondissement is my favorite as the area is full of cool drinking holes and it makes a perfect stop after you’ve explored Parc de Buttes Charmont (see below). Their pizza toppings that have a decidedly French flair to them (figs and brie, anyone?) and once you’ve ordered they give you a pink, helium filled balloon. Go and find yourself a romantic spot along the canal whilst you wait for your food which will be delivered to you by a guy who’s tracked you down by your balloon. Trés magnifique!

Explore Parc des Buttes Charmont

Sacre Coeur from Parc De Buttes Charmont
{Sacré Coeur from Parc des Buttes Charmont}

A little further out than the major sites but easily accessible by metro, or on foot if you’re a walker, the Parc is a little bit of tranquil paradise. Featuring a man made lake, waterfall, Italian inspired temple and a suspension bridge designed by Mr Eiffel himself, this is a great place to get away from the crowds and have yourself a little picnic. You are also treated to a wonderful view of the Parisian skyline.

Brave a night bike tour, (this is the one I’ve done)
I am a great fan of the free walking tours that you can find in most capital cities across Europe but sometimes it’s nice to give your feet a rest. Whilst you can hire your own bikes all over the city for not much money, I don’t have the steely nerves required to pedal myself around the crazy Parisian roads. With a guide however, I feel much more confident. Paris is just as, if not more romantic at dusk. Taking an evening tour allows you to see the city and its sights as the sun sets. Top it off with an evening cruise down the Seine (included as part of this particular tour) and you might just find yourself proposing to whoever is next to you because it’s so darn romantic!

Visit the Basilica of Saint Denis
Basilica of Saint DenisWhilst the cemetery of Père Lachaise always seems to make it on to top 10 lists, few people seem to venture out of the city to the suburb of Saint Denis, home to a Basilica of the same name. Even if you don’t know much about French history (I don’t, I’m afraid), chances are you will have heard of the famous Marie Antoinette. Although she and her headless husband weren’t initially buried at this church which is the historic resting place of the French monarchy, bits of their bodies were eventually rehoused there. Wander round this great abbey amongst the tombs of the French Kings and Queens of years gone by.

Wander around the Parisian sewer system – Musée des Égoute de Paris
Okay, live with me here. Maybe this isn’t necessarily somewhere to spend precious holiday time if it’s your first trip to Paris but I loved my visit to the Paris Sewer Museum. Seriously, when else are you likely ever to be able to visit a sewer system? It surprisingly doesn’t smell and the tunnels aren’t small and claustrophobic like you might expect.

*The (un)lucky recipient doesn’t really get a choice in the matter.
**I paid for more than just the flights, but I also like to reminisce about the days when Ryan Air were actually cheap so their terrible customer service was much more forgivable. Because you can’t really complain when you’re flight cost less than a chomp bar?

 

A weekend in the Peak District

Jacket potatoes and cheese

Have you ever seen a more beautiful thing, than a pile of jacket potatoes and a mound of cheese?

Proper home baked jackets potatoes feel like such a naughty indulgence. When I was growing up, my mother used to zap a potato in the microwave for 10 minutes and then stick it under the grill to try and get that proper jackety taste. They always turned out okay – but I was never tricked into believing they were the real deal. Her Yorkshire/Asian thrift would never allow her to let an oven run for two hours just to make a couple of spuds. Even now, as an adult who pays my own electricity bill, I can’t bring myself to make jackets for us at home. Sometimes I think I should bake some bread at the same time or something, so I’d feel like I was getting my ovens worth – but then I’d have to actually rustle up a loaf of bread and who’s got time for that? Since there were eight of us on holiday, making jacket potatoes for for dinner one evening seemed a justifiable use of the the oven.

Anyway, I’ve majorly digressed.

TL;DR – One night we had jacket potatoes for dinner. They were tasty.

A few weekends a go, I went to the Peaks with some of my family and we did more than just feast. Barely, but still.

We stayed in the tiny village of Elton, in THE BEST cottage. They had literally everything you could want and even things you didn’t realise you need. Like an electric whisk which was lucky since the one I lugged all the way down there was, in fact, missing a whisk!

Baking a birthday cake{tres leches cake in progress}
Scones for breakfast.JPG{breakfast scones}

Have you ever seen a more beautiful thing, than a pile of scones or a pile of potatoes? I’m learning that my favourite things about these family trips is feeding people because my favourite photos of the trip are of the food. Not pictured but equally as excellent – chicken curry and rice, bbq chicken wings and fixin’s, birthday cake, mexican tres leches cake, homemade hot chocolate. Yum.

Aaaanyway.

Things, we did them.

We spent a day in Eyam, a village that was famously struck down by the plague in 1665 but successfully and selflessly, isolated itself off from the rest of the world in order to prevent the disease from spreading any further North.

Eyam, Plague CottageDSC_0162Eyam Plague Doctor Uniform {doctor’s plague outfit, Eyam Museum }

We walked around the village and then up to the Boundary Stone, which marked its limit. The grooves carved in the stone were used as a money exchange. Filled with vinegar, which was thought to kill the infection, coins were left in the pools in exchange for food and other goods, which were left by their neighbouring villagers.

Eyam, Boundry StoneCousins in the Peaks

We followed a walking trail which took us through Stoney Middleton and passed the Roman Baths, before continuing on to the Riley Graves. The final resting place of Mrs Hancock’s husband and six children who all tragically died within an eight day period.

Shadows in the Roman Baths{Roman bath, light)

We hired bikes on Sunday and burned some calories cycling along the Monsal Trail. Mercifully flat and well paved, the trail runs along the former Midland Railway line. We hopped on at Hassop, where we were able to hire bikes, which unfortunately meant we didn’t have time to pop to Bakewell for a tart. Next time though. We peddled for miles, through four old railway tunnels, dodging muddy puddles, laughing all the way.

Monsal Trail before the tunnelMonsal Trail tunnel

I had such an amazing weekend. My family are loud and crazy and quite a bit annoying. But they are also hilarious, kind, wonderful people. Roll on the next trip!

A is for Ancoats; a Manchester A to Z

roldham_a-spread
{photo from here}

‘A is for Ancoats

A dreary place is Ancoats,
‘Tis full of smoke and fog,
The lassess wear shawls on their heads
Their feet are shod with clogs.
‘Tis really not a pleasant place
Upon a rainy day;
We have to start with Ancoats tho’,
For Ancoats starts with A.’

 A Manchester Alphabet, Roger Oldham

Canal Walk Ancoats{summer in Ancoats}

Last year whilst wandering around Manchester Art gallery, a favourite pass time for lazy Saturday afternoons, I came across a wonderful set of illustrated short poems by Roger Oldham. Written in 1906, A Manchester Alphabet depicts in humorous verse, scenes from daily life in the city.

As I read each passage I reflected on my own memories of the places and things he wrote about. T is for Trams – every time I have to navigate my way across the tram tracks in St Peter’s Square, unsure of exactly which direction I can expect a yellow behemoth to come chugging toward me, it flits into my head that Gaudi met his demise under one such vehicle. C is for Chorlton – home to the best kebab in Manchester, has to be eaten in the car even though last time you promised yourself you wouldn’t do it again because they are drippy little buggers and the juice gets everywhere, making your car pong of onions until the end of time.

I’ve lived in Manchester for six years now and as seems to happen when you settle in a place, I find myself frequenting the same parts of town, the same restaurants, the same bars. I was inspired to make my own Manchester Alphabet and use it as an excuse to explore more of the city I call home.

And then, in typical Jasmin fashion, I did nothing about it for over 12 months.

Hallé St Peter's
{Hallé St Peter’s}

I visited the city a lot in the years before moving here and back then Ancoats was just a place that had some sneaky free parking (no longer, damn you yellow lines), not somewhere I would spend an afternoon hanging out. These days I know it as the place to get the best pizza in town (more on that in a second) but beyond that, the area is still a mystery to me. It seemed fitting that Ancoats should be my first stop in this journey.

In typical Manchester fashion, as Oldham wrote, it was a dreary day. No matter, in lieu of a shawl I had an umbrella and a bobble hat.
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I invited my cousin along for the day. She’s a clever and creative little bean who enjoys making videos so I thought it would be a fun bit of bonding time. I was right, we had the loveliest (and greediest) of days and I’m super proud of the video she created of it.

Some notes on the places we visited

Mustard Tree, here
110 Oldham Rd, Manchester M4 6AG
Opening times: Mon – Sat: 10am – 4pm / Sun: Closed

One of three charity shops for the Manchester based charity. They aim to tackle the causes and consequences of poverty and homelessness by empowering people through education and employment, and providing provisions to those in need. There was a decent selection of cheap but good condition clothing and homeware. I bought the blue jumper in the video (Topman, excellent condition) for a couple of quid and it has been in heavy rotation since.

Ancoats Peeps, here
Ancoats PeepsAncoats PeepsIf you look close enough, you might just find a brass eye piece staring out at you from an unassuming wall. There’s no explanation as to what you’re looking at or map to find any others but if you so manage to spy one, go ahead and peer through. You might see something, or you might see nothing.

Ancoats Coffee Co. here
Royal Mills, Redhill St.
Opening times: Mon – Fri: 8am – 6pm / Sat: 9am – 5pm / Sun: 10am – 5pm

Housed in an old cotton mill by the Rochadale Canal, is The Ancoats Coffee Co.  I confess, I didn’t have any coffee here, but the tea was good. The brownies looked intense but we didn’t get to try one since we were going to eat soon.

Rudy’s Pizza, here
Cotton Street
Opening times: Mon – Fri: 12– 3, 5-10pm / Sat: 12am – 10pm / Sun: 12am – 9pm

Canal Walk Rudy Pizza

Yes, I have been here before, but it’s the best pizza in Manchester so there was no way I wasn’t going to take the opportunity to visit.

Elnecot, here
Blossom Street
Opening times: Mon – Thu 5pm–11.30pm / Fri 12pm–11.30pm / Sat – Sun 11am-11.30pm

Elnecot Sticky Toffee Pudding
Honestly, the thing that drew me here was the gigantic neon ‘toilet’ sign that glares across Cutting Room Square. I went for a pit stop and I stayed for pudding. Perhaps that’s their trick? Lure you in with the promise of facilities and keep you there because you spy six things on the walk down to the loos that other people are eating which you must try for yourself.

Their sticky toffee pudding was one of the best I’ve ever had and I am forever indebted to my pathetic bladder for leading me to such deliciousness. My cousin had the chocolate fondant and it did that amazing oozy thing when you slice through it. Heaven.

Ancoats General Store, here
Great Ancoats Street
Opening times: Mon – Sat 7am–11pm / Sun: 8am–11pm 

Newspapers, apples, water, craft beer, Thursday evening street food events, coffee. All bases covered.

Cha-ology, here
Great Ancoats Street
Opening times: Wed – Sat 2pm–7pm / Sun – Tues: Closed

I was so disappointed to learn they had moved to a reservation only system. It’s on my list to return – if you take a look at their website, you’ll understand why.

 

 

 

Chatsworth, renewed.

Chatsworth House RenewedTime finally sprung forward last Sunday. The countryside basked in glorious sunshine to celebrate, as I pootled off to Chatsworth for my first ever InstaMeet. Husband, being the wonderful sort that he is, offered to drive me since I had been at work until 2am that morning. We enjoyed the winding roads of the pass in relative quiet. Most of the world was still asleep, it seemed.

Chatsworth DeerSat on the banks of the River Derwent, Chatsworth is the ancestral home of the Duke and Duchess of Derbyshire. 16 generations of the Cavendish family have lived in the property which, over the years, has hosted royalty, survived the great wars, was almost lost to death duties and has had starring roles on screen, both big and small.*

The last ten years have seen £32m and hours of craftsmanship spent carefully restoring and conserving the property’s 500 years of history. The scaffolding is finally down and the house is crowning in her full glory. To celebrate this renewal, Chatsworth and Visit England kindly provided some Instagrammers with the opportunity to frolic around  the house and grounds, and take pictures to our hearts content.

Chatsworth Column Detail

We were able to nosey around a few of the 126 rooms which are open to the public – the Duke and Duchess still live a private, closed off part of house.Chatsworth MusicChatsworth Grandfather Clock

The clocks all told the new summer time.Chatsworth Deer Chandelier

I loved the way little nuggets of information were displayed throughout the house.

Chatsworth Window Details

We posed for a group shot before lunch.

Chatsworth Instagrammers

{photo by @projectyasir}

And after all that walking around, it was time to enjoy a scone and some bubbles in the old stables, with new friends.

Chatsworth Scone

{photo by @tea_and_wanders}

Before spending an hour in the gardens.

Chatsworth GardenInteresting shape to choose for your shrubbery, no?

Chatsworth Maze (2)A quick turn about the maze and it was time for me to head off and meet my in-laws in Bakewell for a spot of Sunday lunch.

Chatsworth Maze

{photo by @tea_and_wanders}

Thank you @igersmcr and @igersderbyshire for organising such a fantastic day. I can’t wait for the next meetup, or my next trip to Chatsworth. I’ve got my eye on the afternoon tea for next time.

 

*Although the less said about the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, the better – Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle for life!!

48 hours in Milan, snapshots

snapshot Milan Duomo

For a long time, the deciding factor on where to go on holiday very much depended on where Ryan Air was flying to cheaply.* Milan, well Bergamo really, since most Ryan Air flights don’t actually seem to land in the airports of the city advertised, has been on my radar as somewhere to go one day. Last weekend, quite by accident, I finally got round to it visiting.

My friend and I were supposed to go to Madrid last November however our flights were cancelled and as well as being refunded our money, we were given some flight vouchers. After a perusal of possible destinations to use them on, we ended up picking Milan.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

I’ve been a bit of a useless friend recently, and this was the first time I’ve seen L in 10 months so we knew we would spend the whole time catching up over food and tea. Sightseeing wasn’t particularly high on the agenda.

Still, once we landed in Milan, we found ourselves wandering over to the Duomo since it was the one landmark we knew of.

Milan Duomo, front

We approached from the side and decided to walk all the way to the end of the Piazza before turning around to get our first proper look of the cathedral. It was pretty spectacular and gleamed in the midday light.

Aperol spritz at the Aperol terraceAperol Terrace, Milan Duomo

Landmarks are best enjoyed with a drink in hand so we headed over to the Aperol terrace and sat outside, sipping drinks, under the shadow of the Duomo. It was one of my favourite moments of the weekend. It was a little chilly but the sun was out and it’s the first time I’ve felt its warmth on my face all winter.**

The rest of the weekend was a merry blur of chats, food and copious cups of tea. We did consider going to one museum, but once we got there we were put off by the large queue and went for cake instead. Many museums in Milan are free (and BUSY!) on the first Sunday of the month.

Some notes on the things we did.

Eating

Somehow, over the course of the weekend, we managed to walk 23 miles. A good job, I suppose, given how much we ate. We did very little research beforehand and instead Googled things we fancied. Apart from some lacklustre but filling dim sum, we lucked out and found some excellent food.

avocado toast from Fancy ToastMilan Be Bop Pizza

Sushi at Conch – Tasty sushi. Crazy delicious wakame salad.

Gelato from Raki – I had the most amazing vanilla and ginger gelato.

Toast from Fancy Toast – sweet and savoury toast toppings. I wish I had room for the nutella toast after my savoury avo but I just couldn’t do it. The portions are really filling.

Pizza from Be Bop – Thin and crispy based pizzas. Good prices.

Arancini from Antica Fabbrica dell’Arancina Milano – cheap, cheerful and tasty arancini

Espresso with melted chocolate from CioccolatItalian – GO HERE for melted chocolate heaven. I had the most amazing espresso with melted hazelnut chocolate and whipped cream. L had a pot of hot, melted chocolate full of pistachio nuts.

Sleeping

Mercure Milano Regency, here

Clean. 2 minutes from a tram stop or a 30 minute walk from the city centre. Crap water pressure, but I can forgive them that. It had a quirky Hotel Budapest vibe to it. After hotel tax, it worked out at £50 per night for a room, breakfast included.

Mercure Regency Hotel

Doing

Frog free walking tour, Milan

Free walking tour with Frog Walking Tour

Apart from walking between food stops, we did manage to make it to a free walking tour. I love these kinds of tours and have done one in pretty much every place I’ve been that offers them. I find them to be a good way to learn about the place you’re visiting, seeing some major sights and getting tips on things to do from locals.

Grand Canal, Milan

We were too full by the time aperitivo came around, which is a sort of Italian happy hour with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, but we enjoyed walking around the Navigli area where you’ll find many bars serving the meal, set along side a pretty old canal system.

I really enjoyed my weekend in Milan. If you can get cheap flights, it’s certainly a place that’s worth a visit for a leisurely, food-filled few days.

 

*Back in the glory days when you could literally fly somewhere for 2p return

**I’m being dramatic, I know, but winter feels like it has dragged on for soooooooo long!

Los Angeles, eating

A few of the things I ate in LA.

Grand Central Market, Downtown LA

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I loved this place and was so sad that we were only able to visit once. I already knew where I wanted to eat, but made sure I circled the market a few times to take in all the sights and smells, before heading over to Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. I was going to get two rounds of tacos but at the last minute decided that I would only get one, and then go try some food elsewhere. It turned out that was wishful thinking because the portion was unexpectedly huge -was surprising because it was so cheap! I still think about these tacos, months later. R had a platter of fish tacos from another of the vendors and loved every bite.

Jinya Ramen, Santa Monica

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Since we were staying in an AirBnB we thought it would be fun to order in one evening. After perusing UberEats we decided on ramen from Jinya Ramen. It was hearty and nourishing.

Blue Star Donuts, Abbot Kinney

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I’m normally not very adventurous with my donut choices, favouring plain glazed or if I’m feeling fancy, jam filled. I branched out of my comfort zone and got the Old Fashioned. I chose well.

Whole Foods, Venice

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We were feeling the need for something green so we hit up the salad bar. It hit the spot.

EP/LP, West Hollywood

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We had dinner at the restaurant adjoining the Melrose Rooftop Cinema where they served the best mango and coconut pudding and lush cocktails.

The Queso Truck, Downtown LA

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We saw a few food trucks parked opposite the LACMA and even though I was in no way hungry, I couldn’t help myself from having a nosey. I didn’t bother checking out the other trucks once I found this one – they were serving up pots of hot cheese after all. I went for the classic yellow with chips and although I tried my hardest, I couldn’t finish the whole portion.