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!

An ode to Rabbie Burns at Albatross and Arnold

Burns night supper

{photo from here}

After much procrastination, I finally joined WeBlogNorth just before the new year and I’ve been enjoying finding new blogs to read and Instagram accounts to follow. Through the group, I heard about an opportunity to attend a Burns Night Supper that was being held at a relatively new bar in town, Albatross & Arnold. I ummed and ahhed about whether or not I should put my name forward for a seat because do I count as a blogger yet? Do I need more followers before I do? Does anyone care what think about, well, anything? All questions to which I have no answer, but regardless, my unofficial word for the year is ‘bold’ so I boldly threw my name into the ring. As a result, last Thursday I found myself walking through the Manchester rain to meet six other blogging ladies and eat some good food.

I arrived early, thinking I’d have trouble finding the place – a quick Google search told me it was above The Range, an indoor, virtual golf club in Spinningfields. Although it wasn’t immediately obvious when I got there, if I was going through the correct set of doors, I quickly saw a sign guiding me up the staircase to my destination for the evening.

Whiskey explanation at Albatross and Arnold

{whiskey chat}

I was led to our table and settled down with a drink – any place that gets the distinction between a soda and lime, and a soda and lime cordial, is on to a winner in my book. Nice one, A&A. It wasn’t long before photographer, blogger, all-round-girl-boss Georgie Glass arrived and before I knew it, I was surrounded by a group of wonderful ladies and inspiring, creative chatter.

Now, I have two confessions to make in this post.

Here’s the first.

I’ve never read any of Burn’s poetry. Or at least, I hadn’t until I did some last minute swotting earlier that morning. I knew, vaguely, what Burns night was about and when  it’s celebrated, thanks to its printed presence in all yearly diaries and calendars. Before our meal, we were treated to a reading, complete with Scottish accent and all.

Grilled Scottish Artichoke

{Grilled Scottish artichoke butter emulsion, tomato concassé. Paired with Speyburn 15 year old}

Second confession, and to preface, I normally consider myself a pretty worldly person so this was a blow to the old ego..

It turns out I have absolutely NO CLUE how to eat an artichoke – which is how I found myself, after my first mouthful of food, at my first ever blogger meal, surrounded my people I had only just met, surreptitiously spitting out bits of woody artichoke into my napkin. To my relief, I wasn’t the only one having trouble and when the guy on the table next to ours looked over at us for some guidance on how to eat said vegetable, one of us (I forget who, sorry) had the bright idea to Google how to eat it.

‘Pull a petal from the artichoke.

Place base of petal between teeth

Pull through teeth to remove soft, meaty, pulp

Discard woody remains.’

I’d liken the action as similar to squeezing the last bit of juice out of a Mr Freezy ice lolly.* Once I’d got the hang of it, it was pretty tasty.

Whisky cured Scottish salmon

{Whisky cured Scottish salmon Old Pulteney, pickled cucumber. Paired with Old Pulteney single malt scotch}

Whisky cured Scottish salmon

{salmon, details}

The rest of the meal went off without a hitch and our next course of whiskey cured salmon with pickled cucumber, went down a treat. The cucumber was surprisingly firm and deliciously tart. The salmon, smooth and almost melt in my mouth.

Each whiskey was introduced before it was served and we were encouraged to sniff, swirl and sip in order to enjoy the nuances of the drink. Mmmmmm, peaty.

Whiskey explanation at Albatross and Arnold

{tasting notes, golfball decor}

We were treated to live music as we ate. If all clubhouses were this atmospheric, I would strongly consider taking up golf.

Venison Haunch

{Venison haunch, parsnip purée and freeze dried blackberries. Paired with Ancnoc Peat Head}

Look how perfectly pink that bit of meat is. Sadly, I couldn’t really taste the blackberries thanks to a lingering cold, but the venison was juicy and tender. There was enough of the purée to have some with every bite of meat – a pet peeve of mine is not having enough of your accompaniments to last through the meal.

After a round of haggis canapes, it was onto dessert.

Raspberry and lavender cranachan

{Raspberry and lavender cranachan. Honey, toasted granola. Paired with Balblair 2005 vintage}

Chewy granola, sweet raspberries, boozy cream. I have plans to recreate something similar at home, because I think this would make an awesome brunch item (sans whiskey, ha!)

Raspberry and lavender cranachan

{cranachan}

I had such a lovely time and I’m really excited to explore blogging and the community here in Manchester. I also really enjoyed branching out and trying a new kind of dining experience, thank you to Albatross & Arnold for having me. I see more of your food in my future!

Details

Address: The Range | Leftbank | Spinningfields | Manchester | M3 3AN

Opening times: Mon – Thurs: 11am – 11pm / Fri & Sat: 11am – 12pm / Sun: Closed

Menu, here

 

 

Meal, with compliments. Words and artichoke shame, my own.

*I might have aged myself with that reference

 

In Monton

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This weekend has been the first one we’ve spent at home in  Manchester, just the two of us, in forever. It has been lovely and much needed.

Today we decided to head up the road to Monton. We spent a couple of hours walking the streets, imagining what it would be like to live in one of the fantastic gigantic old houses in Ellesmere Park. I would have one room for shoes and another one for dresses. And a library with floor to ceiling bookshelves.

I spied a couple of Qubek’s pieces just off Monton high street and made husband wait an age whilst I took far too many pictures.

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We ended our afternoon with a cream tea at a tea room – good, strong tea but not so great scones. As a personal preference, I do not think any thing is made better by glacé cherries.

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Halloween in Hollywood

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Our time in Vegas was fabulous but all too short. We ventured on to Los Angeles and spent Halloween in the city.

Apart from going to see the Hollywood sign, we didn’t have any specific plans for LA. We mostly wanted to soak up the atmosphere and, as seems to be the theme with all my holidays, eat some good food. We spent some time in West Hollywood for the Halloween parade. We found a bar with a couple of free seats and people watched for an hour or so. I really enjoyed seeing how much effort  people put into their outfits.
in-chains.jpgMedusa and partnerThe JokerWilly Wonka, smoking

I had hoped we would be able to see a film at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery but the timings didn’t work out. Instead, R found a roof top cinema that was showing the 90’s miniseries version of IT.

After a few drinks at the parade, we ventured to Melrose. Our tickets included dinner at adjoining restaurant where I had the best mango and coconut pudding.

Melrose Menu

And then it was upstairs to the rooftop for the screening where I fell asleep half way through – those beanbags were so darn comfy! The bits of the show that I did see were hilariously cheesy and not at all scary, which is good because I’m actually a massive scaredy cat.

Rooftop Cinema

Sadly we didn’t dress up for the occasion because we had spent the morning sightseeing and didn’t have time to head back to our AirBnB to get changed. But we did put on some ears so we looked a little festive.

Los Angeles to Las Vegas, a roadtrip

Route 66

{on the road}

Road tripping around the United States is one of my long held travel dreams. It’s going to be a while before I get to fully realise that dream, but when the idea of tacking on a trip to LA on our Vegas girls holiday came about, I knew we had to drive between the two.

It worked out best for us to fly to LA first. We landed at LAX late on Thursday night and  after a restful nights sleep, went to pick up our car early the next morning.

Oh, our car!

DSC_0031

Just look at her!

When I was looking at cars online, I had fully intended to hire whatever was cheapest. As I was scrolling through pages of uninspiring Toyotas, husband popped his head round  to have a nosey at what I was doing and suggested I see how much it cost to hire a convertible. At only £40 for the day I was totally sold on the idea – what could be more LA roadtrip than a convertible?! I had thought we’d go for a Mustang but when I saw this yellow beaut, I knew she had to be ours.

Shamefully, I don’t know anything about cars. Possibly even more shamefully, I can’t work up any enthusiasm about learning anything about cars so I can’t tell you about engine sizes and what not. What I can tell you though, is that this one purrs like a kitten and once I got over my fear of driving on the wrong side of the road and released my death grip off the wheel, it was an absolute dream of a drive.

The Donut Man, Glendora

{donuts}

Our first stop of the day was at the Donut Man in the fabulously named city of Glendora. I had hoped we’d be able to try one of their famous donuts filled with fresh strawberries but I didn’t realised they were out of season. We settled for a pumpkin spice and went round the corner to sit in the car park of the gym to eat it.

Pumpkin spice donut from Donut Man, Los Angeles

{donut, smooshed}

I was feeling much less nervous about driving by this point, after having survived my first hour of LA traffic on the Freeway. Still, I was very happy to get off the I15 and on to historic Route 66.

Where we had to stop off for some touristy pictures of the road sign.

Route 66, Jasmin

{66}

Before long, we arrived at Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch

{Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch}

We didn’t get to meet Elmer but we had fun walking around his creation.

Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch

{checkout}

Our sugar high had worn off, so made our way to the nearest In’N’Out.

Jasmin Eating In'N'Out

{happy Jasmin}

I’ve heard a lot about In’N’Out and I was massively excited to get my teeth into one of their burgers. They live up to the hype but confession – I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the animal style fries. I found that once they were a little cool, they turned into a bit of a solid cheese mess. Those little chillies though! So freaking good!!

We were going to stop off at Peggy Sue’s diner for a slice of pie, but we were stuffed. Now that I sit here, with a none-uncomfortably full belly, I’m a bit sad we didn’t man up and force a slice down because I think it would have been a fun stop. Regardless, we needed to digest, so we drove over to Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

{ghost town}

I love a bit of tourist-tack and the Ghost Town was right up my street.

Calico Ghost Town, schoolhouse

{schoolhouse}

We toured the mine and enjoyed the scenery in the blazing sun.

calico-ghost-town-halloween.jpg

{Halloween}

I wanted to visit an abandoned water park, but once we got close to it we were put off by the dirt track up – I was nervous about chipping the paint on the Camaro, so we just looked from afar before leaving for our next stop – Zzyzx road which leads to a spring in the middle of the Mojave desert.

zzyzx

{oasis}

It was so hot on this day. But I didn’t know how hot until we visited the World’s Largest Thermometer.

World's Tallest Thermometer, Baker

{hot}

And popped up the road to Alien Fresh Jerky.

Alien Fresh Jerky, Baker, California

{all the jerky}

Alien Fresh Jerky, on brand

{on brand}

Our final stop was to see Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains. This was the stop I was most looking forward to and was a bit worried we might not make it until after dark since we’d lost track of time, having too much fun at our other stops of the day.

As it happened, we lucked out and reached there just as the sun was setting. It made for a wonderfully, magical view.

Seven Magic Mountains, dusk

{dusk}

Seven Magic Mountains

{tops}

Seven Magic Mountains

{approaching}

Seven Magic Mountains and Me

On holiday

This time, it was R who chose our holiday destination.

Welcome to Las Vegas

I get a lot of side eye when I tell people why exactly we went to Vegas, but here it goes…

R, my long time friend and travel buddy has been to Vegas twice before. On each trip, she has had a travel companion* with very questionable taste in music who has declined the opportunity to see Britney’s live show at Planet Hollywood. Since her residency is coming to an end this year, a trip to the city was of utmost necessity and I, being the amazing and supportive friend that I am, offered to accompany R on said trip. Because that’s what good friends do.

And since we were travelling all that way, we decided to tack on a trip to LA as well.

*Her sister – who is actually very nice even though her taste is music is far too cool for me