6 Alternative things to do in Paris

Eiffel Tower reflection

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been spending a chunk of time sorting through over a decades worth of photos.

I have been luckily enough to travel a lot in those years but Paris holds a special place in my memories. It was the destination of my very first foreign holiday. I was 8. My mother, aunt and I booked onto a coach trip. We were the youngest people on the holiday by far, apart from one other young mother and her son. They didn’t come with the rest of us on a coach tour around Paris, instead preferring to spend the day sightseeing by themselves. 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 practised 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 gave him the dates to book off work and presented him with his birthday card which listed the details of our trip. I found 1p flights with Ryanair, we travelled with hand-luggage and city hopped by plane – on to Girona and then Perpignan. It was the start of many adventures together.

I’ve been over a dozen times to the city and have picked up a few places that are worth a visit, that are a little off the usual tourist path. What better places to share those tips, than on my blog?

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 Plantee. 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 spots 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 De Buttes Charmont
A little further out than the major sites but easily accessible by metro, or on foot if you’re hardcore, 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 2 package) 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
Address: Musée des Égoute de Paris, Pont de l’Alma, 75007 Paris, France
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.

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

EP/LP Melrose rooftop cinemaDSC_0699

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.

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.

Las Vegas, eating

It’s lovely remembering how much fun I had on holiday last month, as I sit here this evening in cold, rainy Manchester, wearing a million layers of clothing to try and keep warm.

Here are some of the foods we enjoyed in Vegas. I would love to go back to the city one day soon just so I can get through more of the food that’s on offer there.

Fried chicken at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, Grand Bazaar

Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken

Exactly what we needed after a day road tripping. Super juicy fried chicken and crispy fries with a cracking selection of sauces. If I were to go again I’d skip the mac and cheese – it was fine but not great and it used up some belly space I would have rather filled with chicken.

Sandwiches at Eggslut, The Cosmopolitan

Eggslut

Every Eggslut we passed on our trip had stupidly long queues outside it, that’s how good it is. We arrived at the one in the Cosmopolitan at half 9 expecting it to be fairly quiet, because who gets up early on the strip? Plenty of people, it turns out. On seeing the size of the queue, R had the genius idea that we should pop round the corner to Milk and pick up some milkshakes to keep us going while we queued. 30 minutes later, I had a tasty, drippy, egg sandwich in my hands and all over my face. Lovely! I highly recommend.

Milkshakes at Milk Bar, Cosmopolitan

Milk

Full of calcium so basically a health drink, right? My soul certainly felt nourished after a White Russian.

A slice at Secret Pizza, Cosmoplitan

Half the fun of this place is trying to figure out where it is. The pizza was decent and at $5 a slice, well priced considering how expensive everything else is on the strip.

Afternoon tea at Mandarin Oriental

Afternoon Tea, FoodAfternoon Tea at the Mandarin OrientalAfternoon Tea, SavoryAfternoon Tea, Cake Details

One of my favourite experiences of the whole trip. I love an afternoon tea and I was super excited when R, after the success of our tea in Belfast, suggested one for this holiday. I chose the Madarin based purely on pictures I saw online of the view you have of the strip. The Tea Lounge is set on the 23rd floor, and the floor-to-ceiling windows give you a fantastic view of the strip and the desert beyond. We arrived at 3 and left late, after the sun had set. It was quite magical watching the city light up as the skies darkened. My only (small) complaint would be that there wasn’t enough cream to go with my scones – I like them to be piled sky high with pillows of cream and a dollop of jam on top. I’m sure I could’ve asked for more but I was too busy drinking endless mimosas to be bothered.

Sushi Burritos at Jaburritos

Linq Promenade, High Roller

I was excited to try Jaburritos after seeing pictures on Instagram but I was a bit overwhelmed by the menu when we got there.  I ended up picking the Long Beach because it was the first burrito that I saw that had spicy tuna in it. I accidentally picked very well, it was delish. Its setting on the Linq promenade made for some excellent people watching whilst we ate.

Cupcakes at Sprinkles

Sprinkles Red Velvet

Sprinkles Cupcakes

Sprinkles was a place that I wanted to try because I’d seen and heard so much about them over the years. We had a selection of the small cupcakes. They were tasty enough, but not life changing so.

Burger and fries at In-N-Out

In'N'Out Quality You Can Taste

My google map of places for us to eat was so long, you probably couldn’t have hit all the spots over the course of a month, never mind the two days we were actually there. Despite that, we went for a repeat trip to In’N’Out because we enjoyed the burgers our first time round that much!

In'N'Out