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Majorcan Marvels

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Returning home with suitcase full of memories…

My first holiday abroad was to the beautiful Puerto Pollensa on the north coast of Majorca with my Mum, Dad and two brothers. That holiday gave me my taste for travel and I’m sure was part of the reason I wanted to be a Travel Agent ( it was just so exciting booking a holiday!)

It’s only taken me 30 (ish) years to come back and visit this dramatic coast again, (this time Port Soller) and it has lost none of it’s magic.

This holiday was about rejuvenation and exploration- so for the first time ever, our hiking boots and anoraks were in a suitcase alongside our swimsuits and sandals.

Port Soller is a picturesque village, a natural harbour full of amazing restaurants, jaw dropping views, lighthouses and a San Francisco style tram that links the port to Soller Town. It’s breathtaking backdrop is thanks to the Serra De Tramuntana which separates the ‘Valley Of Gold’ from the rest of Majorca.

The Serra De Tramuntana was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011 so we couldn’t wait to tie up our walking boots and make our way along part of the famous ‘Ruta de Pedra en Sec’( the dry stone path) We chose the section of the mountain path that took us from Port Soller to Deia. The routes takes you though stone terraced olive groves, high into the clouds and past beautiful fincas (some serving good coffee and amazing apple cake) until climbing the stones steps into ancient Deia. The walk is about 12km and they say takes about 3 hours – I think if you ask Nick, that will all depend on how many photos your wife takes 😊)

Deia is very beautiful, perched gracefully at the foot of the mountains over looking the Mediterranean. It attracts artists and writers, walkers and cyclists and has a lovely selection of eateries! We chose a lovely pizzeria called ‘Es Punt’ a great pizza complimented by our first try of Majorcan Red Wine – delicious.

We jumped on the bus back to Port Soller which run every hour, a spectacular journey (not for the faint hearted)

This is the most iconic hiking route in Mallorca, the ‘Ruta de Pedra en Sec’ or Dry Stone Route follows 168.4km of signposted trails through dry stonework terraces where olive trees have been growing for centuries, mountain villages, pine and holm oak forests and olive groves, also offering breathtaking sea views and we couldn’t wait to do our next section…

A couple of days later we took the Tram connecting the port to Soller, what a delightful way to travel. The tram and it’s wagons are 1913 originals and in perfect condition. It cost €7 each to trundle along the bay, through orange groves and central streets reaching the tram station in Soller. The tram station links up with the Tren De Soller (Soller Train).

Inaugurated in 1912 you can travel between Soller and Palma using the trains and wagons from that same period. The journey is meant to be beautiful, crossing over the Serra D’Alfabia through tunnels, over viaducts and through the Soller Valley. We didn’t have enough time to do have this adventure on this trip but is a must do next time we visit. Todays visit was about walking from Soller to Fornalutz (which enjoys the status of being one of ‘The Most Beautiful Town In Spain’) -maybe an hour or two’s walk. To be honest we didn’t look at our watches. We were to busy looking in awe at the citrus groves which fringed the bottom of the mountains with bold colours, the crystal clear rivers and swooping swallows dancing in the sky. It’s a pretty steady walk, making your way through the small hamlet of Biniaraix with its fresh water wells and cobbled streets along the river with views over the valley and up the steep streets to the historic centre of Fornalutz. The Parish Church overlooks the lively square filled with cafes (yes more apple cake) art galleries and museums. It really does live up to its title.

We had only come to Majorca for a few days and wanted to explore the town of Soller a bit more before jumping back on the tram back to the port. Our whistle shop tour took us to the main street, ‘Calle de la Lluna (Moon Street), home to lots of boutiques, independent shops and a handful delicatessens. The town is full of beautiful homes, retaining old features and charm and it’s a really pleasure to walk through the maze of cool stone alleyways. We had enough time to enjoy a large beer and take in the incredible architecture of Constitution Square. The baroque church stands proudly over looking the vibrant space, filled with bars and restaurants. The Banco de Soller and the town hall are also here, both stunning buildings. There is so much more to see and do in the town including botanical gardens and museums

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So what’s left to tell you…

… Port Soller. The perfect base for our 5 night break. We fell in love with it as soon as we arrived! We stayed in the Hotel Aimia on a bed and breakfast basis and had the most wonderful side sea view.

The team that worked at the hotel were so welcoming and knowledgeable and made our stay here brilliant. As I mentioned our trip was about rejuvenation, the lovely spa area and treatments definitely helped with that. We didn’t have chance to use the outdoor pool, however it was a great area with nice sun beds, seating and bar service. The location was perfect, right in the centre of the bay. To one side you have the old town of Santa Catalina full of wonderful charm, quirky shops and restaurants and then, as you cross the bridge you can enjoy the beaches of Es Traves and Ca’n Repic. Walk along the tree lined pedestrianised promenade and enjoy some tapas or a cocktail overlooking the sea.

The public transport is just fantastic and so organised, you can travel from Port Soller all over the island by train and bus.

There are so many restaurants to choose from, the foodies in Nick and I were in heaven – here are a few recommendations…

Beach Front Vibes – Es Reco Bistro

Amazing Paella – Es Raco Des Port

A Menu with a Twist – C’an Ribes

Something really special – Vint

Majorca isn’t always a top on the list for a early season getaway, the weather can be mixed but we will definitely be back the same time next year. I remember a lovely waitress saying to me ‘this is a great time of year- you can hear the sea’ and that was the thing – out of season everyone had time, time to chat, time to smile, time to say hello. It was just lovely.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog and please get in touch with me for more information.

Thanks Helen and Nick ❤️

Tallinn…

It’s so hard to know where to start, so I am making a BOLD Statement…

The best city break I have been on so far – gosh, there it is – in writing, I guess I had better explain!

Overlooking St Olav’s Church

I didn’t really know what to expect, Tallinn hadn’t been on our list of destinations to visit but thank goodness we ended up here by default. Wow… we stayed at the Schlossle Hotel in the heart of the old town ( see my favourite hotel blog on Facebook for more information about this hotel) all I’ll say is – it is beautiful and we would stay here again in a breath!

The old town of Tallinn is still tucked safely behind the original stone walls of the city. The walls themselves are part of the charm. With there hidden tunnels, imposing turrets and tales of Danish conquest – ‘if walls could speak’ I am sure they would have a secret or two to tell

Over the years the old town has been home to wealthy merchants that came to settle from all over Europe and this is shown in the architecture. Medieval churches and gothic spires overlook the cobbled streets, old mills, warehouses and ancient merchant homes – many dating back hundreds of years that are now home to bars, restaurants, shops and museums. The town is so well preserved it is no wonder that it was awarded an UNESCO World Heritage title.

The labyrinth of narrow streets seem to all lead to the ‘Town Hall Square’ The square looks like a film set! It’s an amazing setting for a lunch. There are loads of restaurants to choose from. We chose the ‘Bella Ciao Restaurant’ mainly because the host was such a good character and made us laugh! However the food was great – wild boar spaghetti and a glass of cider was the perfect match for the stunning surroundings. The ancient buildings in the square are painted in fabulous colours and over look the town hall which dates back to 1322 and has been lovingly restored and looked after all these years. Be sure to head up there during the evening – the hustle and bustle, fairy lights and colours make the square enchanting. The square used to be the setting where thieves and criminals were sentenced to death, luckily nowadays festivals and fairs are held here including a wonderful Christmas market! I can’t think of a nicer place to enjoy a mulled wine 🍷

I love a Birds Eye view of a town, it helps me find my bearings and also spot other areas I’d like to see. Tallinn has some incredible viewing points. One at the top of ‘Troompea’ (the upper town) which looks St Olav’s Church.

My favourite one though, was looking out from the top of that very church – St Olav’s. The 360 degree view is breathtaking and you can see all the neighbourhoods adjacent to the old town itself. A big part of the enjoyment though was watching Nick (as many of you know he is 6ft 6) climb though the dinky doorways and up the tiniest staircase to reach the top – I think even the ticket man was having a little giggle 🤭

There is quite a bit of what I’ll call ‘dark tourism’ here and it’s all the rage! Again by default we fell upon these. The KGB Prison Cells were definitely worth a visit. The stories being told from past prisoners and tales of what happened in those very cells was very sobering, it’s unbelievable that things like that happened not very long ago! There is also the Patarei Sea Fortress and Prison in the Kalamaji district. This is open seasonally and is now known for being one of the best places in the world to see a glimpse of Soviet- era prison life. Even if you don’t go in, walking around the outside of this damp, sea weathered building is pretty eerie!

To ‘lighten’ the mood we booked a private ghost stories walk! It was AMAZING – I loved it. I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit scared at some points ( well jumpy). It was such a great way about to learn about the different buildings, move around parts of the city we wouldn’t have visited and learn some ‘very’ alternative history. Dancing with the devil, black cats in the well, jilted lovers and faceless monks were amongst some of the stories. One of the many things I love about Tallinn is that there is a tale to tell about everything, it really is like being in a fairytale book!

We visited Tallin for 4 nights so we had loads of time to head out of the city and explore some more! We jumped on a ferry to Finland and spent the day in Helsinki. What a fantastic day trip. The ferry port is a five minute drive from the centre ( you can walk if you wanted to) and in just two hours your are there! As always we have a bit of drama and literally got lost. We wondered around thinking, what an earth is everyone raving about- it’s not all that good. After visiting the design museum (very strange but interesting) we all of a sudden stubbled onto the coastline walk, stunningly beautiful and exactly as you would imagine. We followed the sea path stopping for a delicious hot chocolate and cake before reaching Vanhakaupunki which is the Old Town of Helsinki. Here you will find the market square (we picked up a couple of hand crafted fridge magnets here- Nick was delighted), the Helsinki Cathedral and the Uspenski Cathedral amongst lots of museums and gorgeous buildings. The one thing I was amazed at was the shopping! I wouldn’t say that Tallinn was huge for designer shopping, but Helsinki! No wonder the ferry was busy. It was like being on Oxford Street in London (less crazy) Alexander Street (Aleksanterinkatu) begins at the Presidential Palace and is home to fabulous eateries, boutiques and the famous Stockmann Department store. A day was plenty enough to visit Helsinki and we would definitely go back in the summer to explore more of the coast.

We met a lovely guy on the plane who came from Tallinn. He mentioned that there were some amazing parks and green spaces in Tallinn. Lucky for us we had booked a trip to explore some of the different neighbourhoods of Tallinn and what an eye opener! So we started with a craft beer tasting- trying beers from a local brewery accompanied with a tasty deep fried pigs ear 😱 then headed out to Kadriorg Park. Kadriorg Park is the most palatial parks in the whole of Estonia. It was established in 1718 when Peter the Great constructed Kadriorg Palace and beautiful flower gardens. I could have stayed here for hours looking around the swan lakes, Japanese gardens and acres of woodland.

We were whisked away to a completely contrasting area – to the trendy Balti Jaam Market – wow! Three floors of fresh produce antiques, vintage clothing and cool places to eat and drink. There are nearly 300 hundred traders here so you can imagine the variety of things to buy! Crossing over the road you enter the Telliskivi Creative City. This is the former industrial area and is now full of galleries, independent shops and start ups. The street art is great too. In the evening there are gin bars, night clubs and some great places to eat. It reminded me that Tallinn really is a city for everyone.

Unlike me, I haven’t mentioned the food! There are just so many restaurants and so much choice. I would recommend eating away from the square as you can imagine it’s a bit of a tourist trap – lunch is a good idea rather than evening meal.

We had some amazing meals … Controvento Restaurant in St Catherine’s passage- Italian and amazing service – Mega busy so definitely book!

For a fine dining experience book into the Stenhus Restaurant in the Schlossle Hotel. Try the smoked Eels and Elk.

Want something a bit quirky? Head downstairs into Rukkilill Cafe, which translates to cornflower in English. This cafe is tiny, family run and very homely. We tried wild boar dumplings washed down with great wine. The whole menus is homemade and looked delicious.

Something special – book in advance ( before to travel) Rataskaeuvu 16. Great food, lovely cocktails and fab service.

So after all that, make sure you don’t miss the Estonian Martime museum at Fat Margaret’s tower. That’s was really interactive and lots of fun. You can buy a double ticket here that also allows you access to the Seaplane Harbour along the coast. We walked along the coastal path which was lovely. This area would be amazing in the summer. Nice beach bars and access to the sea.

We really did have the most amazing trip and will definitely return in the near future. Don’t let the flight from Liverpool put you off! It was an easy journey and a fab airport – lots of facilities and easy parking!

As always please get in touch if you would like anymore information about this fabulous city!

Razzle Dazzle, Scarlet Nights and Shuffle Board… Beas amazing week in board Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady


Ahoy,

Virgin voyages is not your typical cruise line, this is the first adults-only cruise line of it’s type. It’s unique concept of cruising is apparent as soon as you step onboard. They name things differently for a start, the passengers are called sailors the cruise is called a voyage and us travel agents are called first mates.

I was lucky enough to cruise on board their ship Valiant Lady on the 9th October out of Barcelona. Our itinerary was amazing – Barcelona, Marseille, Cannes, Sardinia , Ibiza , Barcelona

In the weeks before travel I downloaded the Virgin Voyages app, on here I could complete my check in for the cruise, any dinner reservations and use it throughout time onboard. ( It happens to us too 😄 – Like always with technology there were a few glitches however nothing that the team couldn’t resolve at the pier)

Embarkation was really simple and I was through and on the ship within 20 minutes. I was given my voyage band which is used instead of the generic key card, to wear around my wrist for the duration of the cruise, you can use this bracelet style fob to open your cabin door, purchase things on board and use it to check you in and out when going ashore.

Opening my cabin door for the first time I was greeted with the curtains opening and lights turning on automatically. My lovely ‘Sea Terrace Cabin’, was a large open space and had lots of room for my 7 night adventure, and looking at the amount of restaurant choices there were, it was a good job I was onboard for 7 nights, and of course I tried them all.  The best part of my cabin had to be the hammock on the balcony, after trying several times to get into it elegantly (not possible) I loved sitting here with my book and literally watching the world go by. 

On board there is: the Pink Agave which was the Mexican restaurant which was my favourite on board, who knew sweetcorn could taste so good. Razzle Dazzle, a vegetarian restaurant offering a few ‘naughty’ options. The Wake – all meat and seafood. The Test Kitchen – a experimental 6 course menu. Extra Virgin – Italian ( I liked what they did with the name) and finally Gunbae, a Korean BBQ restaurant letting you sit with your fellow sailors to fine and play drinking games. In a additional to all these, you have The Galley which replaces the traditional buffet restaurant and is replaced with small themed kiosks, where you take your seat and order at the table. And finally the Pizza place, perfect for that late night snack.

Virgin Voyages love exercise, I maybe should of taken advantage of all the different fitness and wellness activities on aboard, with one of the biggest gym areas I have seen on board a cruise ship! There was also pull up bars and a boxing ring on the top deck. But I did join in one class which was the 80s dance class, and as much as I tried the only thing I learnt was that I have no coordination.

Virgin voyages is the answer to anyone wanting to cruise child free – for me not being and splashed whilst around the pool ( by kids anyway) was a real treat 😂 and I would also definitely recommend it for for travellers looking at going solo. These adult only cruises are a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong the the free arcade room onboard, brought me back to my childhood of playing pacman, along with the area called ‘ the social club’ were you can enjoy a ‘boozy’ milkshake whilst playing chess, shuffle board and Cards against humanity.

A stand out for me though had to be the staff, they a so friendly and happy to be working and so approachable.Normally on cruise lines and in a lot of other jobs tattoos have to be hidden ( I feel they encourage this with their tattoo palar on board). Without a strict uniform and appearance guidelines they could express themselves and be comfortable and for me that came across in the level of service.

A lot of customers who haven’t travelled on a cruise before always wonder if they’ll be enough to do onboard especially for those sea days, Virgin Voyages have everything, from the sail away party to a Pajayma party. To their very own Scarlett night, were everyone wears red, unfortunately the weather was too windy for this to take place up on the pool deck however the night was hosted inside and was a lot of fun. Around the ship there was so much live entertainment happening in various venues, including ‘pop up entertainer’ that would do pop up, roaming shows around the ship. You will never get bored on this cruise, and will not see the same thing twice.

As you have seen I have so much information to tell you about these incredible cruises that I have actually run out of room on here, one tip I would always recommended though would be to take a picture of your cabin number, it helps alot.

I would love to tell you more, so please call in and ‘SEA’ me. 

Bea

Abbie’s Villa Holiday in Menorca

My first ever holiday abroad was a friends and family trip to Menorca for two weeks in 2016.

It was the first time as a whole family that myself, along with my brother, mum and stepdad had been away all together so we decided it would be nice to spend it with our family friends, sharing a villa. My friend and I were very young at the time and were absolutely screaming over the fact we would be staying with each other for two weeks, in a villa with an excellent view and more the fact there was an amazing pool! (Which we did spend most of our time in during the holiday 😊)

We stayed in a villa in Binibeca in Menorca. The villa, was ideal for relaxing and being only a five-minute walk to the beach had amazing sea views.

One of the main reasons we had chosen to go to Menorca was because we heard that it would be lovely and relaxing of relaxing and we wanted to have beautiful surroundings and wildlife around us. Binibeca is a destination which would tick the boxes for families and couples looking for somewhere to just chill and enjoy their time with a quiet holiday. We were a ten minute walk into the town where there were restaurants and lots of local shops.

One of the days we were there we got a bus down to Mahon and went on a boat trip around the Mahon harbour. Around the Mahon Harbour you see all these houses and villas right on the sea front which is just breathtaking and certainly not what we see in England! After we had finished our boat trip we walked around the market in Mahon and that is where for the first time I got my hair braided which clearly by the look on my face was hurting but I was trying to play it off with a smile. 

One of my favourite days was when we went to the water park which was called the Splash sur Menorca. We travelled on a tourist train down to the water park and spent hours and hours there- pretty much the full entire day. There were several water slides and a lazy river for anyone who thinks slides aren’t for them. The water park also included a kids section making a part of the park for families with young children who did not want to go on the bigger slides. On this day it was the hottest day by far with the clear blue skies and not a single cloud in sight. But my absolute favourite part was the size of the candy floss which my Step dad surprised me with, this definitely put him in the good books. I highly recommend the water park for families and adults who enjoy the fun, it certainly was one of my once in a lifetime moments as a kid!

On an evening we took a 5 minute walk to the beach. We went their most evenings just as a family as it was a moment we got to all share all together ❤️ The sea was a beautiful turquoise colour with the warm water reflecting the sun and the sunsets everything was seen as a dream.

The beach was very much a main factor of our holiday as it was so near and easy to get to it meant it was somewhere we could go and spend all day without needing to travel far, while getting to enjoy the beautiful sunsets everyday!

Binibeca is perfect for those who want to explore locally on foot. The great thing about this area is that it is pretty off the beaten track meaning it is not overly commercialised. The buses were limited to one a day, so next time I would rent a car as this would make it easier to be able to get to and from places.

I would recommend the area of Binibeca in Menorca for families who don’t want to travel around as much but instead want to relax and have a beautiful beach, great restaurants and local shops nearby.

Menorca really was an amazing first holiday for me. We just relaxed and chilled which brought us together as a family – we had never really been away before all together, it was amazing!

I would love to go to Menorca again and this time visit a different part, I’d love to do some from boat trips and further activities.

Thanks for reading,

Please let me know if you would like more information

Abbie

Family Fun in Majorca!

I have just returned from my summer holiday in Puerto Pollensa, Mallorca. It was our first summer holiday since Covid so we decided to have a chilled holiday than an action packed one.

We flew from Leeds Bradford Airport with TUI at 3.15pm. We waited barely anytime to get through check in and security, it took us about an hour so left us with plenty of time to look through Duty Free and get a sandwich for lunch. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed about an hour but that wasn’t much of an issue as we were all buzzing to get there. As we were flying later on in the afternoon we decided to have something to eat on the plane as we weren’t due to get to our hotel until around 9pm in the evening. I do have to say the Ham & Cheese Toastie from TUI really does hit the spot even though it’s pretty basic.

We were lucky enough to get a private transfer from Palma de Mallorca Airport due to us missing the coach transfer from the flight delay – it got us there in half the time when it was supposed to be 1 hour and 30 mins coach journey with all the drop offs. Our hotel was on the beachfront between Puerto Pollensa and Alcudia.

We stayed at the Club Del Sol Resort and Spa in Puerto Pollensa. We’ve stayed at this hotel a few times before and it definitely does not disappoint. We went previously before Covid and they had newly refurbished rooms and they really did look much more modern. The room was big enough with a double bed in a separate room to the sofa bed in the living area/kitchen which was very handy as we were 4 adults. The views of the sea even when walking towards the bus stop at the end of the road was gorgeous. The hotel was just as we remembered with the lobby even having the exact same smell. The hotel staff were so lovely, and the entertainment staff were too. As a family we much prefer to sunbathe and relax than join in with activities that need effort! However, my Mum and Sister did join in with French boules, Petanque and actually won it!

The hotel has 2 main pools as well as a kiddy splash park. Having the option of two pools was very handy as the main pool was much busier as the day went on meaning that we were able to go to the other pool if we had been out in the morning. We were on a self-catering basis, so we didn’t use the buffet restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner however we did go to the Pool Snack Bar several times. The Snack Bar had a good menu with a wide option of foods to choose from however it did close at 4pm so we had to have our tea quite a bit earlier those evenings. But with there being a mini market in the centre of the hotel we were able to get the food we needed for having some meals in the hotel room especially lunch and breakfast. Their sugary donuts were to die for.

Just outside the hotel there was a lovely little bar and restaurant called The Hideaway which is a small family run business. It was amazing, the food was brilliant and so tasty we decided to spend our last night there. They had so many different options including Takeaway and on the last evening they had a lovely singer called Emma who performed many old classics and we had a good sing-along. There was evening entertainment in the hotel on every nigh starting with a kids disco then different music acts, magic shows etc. and even Bingo which unfortunately we didn’t win!

The hotel was very accessible being in between Alcudia and Puerto Pollensa. It was around a 30-minute walk into Pollensa itself which we have done previous times before however we decided to not to walk this time as it was very hot and we wanted to take it easy.  There is a bus service that runs every half hour to and from the hotel into Pollensa and the same with Alcudia which is 2 euros per person and can be paid contactless which you tap for however many people are getting on and then tap it again when getting off at the stop which was much easier than having to pay with cash. On the first night we missed the bus to go into Pollensa so we took a taxi and it actually turned out slightly cheaper than the bus. Which we never expected! We had a lovely meal at El Casinet which is an Italian Restaurant serving pizza and pasta.

We spent most of our time chilling by the pool trying to get a suntan however we did do a couple of day trips. We took a day trip to Alcudia old town which is very traditional with cute Spanish streets and Plazas with restaurants and cafes around. Many years ago Alcudia old town was an important Roman fortress. When walking round you can see the turrets and can walk along the top walls that look down onto the rest of Alcudia. We sat at a restaurant to have some baguettes and drinks for our lunch in the shade as it was very hot when we got there. One of the other times we have visited Alcudia we took a trip to the Bull Ring which was quite impressive as it looked exactly like one out of a movie and they had an offer of a free drink if you bought a ticket to go in. So obviously we did!

We took another day trip into Pollensa Old Town to look around the shops and cafes, it was very similar to Alcudia old town however there are the Calvari steps which I intended to count on the way up but I got distracted looking at the houses and sculptures along the way, I know that there are 365 steps all the way to the top. It was a good work out climbing the steps but we needed a few breaks on the way up. It was so worth it when we reached the top, there was a lovely little chapel with a man sat outside playing traditional Spanish music on his guitar. You could see for miles. On a Sunday there is a market with stall selling many different things including fruit, veg and flowers as well as jewellery and many other things.

We also went on the pedalos at the beach in Pollensa! It was so funny as we kept going round in circles, Mum and Dad had to pedal like mad against the current. I jumped in and had a swim in the sea which was lovely, the water was warm.

On a previous trip to Mallorca we visited Palma, most tour operators offer day trips to the city.  Palma is the capital city of Mallorca and has amazing architecture. My favourite part was the Cathedral.  There is also a guided sightseeing bus which has become a tradition in our family we love a good tour bus or land train!! 

We had a fabulous time and I would definitely love to go back……..although I do want to visit lots of new places too!

48 Hours In Edinburgh

We are so thankful that we have finally managed to get away…

… it may be only a few days, and it isn’t Copenhagen or Kiev, but we are feeling very lucky!

Nick and I have had a fabulous 48 hours in Scotlands Capital – Edinburgh.

I’ve been here on work trips, flying in and out for events, but never had time to explore the city so we couldn’t wait to pop on our ‘tourist hats’ and check out what Edinburgh had to offer!

The train journey up from Leeds is a great start – the scenery is beautiful, travelling along the coastal track, whizzing past Alnwick and Berwick On Tweed, spotting the Angel of the North and arriving at the very central Edinburgh Waverley Station.

Of course like all our journeys, we always have a drama! We travelled from Leeds to York in plenty of time to catch our connection train to Edinburgh. We’d treated ourselves to first class tickets and had a good 40 minutes to spare to relax in the LNER lounge and have a coffee. Strolled along to the platform (so let me plant the seed – I don’t travel lightly, especially in the UK, 3 pairs of shoes, an outfit for everyday, an outfit for every evening, make up etc etc – Nick is exactly the same, minus the make up 😉 so the case is massive!) 2 minutes before the train arrives there is a platform change. Those of you that know York station will remember there is lots of steps and those of you that know me, know I can’t run, so we ‘run’ (with the giant bag- poor Nick) up the steps along to another platform and jumped on the train to Edinburgh- the wrong train!

With 10 seconds to spare, ran to another platform desperately pressing the open button on the train side, to be told by the station conductor to stand back as the train was leaving – thank goodness, it was the London train! As we turned around in dismay, luck was on our-side. In a haze of light, glowing on the tracks was our train! It had been delayed by 2 minutes and like something from a superhero comic, Nick threw me, the bag and himself on and we were Scotland bound!

We met our lovely friends on the train, had a few drinks to celebrate our arrival and a good catch up. We’d booked into the Motel One – it was the perfect location for us walk to all the sights and from the train station. It’s a gem of a hotel, really clean, great service, fabulous breakfast and lovely bar area. Fab price too.

First stop was Edinburgh Castle, wandering through the narrow cobbled streets, walking up ancient steps and passing through hidden closes, we really began to get a feel for this old city. As we arrived at the Castle and looked over the whole city, the Firth Of Forth and Arthur’s Seat we definitely had a wow moment – what a view!

The castle was really interesting with stories about bygone days, baronial halls, tales of the Jacobite Rebellion and beautiful portraits. The National Scottish War Museum is also here and well worth a visit.

That evening we headed for a bite to eat and booked into a cool pub with live Scottish Folk Music. These guys were so talented, fiddle, flute, and guitar- absolutely great!

After a leisurely morning with a long breakfast (something we never really get time for) we were excited to be spending an hour or so in a bubble. I’ve wanted to do this for ages, ideally looking up at the stars in the wadi rum, but over looking the Edinburgh Skyline was good enough for today! It was pretty cool (well boiling inside) and a really unusual concept.

We then headed to Mary King Close. Bea and Will had recommended this! It was mega interesting. I won’t tell you the whole story – “Experience over 400 years of history, and discover the stories of your character guide. From myths and legends, to the deadly plague epidemic, and a famous royal visitor – there’s a myriad of tales just waiting to be told on this one hour guided tour” The tourist in use could resist the photo fridge magnet and matching key ring!

We couldn’t visit Edinburgh and not walk the Royal Mile, armed with our new found knowledge from the tour we wondered from the Castle to Holyrood Palace, there are some beautiful building and lots of shops, including a Christmas Shop!! Unfortunately we ran out of time to go into the Palace but there is always next time.

Tonight was date night! It felt so good to get dressed up (Top Tip don’t wear high heels!) We had booked in for cocktails at Cocktail Geeks – this is a very quirky concept, originally a pop up company around Edinburgh this brand is now based in the arches of the train station and changes it’s theme, decor and cocktails every 4 months. For us it was hero’s and villains and we felt very adventurous with our cocktail choices, a big difference for our usual expresso martini and amaretto sour!

It’s beautiful walking through the city on an evening, wonderful architecture lit up with warm lighting, log fires burning brightly in traditional pubs and laughter and chatter coming from bars and restaurants. It’s definitely a feel good city. We strolled through the old town to Cafe Andaluz for our Tapas (another Bea recommendation) we couldn’t wait to taste the culinary delights of Spain and boy did we indulge! I could list and list what is on the menu, but the Padron Peppers, Chorizo and Paella were delightful – as were the Churros and melted chocolate, ohhh and a bottle Tempranillo 😊 After chatting with the waiting team about how fabulous northern Spain is, we’ve now added that to our list of ‘must visits’

There are loads and loads of restaurants, all sorts of varieties. Our friends ate at Indian restaurant ‘ Ronaq Restaurant Waverley’ claiming it to be the ‘Best Ruby Murray’ ever!

We finished our evening in a cosy and characterful bar, hidden down an old town close called – Half Way House. This pub is a must visit!

And that’s that, I’m now sat on the train writing my blog, with a coffee and cookie looking at the views of Durham Catherdral and watching the deers playing in the fields.

We’ve had a wonderful weekend and look forward to visit again soon. ❤️

Giant gorillas, Turkish wine and getting lost in the wilderness…

Fun and Frolicks on the Norfolk Broads!

I’m sure if you’d have asked me my wish list for a ‘staycation’ that these ideas wouldn’t have been at the top, however amongst lots of fantastic experiences, these helped us make the most amazing memories 😊

So, the first challenge of a UK staycation must be, how much you can fit in the car (along with a dog and 3 adults) The answer is (and I’m sure my lovely friend Kirsty will agree) a lot – especially if food, wine and games are part of the luggage. The one rule we have is that Nick doesn’t pack the car (sorry darling) but he just doesn’t have the patience – no one wants to arrive with squashed crisps, dripping dips and exploded shampoo bottles!

This year we were heading to Bury St Edmunds, we’d booked a lodge with our friends (default from what should have been Paxos) and we were so excited! The drive for us is never too far, we love music so it’s a great excuse to have a great singalong – yes we look a bit crazy, a good catch up and some yummy old fashioned ‘in the car’ sweets!

The lodge was all about the location, oh and a Hot Tub. Aspen Country Park, made for a great base and gave us loads of space for our party of 6. We had done loads of research and there was so much to do, a week wasn’t going to be long enough…

After a few drinkies on Friday night to celebrate us ‘actually getting’ to somewhere on holiday after 2 years of trying, we headed to ‘Go Ape’ on Saturday. Now I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, as is Kirsty, so it was left to the dads to navigate the girls round the Tree Top Challenge! They had a blast and conquered all 5 levels #nailedit. If like Kirsty and I that’s not for you, the course is set in a part of Thetford Forest.

Apart from the forest being stunningly beautiful, it’s a brilliant set up…

…there is Forest Segway, Bicycle Hire and a brilliant adventure playground plus some amazing walks. I managed my 10,000 steps by walking around trying to find our gang on ‘Go Ape’ so I’m not sure who had the biggest challenge!

I’m beginning to think I’m not used to too much fresh air, happily tired and with a good glow (the weather was great) it was homemade Hongkong Style Sweet and Sour Chicken for tea, and a game of “Great Night In”

If I had one word of great advice – prepare yourself. Wow! is the only word I can say about this game. Skateboard drawings that looked like UFO’s, a whole new miming language in Charades and a humming game, of which the memories will be with me for the rest of my life – Possibly in my nightmares!

Bury St Edmonds is a jewel in the Suffolk crown and also known as Suffolk’s ‘foodie’ town, so we definitely hit the jackpot there! It’s simply lovely with elegant Georgian squares filled with bustling cafes and live music, and medieval streets lined with fabulous independent shops. For bigger brands there is also the Arc Shopping Centre. We managed to hit market day, so the town felt extra energetic, there was lots of different stalls from fresh fruit and veg, clothing to furniture and flowers plus some brilliant street food to choose from! I loved the history of Bury St Edmunds, and it really is everywhere. Home to one of the first examples of a road sign and in Abbey Gardens possibly one of the earliest examples in the UK of a sundial. Abbey Gardens was my favourite spot (apart from the restaurants – but more about those later 😉) These gardens are on the site of the former Benedictine Abbey, once one of the richest and most powerful Benedictine Monasteries in England and home to the shrine of King Edmund, the original patron Saint of England of whom the town is named after. The Abbey was destroyed in 1539 but as you wonder around the gardens you can still see parts of the original Abbey and the gardens are framed by its walls.  Enter the gardens through Abbey Gate and entrance is free. The gardens have won many awards and as you walk amongst the beautiful flower beds (approximately 20,000 bulbs are planted for the summer displays), through the rose garden and the wildflower labyrinth it is easy to see why. There’s lots of grassy space so be sure to take a picnic and watch the world go by with views of the stunning St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral is beautiful, originally starting as St James Church in the Abbey grounds, it received its Cathedral status in 1914. The building itself has been developed over the years and most recently the 150ft Millennium Tower added in 2005 and then the intricate guided vault in 2010 makes the Cathedral even more impressive. We were welcomed to come in and explore, they had a local art gallery on display, and we also had the chance the view their very ambitious Lego project, it was amazing and I wish we could have taken a photograph. The aim is to recreate the Cathedral out of 200,000 Lego pieces and for each £1 that is donated, a brick is placed onto the structure. The project that started in 2016 is still going strong and is run purely by volunteers and I think it’s fabulous. We missed the tour of the Cathedral (Cost of £10), which takes you to what looks to be some brilliant viewing points so we will do that next time.

Food and drink – as always, I can’t do a blog without mentioning the two 😊 There are so many eateries and pubs/bars to choose from in Bury St Edmunds, so I wanted the share with you our favourites

Sunday Lunch in a ‘proper pub’ – we booked a table for 3pm at the Mason Arms. The gentleman on the phone recommended we sit outside in their courtyard. What a fab recommendation, undercover, warm and a great atmosphere. Our own fault for booking a later table is that we only got to view what looked like an amazing Sunday lunch but the comments from the tables around us were great. Our food was brilliant, I think most of us, for our mains went for pie and the odd chicken dish – obviously starters and puddings , they were all beautiful. The staff were attentive which was great as they were still doing table service and for beer drinkers, they had a fantastic selection of ales to choose from. The pub also has the ‘Five Paw’ award so taking dogs with you isn’t a problem.

We popped into the One Bull for some after dinner drinks, again highly recommended. Big comfy sofas, high tables, trendy lighting but most of all, a fabulously unique wine list! It looked as though ALL the wines could be bought by the glass too which is pretty unusual. We didn’t eat here but I took a peek at the menu, and it looked good – grazing boards, grilled sandwiched, crispy rabbit leg and feather blade steak were my standouts and mostly locally sourced.

Holly and Abbie, headed to the Abbey Gate cinema one evening. The cinema is privately run and a lovingly restored original 1920’s cinema. They had the latest movies including the chosen Jungle Cruise and the girls loved it…

… time for a cocktail and some more fabulous food. Chris had clocked this amazing looking hotel called the “Angel”. It is an historic landmark in the centre of Bury St Edmonds overlooking Abbey Gardens, the exterior of the building is impressive and then you walk inside and ‘wow’ The newly refurbished bar and eatery are well worth a visit. Extravagantly furnished with a food and cocktail menu to go with it including a new inspired Dickens Cocktail. As many of you know I am a book worm so finding out that this hotel is where Charles Dickens stayed when giving his reading of the Pickwick Papers (hence the cocktail) made me like it even more. Quite a few subtle hints were given to Nick about a lovely weekend break staying at this hotel- I hope they were heard!!

After cocktails, we had pre booked a window seat at Francela – Mediterranean Grill and Restaurant. I’m not sure how to write about how fantastic the food was. We ordered far too much, so it’s a good job our friends like food as much as we do.  A hot and cold meze starter – the ‘Sucuk’ (homemade Turkish sausage), whitebait and fresh green beans were my top picks, then Lamb Alfungi for my main (delicious) and first time for trying Turkish wine – ‘Yakut’ too. The evening here made me so excited to visit Turkey next year. The team here were great, friendly, funny and very welcoming. The girls arrived just on time for pudding, and we said a rather loud and giggley farewell to the staff over a couple of ouzos, promising to return (when Nick brings me back 😉)