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Two nights in Granada: what to do, where to stay and where to eat

Granada has always been a city on my bucket list. Having studied Spanish for ten years, it is safe to say that I have always been obsessed with Spanish culture, the language and the food. Located in Andalucía in the south-east region of Spain is the city of Granada; a city which is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and is famed for its medieval architecture dating back to the Moorish period, especially the Alhambra. This summer I was lucky enough to visit Granada, so here are my top tips & recommendations!

Where to stay

We stayed at Hotel Barceló Carmen which is located in the city centre of Granada, and I could not recommend it enough. Firstly, we went with this hotel as we drove to Granada so we needed somewhere with parking (I’ll share a tip with you later on where we actually ended up parking). Secondly, it was located “600m” from the city centre (we really didn’t want a long walk into the city, especially as we visiting in the middle of August). Thirdly, the hotel had amazing reviews on its rooftop bar and pool. On top of this, the hotel had a decent size gym which was another perk (however, unfortunately I didn’t quite get around to using it).

So, what were the highlights of the hotel for us? Firstly, the hotel has an amazing rooftop with incredible views of the city and a small plunge pool which was a godsend (especially as it was 38’c degrees when we were there). On top of this, the rooftop has a fantastic bar which is open all afternoon (the barman was so friendly and made the best cocktails) that we ended up chilling by the rooftop pool late afternoon both days to recoup before exploring more in the evening. In addition to this, the rooftop turns into a restaurant in the evening with spectacular views of the city. If you’ve been out all day exploring, the rooftop restaurant is the perfect place to wind down and admire the twinkling lights across the city. We were also upgraded to a room with a balcony which was an added bonus, but the rooftop had such a chilled ambiance that we preferred to chill out there.

Before we left, I did a little research on parking, as with all cities parking can usually be quite expensive, and parking at our hotel wasn’t cheap at €21/day. We found an underground car park, opposite the hotel called “APK2 Puerta Real”. We ended up paying less than €14 for both days by parking here and downloading the app. In the end, the man at the car park kiosk updated our parking ticket on the system and then when we scanned the ticket on our phone which gave us the discounted rate to pay by card.

Now, if you are not driving to Granada, I would highly recommend staying in the Albaicín neighbourhood. Had we not had our car, we would have probably stayed in this area. The buildings are a lot older here and are built on the narrow, winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past. This area felt like we had stepped back into Granada’s medieval past, but accessing a lot of it wasn’t easy (think, endless cobble streets, lots of steps & high inclines).

Name: Hotel Barceló Carmen
Number: +  +34 958 25 83 00
Website: https://www.barcelo.com/en-gb/barcelo-carmen-granada/  
Instagram: @barcelocarmengranada
Cost: £60/night

What to do

La Alhambra // @alhambra_oficial

As with any city, there are so many things you can do, but if you’re visiting Granada for a short period you HAVE to get in a trip to the Alhambra. There are limited tickets each day to visit the Alhambra, so I’d advise booking your tickets a couple of weeks to a month in advance (depending on when you go). Luckily, we visited this August when there were very few tourists in Spain due to the pandemic, so we managed to get our tickets a week before (usually they would be completely sold out at this time). We bought our tickets from this Spanish website which I highly recommend. Our tickets were €14/pp which was an absolute bargain and gave us access to all of the Gardens, Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, General life & Palace of Carlos V. At the time of booking, we even had to reserve our entrance time to Nasrid Palaces, so we went with 11.30am. I’d advise booking an early morning slot for entry into Nasrid Palaces, as by midday the Alhambra is busy with large groups of tourists (which is definitely not what you want to be stuck behind).

Tour guides are recommended for the visit as unfortunately there is little signage, however they are not cheap. I came across a few websites which sold guided tours for £170/pp – which is not really what we were prepared to pay. However, if you would like a tour guide, I would recommend Ramon @granada.wanderer, who has amazing reviews of tours in Granada. You can easily spend half a day to a full day here, so it is best to go early morning when the temperature is still quite cool; we arrived at 9am and finished the whole site by 1pm (& we didn’t really sit down at all during this time).

Honestly, I have never been to an UNESCO site as beautiful and exceptional as La Alhambra. It really was the most well-maintained and magical heritage site that I’ve ever visited & I’d highly recommend a long weekend in Granada to see it.

The city centre, the Cathedral & Albaicín neighbourhood

In addition to exploring the Alhambra, the city centre of Granada will also leave you in awe. From walking the city centre around Plaza Nueva to the Albaicín neighbourhood up in the hills, the city centre is rich in history and culture that it’s worth spending a day strolling around. The Cathedral of Granada is located just off Bib-Rambla and is a must see, conveniently it is located next to Calle Alcaiceria which is full of Arabic-influenced bazaars filled with beautiful, Arabic-inspired goods so you can soak up and experience a lot of Granada’s history in this area.

Another area which you’ve got to explore is the Albaicín neighbourhood which is east of the city centre and is accessible by walking the narrow, winding road from Plaza Nueva. The Albaicín neighbourhood is very distinct with white-washed, traditional houses built along the steep hillside, it’s a charming place to explore and to discover the Moorish architecture. We visited Mirador de San Nicolas, which was a fantastic view point to watch the sunset over the Alhambra and the rest of Granada, (it was conveniently located two minutes from the restaurant we ate at that night, Las Tomasas, which was a big plus). Although we didn’t visit any other view points in this area that looked onto the Alhambra, the views at San Nicolas were incredible and there were a few locals there too serenading us which added to the experience. There are many other view points in the area, such as Mirador de San Miguel (which also has amazing views), but once you’ve been inside the Alhambra and to Mirador de San Nicolas, I really don’t think the views will get any better.

Sacramonte

Sacromonte is known as the gypsy quarter in Granada, drawing visitors to the hills for music and dancing after dark. The area is towards the east of the city centre, and isn’t too far from the Albaicín area, so it’s a good place to visit after you’ve done Mirador de San Nicolas. There are many venues in the hillside caves that host dramatic flamenco shows along the narrow Camino de Sacromonte road. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic the flamenco shows were not on but some of the bars were still open.

Where to eat

There are so many “plazas” in the centre of Granada that are filled with amazing restaurants that you will be spoilt for choice on where to eat when you visit. A couple of plazas which had that traditional Spanish feel and were full of cafes, tapas bars and restaurants are Plaza de Bib-Rambla, Plaza de Romanilla, Plaza de la Encarnacion & Plaza Nueva. Trust me, if you explore these areas you will find a great selection of seafood restaurants, independent coffee shops, arabic-influenced restaurants, traditional Spanish food and lots of gelaterias.  

Bodegas Castaneda // @bodegascastaneda

One of our favourite restaurants, that we just so happened to stumble across as soon as we arrived in Granada was Bodegas Castaneda, it was truly exceptional. The menu comprises of authentic Spanish tapas and an à la carte menu. When we went during lunch time, the tables outside were packed full of Spanish families and there was even a short queue to get seated. We went for the “small” sharing platter which did not disappoint. Unfortunately, having discovered this place within the first two hours of arriving in Granada, it meant that a few of our following meals never lived up to this standard of experience and taste.

Las Tomasas // @cocktailgardenlastomasas

However, one restaurant which did, which was located in the Albaicín area was Las Tomasas. A family member recommended it to me as they went there a few years ago and said the whole experience was so magical that it was like being on a honeymoon!

So we requested a table outside by the railing with views of the Alhambra and made a reservation a week in advance. Las Tomasas is not the easiest to get to (we got a taxi to take us there from our hotel which was super cheap), otherwise it would have meant walking up hundreds of steep steps whilst it was still +30’C. The views were absolutely incredible, and the food was sensational too. They played light acoustic music in the background, and I have to say, it was definitely up there with one of the most romantic meals I have ever had. We watched the sunset across Granada and the Alhambra and it was truly an experience that I will never forget.

Planning a trip to Granada and want to know more?

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Ibiza: Off the beaten track

Situated off the east coast of mainland Spain is the beautiful Balearic island of Ibiza; a small, magical island nestled in the Mediterranean sea. For decades Ibiza has been the home to a growing international party-scene, attracting famous DJs from all over the world. In recent years, Ibiza has had over 3 million tourists visiting its tropical shores each year. From its rugged coastline composed of rocky cliff tops and glistening white sandy beaches, to its picturesque countryside escapes and suave beach bars, Ibiza is an island of splendour.  

What to do: beaches & hidden gems to explore

Benirrás Beach // @BenirrasBeachIbiza

A hidden gem located in the north of Ibiza, Cala Benirrás is a popular spot for spectacular sunsets and hippie drumming Sundays. If you want somewhere to chill away from the busy bars and international crowds, Cala Benirrás offers something completely unmatched on the island; from steel drums and hippie vibes to glistening sunsets, Cala Benirrás is a sweet escape for those wanting to have a more relaxing and serene end to the week.

Formentera // @FormenteraIsland

The island of Formentera is an absolute must if you are ever visiting Ibiza. If you are from the UK (like I am) and want to travel to somewhere that feels like paradise, then visit Formentera. We are so lucky to be able to visit Ibiza & Formentera which are only a two hour flight away from the UK. Forget the Caribbean islands and the thousands of tropical islands in Asia. Formentera is Europe’s Mediterranean paradise. Boats frequently run throughout the day from Ibiza to Formentera (it only takes 30 mins to 1 hour). Hire scooters or a car for the day and enjoy exploring all of the white sandy beaches on the island. Finish the day dining al fresco at one of Formentera’s beautiful restaurants, two amazing spots are Bocasalina and Quimera restaurante.

Cala Bassa Beach // @Calabassabeachclub

Located to the west of the island, Cala Bassa beach is a hidden gem. Conveniently, there is also a beach club named Cala Bassa Beach Club (CBBC) on the beach that serves an exciting mix of cuisine ranging from Ibizan, creative fusion, oriental and gourmet. Visit CBBC for a splendid escape in the shade where you can lounge on their white-linen lounge beds, whilst feasting on a delicious array of seafood from traditional Spanish paellas, Octopus, Prawns and Squid – perfect for those sultry Spanish lunches in the shade with the fresh sea breeze.

Cala Tarida // Chirinibiza

West of the island, Cala Tarida is another popular spot in the summer time. Chiringuito Cala Tarida is a great chill out spot for casual cuisine and cocktails on the beach. From sandwiches, pasta and typical Spanish fried ‘boquerones’, spending the day at Cala Tarida will not disappoint.

Time & Space (Ibiza-henge) // @time&spaceibiza

If you really want to do Ibiza off the beaten track, visit the monument Time & Space, locally known as Ibiza-Henge which is an art piece by a famous Australian artist, Andrew Rogers. The 13 stone columns are placed above the cliffs on the west coast of Ibiza above the tiny beach of Cala Llentia. The columns are positioned in a circular shape with a direct view to Es Vedrà rock. The tallest column was built in the  middle of the circle and is topped with 24 carat gold leaf. A popular spot for locals and for more adventurous souls, this place is easily accessible by heading to Cala Codolar, where you can park at the beach and take a short walk up the hills. This is an idyllic spot for a mid afternoon picnic with breath-taking views of the turquoise Mediterranean sea.

Cala d’Hort & Atlantis // @caladhort&atlantis

If you like a good hike and fancy a day of exploring Ibiza’s more secluded spots, Atlantis (Pedrera de Cala d’Hort) made of old sandstone which has been extracted and cut out of the cliff in a shape forming stairs and platforms will give you just that. The different levels of platforms has created seas of crystalline water, surrounded by the beige sandstone rocks. It’s a steep walk down but the enchanting coves at the bottom, are well worth the walk and the climb. Opposite is Es Vedrà rock – the views at the bottom will be sure to take your breath away.

Es Vedrà // @esvedra

The mystical island of Es Vedrà is located south west of Ibiza, opposite the beach of Cala d’Hort. The uninhabited rock made of limestone is a popular view point where many tourists come to visit at the peak of the summer months. If you’re into your photography or want to capture that shot for Instagram then this is a superb spot; watch the sunrise and the sunset with shimmering golden skies and glistening cascades of sea.

Where to stay

7 Pines Kempinski // @7pineskempinski_ibiza

7Pines Kempinski Ibiza opened in the summer of 2018 and is a phenomenal luxury getaway, nestled among the cliffs of the west coast of Ibiza. The white-washed complex boasts sublime views of the sea, as well as a clear vantage points of the famous, Es Vedrà rock. 7Pines is wonderful place to take in Ibiza’s natural beauty, relax and reenergise. They offer yoga classes (with an incredible view) and have a gorgeous glass swimming pool which will make you feel like you are floating in heaven.

Hacienda Na Xamena // @haciendanaxamena

Hacienda Na Xamena is one of Ibiza’s most luxurious (and dreeamiest) stays. Suspended 180m high over the sea level, the white-washed rooms and suites have spectacular views of Ibiza’s coastline. The resort has activities for all ages, from yoga and tennis to volley ball and ping pong, if you are spending a day on the resort there’s plenty to keep you entertained. The resort also boasts 3 fresh-water swimming pools, as well as many unforgettable trips across the island which can be arranged from the hotel reception. For an unparalleled, magical experience with amazing views of the Mediterranean sea to breath-taking sunsets, stay at Hacienda Na Xamena.

Farmer La Granja // @farmerlagranja

La Granja is a hidden gem, tucked away in Ibiza’s pastoral lands near a village called Buscastell. The property offers a nine-bedroom farmhouse, a freestanding, a two-bedroom guesthouse, a pool and a kitchen, which all embrace the heritage of the farmhouse and its inherent connection with the earth. Simplistic, ritualistic and organic, if you are looking for an off-the-beaten-track place to stay, with stylish and simplistic rooms, to a Riviera-chic outdoor pool and picturesque freshly growing rows of vegetables, La Granja is the one. But it doesn’t stop there, La Granja also offers activities from communal farming, to slow-food workshops and lectures which is great if you want to a quiet, rural and enlightening escape on the island.

Atzaró  // @atzaro_hotel

Atzaró is a magical estate in the heart of Ibiza, combining luxury style with Ibiza’s most-loved agroturismo. From beautifully maintained gardens to a refreshing outdoor pool, courtyards, terraces and vegetable gardens, this is another holiday heaven. At the heart of Atzaró is the concept of natural luxury, the resort is sophisticatedly designed with many simple and chic touches, paired with Ibiza-style glamour. The spa at Atzaró and their daily programmes of yoga and wellbeing classes makes this hotel the ultimate getaway to chill outdoors with gorgeous and calming surroundings.

Can Domo // @candomo

Like Atzaró, Can Domo is another hotel that combines accommodation with agroturismo. The beautiful Can Domo is located east of the island in Santa Eulària and is set in the rural countryside of Ibiza. Can Domo’s uniquely shaped, white-washed dome bedrooms makes this hotel an exciting, yet tranquil escape. All of the bedrooms are uniquely decorated by a Belgian decorator who has carefully designed the rooms in pastel tones, each with a unique ambience. But the excitement of Can Domo doesn’t stop there, they even have their own restaurant onsite which is open every evening. They serve Mediterranean cuisine, seasonal fruit and vegetables (from their own garden) and a selection of wild fish, seafood and meat. On top of this gastronomic banquet, they even serve and sell their own homemade extra virgin olive oil, named Oli d´Eivissa (Oil from Ibiza) which can be purchased from the hotel!

Es Cucons // @escucons_ibiza

Located to the west of Ibiza in Santa Agnès de Corona, Es Cucons is a brilliant, modern, family-run hotel. The owners of the hotel who have Spanish, Nordic and Mediterranean heritage dreamt of making a retreat for the modern-day dreamers, which is what they have exactly done. This hotel is a great place to get immersed in the rustic beauty of Ibiza’s natural landscape and will feel like a home away from home. The hotel has a restaurant, a spa, as well as seasonal yoga retreats (there are a few on in English & German this autumn 2020) which take place in their Bedouin tent and gardens. Es Cucons encapsulates the best of nourishing and healing Ibiza. There will be plenty of opportunity to move, eat good food and relax whilst you soak up the blissful sounds of nature.

Where to eat & drink

Vivi’s Creamery // @vivis_creamery_ibiza

Since its opening in 2014, Vivi’s Creamery has become known as the best spot for ice cream on the island. Vivian Rosberg, wife of Nico Rosberg (from Formula 1) is the owner of the quaint, ice cream parlour which is nestled by the marina in Ibiza’s old town. You will be spoiled for choice when visiting here, from mouth-watering ice cream to freshly pressed juices, this is a perfect spot to stop off at to satisfy that sweet tooth.

Natural Pau // @naturalpau

Natural Pau, situated in the west of ibiza by Sant Antoni de Portmany is a flexitarian restaurant which serves the most incredible healthy and refreshing European and Mediterranean cuisine, whilst catering for all food types (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free). Whether you want a healthy brunch or cocktails at sunset their gorgeous al fresco dining setting filled with trees and hanging swings at the bar makes this the perfect spot for casual catch ups with your friends.

Cotton Beach Club // @cottonbeachclub

Cotton Beach Club is located in Cala Tarida to the west of Ibiza. Since its opening in 2014, Cotton Beach Club has become one of the prime spots to visit in Ibiza, with an amazing restaurant and jaw-dropping views of the sea and the sandy beach below. The beach club has a fresh and stylish feel, with all white chic furnishings and a simply divine Mediterranean fusion menu that will make your taste buds tingle. Both the view and ambiance are out of this world, from its magnificent beach to its mesmerising sunsets you are guaranteed to have a blissful day if you visit here.

Destinos Ibiza // @destinoibiza

Destino Ibiza is located on the secluded cliff top of Cap Martinet in Talamanca Bay, overlooking the town of Ibiza, the island of Formentera and the Mediterranean sea. With sophisticated interiors, yet integrated with the rural surroundings, Destino’s exciting island vibe makes it a great place to chill all day with exclusive wellness treatments and open-air yoga classes and amazing food and cocktails by the pool. In the evening, their open-air venue is an amazing place to dance the night away under the moonlight surrounded by unforgettable settings and extraordinary DJs.

Blue Marlin Ibiza // @bluemarlinibiza

Situated on Ibiza’s south coast at Cala Jondal, Blue Marlin Ibiza, now reopened for the summer is another glamorous escape to paradise with day-to-night dining, breath taking beach views, stylish surroundings and amazing live music. If you fancy a boozy brunch with your friends or want a place to party before sundown Blue Marlin Ibiza offers an exciting and energising island vibe.

Lío Ibiza // @lioibizaofficial

Overlooking the picturesque old town of Ibiza, Lío Ibiza is the ultimate place to dine, with stunning dinner scenes to the most extravagant cabaret shows, if you want a delightful and dazzling night watching world-class performers visit Lío Ibiza. Note, Lío Ibiza attracts many of the rich and famous (including Russian billionaires and Hollywood stars) and isn’t the place to go if you want an affordable night watching cabaret!

STK Ibiza // @stkibiza

STK Ibiza is a chic and glamorous restaurant that serves scrumptious steaks and world-class service as you dine. Most evenings they have special DJs and performers in-house to give you the liveliest and most entertaining ambiance as you dine, from dancers to magicians, every moment is enjoyable inside STK Ibiza.


Want to know more?

Planning a trip to Ibiza & what some Ibiza travel tips?
Please get in touch below.

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New York: Best Brunches and Eats (Manhattan and Brooklyn)


Hopefully you enjoyed Part I on New York’s best rooftop bars, if you haven’t already read it you can check it out here. Now for New York’s best brunches and eats; I am so excited to share with you all of the fantastic places I have eaten at whilst in New York.

Like London and many other international cities in the world New York has it all; from chilled and quirky coffee shops, to outrageous daytime brunch parties and elegant rooftop dining spots, there is literally something to tantalise your taste buds every minute of the day in the big apple.

All the brunches and eats below are listed via district as I think this will be most useful to you when exploring Manhattan and Brooklyn. I have also created a list on Google Maps, so you have all the places when you are ready to explore!


Meatpacking District

Bagatelle // @bagatellenyc

Bagatelle NYC is a world class restaurant with restaurants also in London, Ibiza, Miami, Mykonos, St. Barths and France. If you want the ultimate lively brunch whilst at New York, whether it is for a celebration or if you simply want to go wild with your friends, then Bagatelle’s brunch party that starts every Sunday from 2pm onwards is a must. (Remember to reserve a table a good 4-6 weeks in advance as brunch spaces are limited and fill up fast).

Bagatelle NYC offers a mix of French Mediterranean style food with many amazing drinks on the menu. Be aware, the food and drinks are not cheap – their pizzas and sandwiches start from around $30 and their giant sharing fish bowls are around $160. However, the beautifully decorated bistro, vibey music, photo booth and drinks which are also served in the toilets are all a part of the fun.

I would highly recommend going if you have anything special to celebrate with your friends or loved ones – it won’t disappoint and the memories will last forever, but your purse might feel much lighter by the time you leave.

Sugar Factory  // @thesugarfactory

Just around the corner from Bagatelle, the Sugar Factory is a particular favourite with America’s rich and famous. The Sugar Factory is every child’s dream (and maybe every adult’s too). From the moment you step in, it is sweets galore with the entrance decorated in an array of M&M’s in every colour. 

Their food and drinks menu screams candy land heaven with Sugar Factory Signature Goblets starting at $40, to Bubba Bubba gum martinis and cocktails which are slightly less. The menu also serves general dishes for kids, as well as salads, sandwiches, food on the grill and pasta, but let’s face it, if you have come all the way to Sugar Factory NYC it would be rude not to order the best sweet treats in town. From classic waffles and French toast, to pancake stacks, banana split crepes and fried chicken and waffles this is the best place if you are craving an indulgent brunch.


Midtown Manhattan

Lavo Italian Restaurant // @lavony

Lavo New York which is located in midtown Manhattan (just around the corner from central park) is not only notorious for its amazing meatballs, but also for its Saturday daytime brunch parties. Lavo restaurant has an industrial-chic feel with a small sized, intimate, nightclub on the bottom floor where many DJs and celebrities perform throughout the year.

Their Saturday brunch party is nowhere near as expensive as Bagatelle’s Sunday Brunch Party and is definitely more affordable for people in their early to mid 20s.

Their signature event includes an indulgent brunch menu, along with a long list of drinks and champagne and amazing music to keep the party going. After you have finished your brunch the restaurant transitions into an afternoon of bottle-popping and confetti explosions. This is a great spot to drink and dance the afternoon away before venturing on to more of Manhattan’s nightclubs.

Eataly // @eatalyflatiron

If you are a foodie you will love Eataly, no matter what time of the day you visit. This vibrant Italian market styled shop has everything from exquisite Italian products to fresh breads, meats, fruit, vegetables and coffees. The shop includes an array of cafes, fresh deli style counters, restaurants and a cooking school which makes it a fab place to eat, shop and learn. Whether you are strolling by the neighbourhood and are picking up breakfast or want a relaxed lunch or dinner, Eataly will fulfil your needs. La Rosticceria serves the most delicious and famous slow-roasted and oven-cooked meats and Caffe Lavazza serves the perfect Italian cappuccino. It is definitely worth stopping off here whilst exploring mid-town Manhattan.

Blackbarn Restaurant // @Blackbarnrestaurant

Blackbarn is a refined and rustic restaurant located opposite Eataly on the upper side of Madison Square Park. If you are a meat lover, this locally sourced, upscale American cuisine served in a farmhouse and barn inspired setting will not disappoint. Many of their ingredients are sourced from local farmers, ranchers and artisans and are paired with the best international wines. Their summer seasonal favourites including their Watermelon Salad and their Buttermilk Friend Chicken will leave you wanting to come back for more. The restaurant also has a couple of private areas which is great for large groups of around 8-10 people. If you’re craving great tasting American meat in a casual dining setting, this is the one.


Soho

Jack’s Wife Freda // @jackswifefreda

Jack’s Wife Freda is a lively all day bistro that serves American-Mediterranean dishes with a unique Israeli and South African twist and classic cocktails, in a modern, bistro setting. The first of its restaurants to open was the bistro on Lafayette Street, Soho, which of course has a very trendy vibe to it. On the breakfast menu you will find everything from Shakshuka to Rosewater Waffles with Lebanese yogurt, to Greek salads and Portuguese steaks. The staff are also super friendly and the music inside makes this a lively spot for brunch.


Lower East Side

Beauty & Essex // @beautyandessexnyc

Beauty and Essex is a stunning restaurant hidden in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The entrance to the restaurant looks like a pawn shop, but as you go through the doors you enter into a huge sophisticatedly styled restaurant with dim lighting and glamorous décor. As with most restaurants in New York, I’d advise making a reservation before you go as the place is busy most evenings. In the evenings, their sophisticated lounge area upstairs is a lively place to enjoy cocktails with friends and dance the night away.


Brooklyn Bridge Park

Neighbors Café // @1hotels

Whilst walking from Brooklyn Bridge over to Brooklyn Heights I came across a delightful little café called Neighbors which is located in the lobby at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. The café is bright and spacious, and has a picnicky feel to it with seating available both inside and outside which makes it a local hot spot for the neighbourhood and for hotel guests. They offer everything from coffee to fresh pressed juices and seasonal salads which makes it’s a great little eatery.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria // @grimaldispizzeria

Grimaldi’s opened back in 1990 in the borough of Dumbo beside the Brooklyn bridge. Since then, the Brooklyn-based pizzeria has taken off and is popular amongst all New Yorkers. Their coal-fired, brick-oven pizzas and traditional pizza-making methods makes their signature pizzas like no other. Grimaldi’s only does takeaway pizzas, which makes it’s a great choice for ordering a pizza back to your hotel, or for eating a slice as you walk through the beautiful Brooklyn Heights. The queues for this place can be long (as with most takeaways) – you can expect up to an hours wait over the weekends, so be prepared to wait if you want the finest pizza in town.

SUGARCANE raw bar grill // @sugarcanerawbargrill

SUGARCANE raw bar grill is a glorious escape from Manhattan’s hustle and bustle. Located on the waterfront in Dumbo, the restaurant offers some of the most stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge with a lively ambience inside and a stunning outdoor seating area. The restaurant is inviting, friendly and warm and offers a delicious seafood inspired menu. Their miso-marinated salmon, beef short ribs and speciality sushi rolls will all have your mouth-watering. Their happy hour which runs every day of the week is an added bonus too – if you’re visiting Brooklyn late on in the afternoon, I would highly recommend stopping here for dinner.

Time Out Market // @timeoutmarketnewyork

Time Out Market New York which is located in Dumbo, Brooklyn is another delightful find. Luckily, it’s located right beside the SUGARCANE raw bar grill, so as you stroll the promenade of Dumbo you can pop by this brilliant food market. Time Out Market has all of New York’s best chefs, drinks and cultural experiences under one roof so you will really feel like you’re in foodie heaven when you enter this place. From takeaway pancakes and finely filled sandwiches to chicken & waffle platters, poke bowls and ice creams there really is something to satisfy your cravings under one roof.

Coffee Project // @coffeeprojectny

Nestled in downtown Brooklyn, Manhattan and Long Island City, Coffee Project is the ultimate dream for all coffee lovers. Their cafes are quaint with an industrial feel inside and are set up so that you can observe the baristas in the moment when they are making your coffee. One of my favourite coffees was their “deconstructed latte” – everything from the presentation, to the experience and the taste was wonderful and I would highly recommend visiting if you are a coffee lover.


McCarren Park

Sauvage // @sauvage_nyc

Sauvage is located near to the border of North Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, overlooking McCarren Park. Sauvage is inspired by the outdoors, naturalists, botanists, farmers and wine producers which is reflected inside with its floral and tropical neo-bistro. Their brunch menu offers many exquisite dishes filled with heritage meats, grains and local specialities; expect sweet tasting dishes filled with cornbread, fennel, spinach and bacon jam and delightful classic cocktails.


Williamsburg

Pies and Thighs // @piesnthighs

Pies and Thighs has got to be one of my favourite restaurants in New York. It isn’t sophisticated and it isn’t chic, but what it is, is a quaint restaurant serving the best comfort food in the city. The restaurant takes inspiration from American, Mexican and Californian cuisines. If you love fried chicken, then make this place on top of your list to visit. Pies and Thighs serves world-famous fried chicken and pie in Brooklyn. My favourite dish was their fried chicken, macaroni cheese and burnt baked beans and not to forget, their amazing award-winning banana cream pie for dessert. If you want to experience true American food inspired by the southern states, then visit here and I guarantee you will be in a food coma by the time you leave.


Planning a trip to NYC?

Like the sound of the rooftops above? Be sure to favourite my New York: Best eats, bars and brunches on Google maps so you have all the locations when you are ready to explore.

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New York: Best Rooftop Bars (Manhattan and Brooklyn)

After visiting New York two years in a row and staying with friends, the city that never sleeps has left me wanting to return for more. Like London and many other international cities in the world New York has it all; from chilled and quirky coffee shops, to outrageous daytime brunch parties and elegant rooftop dining spots, there is literally something to tantalise your taste buds every minute of the day in the big apple.

I am a big foodie myself and I religiously research places before visiting somewhere, so I am so excited to share with you all my guide to New York’s best eats, brunches and rooftop bars. Part II on NYC brunches will be coming out soon.

All the rooftop bars are listed via district as I think this will be most useful to you when exploring Manhattan and Brooklyn. I have also created a list on Google Maps, so you have all the places when you are ready to explore!


Meatpacking District

B. on Top at Gansevoort Hotel // @gansevoort

B. on Top is a chic lounge and cocktail bar located on the 14th floor of the Gansevoort Hotel in the Meatpacking district. The rooftop is a stylish scene, with both indoor and outdoor spaces and incredible views overlooking Manhattan and the Hudson River. In the evenings there is usually a live DJ which gives the rooftop bar the most chilled ambience. We visited here after doing Bagatelle and it was the perfect spot to watch the sunset across the Hudson River whilst sipping on refreshing cocktails.

The Standard Hotel & Le Bain // @lebainnyc & @thestandard

One of the best rooftop bars in the summer is Le Bain, a penthouse discotheque and rooftop bar on the top floor of The Standard Hotel. During the peak of summer, there can be extremely long queues to get in, so it’s best going on to their website and checking out what events they have on before you go. Like the Gansevoort, Le Bain is a sweet spot for watching the sun go down as it is west facing; it even has a plunge pool that’s open during the summer, as well as a creperie on the grass covered rooftop.

If you are unable to get into Le Bain due to the long queues outside, The Standard Hotel’s rooftop bar is a great alternative, it has the views (as seen above), however it isn’t open air and lacks the live DJs like Le Bain next door.

Catch NYC // @catch

This restaurant was one of my personal favourites. Set in the heart of the Meatpacking district Catch is an exquisite seafood restaurant set out over 3 floors. It’s worth making a reservation before you go, as both their beautiful indoor dining area and there slick al fresco dining area is usually pretty packed day to day. This restaurant is known for its celebrity sightings, so be sure to people watch when you go. After midnight from Thursdays to Saturdays the roof turns into a lively nightlife space which is usually open until 4am. If you are a lover of seafood, then this restaurant is definitely not one to miss.


Midtown Manhattan

Refinery Rooftop // @refineryrooftop

Refinery Rooftop is a delightful, chic rooftop bar with indoor seating and an outdoor terrace on top of the Refinery Hotel in midtown Manhattan. During the peak summer months the rooftop can get exceptionally busy, so I would advise making a reservation before you go. This is definitely a hot spot for all the local workers after hours as well many visiting tourists, so expect a wait at the door and at the bar.

The Refinery bar has an industrial feel to it, intertwined with plants and chic lighting which makes it a real fashionable spot. It’s a perfect spot for cocktails and for admiring the views of the Empire State Building before sunset. They also serve delicious sliders which is great if you are feeling peckish after a long day of exploring.

230 Fifth Rooftop Bar // @230fifthrooftop

230 Fifth is a must if visiting Manhattan. This rooftop bar is New York’s largest outdoor rooftop garden with a fully enclosed penthouse lounge and is located in the middle of Manhattan, right in front of the Empire State Building. The rooftop looks just like a summer garden, you are surrounded by trees, plants, umbrellas and picnic style benches; what more could you want? In the winter, the bar also turns into a winter wonderland haven with outdoor igloos so you can get cosy and watch as the lights on the Empire State Building change colour. This really is the place to chill out with friends for casual food and drinks or recoup after a few hours of exploring – it has a super chilled and laid-back atmosphere, so it’s great spot to put your feet up and unwind after exploring Manhattan’s bustling streets.

PHD Terrace at Dream Midtown // @phdterraceny

PHD Terrace is another outstanding rooftop in mid-town Manhattan; it has the chic urban vibes like the Refinery, but also the space like 230 Fifth. PHD is a swanky lounge and restaurant with incredible views of the Manhattan skyline and Times Square.

On a Saturday afternoon, you’ll find the penthouse buzzing with party goers who aren’t there for a long time, but a good time. PHD terrace is renowned for its breath-taking views, which makes it a popular place to go at the weekend. I’d advise going during mid-afternoon or making a reservation if you want to get in for the evening. In the winter time, it’s also the perfect place to cosy up with a cocktail and admire the skyline around you.

  Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room // @sixtyfivenyc @rainbowroomnyc

Located at the Rockefeller Plaza, the Rainbow Room is a sophisticated bar on the 65th floor. The bar has some of the most iconic views in the city, including stunning views of the Empire State Building. I would advise emailing or phoning to check their opening times before you go as the bar is often closed for private events. They also have a strict dress code of “neat and refined” (which unfortunately does mean no flip flops for guys, even when it is 30 degrees outside) – it was only on our third attempt that we were allowed to enter. This is a great and much cheaper way to get the same views, a cocktail and light nibbles if you don’t fancy going up the Rockefeller Centre.

  SERRA on the roof // @eatalyflatiron

Serra is a little hidden gem nestled lower down in midtown Manhattan on the 14th floor of the popular Eataly. The entrance to the rooftop is inside the popular Eataly (which I will cover in NYC: part II). At the top you’ll discover Serra’s oasis of beautiful flowers and Italian dishes all in its fun themed and Italian countryside inspired settings. From formal lunching and weekend brunching, to Serra’s cocktail hour it’s a great place for a summer session and for sipping on rose all day with your friends.

Lower East Side

Mr Purple // @mrpurplenyc

Mr.Purple is a rooftop bar and restaurant located on the 15th floor of Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Different to the rooftop bars mentioned above, Mr.Purple provides gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline and the Empire State Building from the south side. It’s a vibrant bar with a lively feel and is a popular spot in the evening and especially at weekends. On the roof terrace is a beautiful infinity pool overlooking Manhattan which oozes sex and the city cosmopolitan vibes. The terrace is a fabulous place for afternoon-to-evening cocktails and to watch the sun go down.

Williamsburg (Brooklyn)

Westlight & The Turf Club at the William Vale Hotel // @westlightnyc

Westlight and the Turf Club is definitely worth a visit one evening whilst you are in New York. Both Westlight and the Turf Club are located on the top floors of the Willam Vale Hotel.  Westlight, located on the 22nd floor is a rooftop bar and restaurant with seating both inside and outdoors. The bar has a sophisticated design inside with velvet sofas, a chic indoor bar area and an expansive area outdoors which makes this bar a glamorous place to go with a group of friends.

The added bonus is The Turf Club above Westlight which is located on the 23rd floor of the William Vale Hotel. The wide-open space, and 360-degree views of NYC, along with the casual foosball games and lawn games makes this spot one of the best rooftops to go to chill for the night and watch the sunset across the river and the whole of Manhattan. The bar on top serves cocktails and snacks, so even if you don’t eat at Westlight beforehand, it’s a superb rooftop hangout in the summer.


Planning a trip to NYC?

Like the sound of the rooftops above? Be sure to favourite my New York: Best eats, bars and brunches on Google maps so you have all the locations when you are ready to explore.

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Barcelona’s best eats: Part II (2020)

If you haven’t already checked out my original post on Barcelona’s best eats from 2017, then check it out here. I thought I would add a part two as I have been back to Barcelona a few times since then, and I keep discovering more mouth-watering gems and I wanted to share them with you all. I have linked all of their instas below, so you can check out all of their pages. Enjoy!


1. Ikibana // @ikibanabcn

On my last trip to Barcelona I discovered a vibrant restaurant called Ikibana, which may just be one of my best discoveries of all time. Ikibana has three restaurants in Barcelona, one in Borne, one in Parallel and one in Sarrià. Ikibana serves a fusion of Japanese and Brazilian inspired food which is extremely popular all over the world. The restaurant has fused together the two cultures and has created dishes with the most delicious flavours, ingredients, colours and textures.

I visited the one in Parallel in autumn 2018 and from the moment we walked through the door to the moment we left, the whole experience was truly unique.

They have perfected every single detail inside the restaurant, as well as the food. From the beautiful details with the curvy wooden ceiling and hanging tropical flowers, to the images, videos and vibey tropical house music, Ikibana is an oasis of tropical vibes. Some of my favourite dishes were their Yakimeshi, Yakitori and their Avocado Nigiri. There is so much on their menu, if you love asian food & sushi you will be spoilt for choice!

2. Flax and Kale // @flaxandkale

Flax and Kale. This place had been on my list for while, so last time I visited Barcelona I made sure that I made time to try this place. Like Ikibana, Flax and Kale has a real deep history which I really love. The owner of the restaurant, Jordi Barri, was so inspired by his parents’ vegetarian restaurant in Lleida Spain (one of the very first restaurants of that type to open in his town), that he wanted to open up the first healthy-flexitarian restaurant with the intention of promoting a lifestyle which values respect for our environment, our health and our people.

My first bit of advice is to get there early, by 11am there is usually a queue to get in, so the earlier you go, the better. Inside, the restaurant is superlight and spacious with very high ceilings which makes for the perfect chilled-out brunch. Everything on their menu sounds super delicious so I’d advise ordering a few meals and sharing them with your friend or partner. They offer everything from healthy salad bowls, to flexi-filling plates, veggie pizzas, small plates to share, smoothies and desserts. Trust me, the hardest decision of your day will be deciding what to order here.

3. Böl  // @bolbarcelona

This was a delightful little find close to where I stayed one time. Böl is located between Exiample & L’antia Esquerra de L’exiample on a quiet side street. This all-day brunch café is super small with a Nordic, minimalistic interior. As it is not as well known yet compared to Brunch and Cake and Flax and Kale, you can usually walk straight inside and get seated straight away. Böl is another café suited for veggies and offers everything from organic bowls and smoothie bowls to toasts, superfood lattes and more. This place is a little hidden gem and if you love your healthy greens and superfoods whilst being surrounded by lots of greenery then this is the café for you.

4. Bilbao Berria // @bilbao_berria

If you love your tapas, then this place with make your mouth water and your jaw drop. Bilbao Berria is located in the Gothic Quarter beside the Cathedral and is one of the best Basque pintxo places in Barcelona. As you walk through the restaurant you will pass the most vibrant and beautiful array of tapas. The variety and selection of tapas is one of the best I have ever come across – the Basque country is famous for its tapas and this tapas bar delivers.  

5. Cu-Cut Taverna Gastronòmica // @cucutbcn

So, unlike all the other restaurants listed on my best eats, this one is quite low-key but it made the list as their traditional Spanish dishes were just too good. The restaurant has a warm and inviting feel, there is a bar at the entrance which is perfect for tasting their selection of wines; towards the back of the restaurant is a living room style area which is perfect for those who like to sit back, relax and take their time whilst dining. They serve the most gorgeous gazpacho, as well as great patatas bravas. If you visit, make sure you check out their menú del día (menu of the day) for a tasty three course meal. If you’re looking for a place to unwind away from all the hustle and bustle, this place has the perfect ambience for a chilled evening.

6. Mauri Barcelona // @ pastisseriamauri

If you have a sweet tooth, then this patisserie is the one for you. I passed this patisserie several times noticing that so many people were going in and coming out with deliciously smelling fresh bread and sweets treats, so eventually I gave in and thought I must try it for myself. Mauri Barcelona oozes character and life inside. The founder, Francesc Mauri, opened the pastry shop in 1929 when he began his career as a pastry chef. The interior of the patisserie is grand and traditional with tall painted ceilings and shelves adorned with brightly coloured sweets and chocolates. The real surprise is with all of their freshly made sweets, chocolates and patisseries on display to takeaway and savour at any time. The restaurant also has a tearoom, restaurant and private living room, so it’s a great place to go for a celebration.

7. Cachitos Rambla // @cachitosrestaurants

Cachitos is an exquisite restaurant located in la Rambla and Diagonal. From the outside on Rambla de Catalunya the restaurant does not look that big, but when you enter, you enter into a fancy, sophisticated restaurant which stretches across multiple floors with a cool and avant-garde feel.

The menu offers a variety of indulgent dishes from tapas and seafood, to beautiful cured meats and seasonal dishes. Cachitos has a lot to offer. In the evening, the restaurant is dimly lit and has a real cosy and intimate ambience. Many celebrities have also visited the restaurant, so it is good to visit on a weekend evening if you want to get dressed up and go for a glam dinner.



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Travelling Nice, Côte D’azur

A long weekend in Nice and the beautiful Côte D’azur


The beautiful Côte D’azur in the South of France is a popular European holiday destination, but it is also a fantastic for a long weekend away. Flights from the UK and Europe into Nice can be particularly cheap out of the height of the summer months, so visiting in May, June or September is perfect if you want to avoid the crowds, but still want amazing weather.

Nice airport is conveniently located very close to the city centre and the old town, so it’s super easy to get an uber or bus to your accommodation in Nice. I would recommend staying in or close to the old town (Vieille Ville) as this is central to everything you will want to cover in Nice. There are loads of great apartments available on Airbnb, I would recommend browsing on there for your accommodation.


Things to do

  • Cycle Promenade des Anglais

Promenade des Anglais is approximately 7km long and stretches from the old town (Vieille Ville) to the airport. Whether you want to walk, run or cycle it is up to you, but there are designated cycles lanes in Nice which make cycling the Promenade very safe and easy. You can rent the city’s velo vlue (blue bikes) for €1/day which makes getting around the city super easy and fun. As you cycle Promenade des Anglais, keep an eye out for several landmarks including Hotel Negresco and the art-deco Palais de la Méditerranée famous for its theatre and casino.

  • Walk Vieille Ville, the Castle of Nice & the Port

Nice has many amazing landmarks from Nice Castle and the Port of Nice to the old town, there is so much to see within a close proximity. Vieille Ville is a quintessential old town with narrow cobblestone streets, pastel coloured buildings and shops that sell everything from locally made textiles and soaps, to fresh bread and mouth-watering gelatos. From the old town, you can make your way up to the top of the Castle of Nice which offers the most scenic and serene views of the city in its gorgeous park and open spaces. Look out for Cascade du Casteu (the man-made waterfall), as you make your way up to the top. On a clear day, you will be able to see the whole of the Promenade des Anglais, as well as the gorgeous homes set up in hills further inland. Local musicians usually play the guitar or sing at the top of the hill which makes this a truly tranquil spot to soak up the views. The Port of Nice is just on the other side of the hill and is a stunning port to stroll with many seafood restaurants beside it.

  • Day trip to Monaco

If you’ve flown all the way to the Cote D’azur, it would be rude not to pop over the boarder to Monaco. Trains run frequently from Gare de Nice Ville train station directly to Monaco, the tickets are exceptionally cheap and the journey time is about 30 minutes. (If you are thinking about hiring a car, there really is no need. All of the beautiful coastal towns along the Cote D’azur and Monaco are accessible via trains). Once in Monaco, be sure to walk around the Port Hercule, before making your way up to Monaco’s famous landmarks, the Casino de Monte-Carlo, Place du Casino (the gorgeous plaza in front of the casino), the Casino gardens and Café de Paris which overlooks all three. The Casino Gardens and the Japanese Garden which is a little further up the coast are great places to stroll pre-or post lunch. If you really want the best views in town take an uber or the local bus departing from the tourism office to Tête de Chien. You can also get to Tête de Chien from Nice by taking the train to Cap-d’Ail (which is one stop before Monaco). It’s best to do Tête de Chien first thing in the morning, or late in the afternoon – the views will seriously not disappoint (you can thank me later).

  • Day trip to Éze, Cap-d’Ail and other coastal villages

Like Monaco, there are so many breathtakingly beautiful small coastal towns and villages which are worth exploring between Nice and Monaco. From Gare de Nice Ville train station, take the same train line to Éze. As soon as you arrive in Éze you’ll notice you are a few hundred feet from the stunning glistening cove and crystal clear waters. But before heading to Papaya beach to relax, make sure you visit the top of Éze village. For those of you who are adventurous and love a good trek and hillside climb, there is a dusty path that goes up the cliff which takes about 45 minutes to walk. If you’re not feeling up for it, wait for a bus going to Éze just outside of the train station. Once at the top, you won’t know where to start. There are a few boutique stores selling gorgeous French perfumes, clothes and souvenirs but as you enter Château Eza and Eglise d’Eze (Éze church), you will realise there is so much to explore on the mountain top.

If you’re foodie like me, and want to go for lunch or dinner at one of the dreamiest venues you could possibly imagine, then book a table at the restaurant La Chèvre d’or which is part of the Chevre d’or hotel complex. Be warned, the food is expensive, €25 will get you a margarita pizza or a salad, but it is 100% worth it for the views and the experience. After lunch, walk through the cobbled narrow streets of the village before visiting The Exotic Garden. There is a small fee per person to enter the garden, but again, the views will take your breath away. I would have never of thought that I would be in a vibrant tropical garden filled with cactuses in a serene little village on the Côte D’azur.

If you fancying exploring another mesmerising little coastal town, take the train or bus to Cap-d’Ail. Like Éze, Cap-d’Ail has a lot to offer including charming beach walks across the aqua coloured seas and secluded beaches. If laying on a beach for a long time isn’t for you, head to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild which is located in between Nice and Éze. If you are a lover of quintessential French gardens and design, then this renaissance style seaside villa will make your jaw drop. The beautifully maintained gardens and interiors will make you feel like you are in a French Riviera film. The place is ideal to visit late in the afternoon/ into the evening as all of the water fountain lights are turned on and the place is transformed into a dream-like fairy tale.


Nice: 5 Day Itinerary

Day 1

Nice

Start your day with exploring the beautiful Vieille Ville (the old town in Nice) filled with beautiful boutique stores, boulangeries, cafes and gelato shops. As you make your way to the promenade, be sure to stop off at the well-known Cours Saleya where you will be able to buy beautiful flowers and delicious fresh fruit and local produce. After you have eaten your way through the old town, rent a bike for €1/day from one of the city’s velo vlue (blue bike) racks; there are around 175 docking stations in the city which makes it perfect to cycle Promenade des Anglais to the Port of Nice and in and around the city. For dinner, head to Le Hussard a lively, outdoor rooftop restaurant situated in the heart of the old town.

Day 2

Nice

Wake up to the fresh and enticing smells of croissants and pain au chocolats from nearby boulangeries. Spend the day lazing under the glistening sunshine on Nice’s gorgeous pebbled beach. You will be astounded at the crystal-clear waters. For dinner, head to the popular Movida restaurant and watch the sunset from their outdoor terraces whilst eating their delicious mix of Mediterranean, European and Spanish food. If you fancy drinks and a dance later in the evening, go to Waka Bar  (which is beside Movida), it is one of the most liveliest bars in the old town and plays great songs all night. If you fancy something more chilled, head to Farago on the Roof (at the Marriot Hotel) for vibey sunset vibes.

Day 3

Monaco

Start your day with fresh croissants and pain au chocolats from a local boulangerie before taking the train from Nice train station to Monaco. Walk the beautiful Port Hercule, before making your way up the hill to the Casino de Monte-Carlo. Make sure you explore all of Monaco’s famous Formula 1 turns including the Casino Square, Fairmont and Massenet. If you fancy strolling a bit further, make your way to Monaco’s Japanese Garden, a small beautiful oasis with Mediterranean touches which will give you the ultimate zen vibes. For lunch, visit Café de Paris which overlooks Place du Casino and the Casino which is a gorgeous spot to relax, recoup and people watch. After lunch, take a stroll through The Casino Gardens which will make you feel completely immersed in tropical goodness. For the best panoramic views of Monaco, end your day with a climb to Tete de Chien, La Turbie for breath-taking sunset views across Monaco.

Day 4

Éze

Take the Renfre train from Nice’s main train station to the beautiful costal village of Éze. Walk up the dusty cliff side to the peak of the hill where you will find Éze village which comprises of Eglise d’Eze (a Catholic church), Chevre d’or (a phenomenal hotel with a Michelin starred restaurant) and The Exotic Garden. From small artisanal shops embedded in and under the rocks, to intimate walkways (think, Santorini style) and breath taking views, this quaint little village perched on the top of the hill will leave you wandering endlessly for hours. Head to the stunning Papaya beach for rest and relaxation for the rest of the afternoon. If you fancy venturing further, Cap-d’Ail  is another beautiful costal town worth exploring.

For dinner, visit Papayou in one of the beautiful side streets in Nice old town, they serve the most delicious French and Asian dishes – it will be a culinary experience that you wont forget.

Day 5

Nice

Start the day with breakfast at Tire Bouchon Café located in Nice’s Vielle Ville, they serve everything from delicious French omelettes, to Nordic inspired bagels and pancakes, what more could you want? After, take a stroll up the windy streets to the top of the Castle Hill where you will be amazed by stunning panoramic city and ocean views overlooking Nice; look out for their man-made waterfall en route too. On your descent, check out the ‘I love Nice’ sign with views of the Promenade des Anglais in the background. Finish your trip with a relaxing afternoon at Castel Plage (a beach bar and restaurant) situated at the end of the beach adjacent to Castle Hill.


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Cuba: 10 Day Itinerary

Day 1

Havana

Wake up and get lost in the beautiful old town, la Habana Vieja. The narrow, windey streets are filled with lots of Cuban cafes, artisan shops and fruit stalls. Visit the plaza by Convento de San Francisco, and take time to sink into tranquillity and people watch. Pop by “El Floridita Bar”, home of the daiquiri for lunch and a cocktail. Of course, the strawberry daiquiri is a must here.

From here, take a stroll to el Capitolio (the national capital building) and el Parque Central. El Parque Central is a popular spot to sit down, relax and watch all of the old Cuban cars drive by. You will really feel the heart of Cuba’s hustle and bustle here. For dinner, head to La Guarida, this is one of the most famous restaurants in Havana (and has been the filming location for several films). From the outside, it will seem like you have arrived to a derelict building, but as you make your way up the stairs you will feel like you are stepping back in time into a 1940s film noir – the ambience, the food and the views make this restaurant and bar an unforgettable experience.

Day 2

Havana

Start your day with an old Cuban car tour. The popular spots to hail an old vintage car is in el Parque Central or by the port. Your driver will most likely take you to Che Guevara’s house over at Casablanca which offers a unique viewpoint which looks back onto the city, the famous coastline road El Malecón, el Capitolio (the national capital building), Plaza de la Revolución (where Fidel Castro famously addressed millions of Cubans during political speeches, as well as monuments dedicated to other notable figures Che Guevara and José Martí) and the notorious, Hotel Nacional, home of the mafia.

For dinner, try El Cocinero an intimate restaurant and terrace with a contemporary feel. The restaurant’s unique tall standing chimney makes the restaurant quite a stand out landmark itself. After, take a stroll in the city centre of Havana and get ready for an evening of cocktails and Cuba’s famous salsa dancing at Casa de la Música de Miramar.

Day 3

Havana

Explore the rest of the city of Havana by foot, you will be amazed at what you find around every corner and each side street. For breakfast or lunch, visit Chacon 162 embedded in the narrow streets of Habana Vieja. After, take a long walk down el Malecón’s 8km stretch of coastline. Driving el Malecón is one thing, but walking it is another. Witness the giant waves crashing into the north of the city as you try to not get drenched.

For dinner, head to Restaurante Al Carbon, there are many restaurants in the city but this one boasts original Cuban décor and walls adorned with framed photographs of all the visitors and celebrities who have visited the restaurant over the years, the food is delicious, especially their grilled menu.

Day 4

Trinidad

Head to Trinidad early in the morning and check into your hotel, homestay or Airbnb. Grab a ride, or if you are feeling up to it hire bikes and cycle to one of Trinidad’s most beautiful beaches, Playa Ancón. On this deserted beach you will discover Cuba’s crystal clear water, soft sandy beaches and fresh sea air. You will feel like you are in paradise. After you’ve sipped on a few fresh coconuts, hitch a ride home and get ready for an evening exploring Trinidad’s cobbled streets. For dinner, go to La Terraza Colonial, for a gorgeous dinner under the stars whilst listening to local Cuban musicians. After, go to La Canchanchara for more entertainment and to try Trinidad’s local cocktail, a sweet mix of honey, lemon and rum, la canchanchara.

Day 5

Trinidad

Take your bikes and cycle the coastline, this time stop off at La Boca, a local fishing village with a lovely stretch of beach. Relax, unwind and spend the day lazing in the sun. If you want to explore a little more, continue as though you are going to Playa Ancón, but stop off on the road and explore the water and rock pools as and when you see them. In the evening, return to La Boca to watch the sky turn into a beautiful sea of pinks and reds and watch the sunset above the ocean. For dinner, try Taberna La Botija, a popular restaurant in the heart of Trinidad.

Day 6

Trinidad

Have a big breakfast at your homestay or Airbnb before a big morning ahead at Topes de Collantes waterfalls. Your driver will drop you at a coffee plantation which is at the entrance to the path for the waterfalls. Have fun exploring the gardens before following the long trail and signposts to the waterfall. Enjoy swimming in the fresh cold water of Topes de Collantes and the greenery that surrounds you from the canopies. On your way back, be sure to stop off at the view point for panoramic views of Cuba’s south coast. Spend the rest of the day recuperating from the morning’s adventures before exploring more of Trinidad’s cobbled streets in the evening for dinner. Try Adita Café a popular traditional Spanish restaurant, full of friendly faces and an authentic interior filled with large Serrano hams hanging from the ceiling.

Day 7

Trinidad

Wake up and wander the old cobbled streets of the centre of Trinidad; you will discover a labyrinth of paths filled with local artisan shops, ceramic shops and galleries filled with paintings by local Cuban artists. Head to Plaza Mayor to soak up the relaxing rural scenery along with the sounds of the birds. Enjoy a drink and live Cuban music whilst overlooking the plaza on the Trinidad terraces. If listening to the musicians isn’t enough, take a quick walk around the corner to Palenque de los Congos Reales where you can dance the afternoon away to the sounds of Spanish music.

Day 8

Varadero

Get ready for an early morning of travel to the wonderful northern coast as you venture to Cuba’s 20km stretch of Atlantic coastline, called Varadero. Finish your holiday at one of Varadero’s all-inclusive hotels for maximum chill and relaxation. Soak up the sun, swim and sunbathe – you will need it after a long morning of travel. Walk the beautiful, white sandy shore where you will be dazzled by the crystal blue waters.

Day 9

Varadero

If you fancy an excursion and want to deep dive into Cuba’s tropical waters, venture to Caya Piedra underwater park where you will find sunken military equipment and vessels of Cuba’s coastline. If diving isn’t for you, visit Varadero’s markets for local artisan souvenirs, from leather goods to wooden cutlery and hand-crafted drums, there are so many locally crafted goods to choose from. Of course, don’t forget to visit one of the “Casa del Habano” shops for Cuban cigars and Cuban rum before you go.

Day 10

Varadero

Spend the last day however you like. You have probably got a long flight home, so make sure you soak up the sun, sand and sea one last time.


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Havana, Cuba: What to do and where to eat

What to do

  • Visit “el Floridita” – home of the daiquiri

Whilst in Havana visiting the popular fish restaurant and cocktail bar, El Floridita, is a must. Not only is it where the famous cocktail of the daiquiri was invented, but it was also one of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite bars in the city. The building is brightly coloured in pink and white and is situated a few minutes from el Parque Central. The old-fashioned décor makes you feel like you are in the 1940s and the lively atmosphere inside makes it a great place to sit back, unwind and enjoy an original frozen daiquiri.

  • Explore la Habana Vieja

Habana Vieja (the old town) is such a delight to explore. The streets are narrow and windy; when the sun is shining down, it is an exciting place to get lost in. There is a surprising contrast of well-built European style buildings, mixed in with Spanish colonial style buildings which gives Habana Vieja its unique feel. As you wander through the streets you will discover lots of little fruit and vegetable markets tucked away under the shade, as well as locals selling artisanal Cuban souvenirs and tobacco shops. This place feels like a maze, but each and every street you explore is different, with most offering brightly coloured houses and old vintage cars parked on the streets.

  • Tour in an old vintage car

This must be on most traveller’s bucket lists. You will see hundreds, and I mean, hundreds, of old vintage Cadillacs drive by whilst in Havana. Blue, aqua, red, orange, pink – they literally come in every colour under the sun (if you are lucky you might spot the Dalmatian coloured one). A couple of the best spots to fix a ride in a Cadillac is at el Parque Central and Parque Luz Caballero.  At both places, you will be approached endlessly for a ride, so get your bargaining skills on. The driver first offered us an hour’s drive for 50 CUC, but we managed to get it down to 25 CUC, so it is definitely worth a barter. Most of the drivers speak good English (definitely check beforehand that their English is good as it will make all the difference during the ride). On our tour we covered Casablanca (where Che Guevara’s old house is), El Malecón, Plaza de la Revolución and Hotel Nacional before being dropped off close to where we started.

  • Walk el Malecón

Driving down el Malecón (the Malecón) is one thing, but walking it is another. The Malecón is a wide road that stretches for 8km along the coast of Havana (the road was originally built to protect the city from the harsh waves of the north coast). When you walk it, be prepared; every so often massive waves will break against the sea wall and if you are not looking (or just unlucky), you might get drenched by them! However, the panoramic views of the glistening ocean and the colourful old Cadillacs driving by may just make up for it.

  • Visit el Capitolio & el Parque Central

Both el Capitolio (the national capital building) and el Parque Central (central park) are conveniently located in the heart of Havana. El Capitolio is a huge white building with guards standing outside the front (its size and grandeur reminds me of Westminster and the roof reminds me of St.Pauls in London). The building has had many restorations over the past few years, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go in when I visited in 2018, but it is open for the public again. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and well preserved buildings in Cuba with incredible architecture both inside and outside. From here, you are walking distance to el Parque Central which is a great place to sit down and enjoy Havana’s hustle and bustle.


10 best eats in Havana

If you are like me and you are obsessed with food, then Havana will not disappoint. There are so many cafes, bars and restaurants that offer Cuban, Latino, Spanish and Carribbean food that you really are spoilt for choice. I personally love visiting a mixture of restaurants, from small, quaint, off-beat restaurants to authentic Cuban restaurants which are usually slightly busier.

  1. El Cocinero // @elcocinerocuba

El Cocinero is one of Havana’s most popular restaurants, if not, the most popular restaurant to visit. The restaurant, lounge and terrace  is set inside an old refurbished cooking oil factory. The building and infrastructure alone is worth going for. The roof top patio on the top floor is a perfect setting for a romantic dinner and is beautiful for watching the sun go down. As with most of the restaurants in Havana, the cuisine is traditional local food with Caribbean and Latin influences, so check out their menu before you go. If the food doesn’t tickle your fancy, then go there in the evening for drinks.

2. La Guarida // @laguaridahavana

Step off the street into the entrance of the city’s most famous restaurant, La Guarida (the hideout), where you feel like you are stepping into a 1940s film noir.  As you enter the building and walk up the stairs you may have a few doubts in your head if you have arrived at the right place, as a decapitated statue greets you at the bottom of the stairs.

Once you arrive to the second floor you will instantly appreciate the surroundings as you sink into the old concrete floor and see the long dining tables, the beautiful chandeliers and the walls adorned with framed photos. The outside terrace has a traditional Spanish and Italian essence to it, but some of the best views can be found from Mirador bar which offers its own evolutionary cocktails. The restaurant offers traditional cuisine with French, Spanish and Mediterranean influences, along with more modern Cuban cuisine, also known as nueva cocina cubana. The restaurant has had lots of celebrities and well known figures visit in the past including Barack Obama, Paris Hilton and Rihanna for one of her cover shoots, so naturally, the restaurant is more expensive than most restaurants in Havana. There are also so many beautiful corners for photos here too.

3. Al Carbon // @alcarbon.cuba

Al Carbon is a personal favourite of mine. The restaurant is situated on Calle El Chacon, a street just off the old town which leads to the sea. The restaurant is popular with locals and offers many Carribean and Cuban dishes; it now specialises in grilled dishes. One of the most popular dishes on their menu is the grilled octopus (pulpo). The restaurant boasts an intimate ambience and is another luxury experience in Havana.

4. El Dandy // #eldandycuba

El Dandy is an old-fashioned coffee shop, tapas and cocktail bar that offers a very chilled and relaxing atmosphere.  When you enter El Dandy, you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time to the 1950s to when El Dandy was previously open, the place has retained a lot of its original interiors and had a dusty, vintage feel to it. This bar is a great place to escape the strong heat in the afternoon and refuel after walking el Malecón. They serve a good mix of Cuban, Mexican and Spanish food and are a lot cheaper in comparison to the recommendations above.

5. Chacon 162 // @barchacon162

Chacon 162 is a hidden gem tucked away in the corners of la Habana Vieja. From the outside it looks a little basic, but it does basic beautifully. This place is always busy during both lunch and dinner time and offers a selection of mouth-watering Cuban, Carribean and seafood dishes.  Their cerviche and lobster are especially popular. This is a great place to recline after a long morning or evening of exploring. The streets are very small, so most of the tables are set back in the shade; it’s a perfect casual spot to sit back and chill. Their cocktails are exceptional, especially their piña coladas and their staff are very friendly.  

6. Vistamar Paladar // @paladarvistamar

Vistamar Paladar is another charming restaurant which is located just off el Malecón with amazing ocean views. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating with an infinity pool in the middle. Vistamar Paladar has a really luxurious feel, style, taste and an ocean view that is unforgettable. Make sure you book in advance before you go and check what time the sunsets as you’ll want to be there to see the most gorgeous cascades of orange across the sky.

7. Dona Eutimia // @donaeutimia

Dona Eutimia is an exquisite restaurant in the heart of the Habana Vieja which serves traditional Cuban, Latin and Carribean dishes. In fact, they offer so much that it is likely you will return for more. This is precisely the kind of spot you will want to encounter when exploring Havana, a place that harkens back to the past and gives you a taste of how delicious Cuban food can be.  Some of its most popular dishes include the shredded beef and rice, lamb (ropa vieja) and picadillo.

8. San Cristobal – Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski // @kempinskihavana

Ok, so strictly speaking this recommendation isn’t a standalone restaurant, it is Cuba’s quintessential first luxury hotel. However, this place had to make the list due to the breath-taking views that it offers. Their rooftop restaurant called San Cristobal is primarily for hotel guests however, they do open the restaurant and bar to the wider public in the evening. The restaurant offers the most gorgeous panoramic views overlooking el Parque Central and el Capitolio. Make sure you stay for sunset where you will feel like you are in a picturesque, Cuban dream. The restaurant is expensive, but offers a brilliant assortment of fresh and light plates with specials from the tropics. It is a particular great place to book for a celebration.

9. Lamparilla – Tapas y Cervezas // #lamparilla

Lamparilla is another gem in the old town. Great for brunch, lunch and dinner, the tapas restaurant offers a wide mix of Carribean, Latin, Spanish, Cuban and Central American food which are all remarkably well presented with imagination and flair. Croquetas served in mini trolleys and desserts served in coconut shells, this place goes above and beyond to make their food stand out. Lamparilla offers a very cool and chilled atmosphere with many funky & distinct objects hanging from the walls. It offers a truly exciting experience, their constant stream of quick service makes you sit excitedly in anticipation for the next dish. From their suckling pig to their ropa vieja, Cuban cerviche and lobster tataki, both their food and drinks will you make you say “wow” and will certainly not disappoint.

10. Casa Miglis // @casamiglis

Casa Miglis, is a Cuban-Swedish fusion restaurant owned by a Swedish film director named, Mr.Miglis. The restaurant has many typical Swedish dishes designed with a Cuban twist. They offer everything from toast skagen (Scandinavian classic toast) to Cuban chicken nuggets and traditional Cuban seafood casserole. The old-school wooden interiors and dark blue walls makes the bar a classic and intimate setting for the evening. The restaurant through the back is dimly lit with low hanging lights from the ceiling and candles which really gives the restaurant a cosy ambience.


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Bali: What to do and where to stay

Bali is unique. It sounds cliché, but there really is something magical about Bali. Of course, the beaches are up there with some of the most beautiful beaches of the world, and there is an infinite list of things to do. But there is also a certain warmth and kindness which the Balinese people exude; one of their old traditions “Canang Sari” is still practised daily by many Balinese people. The respect and adoration of their culture is refreshing. This, coupled with the balance of Australian and European influence in bars, cafes and restaurants really gives you the best of both worlds.

Over the past few years, Bali has become a hotspot for Western travellers, so avoiding the peak of summer is advisable. However, no matter when you go, there really is something for everyone. Whether you want to relax and soak up the sun, or if you’re adrenaline junkie and want to surf, scooter and hike, there is something for everyone.

Where to stay

Brown Feather Hotel – Seminyak

We stayed at Brown Feather hotel in Seminyak which is approximately 30 minutes from Denpasar airport. There is so much to do in Seminyak & Canggu that Brown Feather Hotel is a perfect place to stay if you know you are going to go outside and explore. The hotel is rustic and quaint, with a small outdoor pool. If you love flowers and tropical trees, this hotel is filled with them, it even has beautiful long vines which overhang from the rooftop to the ground floor and a large paddy field at the very back. The hotel is conveniently located a 20-minute walk from both the beach and the centre of Seminyak which boasts many shops, restaurants & bars. It is also a 10 minute scooter ride away from Canggu which makes getting to La Plancha beachfront and Finns Beach Club incredibly easy.

Name: Brown Feather Hotel, Seminyak
Number: +62 361 473 2165
Website: https://www.brownfeather.com/
Instagram: @brownfeatherhotel
Cost: £30/night

Padi Eco Villas – Ubud

We stayed at Padi Eco Villas in the village of Payangan, 20 minutes north of Ubud city centre. Padi Eco Villas has 7 eco-friendly villas, hand built from bamboo, which are all finished with western amenities. Each villa comes with its own outdoor seating area and there is a beautiful communal pool which is surrounded by paddy fields. If you want a place to chill and completely switch off, then this is it. Expect to fall asleep to the sounds of grasshoppers and wake up to the sounds of cockerels. They also offer motorbike hire, local walking tours through the rice fields and neighbouring villages and day tours to all of the must see’s in Ubud.

Name: Padi Eco Villas, Ubud
Number: +62 831 1953 6934
Website: http://www.padibaliubud.com/
Instagram: @padibaliecovillas
Cost: £77/night

The Mesare Resort – Nusa Penida

Situated in the cool, green hills of Batukandik, Nusa Penida, the Mesare resort offers endless relaxation with 14 intimate huts that overlook the canopies and hill tops. At the bottom of the resort is a beautiful swimming pool stretched across a beautiful lawn, with coconut trees overhanging. The resort boasts an enchanting organic garden, as well as an inviting yoga space set at the top which overlooks the resort (you can pay for a yoga class or use the space to work out). The restaurant beside the pool offers the most delicious and diverse menu, you will be spoilt for choice.

Name: Mesare Resort, Nusa Penida
Number: +62 361 335 0575
Website: https://themesareresort.com/
Instagram: @themesareresort

Mule Malu Resort – Uluwatu

The Mule Malu Resort is in an excellent location, perfectly situated mid-way on Uluwatu’s western coast. The resort exudes tranquillity and tropicalness with palm trees, hammocks and a divine drinks menu. You can hire scooters next door from Bingin Inn. From there, you are free to explore the many beaches of Uluwatu’s west coast including Dreamland, Bingin & Padang Padang.

Name: Mule Malu Resort
Number: +62 821 4420 7937
Website: https://www.mulemalu.com/
Instagram: @mulemalu
Cost: £65/night

What to do

Scooter: Renting a scooter and driving around Bali mainland is unforgettable. As you will find out, a lot of the roads are heavily congested and it is a lot quicker to explore by scooter. Scooters can be rented very cheaply. If you don’t fancy renting one, there are many locals who will kindly drive you to wherever you need to go. When you’re visiting the islands: Nusa Ceningan, Lebongan and Penida, driving a scooter is the quickest and cheapest way to travel (although, not necessarily the safest).

Tours: There are so many beautiful places to visit on Bali and the islands. Ubud offers many tours ranging from Ubud’s elephant sanctuary, rice terraces in Tegalalang, sunrise hiking on Mount Batur and visiting the holy Tirta Temple to name a few. Be sure to do your research before you go, as many of the attractions are becoming increasingly popular with travellers – generally speaking, the earlier you go, the better.

Surfing: Bali is famous for its world class surfing waves. The west & south coasts in particular attract surfers of all abilities, but there are also beaches with smaller waves which is great for beginners. Bali is a great place with many surf schools and board rentals if you want to give it a try.  

Sunset: There are so many beautiful spots to watch the sunset along the west coast. Whether you are soaking up the sun and watching the sun go down in one of Seminyak’s west facing beach clubs, perched on a giant bean bag at La Plancha or my favourite, perched on the cliff edge at Dreamland beach, Uluwatu watching surfers as the sun sets, Bali’s dreamy sunsets are magical, and a must.

Spa: The Balinese seriously know what they are doing when it comes to massages, so definitely book yourself into a spa for a relaxing massage or a treatment.

Balinese Food: Balinese food is to die for, make sure you try their nasi goreng, nasi ayam and nasi campur. Their local dishes are so flavoursome, filled with meats and vegetables and usually, hot chilli sauce.

Brunches: You are spoilt for choice for brunches in Bali. You will find many aussie-inspired cafes and restaurants in Uluwatu, Seminyak and Canngu. Some of my favourites were @StrawberryFields & @CafeOrganic in Seminyak and  @TheCashewTree, @TheLoft and @TheCafeWithNoName in Uluwatu.



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