Outings · travel

Flashback Friday – Oxford, United Kingdom

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Last year a friend treated me to a two night UK break. It was a special birthday for me (the big 30!), and so she had booked it as a present.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE hotels! This one was amazing – it was a converted prison! Well it was a castle, into a prison, into a hotel!

I took way too many photos of the room, as you can see! But all the little details was amazing – the carpet, the drawers, even the keepsake toiletries was amusing. (Forgot to take photo sadly). There was several different room options. We stayed in the main block, we think they had knocked down three cells and made one room.

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It really was a unique hotel, very boutique and also quiet! We went on a Thursday and Friday last June. The lobby was pretty, there was restaurants and bars.

You could also wonder round the grounds, and see more of the history and castle. On the bottom floor, was even a replica of an old cell room! There was also restaurants and bars right in the shadow of the hotel. Highly recommend the wine bar just out the front – 1855 Oxford.

The location was great, right in the middle of the city. We walked everywhere. Whilst we was there we visited the Ashmolean Museum, had a pub lunch along the river,  lots of nice food, went into the one of the smallest pubs and also managed to go on a punting boat! We hired one just for half hour, with one guy doing the punting. It’s cliché and touristy – but we enjoyed it! It was surprisingly calming and relaxing, but we wasn’t there in high season.

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I know I love holidays abroad, and I’m addicted to looking and planning future trips. But sometimes to break the year up, its nice to explore other parts of our country! Oxford was pretty, and felt very historic with all the university’s over town.

But the hotel was just amazing, a real find on my friends behalf! Even if you could stay one night, it’s well worth it! Look up Malmaison Oxford.

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travel

Flashback Friday – Amsterdam, Netherlands

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A few years ago, my fiancé and I went to Amsterdam for three nights. We had so many people that had already visited and wanted to see the city for ourselves.

One of the best parts was the short flight, from London Gatwick – it was 45 minutes!     We stayed in a hotel a little on the edge of the city, and chose a basement room for a cheaper price.

The first day we walked, and walked. Just all over the town, taking it all in. Its a very picturesque place with the towering town houses and endless canals. Plus I have never seen so many bikes in one place – everyone owns one!

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I wasn’t too keen on the food there, I know it would have been us as well – but felt like a lot of fast food restaurants and not many independent cute places.

On one of the days, we visited the Heineken Experience, a good brewery experience – but they don’t brew there anymore, so its more of a tour.

On the same day, we also took a boat ride on the canals over a lot of the city, was nice to see the views from a different prospective, and a few interesting facts on the recorded audio guide.

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We did visit the Red light district of an evening too – everyone does – its the tourist thing to do! Felt very surreal to see – just lots of girls in their windows and you just walk past!

On one of the other days, I had pre booked a tour – it was a half day. the tour was to see Zaanse Schans windmills and a traditional clog maker, and then to Volendam – a little village where you also saw cheese making. The time on the tour, you was transported by bus (with commentary) and also for a small part – a boat.

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We visited a working windmill – we actually went inside and the owner let us walk all around. The whole village was very pretty and smelled amazing, as there was a nearby chocolate factory!

Out of all the city breaks I have taken the last few years, Amsterdam is a place I wouldn’t return to. I just think there is too much hype, and there is other new places to explore. Of course, most people are shocked when I say this – but hey everyone has their own favourite’s!

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travel

Flashback Friday – Reykjavik, Iceland

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A few years ago, I had a strong desire to see the Northern Lights, so some research and a trip was booked! We booked Iceland for four nights in mid November.

I don’t normally book package type holidays, but I ended up booking the tours with the flight. I used Wowair,and the process was so easy, and we got a really good price. Hotel was through trusty old Booking.com.

Reykjavik is not cheap which we found out whilst there! Unfortunately I don’t have many photos for this blog post, as they are all stored elsewhere.

Anyway, whilst we was there – we completed three tours, visited the Blue Lagoon and explored Reykjavik on foot.

Two of our tours were unsuccessful! One was the Northern Lights chasing one – there was the tiniest glimmer, but not enough for me to say confidently I had seen them! It was still an experience, being driven miles and miles to where there is no light pollution, and standing in the middle of a road, on a hill looking up at the sky in Iceland!

The other tour was a whale watching one – two hours on a boat in very bad weather! As we got on the boat, the captain was offering everyone another date to come back (we couldn’t as only a short stay), or a sea sickness tablet! We didn’t take the tablet, as neither of us suffer from motion sickness. It was a very rough two hours with not a whale in sight!

The tour that was amazing was The Golden Circle tour, its a long day, over six hours – but you get driven around in a coach to see a lot of natural beauty sites. Such as Strokkur geyser, Gullfoss waterfall, Thingvellir National Park, (where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year.), so you see actual craters in the ground!, you also visit a greenhouse where they grow tomatoes. Everyone else had hot tomato soup, my fiancé and I had a bloody mary! During this tour, there is a stop for lunch, but it is not included in the price, same as the tomato drinks.

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As I mentioned, the Blue Lagoon was amazing – its a must do if you visit Iceland. Such a surreal experience, in a pool which is lovely and warm, but its freezing out and you can mountains and snow! There is Silica Mud all round the outside, so you can even give yourself a facial! In all honesty, I wish we had stayed here longer but we had to rush back for the Northern Lights tour!

So the only disappointing thing about the trip, was the lack of Northern Lights – which is all weather based, and never guaranteed wherever you go! And as you now know, I saw them a few years later in Norway.

Iceland was one of those places I didn’t think I would ever go to, and definitely wasn’t on my list! I was really surprised but how pretty and scenic it all was. Even some of the houses were so cute! I would recommend Iceland, and suggest you put on your travel plans for the future!

travel

Flashback Friday – Prague, Czech Republic

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A few years ago a friend and I went to Prague for three nights.

We stayed in a hotel outside of the city for cheaper rates and either got the tram or walked everywhere.

During the three days we walked all over the city, had an afternoon on the hop on/hop off tour bus, had meals out and visited a very cool cocktail bar.

I was disappointed in the well known Wenceslas Square, but the Old Town Square – where the famous astronomical clock is located made up for it! This was by far the prettiest part of town, and we ended up here several times.

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The bar we visited was called Hemingway Bar, my friend had found on a website and we booked a reservation. As you can guess it was inspired by  Ernest Hemingway.  The drinks were made lovingly and carefully by the bartenders, and we had front row seats – as we was sat at the bar! I loved it in here, and definitely worth a visit!

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As happens with a quick city break, you only see the tourist parts that are well known, but I like to think you can decide from those few days if you would return or not.

From my visit to Prague, I will not be going back. But hey, I experienced it and its another tick off the countries visited list!

travel

Flashback Friday – Fuerteventura, Spain

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A few years ago, a group of rented a villa. It was in Corralejo, Fuerteventura. It was amazing! The place was called Bahiazul Villas and Club.

One of the nicest villas I’ve ever stayed in. It felt really grown up, and luxurious. Lots of white and tasteful decorating.

It had three bedrooms so slept six, and had our own private pool, hot tub and bbq.

The kitchen had a coffee machine which you could buy the pods for. There was a big comfy sofa, blankets, dining table, 2 bathrooms, all of the cutlery, lots of outside seating.

The whole resort was so quiet, it was so peaceful.

We bought food, and had lunches in our villa. We did a BBQ one evening, and ate out in restaurants the rest. We went to the beach. We went into the main town. We had cocktails in a few bars.

One night we even went star gazing! This was arranged through the complex with a very nice lady. A couple came up and picked us up, we had dinner out then drove into the desert away from the light pollution. We had blankets, and a telescope. We saw (very clearly) planets and stars. Was such an interesting night! Sadly, no photos!

The whole island felt so peaceful and chilled. I don’t even have many photos of the island, as we just chilled so much. So here’s a few of the villa!

But if you are looking for a friendly, quiet island with no party town and a pretty villa to stay at – I would recommend this!!

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Flashback Friday – Dublin, Ireland

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Over the Christmas break last year, a few friends and I went to Dublin! We stayed for three nights.

We arrived late afternoon, and went out for a wonder and for dinner. By pure chance, we chose a very cool first restaurant! It was a converted church – a very unique place, there was three floors and all were different in style. Food and drinks was good and tasty.

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The next morning we took a bus to Kilmainham Gaol. I had pre-booked tickets before we left, as I had researched it gets busy. It was an interesting, if slightly cold tour! You are taken around in groups by a tour guide. The best part was the east wing – all still in good condition to wonder, and they have some cells open for you to look in. This particular part has been used for filming for various films and tv shows!

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We then walked to the Guinness Storehouse, none of us like Guinness – but I think its a tradition for a tourist to see, and I love breweries and places like that! We were glad we did, it’s a museum! It was six floors tall and all in the shape of a giant pint of Guinness! There is also a rooftop bar named the Gravity bar, where you receive your complementary drink.

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We had dinner in our hotel that night, which was in the cellar!

The next day we bought tickets for the Green bus – a hop on and off tour. This also included tickets to the Little museum of Dublin, so we paid a visit. Everything in the museum was donated by the people of Dublin! I of course spotted the Walt Disney film poster!

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We also visited the three storey Disney Store, had a quick pit stop in a old pub called Nearys. Went to the Christchurch cathedral – but it was shut. Walked over the famous Ha’penny bridge (see top photo!), and then went to the Temple Bar!

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It was the most Christmassiest (I know it’s not a word, but best way to describe it!) pub I have ever seen! Yes it was expensive and busy, but its a must do!

We had another dinner out on the way at a different pub, then back to the hotel for the last night. Was a lovely little city break, and such a nice short flight from London!

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Flashback Friday – Rome, Italy

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A few years ago I went to Rome for three nights with my parents. I had wanted to visit Italy for years but not got round to it!

We booked the hotel and flight separate (we tend to do this about 90% of the time with our holidays).

We stayed at the Hotel Romanico Palace & Spa. Where breakfast was served upstairs with a view!

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We crammed a lot in those three days, and with dates with work, we ended up going in early July, and oh my goodness – it was steaming!

As the flight was short, and we arrived in the afternoon, we changed and went straight out for lunch. I had an anchovy pizza!

We walked around, found the Spanish steps, walked down them, mooched around and arrived at The Pantheon. There was a slight queue to get in, but once inside, everyone spreads out. Its a an amazing building with the perfectly symmetrical circle in the ceiling. So we had seen two famous attractions within hours of landing!

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Unfortunately The Trevi Fountain had maintenance works whilst we was there, so it was emptied out and there was scaffolding etc.

The next day we used the subway to go to The Vatican. We did wonder the grounds, but sadly we didn’t go in. The queue was an hour to get in and most of it was outside in the burning sun. looking back, I do regret not waiting!

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We also had another delicious lunch round the corner. we walked for ages that day, and we saw the Altare della Patria from afar, so walked down, stood on the steps, had a few photos. It is  known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II or Il Vittoriano, is a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.

We had dinner out, where I tried my first Aperol Spritz. I was not a fan!

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The next day we went to The Colosseum, again the queue was huge and in the sun, but we persevered! The building itself is huge. Towering above you, then when you are inside, there’s so many levels. If you to Rome, make sure you pay a visit.

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Your ticket also allows you access to the gardens, views and other sites out the back. We took advantage of that and walked all the way to the top to see some great views of Rome.

Everyday I made sure I had a gelato, and made full use of all the Italian food on offer!

Rome is a really historic city to visit, I would go again – just not in July!!