TRAVEL & FOOD/ 48 Hours in London

Firstly – I need to make it clear that this photo is not, I repeat NOT a picture from our Greek summer holiday. But it does totally look like it right?

I’ve been to London hundreds of times over the years and have never felt compelled to do one of these posts before, so why now?

Well, because myself and the Mr have been so often, we’ve settled into a routine of doing the same things and eating at the same places, which is nice but also a bit ‘same old’. So this time we decided to change it up – different activities, different places to eat, different areas of London we’ve rarely ventured to, and it went so well it felt worthy of sharing!

After arriving early afternoon and checking into our hotel (just a Travelodge; perfectly fine but not blog-worthy) we headed over to Covent Garden to enjoy a late lunch/early dinner at The Real Greek.

As you can probably tell, we’re not quite ready to let our summer holiday experiences in Santorini go! We arrived here at about 3.30 on a Thursday afternoon and it was really quiet, so we were served really quickly. The food was delicious, portion sizes were good and overall value for money. We’ll definitely be laying another visit.

After dinner (and a quick Google search) we went to check out Blame Gloria a sassy AF basement bar just up the road.

I don’t think I’ve ever visited a bar quite like this! Both the front and back sections of the bar (and the walkway separating them) were decorated in a different yet super cool way, and it was happy hour. Strawberry Fields cocktails all round!

I even got to appear on the telly…hehe.

Then it was time for one final drink at the rooftop bar in Leicester Square before heading out for the evening.

For some evening fun we headed to the 99 Comedy Club which is currently inside Ruby Blue (side note: this is the place where the Mr and I celebrated our engagement 9 years ago.

As well as a delightful host we enjoyed the Stylings of 4 comedians, including Ed Gamble who we’ve seen on Comedy Central/Channel 4 a few times. If you’re a comedy fan, or just want to do something a little different whilst in town then a comedy club is a great option – as well as discovering new comedians to follow, you may be lucky to catch someone who’s breaking into the mainstream circuit at a much cheaper rate (though it may also be worth noting that sometimes the slightly bigger acts have a tendency not to appear at last minute)

Day 2 started bright and early with breakfast at Duck and Waffle, which claims to be the highest restaurant in London.

At 40 floors up (with a speedy lift that made my ears pop) the views are preset darn great on a clear day. To take full advantage, make sure you book in advance and you’ll be more likely to get a seat right next to the window.

How d’ya like them waffles? Quite a lot, actually! Although no duck was featured in mine as I was in more of a sweet mood, so I sipped my green tea whilst munching on an apple and cinnamon topped creation. The only sad part is that it wasn’t bigger.

After breakfast came a few hours of shopping (that part was same old – Oxford Street, Topshop, Selfridges, you know the drill) we headed to the Sanderson Hotel to indulge in the infamous Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea, something I’ve been curious about for years…see what I did there?

Since we only booked the day before we were lucky to get a seat in the courtyard near the flamingo water feature, which is the most coveted location due its quirkiness.

Menus were hidden inside an old book left on the table atop a jewellery box (which cleverly concealed sugar cubes) and were presented with apothecary-style bottles containing different tea blends we coumd choose to enjoy.

They have regular tea and coffee too, if these aren’t your thing.

Then, the Foodie magic happened…

Look how pretty! There were such a variety of flavours, textures and colours that nodded to Alice in Wonderland – marshmallow magic mushrooms, Queen’s jam tarts and crockery featuring the original imagery of the novel.

The staff are super obliging and are happy to refill tea pots and plates (sandwiches and scones), or pop it in a box for yoh if you’re simply too full. I think we paid about £55pp which is pretty standard for central London, however they do add on a 20% service charge which is a bit steep even fkr the Capital, but you can ask for this to be taken off in favour of a more appropriate amount.

After a slow walk from Oxford Street to Leicester Square through Soho (and possibly via the pub) we did something we have very rarely done in London – visit the theatre. There’s very rarely anything on that we both like the sound of, so we decided to take a risk and booked a show neither of us were that fussed but had heared great reviews about – Book of Mormon.

I thought it was frickin’ awesome. Satirical, hilarious, dangerously un-PC and downright weird, I’ve had the soundtrack stuck in my head ever since. Wholeheartedly recommend if you’re not easily offended.

We had a couple of hours free on our last morning so used them to have breakfast at one of Instagram’s favourite haunts, Clerkenwell Grind.

The decor is really cool and chic so it’s obvious why everyone loves it. I’m so into navy blue for interiors right now.

I had a turmeric latte and acai bowl which were both yummy, but neither more so than I’ve had elsewhere before.

As much as I liked visiting here (even though I didn’t get any Insta pics of myself because all the staff were bored and watching us as the only people there) Clerkenwell doesn’t seem to be a natural part of town to visit unless you live round there or are coming here.

Not many people seem to be aware that The Grind is actually a chain and has a few other branches in what I’d say are more convinient locations – Covent Garden Grind sits in a street behind the Piazza, and we actually passed Shoreditch Grind (the original location, apparently favoured by Sam Smith) on the walk to Clerkenwell from Islington. I’d definitely consider going to Grind again, but perhaps one of these.

So that’s our summer visit to London summed up! We had a great time trying new things, some of may make it into our ‘same old’ rotation next time we return.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared the places I always visit in London in a blog post before so if this is something you’d be down to read let me know in the comments or tweet me.

Thanks for reading,

J xx

TRAVEL / 24 Hours in Manchester

This year I’ve resolved to get out and see more of the UK; so I’ve kicked off my pledge with one of the North’s most buzzing cities!

This was very much a flying visit, so we didn’t manage to do a great deal outside of shopping and eating, but I’m sharing my recommendations of places worth visiting if you’re having some time in #manchester

Where to stay

We stayed at Ibis Styles Manchester Portland which is about a 5 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station one way and directly opposite Piccadilly gardens and a short walk to the shops the other.

The hotel has been recently re-styled in typical quirky Ibis ‘styles’ as well as looking fun it also gently pokes fun at the city’s penchant for wet weather…starting with the handles on the front door!

Our bedroom was decorated in blues and yellows, and an adorable Daisy print carpet (which it was just too dark for me to get a cute pic of!

The shower was a great size and had a lovely waterfall shower head, as well as this cute little ‘mist drawing’ on the screen.

Breakfast was served in the adjoining Jamboree which may be one of the coolest spots I’ve ever had a hotel breakfast.

There was a good range of continental food options on offer that were presented in an equally quirky and thoughtful way for diners.

Where to eat

After being introduced by Alex a few years ago, I knew there was only one place I wanted to go for brunch; Home Sweet Home. Based in the Northern Quarter, it offers awesome brunch (they’re also open for lunch and dinner) and some of prettiest cakes on the planet!

Eggs Benny Macho, followed by a mahoosive slice of cake (I *may have had to take this back to the hotel for later)

For lunch, I’d recommend trying some of the street food at the Arndale Centre Market. We stumbled upon it a little by accident but are very pleased we did! There’s a whole host of cuisines to try – ranging from Greek, Indian, Italian, Vietnamese and even a healthy gym kitchen.

I opted for Indian (the Mr had Greek, but ate too much of it before I could get a pic. To be fair, he did let me try some and it was yummy) and got a generous helping of curry, rice and salad bar for £4 which is AMAZING value in any city centre!

Evening entertainment

(images in this section courtesy of Google, as no photos were allowed at this venue)

As big comedy fans, we decided to check out the famous The Comedy Store, based in the Deansgate area which means there’s plenty of places to start and end your night around.

There were three comedians and an MC advertised on the bill, however a couple of extras were added for shorter ‘new talent’ slots so at £18 for a ticket it was good value for money. The comedians were largely unknown but all good (it’s not often I say that at a place like this) particularly the female MC Mandy Knight who is an absolute scream.

The only criticism I have is that the staff weren’t very organised at getting people in from the bar and into their seats; the show started 30mins late and the interval was an extra 15mins. It wouldn’t put me off going again, but I would have my expectations firmly managed to expect this.

I hope this has given you a great little bit of inspiration for your next visit to Manchester and I can’t wait to see where my UK travels will take me next. I hope you’ll be joining me on my adventures!

Thanks for reading,

J xx

TRAVEL/ 48 Hours in Liverpool

Liverpool is without doubt one of my favourite cities. I was thinking about why I like it so much and I’ve decided it’s because it reminds my of my hometown quite a bit, albeit a bigger and perhaps with a teeny bit more polish than #hull (I’m not being negative as I say this- the city is redeveloping and will be on top form before long!). Let’s consider the similarities:

Both are Northern towns with no ‘through’ access to anywhere else except a ferry out of the county. If you’re there, it’s because you were going there.

Both awarded the City of Culture status (Liverpool in 2008, Hull is the current 2017 title holder for the U.K.)

Both have a waterfront area close to the town centre that is a vibrant hub of sociability and local culture

Both have a wealth of cool, independent cafes, quite street art and thriving music/comedy scenes

Both have friendly locals with very distinctive accents!

 Myself and the Mr usually manage an annual visit to enjoy food, cocktails, shopping and some local culture (the latest being this past Easter weekend) so with this in mind I thought I would share a few ideas about what there is to do and recommendations for some of my fave places to visit.

Where to stay

We like to base ourselves round the Dale Street area as it’s very handy for the shops, nightlife and the docks without being right in the thick of the action.

This time we opted for Travelodge Exchange Street East as we booked last minute which is just off Dale Street. On previous visits we have stayed in Ibis Styles (simple with quirky decor and breakfast included) and Malmaison (beautiful but more on the expensive side and slightly further away)

We started our trip with a walk down to the docks, taking in some of aliverpool quirky art and iconic landmarks

  For lunch we headed to Vinea on Albert Dock which is a wine bar/cafe that we’ve enjoyed eating at before. I had a delicious rarebit and the Mr had the more traditional lamb scouse, a must try whilst in Liverpool.

They also do great deli boards, which I’ve had on a previous visit. 

Our next stop was The Beatles Story. We walked the long round from Vinea, only to realise they actually had a back door that would’ve taken us right to the entrance…fail!

We arrived a little before 2 and there were a lot of people The but it wasn’t overwhelmingly busy* (surprisingly as it was a #BankHoliday ). It’s been a long time since I last visited so I wasn’t sure how much I would remember, but the audio tour is a great mix of information and little extra touches like videos and extra sound bites.

Even if you’re not a huge Beatles fan (as we’re not) it’s still a great source of local history so worthy the visit. They have a cute cafe at the end as well which sells themed cupcakes (amongst other things) strawberry fields, lemon sorbet submarine, you get the idea. 

*Tip: For any tourist attraction I’d suggest arriving as they open or a couple of hours before they close if you’re wanting a less busy visit.

In the evening we visited one of my fave restaurants, Alma de Cuba.
I did my first ever food post on them a couple of years back (you can have a nosey here, however I’d like to think my picture quality has improved since then!) it’s inside an old church and is just so unique and quirky. 
The restaurant is on the top floor and is built as a really lovely terrace overlooking the main bar below.

 The food was just as fantastic as before, however the food is no longer South American themed. This came as a surprise and perhaps a bit of disappointment as this is what we had expected, but the quality was still there so we had a very enjoyable foodie fest indeed!

Make sure you sample the cocktail menu, ask the bar staff for their recommendations based on what you usually drink and see if you can try something a little bit different.

Oh breakfast- how were looking forward to you more than is probably healthy for human being! Thanks to a recommendation my friend Lynsey I had already become obsessed with Moose Coffee so there was no question where we would be heading on our first morning. Literally a three minute walk from our hotel we trotted down there for 8.55 as it can get very busy, to discover we had to wait in a small expectant queue of fellow foodies…you know a place is good when there’s a line to get in before it opens!

 My only frustration when I visit there is that there’s too much choice – do I want sweet or savoury? Tea or coffee? What kinda coffee? On this particular visit, this is what we had

It was amazing! Our previous visit looks a bit like this 

As you can see, someone is a creature of habit…hint, it ain’t me! One thing to bear in mine when eating at Moose is that they won’t alter any of their dishes to suit a preference – it comes how it says on the money, if you don’t like anything, don’t order it! I found a good way around that for me was to order a veggie dish with a side of meat I wanted, and I was able to remove things like jalepenos myself really easily.

After a hearty breakfast you need a spot of cardio, so I made like Carrie Bradshaw and hit the shops! Peaches & Cream is virtually next door to Moose and sells makeup and beauty items in ultra girly packaging up front, behind that is a team of make up artists ready to glam you up for a glam night out.

After an exhausting morning for both ourselves and our debit cards at Liverpool One, we dropped our shopping bags back at the hotel and headed to another of our fave places,The Smugglers Cove. Fully comitted to them theme of a pirate ship, it probably wouldn’t look out of place in Las Vegas, but  instead sits nestled in a corner of Albert Dock.

They have a great variety of ‘hearty’ food as well as several different types of rum and cocktails, and that what keeps us coming back.

Forget #bowlfood It’s all about the barrel food here!
Walking off the food with a lap of Albert Dock; there are a wider selection of places to eat and drink along the back varying from chains to cool and independent.

Walking back through tons to pick up the last few bits, heading through Cavern Walks and Mathew Street to take a look at the beautiful boutiques and quick street art.

Our dinner recommendation for the evening came from a lovely sales assistant in River Island. She suggested we try Bold Street for somewhere different, mentioning that Mowgli Street Food was one of her favourite places to eat. This turned out to be a great suggestion.

Bold Street doesn’t LOOK that enticing from a distance, but walking down it uncovers an array of bars, cafes and eateries so is worth the visit. 

Mowgli is a street food/tapas place, the food comes out as soon as it’s ready and it’s recommended that you order 3 dishes each.

We found that sharing all of this left us pretty darn full! It was pretty good value for a central restaurant too.

A short stroll from here is Concert Square, where we ended the night sipping cocktails and shoulder shuffling to some fab choons.

Another thing I found useful is that #uber now operate in Liverpool. I know people have mixed views on using them, but I’ve usually found them really efficient and cheap. When we had spent so much of food and shopping over the weekend, getting 4/5 cabs for less than £15 that debits straights from your account is well worth bearing in mind.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my whirlwind tour around Liverpool! I’m keen to know if you’ve tried any of the places we visited, or if our have any recommendations for our next visit, so make sure you comment or get in touch on social media.

Stay stylish,

J 😘xx