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A Weekend in Brussels

For the August bank holiday weekend I hopped on the Eurostar to visit one of my best friends in Brussels.

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I hadn’t been back since I was a kid, and I’d also never been on the Eurostar before, but we nabbed such an excellent deal with Eurostar Snap that we just had to make the most of it.

Cafe du Sablon, Brussels

I love visiting friends in different cities. While we ended up doing the usual touristy stuff (checking out Manneken Pis, going to the European Parliament) we mostly ended up relaxing, and eating at the most amazing places.

The coffee was also excellent, and we had a great night out at Madame Moustache. Some of my highlights included:

La Clan Belges, Brussels

Carbonnade at Les Clan de Belges – a meaty and comforting Belgian stew, served with fries.

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A cappuccino at Cafe du Sablon.

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Window shopping on Rue Haute and the Marolles.

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We spent most of our time there walking around, and seeing a lot of the town – we frequented several chocolateries, and picked up some speculoos as souvenirs from Maison Dandoy.

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It wouldn’t have been a proper trip without sampling a lot of beer – and our favourite place was Delirium Cafe, although it is incredibly touristy.

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The waffles were best off of the street, in a van, and the best mussels we had were at Le Pre Sale.

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It was the most beautiful weekend, and I can’t wait to go back again soon!

Have you been to Brussels? Did you go to any of these places? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram

 

Italy in June

I’ve just gotten back from my lovely week off, which I spent in beautiful Italy.

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We flew into Pisa, and spent the first few days going on long walks around our villa and swimming by the pool in a villa in Umbria. There was so much delicious produce, and being away from the hustle and bustle of city life was unbelievably good.

Umbria, Italy

We rented a car and drove around the region – the first place we went to was Assisi, which was one of the highlights of my trip.

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Another amazing day was out by Lake Trasimeno – where we went for a dip after going up the Rocca di Passignano for the views first. There was excellent coffee there, too.

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I also found Lucca completely charming – the Torre Guinigi in particular, with all the plants on the top and for the views.

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We spent our last and final day in Pisa, and had to of course pop by to see the tower, but it was so overrun with tourists that I was super glad to have left it until then as it was quite a hectic experience!

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Before I went on my little adventure, the team at Holiday Gems tasked me the challenge of getting as many holiday essentials for £50. I ended up being so busy in the lead up to my holiday that I had to make do with what was already in my wardrobe, but in hindsight I think the items I found most essential this holiday were:

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent (I was absolutely eaten alive!)
  • A good book (Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is my go-to holiday read)

They’ve got a few helpful tips on their Facebook page too – and they’ve got some serious deals for Pisa too.

What are your holiday essentials? Comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

Merge Festival, Bankside

Last week I headed on over to check out what was going on at Merge Festival – an annual arts, music and performance festival held in Bankside.

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It’s on until the 4th of June, so you’ve got a few days left to catch live music and performances throughout the neighbourhood. The weather was absolutely stunning, so we managed to catch some of the live music on the Thames Clipper, but you can still catch some of the acts at Borough Market, or at Citizen M.

Merge Festival Bankside

We also made it to Drive Dead Slow, which is the trippiest bumper car experience I’ve ever experienced – personality tests and all. I’ve popped down the rest of the events until the 4th below – get yourself down there before it’s over!

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12th May – 4th June – Drive Dead Slow – the ultimate dodgem experience

What: The world’s first artist-designer bumper car arena: a collective of visual, sound and light artists have each adapted a 1960s Supercar to give each vehicle a personality to match your mood. Career around a disused fire station and see which car/ personality you’ve chosen!

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Artists include: Marcus Lyall, Bompas & Parr, Jimmy Cauty, Luke Morgan, Ed Baxter, Tony Pletts and Dave Cranmer.

Where: Southwark Fire Brigade, Southwark Bridge Road (entrance on Sawyer Street), SE1 0EG

When: 12th May – 4th June (ongoing through MERGE), 12:00 – 19:00 daily (until 22:00 on Friday nights)

Cost: Free from 12:00 – 16:00, £5 after

Merge Festival Bankside

12th May – 4th June – Candy Chang Confessions – Hilton London Bankside

What: A top-secret confession booth set up by Taiwanese-American artist Candy Chang. Divulge your innermost thoughts, facts and quirks and write whatever you’d like on a wooden plaque, and leave behind anonymously. Throughout the festival, a gallery of these hanging confessions will be created outside the booths where you can delve into others’ thoughts – some may be shocking and some might show we are not alone in our quirks! 

Where: Outside Hilton Bankside, Prices Street, SE1 0UG

When: 12th May – 4th June, all day, every day

Cost: Free

12th May – 4th June – Acoustic Buskers at Borough Market

What: Perk up your lunch break with live acoustic sessions at Borough Market, featuring local musicians Tim Newman, Lucy May Walker, Alex Monk and Marku Michelucci.

Where: Market Hall at Borough Market, 2 – 4 Bedale Street, SE1 9AL

When: Monday – Wednesday during festival, 12:00 – 14:00

Cost: Free

12th May – 4th June – Skyline Sessions at Mondrian London

What: Head to Mondrian’s recently revamped skyline bar, Rumpus Rooms, for live acoustic music and excellent drinks throughout MERGE.

Where: Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD

When: Every Wednesday during the festival, from 19:00

Cost: Free to enter

12th May – 4th June – Jonny Drop at Boro Bistro

What: Adding extra musical flair to the MERGE line-up are Boro Bistro’s Thursday night DJ sessions, playing Latin, Jazz and Soul on vinyl.

Where: Boro Bistro, 6 – 10 Borough High Street, SE1 9QQ

When: Every Thursday during the festival, from 19:00

Cost: Free

12th May – 4th June – Live music at Union Street Café

What: A celebration of the humble olive at Union Street Café’s Olive Grove. Drink and dine under an olive tree canopy and sip on martini cocktails whilst enjoying live music.

Where: Union Street Café, 47 – 51 Great Suffolk Street, SE1 0BS

When: Every Friday during the festival, from 20:00

Cost: £25 for four small plates and a cocktail (quote MERGE Bankside)

12th May – 4th June – Sunday Sessions at Bedales

What: A weekly Sunday musical experience at the legendary Borough Market bar.

Where: Bedales, Borough Market, 5 Bedal Street, SE1 9AL

When: Every Sunday during the festival (excluding 14th May), from 18:00

Cost: Free

15th May – 3rd June – ‘This is Not Culturally Significant’ at Bunker Theatre

What: A darkly comic one-man show that explores various characters’ eccentricities. Performed entirely nude, it’s both uncomfortable and mesmerising.

Where: Bunker Theatre, 53A Southwark Street, SE1 1RU

When: 15th May – 3rd June, 20:00

Cost: Tickets start at £10

24th May –  4th June – Patrick Tresset’s Machine Studies

What: Immerse yourself in a classroom of 20 robot pupils, each with a distinct personality. Watch how they respond to English, maths, science and art lessons. In another room, have your portrait drawn by a robot as they now turn their gaze on you.

Where: Platform Southwark, 1 Joan Street

When: 24th May – 4th June, Wednesday – Sunday, 12:00 – 19:00

Cost: Free, pre-book a portrait drawing at mergefestival.co.uk

31st May – 2nd June – Caravan Shorts

What: A 15-minute theatre production from a caravan, produced by Robert Linde. Nine audience members at a time can experience one of eight short dramas in this intimate and exciting setting. The caravan will move locations throughout the Bankside area over the course of the festival.

Where: Flat Iron Square (Union Street)

When: 31st May – 2nd June, 12:00 – 14:00, 17:00 – 19:00

Cost: Free

1st June – Electronic DJ at citizenM

What: citizenM gets into the MERGE spirit with a special electronic DJ night.

Where: citizenM, 20 Lavington Street, SE1 0NZ

When: 1st June, 17:00 – 19:00

Cost: Free

4th June – Super Glad at the Union Theatre – musicians

What: Music nights return to showcase local talent at this Bankside institution, paying homage to legendary pub ‘The Gladstone’s Sunday sessions. The day will be jam-packed with live music and drinks, featuring Billy Bones, The Swamp Stomp String Band and Vinyl DJs.

Where: Union Theatre, Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, SE1 0LR

When: 4th June, 18:00 – 22:30

Cost: Free

More details on the festival, now in its seventh year, can be found at mergefestival.co.uk, as well as links to purchase any tickets.

Merge Bankside is a festival curated by Illuminate Productions, created in collaboration with Better Bankside, a Business Improvement District dedicated to making Bankside a place to work, live, and visit. It is also supported by Tate Modern.

Have you made it down to Merge yet? Comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

A Weekend in Mexico City

Back in February I was lucky enough to go to Mexico City for work. It’s always been a dream of mine to go, as I am a massive fan of Mexican food and culture, and I spent one of the best weeks of my life there. I was there for a week, and most of it was spent working – it ended up being an extremely hectic week. I managed to extend the trip so I got the weekend there, and was lucky enough that one of my friends from school recently moved back, so I was able to get some incredible recommendations.

I absolutely fell in love with the city, and would love to go back one day – but I managed to pack quite a bit into my weekend!

Sightseeing, Museums and Culture

I started out staying in the Reforma neighbourhood, so extremely near the Diego Rivera Mural Museum, Bella Artes, and the Franz Mayer Museum.

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I’ve loved Frida Kahlo’s work ever since I can remember, so a visit to Casa Azul was an absolute must for me. I had one of the most memorable mornings of my life there, and couldn’t recommend it enough. I thoroughly recommend buying tickets in advance though, as you’ll be queuing for hours otherwise.

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After Casa Azul, I spent some time wandering around the Coyoacan neighbourhood, too – although the market there was pretty overrated (I’ve got some great recommendations for shopping coming up).

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The museums in Mexico City were really amazing – I managed to get to the National Museum of Anthropology, which was also walking distance from the Museo Tamayo.

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I also wandered around Zocalo, and walked up to the top of Chapultepec Castle.

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Shopping and Eating

My wonderful friend Mercedes gave me the best recommendation for shopping in Mexico City – Bazaar Sabado (or Saturday Bazaar) in San Angel. It’s only on Saturdays, but they had the most beautiful and unusual pieces – not your usual tourist tat. We also stopped off at La Camelia Cantabar for delicious ceviche and chicharrones (pork crackling). It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

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That’s not to say I’m above the usual tourist tat – I managed to pick up several souvenirs at the Mercado de Artesanias, where they had some amazing agua frescas and quesadillas, too.

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Other foodie highlights included La Cerveceria de Barrio for their fish tostadas, and Taqueria El Caifan for their tacos.

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Going out

The nightlife was excellent in Mexico City, but two particular highlights were a Mezcal bar called Bosforo (where they also served quesadillas with crickets) – they had excellent Mezcal and cocktails there. For dancing, I had an excellent time at Cafe Paraiso – it was so much fun.

Mexico City

 

Getting around

I spent most of the time getting Ubers, but spent the last day getting a Turibus around, which was cheap and a fantastic way to see the whole city.

Have you ever been to Mexico City? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!

Paradise Cove

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without visiting a luau.

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It’s unbelievably touristy, and incredibly kitschy, but it’s just one of those things you really have to throw yourself into. We went to Paradise Cove on my last trip, and I had such a fun evening – it was really fun to be surrounded by people visiting from totally different points in their life. You’d be sat next to those celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, to those on their honeymoon – all sitting round a big table, family-style.

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Whenever you book any touristy trips like luaus, scuba tours, or even when you are getting souvenirs, I’d thoroughly recommend going to the Swap Meet and Market Place at Aloha Stadium. It’s on every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and you can find your usual tourist tat as well as deals on tours for a fraction of the price you’d find in Waikiki.

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You have to go in prepared for the level of cheesiness, but watching people dance with fire is always a good time, especially when there are Mai Tais involved!

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The sunset alone is worth going for – it’s absolutely breathtaking.

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Have you ever been to a luau? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram!