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A Weekend in Wales

When the team at Visit Wales invited me to spend a weekend in Bangor, I was very excited – but I don’t think I could have pictured just how amazing it was all going to be.

Menai BridgeMenai BridgeMy holidays are usually based around food, beaches, museums, and architecture – I’ve never really gone on an adventure holiday before, and really wasn’t sure what to expect. In the original brief, I was going to be spending a weekend in Bangor, going on a high-speed RIB ride around the Menai Strait – and it was only as an afterthought that an afternoon on a zipline course was added, too.

Menai Strait RIB RideMenai Strait RIB RideMenai Strait RIB RideMenai Strait RIB RideI hadn’t really appreciated how stunning this part of the world is. Dramatic, snow capped scenery surrounded us on the RIB ride – a high-speed journey that had our hearts racing.

I really enjoyed the ride, which combined a little bit of local history and sightseeing along with some manoeuvres that had me digging my nails into the seat! I managed to snag the very front of the boat for the last few minutes, and was fully convinced that I was going to fly out of the boat at any moment.

Menai Strait RIB RideMenai Strait RIB RideMenai Strait RIB RideAfter a windy trip we headed for a bite to eat at Ye Olde Bulls Head Inn in Beaumaris, where we tried some of the amazing locally sourced seafood.

Menai Strait RIB RideMenai Strait RIB RideMenai Strait RIB RideIt was only over dinner that I looked at the itinerary for the next day – and my heart almost stopped.

I was expecting something along the lines of what I’d experienced a few months before at Go Ape. What I was not expecting was that Penrhyn Quarry is home to Zip World, the longest zipline in Europe. Not only that, but I would be five hundred feet in the air, at 100 miles per hour. As someone who is terrified of heights, the thought of what I had just signed myself up for filled me with total, utter fear.

Zip World UK, WalesZip World UK, WalesIt was only with a lot of encouragement from my boyfriend that I even managed to get there at all, I was so petrified. Even once I arrived, I remained unconvinced – I burst into tears around three times just at the thought!

First up was the Little Zipper (which is still the fifth biggest zip line in Europe!) I was so, so scared, but the staff at Zip World were so professional, and really reassuring, that once I got going I was able to enjoy zipping over the trees, and I felt like I was flying.

Zip World UK, Wales
The biggest challenge, though, was the Big Zipper – even the drive up to the top of the quarry was making me feel dizzy, and once I got up to the top I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it.

Zip World UK, WalesZip World UK, Wales
Despite all the tears, and all of the fear, I did it! It was definitely one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I still can’t quite believe I managed it.

I keep finding myself watching the video of me doing it over and over again – it is something I will never forget.

Zip World UK, WalesZip World UK, WalesI had an absolutely amazing weekend in Wales, and had such an incredible time! It was truly unforgettable, and I can’t wait to go back.

I was invited to Wales, and to try the zip line and RIB ride for the purposes of review – all opinions are fully my own!

The Ship Tavern, Holborn

One of my favourite things about living in London is its rich history. I love the fact that the barbershop down the road from my house is over 100 years old, or that the fact that I work by a 17th century galleried coaching inn, almost directly under the Shard.

The Ship TavernThe Ship TavernSo when the team behind The Ship Tavern asked me to drop by, I was intrigued. Tucked away in an alleyway behind the chaos of Holborn station, The Ship Tavern is a 16th century pub filled with a rich and vibrant history. It was used to shelter Catholic priests at the height of the reformation,  and was also a masonic lodge at one point, too!

The Ship TavernThe Ship TavernOur important business took place in their upstairs dining room, where we got to sample some of their Valentine’s Day menu.

The Ship TavernThe Ship TavernAlthough it was my first visit to The Ship Tavern, it wasn’t my boyfriend’s, who had actually arranged a welcome lunch there previously for colleagues who had just moved to the UK. I think it’s a brilliant choice for taking tourists, or people from out of town. It’s steeped in rich history, and the oak panelled room and decor means you can get the full pub experience without compromising on ambience or the quality of the food.

The Ship Tavern - Scallops with RabbitThe Ship Tavern - Scallops with RabbitThe Ship Tavern - Scallops with RabbitWe kicked the meal off with two starters – the scallops with rabbit and the deep-fried soft shell crab served with caviar. I preferred the former – the scallops were beautifully done, and the rabbit was such an unusual addition, and was really delicious. This was actually the first time I had soft shell crab dish that wasn’t tempura, and while I enjoyed the combination of flavours with the caviar, I missed the light crispiness of the Japanese batter.

The Ship Tavern - Fried Soft Shell Crab with CaviarThe Ship Tavern - Fried Soft Shell Crab with CaviarMy boyfriend went for the Beef Wellington, which came with truffle mash and kale in a red wine jus. The truffle mash was incredible – the portions were extremely generous. It was the ultimate comfort food dish for someone nursing a particularly brutal hangover!

The Ship Tavern - Beef WellingtonI went for the venison steak au poivre, which was served with a haggis and potato pithivier and buttered green beans.

The Ship Tavern - Venison SteakThe Ship Tavern - Venison SteakThe Ship Tavern - ChipsThe portions were unbelievably generous, and I couldn’t manage the entire thing, but the venison was perfectly cooked – just the right amount of pink.

The Ship Tavern - Valentine's Day Chocolate Creme Brulee with Raspberry SorbetThe Ship Tavern - Valentine's Day Chocolate Creme Brulee with Raspberry SorbetJust when we thought we couldn’t possibly manage any more, the chef popped out to convince us otherwise – and a chocolate creme brulee with raspberry sorbet, and a passionfruit pannacotta magically appeared before us.

The Ship Tavern - Valentine's Day Passionfruit and Raspberry PannacottaThe Ship Tavern - Valentine's Day Passionfruit and Raspberry PannacottaBoth items were part of the Valentine’s menu, although I think they need to seriously consider adding the latter to the a la carte menu – pannacotta is my favourite dessert, and passionfruit is one of my favourite fruits, so I was a massive fan of this (and I’m not a dessert person usually).

The service was wonderful – the staff were all very friendly and attentive in the dining room, and we had a really lovely meal.

On our way out we left through the pub – which, compared to the dining room upstairs, was much more familiar. Match of the day, pints, old men – the works, but in a really charming and rustic setting.

The Ship TavernThe Ship TavernThe Ship Tavern I had a really wonderful meal at The Ship Tavern. While it’s a higher price point than the usual pub fare, I think you do get what you pay for regarding the atmosphere and the quality of the food. It’s not necessarily a place I’d recommend to go with little kids, but for visitors to London and history buffs I would definitely recommend it.

Have you ever been to The Ship Tavern? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

The Ship Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
I was invited to The Ship Tavern for a fair and honest review – I wouldn’t blog about it if I didn’t like it!

Kyoto

Kyoto wasn’t quite what I had expected it to be.

Mt Fuji, JapanAdmittedly, part of it had to do with the fact that, right after new year, everything is closed in Japan for a few days. We were just unlucky.

The other part had to do with the fact that I had unrealistic expectations, and the reality didn’t quite live up to them. As the former capital of Japan, I’d grown up hearing about all the ancient temples and shrines there, and how it was so steeped in ancient culture and architecture. That’s definitely still true, there are temples and shrines absolutely everywhere.

Gion, Kyoto, JapanThat’s not, however, quite what you see when you come out of the station, and on the whole Kyoto isn’t the most beautiful city I’ve been to. The unfortunate timing of our trip also meant that all the restaurants that were recommended to us – all fifteen – were closed. So we probably didn’t experience the best food that Kyoto had to offer, either.

Looking back on our trip, we did have a lovely time there, despite our initial frustrations. For one thing, it’s a fantastic city to cycle in. You’re allowed to cycle on the pavements, which are large enough for several bikes, and the drivers there really respect cyclists, so you feel safe on the road, too. It was really fun going from temple to temple, and exploring the city on two wheels (thanks, AirBnB rental!)

We also saw some stunning sights – I’ve listed some of my favourites below.

Gion

Gion, Kyoto, JapanGion, Kyoto, JapanWe headed toward Gion to see the famous Yasaka Shrine, and check out the nightlife. Gion is the famous geisha district, so you’ll find a lot of tourists there, but there’s lots to see and do – you can get some great coffee around there, too.

Gion, Kyoto, JapanKinkakuji 

Kinkaku-Ji, Kyoto, JapanKinkakuji temple was one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve seen in the entire world – it just looked like something out of a painting. It was stunning. I was in total awe, and the surrounding gardens were also idyllic.

Kinkaku-Ji, Kyoto, JapanKinkaku-Ji, Kyoto, JapanKinkaku-Ji, Kyoto, JapanA top tip for tourists – if you don’t want sleep deprived, hungry and grumpy half-Japanese ladies to scream and chase after you in near hysterics, it’s best to avoid dumping several unwanted receipts from your bag in front of something as beautiful as this. Some people are just unbelievable. Unfortunately the tourists in question sheepishly ran away, meaning I had to carry around other people’s trash for a while. I also shot daggers at the people in question, so I hope I ruined their tour by being totally insane. However, I still have no remorse about my behaviour that day. NO REGRETS.

Kinkaku-Ji, Kyoto, JapanLuckily, matcha tea and a traditional Japanese sweet was the perfect way to blow off all that pent up, trash-related anger – it was really peaceful and tranquil in the shade.

Kinkaku-Ji, Kyoto, JapanFushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine is famous for its thousands of torii gates – thousands and thousands of bright orange structures, which line the mountain trails.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto, JapanFushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto, JapanIt’s very impressive, and it has a great atmosphere – unsurprisingly, it’s a lot nicer the further up you go, as the other tourists drop off earlier once they’ve taken their selfies.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto, JapanJust walk a little further up to get a better view (and you can take yours up there, too).

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto, JapanKyotoThere are also some great street food vendors just outside, too – I recommend the chicken skewers and the fish-shaped cakes with custard cream filling in particular. Absolutely delicious!

While our trip didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I did think there were some stunning sights to see in Kyoto.

Have you ever been to Kyoto? What did you think? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on  TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

A Day Out in Tokyo

A lot of my time in Japan was spent running around like a headless chicken – it was new year, so a lot of things are closed, and I spent most of my time hanging out with family and friends. I did spend some time doing some touristy things, though, and here is my list of what to do for a day out in Tokyo:

Harajuku

DSC09128

The fashion in Harajuku is as bizarre and wacky as you imagine, and is excellent for clothes shopping. We went along just after new year, which was a bit of a mistake as all the sales were on, and it was totally rammed. Crepes are an absolute must – they’re really famous, and Marion Crepes are definitely the best.

Harajuku, TokyoHarajuku, TokyoHarajuku, TokyoThe main street in Harajuku is Takeshita Dori, which is just across the road from the station, and is filled with clothing and accessory stores mostly. It’s brilliant for people watching, as you see people wearing totally different styles of clothing – from Lolitas to punks, and everything in between.

Harajuku, Tokyo
As you turn onto Takeshita Dori, on the right you might see a little sign pointing down to a basement that says ‘Purikura’. DO IT. Purikura photo booths are unbelievably popular, and they are actually quite addictive – they automatically make your legs look longer and skinnier, and your eyes a lot bigger, in an attempt to give you a more ‘desirable’ look. The actual end result is that you look positively terrifying, and you can edit the pictures after with nonsensical stamps and messages. It is so much fun, and for 200 yen it’s a great keepsake (that you can share with your friends on Facebook, too).

Purikura in Tokyo
Asakusa

Asakusa is really famous for the Sensoji Temple, but it’s got a nice promenade and some interesting architecture, making it well worthwhile. There’s also some pretty great street food there, too – and although I didn’t go up the Sky Tree skyscraper close by, my boyfriend did, and got some incredible views of Tokyo.

Asakusa, TokyoAsakusa, TokyoAsakusa, Tokyo
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend picking up any souvenirs here, as it’s really expensive, but it’s got a great vibe, and the temple itself is beautiful.

Asakusa, TokyoAsakusa, TokyoAsakusa, TokyoAsakusa
Shibuya

It would be a crying shame to go to Tokyo and not swing by the famous Shibuya crossing. It’s pretty manic, but Shibuya has some great bars, and is where I usually go out drinking with my friends when I go back. Bic Camera is also a great place to get great deals on cameras and electronics – I had to really behave myself as I was really tempted by the white and beige Olympus Pen!

Shibuya, TokyoShibuya, Tokyo
Honorable mentions: Akihabara, or ‘the Electric Town’ for electronics and maid cafes; the Owl Cafe; Tsukiji Fish Market (go before it changes location!); and Karaoke.

Have you ever been to Tokyo? What are your favourite things to do there? Be sure to comment below, or let me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

#TravelexTourist: Sketch Afternoon Tea & Icebar, London

I had been back in London for about a week, and I had the post-holiday blues bad – particularly as I’d managed to get a month off over Christmas and New Year to travel around Cambodia and Japan. So when the Travelex team got in touch to see if I wanted to play tourist in London, I was over the moon – particularly as they’d given me some dosh to spend, too.

#TravelexTouristThis was no ordinary dosh – I got my US dollars loaded onto my fancy new Travelex cash passport – a multi-currency, pre-paid Mastercard that I could top up online, and use like a regular bank card. The best part about it is that I can order different currencies on it, so when I go back to Japan, or on a European adventure, I only have to take one card with me (and not have to worry about mine getting lost or stolen!)

Liberty, #TravelexTourist#TravelexTourist#TravelexTouristSo, Cash Passport in hand, we decided to start the day off doing the most touristy thing we could think of to do in London – afternoon tea.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristI’ve been desperate to go to Sketch for ages. Not only do they apparently do one of the best gluten-free afternoon teas in London, it’s also the gallery of David Shrigley – one of my favourite artists.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristI wouldn’t be surprised if this is the most instagrammed room in London – it was absolutely beautiful.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristThere was so much attention to detail – everything from the menus, to the crockery – even the uniforms for the waitstaff (which I would wear in a heartbeat).

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristAs for cost, it’s a little on the steep side, but for the location, and the wow factor of the venue alone – combined with the sheer amount of food, I do believe it’s worth it. Not something I’d do every day, but definitely worth popping in for a special occasion.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristYou get a lot of food – unlimited refills of tea, sandwiches, cakes and scones, the latter being the best part of the gluten free menu.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristEven the bathrooms were outstanding (to the point where I was slightly concerned that they were toilets at all, instead of part of the artwork).

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristWe didn’t manage to finish our tea completely, but the lovely waitstaff packed the last of our cakes for us, which we got to enjoy later that weekend. I was given a pin with my Cash Passport card, and it worked seamlessly (which is always slightly nerve-wracking with a new card!)

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristWe were so stuffed by the end of it that we were tempted to go home and have a nap. Somehow we managed to roll ourselves out of there and made our way to Covent Garden for a little window shopping, and enjoy some of the uncharacteristically good January weather.

#TravelexTouristPiccadilly Circus, London, #TravelexTouristCovent Garden, London, #TravelexTouristWe slowly walked off our food babies and made our way to Heddon Street for an appointment at the Icebar.

Ice Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristUnlike Sketch, Icebar is pretty much what it says on the tin – a bar made of ice. Cold, -5°C Swedish ice, to be precise.

Ice Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristIce Bar, London, #TravelexTouristWe got kitted out in thermal capes and gloves, and were served cocktails served in glasses made entirely of ice – it was awesome.

Ice Bar, London, #TravelexTouristIce Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristIce Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristThe walls, the chairs, the bar – everything was ice, and had been carved beautifully. My favourite part was the skull, which had a brain carved into it and everything!

Ice Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristnFor the price of a ticket, you get given a cocktail and can stay in the room for 45 minutes before you have to leave. Is it gimmicky? Yes, absolutely – but it is really fun, and you do feel surprisingly toasty in your thermal cape.

The entire day made me appreciate the fun and interesting things to do that London has to offer, and definitely helped to keep the January Blues at bay! I can’t thank Travelex enough for the opportunity to play tourist for the day – I had a brillliant time.

Where is your favourite place to have afternoon tea? Have you been  to the Icebar before? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

I was given a preloaded Travelex Cash Passport for the purposes of review – all opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t blog about it if I didn’t love the service!

sketch Gallery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato