Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Birthday in Brighton

I love to use special occasions as an excuse to go on trips or indulge in an 'experience' and my 24th birthday was no exception. After hearing so much about Brighton from the blogging and youtube community it was high on my list and with a relatively short commute from London we made it into a day trip. Even taking the day off work adds excitement (doing weekend activities when everyone else is at work!!).

As soon as we arrived I wanted us to go down to the beach. As a young child I lived by the coast in Ireland and always feel such an affinity with British beaches, something I completely forget about until I am actually there breathing out in relief.

With pebbles under our toes I tried to dip my feet in until waves crashed around my knees and we retreated to the safety of the shore (or so we thought). Brighton is home to some seriously gangster seagulls!! They see food, they go for it. There was a group of girls sat on deckchairs about to tuck into a huge portion of chips and a whole swarm of seagulls went for it! They leaped up screaming and the seagulls devoured everything!

We went on to explore the pier and ended up spending most of our day wrapped up in arcade games and novelty seaside food. From the beach we found our way to the Brighton Pavilion and while it was on my list (mainly for the Gardens) I had no idea about its architecture. It was so surreal and magnificent.

I was desperate to go explore The Lanes and was terrified that we had left it too late in the day. Living in London I just assumed that Brighton would be smaller than it was and we spent a lot of time hurriedly walking to beat the clock!! We found the flagship Choocywockydodah store and while they have a smaller location in London, it was Bernard's first time seeing the brand. He took some convincing to believe that everything really was made out of chocolate! 

It turns out that The Lanes and North Laine are two completely different places but usually both described as 'The Lanes'. One near the Pavilion and another, North Laine nearer the train station. Sadly the northern section was our last stop and we arrived near closing time. It was much bigger and there were so many wonderful independent stores to explore, I would really like to go back and spend the day there with a pocket full of spending money.

One recommendation was Roly's Fudge which we managed to catch just in time. If we had arrived earlier in the day we would have been able to watch them making the sweet goodness however I was still able to buy a big bag and see fudge that had just been finished. Although my favourite flavour is usually vanilla I went for the mixed bag and my goodness did I discover a new favourite! Sea salt!! I might even go as far to say that it was the best fudge I’ve ever had!

Brighton had such a lovely atmosphere and The Lanes felt very artsy and young. I would definitely recommend a visit and look forward to going back.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Croatia - A Surprise Holiday!

Earlier this year my husband surprised me with a holiday! We hadn’t been abroad in two years - the last time being our honeymoon. With moving to London and intern life we didn’t really have the money for it. 

Months before we decided the dates and he told me to book it off work. All I knew was the he was planning a trip away. I expected it to be UK based. While we were dating at university we would often turn up at a train station, pick a place and go away for the day. 

As the time go closer, he would pretend to let the location slip to throw me off but actually did end up letting slip that we were flying! I couldn’t believe we were going abroad and asked for more clues that wouldn’t actually give the location away. What would the temperature be? Was it city or beach? My work colleagues even started placing bets on where I would go. 

I bought clothes, packed my bags, got on the train to the airport and was told the surprised location… Croatia! Someone at work had actually guested this location, I had never heard of it before and did a little google search that day - but stopped myself shortly after, you know, just incase. Funnily enough someone from Bernard’s work recommended it to him and that’s how he found out about the holiday destination. 

We stayed in a lovely little village called Cavtat about 45minutes from Dubrovnik at Hotel Croatia. The hotel was big and beautiful, right on the ocean. We were told that when we went (May) and September are the best times as it’s not too hot and not too busy. Upon arrival we had to wait before check in and sat outside in one of the bar areas of the hotel. Admiring the gorgeous views and surprisingly getting sunburnt! We didn’t expect such warmth. Weirdly there didn’t seem to be beaches anywhere! Just rock that suddenly becomes ocean. We even asked the tour guides at our hotel and they couldn’t tell us of any.  

We stayed for almost two weeks and had a wonderful mixture of ‘adventure’ days and relaxation. The hotel had indoor and outdoor pools, a range of restaurants and bars and even a spa! It was glorious. Sadly we didn’t discover the spa until the end of our trip and I wish we  had used it more. I read through two books (a hugely loved pass time of mine) and turned a normal shade of pale with my husband turned gorgeously golden of course. 

On our more chilled out days we would dine at the hotel for lunch and the wander down to the waterfront for dinner. There were so many restaurants right on the water (and stray cats!). It was a lovely walk but down a huge hill from the hotel. Many people would take their luggage up on golf carts! For those of you who drive, a car hire would have been a good investment. 

We ate ice cream pretty much everyday and I had a divine risotto which was my first experience enjoying mushrooms! I brought some since to try and replicate the experience, but they are no where near as nice. I’m really not sure what variety they were..   

Other days we went off on adventures! Sometimes I am so high energy and just need to run around and explore. There was a bus from Catvat to Dubrovnik Old Town which only took 45minutes which gorgeous views. It is definitely a very hilly place! 

Dubrovnik Old Town was beautiful. The street literally gleamed! Much of Game of Thrones is actually filmed in Croatia and I can see why. It really surprised me that I’d never heard of Croatia before given how lovely it was. As the trip was a surprise I wasn’t able to research or do any organising beforehand, yet we discovered so many great locations. At one point we followed a strange sign that promised ‘Cold drinks and the most beautiful view’ through the city walls out onto a bar right on the edge of a cliff facing the ocean.

We ate out a lot throughout the trip and some things were incredibly cheap and others very expensive! It was a strange mix. We attempted to go to a restaurant recommended to us, were just about to sit down until an employee showed us the menu and we realised just how much it was! Instead we found one facing the docks, with a huge archway wall and it was the best restaurant from the whole trip.

Our second time in Dubrovnik we overheard a tour guide say it is tradition for a newly married man to stand on this weird sculpture/step, take his shirt off and put it back on. If done successfully it means that you will have a long and happy marriage. Naturally Bernard tried it but failed! The stone had been so worn way so much that it had become glossy and smooth. 

Right next to the stone I found a museum that at first looked like a church, but used to be an old apothecary. The architecture was stunning. We sat in the garden trying to imagine what it would have been like to live in the building hundreds of years ago. 

My favourite day actually started out as the worst. We had planned to go visit the renaissance garden Trsteno Aboretum used in Game of Thrones which meant two buses, but the public transport system had other ideas. The bus stop was closed with no actual signage saying so, we walked in a vague direction up hot hillside for half an hour getting lost and finally finding the new ‘bus stop’ - just a random spot at the side of a road because another couple were waiting there. We waited for over an hour for a bus that might never come. We weren’t sure whether to walk back to the holiday, but the midday sun had gone so there wasn’t much point sitting by the pool and we really couldn’t face that walk again.

The bus finally came and the second bus went smoothly and took shorter than expected. the locals were so helpful and we found the garden. It was incredible. It cost about £5 each to go in and we were pretty much the money people there. It had such a presence about it - be it mother nature or God - it felt deeply spiritual. There were clearly marked paths but we wandered through bamboo, bushes and discovered a water feature that took our breath away. We followed the strangest noise only to realise that it was frogs and honestly, the whole place was amazing. We walked out onto the most insane view - a great place to propose if anyone is looking for ideas. 

We both loved loved loved it. It was hands down the best day of our holiday. We stopped at Dubrovnik on the way back for dinner and ice cream of course. The rest of our trip was filled with warmth, sunshine and rest!

How magical is this shot that Bernard got of me?!

I couldn’t believe how relaxed I felt the whole holiday and subsequently how stressed I must have been in the normal day to day of London living. The holiday was so needed and while it was amazing, the best part was being able to be with my husband so removed from everything else. 

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