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Lovely Lisbon: Portugal’s purse-friendly capital

This time last year, I’d never even been to Portugal but since I’ve enjoyed two visits to very different parts and fallen in love.

I went on a press trip to The Algarve last year and when it came time to book a holiday this year, a friend recommended Lisbon.

When it comes to holidays, I’m pretty easy to please but I do like a new destination every time.

<img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-12806″ src=”https://joyofblogs.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/img_7153.jpg?w=680&#8243; alt=”alt=” width=”5184″ height=”3456″> Portuguese flag

What’s great about Lisbon:

In terms of value for money, Lisbon is extremely good compared to Dublin/Ireland in general.

We weren’t on a tight budget but the majority of our meals plus drinks came in at under €35.

Public transport is excellent, it only costs €1.50 for a journey on the Metro, regardless if you’re going 10 stops or only 1. They also have the famous trams and modern trams and buses.

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The no 28 tram

We bought reloadable Viva Viagem travel cards which we could also use on the tram and the overground train to Sintra. They are just 50 cent.

Be careful if you’re topping up the travel card as I accidentally deactivated mine by removing it from the machine too soon and had to buy another.

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Beatles t-shirt and vintage shorts

DINING OUT AND LOCAL DELICACIES

Our lunch in Brick Cafe just around from our Airbnb in Intendente came in at €17 for two large dishes, a coffee, and a juice.

Even the most expensive meal we had at the beautiful Pharmacia Restaurant in Lisbon’s Apothecary Museum, overlooking the ocean, only came in at about €65 for two meals and drinks.

The quirky restaurant lets you choose a “prescription” cocktail, including a ‘Placebo’ non-alcoholic one.

However, the service was not as good as some of the cheaper restaurants, i.e. they forgot to bring us water and an ashtray.

It was hotter than normal for September so it was nice to be able to sit outdoors at Pharmacia and also in Alfama where I sampled the tasty bacalhau (codfish) dish for the first time.

Not only was the food affordable, but it was also delicious. Seafood is abundant in Lisbon, whether you want to try octopus, squid or sardines.

Strolling around the cobbled streets of Alfama, we saw some older ladies selling shots of ginjinha liqueur in a chocolate shot glass. Of course, we had to try it and afterward, I tried the ginjinha with tonic, equally delicious.

My tastebuds were also tickled by the sweet tawny port wine, served over ice. I barely touched a gin and tonic because of all the delicious local drinks.

Taqueria Patron in Bairro Alto is a great Mexican spot, we ate here twice.

The nachos and tacos were delicious and we even got a free shot the second time!

One dish I was dying to try was the feijoada, a black bean and pork stew which my Brazilian friends introduced to me to many years ago in the Epicurean Foodhall (RIP).

We found a lovely Brazilian restaurant called Terras Gerais Bistro where we tucked into feijoada served with collard greens and orange slices with a brigadeiro (traditional Brazilian sweet) for dessert.

My boyfriend had never had feijoada before and was so impressed, he recreated it at home.

The restaurant owner was lovely and very welcoming and it felt like dining in someone’s home.

Memmo Alfama
Memmo Alfama

Another lovely place we enjoyed a drink was the Memmo Alfama hotel where we could sit out on the balcony overlooking the sea.

Memmo Alfama Hotel
Memmo Alfama Hotel

My other favourite bar was the quirky Pavailhao Chines, which felt more like a museum as it was full of war memorabilia, antiques and collector’s items.

We initially thought it was closed because the door was locked but you just have to ring the bell to be admitted.

Luckily, another couple arrived and rang the bell just as we were about to leave.

THINGS TO DO

The 33C heat was a major deterrent to sight-seeing but we did venture out in the mornings and late afternoons.

Among the highlights for us were the Jardim Botanico, the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the Feira da Ladra flea market and a day trip to Sintra.

The Jardim Botanico proved to be the perfect place to escape the heat, with the giant trees blocking out the sun.

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Flowers at the Jardim Botanico
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Jardim Botanico
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Jardim Botanico
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The shade was badly needed!
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Jardim Botanico

We also enjoyed numerous drinks in Cais do Sodre and strolling around the Praca do Comercio.

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Praca do Comercio

On Sunday, we took a train to Sintra but almost missed it after a misunderstanding with the travel card and then by me leaving my bank card in the machine!

The train fare was about €5 and it was just 40 minutes outside of Lisbon.

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The town of Sintra
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Street sign in Sintra

There’s lots to see in Sintra and we chose the Quinta da Regaleira and the Palacio Nacional.

I had been thinking about visiting Sintra ever since I read about it on fellow blogger Shona’s site.

Our Lonely Planet guidebook wrongly informed us that entry to the Palacio Nacional was free on Sundays – turns out that’s just for Sintra residents!

It was €10 each to enter the Palacio Nacional. It’s an incredible building with a blend of architectural styles.

Like much of Portugal, Sintra was once ruled by the Moors but later it fell to King Alfonso Henriques.

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Chandelier in the Palacio Nacional
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Ceiling decoration
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Fountain in the National Palace courtyard
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Tile mosiac
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Close up of a tile mosiac
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Tiles and plasterwork at the Palacio Nacional
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Views from the Palacio Nacional

Sintra is surrounded by hills and woods, with palaces and grand buildings around every corner.

The fairytale settings bring hordes of tourists so be prepared for the crowds, both attractions were quite busy.

We had to queue for a short time to get into the Quinta da Regaleira.

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Me at the Palacio Nacional
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Sintra

The Quinta da Regaleira was full of amazing twists and turns, winding stone staircases up to turrets and towers and tunnels behind waterfalls.

It consists of a chapel, palace and gardens and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I was captivated by the imposing-looking Castelo dos Mouros but it looked like it would be an arduous climb!

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Castelo dos Mouros

Food-wise, Sintra was not as good or as cheap as Lisbon but we fuelled up with coffee and a toasted sandwich.

There are lots of little gift shops where you can buy quirky items like a fish-shaped oven glove but I went for postcards and fridge magnets as usual!

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Quinta da Regaleira
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Sintra
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Sculptures
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Fountain

Much of the architecture of the Quinta da Regaleira is said to feature secret religious symbols and references.

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Quinta da Regaleira
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Views from Quinta da Regaleira
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The gardens of Quinta da Regaleira

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We also visited the Castelo Sao Jorge and the famous Feira da Ladra flea market.

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Castelo de Sao Jorge
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Views from the castle
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At the top of the castle
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Views of the Carmo Convent

At the castle, we learned the story of the legendary knight Martim Moniz who threw himself through the castle doors to stop the Moors from closing it, dying in the process.

We had seen depictions of this at the Martim Moniz metro stop but couldn’t figure out what it was about till then!

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It was a hot sunny day
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Me and my bud, Mr Stone Lion
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Old cannon at the Castelo
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Castelo de Sao Jorge
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Lisbon’s famous suspension bridge, Ponto 25 de Abril

Next stop was the market but we didn’t stay long as it was BOILING hot by late afternoon.

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Pottery at the Feira da Ladra
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Views of the cupola
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The market

Check out the beautiful skirt I bought for €15 (I probably could’ve haggled better!) here.

Feira da Ladra means ‘Market of the female thieves’ but thankfully we didn’t get robbed!

There was a lot of junk at the market but there were also some really cool antiques and if you were willing to hunt for them, some good bargains.

I also saw some old Tintin comics and cool maps.

The market is on every Saturday and it’s best to go early in the day.

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Old magazines and newspapers at the Feira da Ladra
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Maps and comic books
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Moorish-style water fountain

My other shopping recommendation for vintage-lovers is Retro City Lisboa which was only a few minutes’ walk from where we were staying.

It has a good selection of vintage shoes and clothing from eras ranging from the 50s to the 90s and I bought this gorgeous dress there for only €18.

Towards the end of our holiday, we visited the famous Se Cathedral which was truly beautiful and afterward we had a drink in Portas do Sol.

And I found the most delicious fresh pasteis de nata in a tiny backstreet kitchen while walking from the Portas do Sol down to the seafront.

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The Se
Inside the Se
Inside the Se

DOWNSIDES

The only major downside to Lisbon is its extremely steep hills, they are tough to navigate in the heat and not for travellers with mobility issues.

However, the trams are handy and you can use the same travelcard for the metro.

There are also elevators in some buildings that will take you up to the top of steep streets, very convenient!

Parts of Cais do Sodre are a little seedy and people approached us trying to sell us coke and weed (possibly just bay leaves) but at no time did I ever feel in danger.

Don’t fall for it 😛

Lisbon is also a lot cleaner than Dublin (they wash the main streets every night), there seemed to be a lot less homeless people (that’s not to say they don’t exist but there definitely seemed to be fewer) and public transport is much better.

English is widely spoken but if you have a few words of Portuguese, try and use them!

I feel there’s still so much of the city we haven’t seen and I hope to be back one day.

We flew to Lisbon with TAP Air, the national airline and it was a great experience. Bags and a small meal and drink are included in the fare, there’s more legroom than on Ryanair and we didn’t have anyone sitting beside us on either leg of the journey.

Our return flights for two were €354 (we got a €20 discount for registering online).

Hope you all enjoyed this post and if you’ve any thoughts, leave me a comment below by clicking the grey speech bubble on the bottom right.

Thanks for reading and if you would like to follow me on social media, check out my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook page.

Edel

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Adventures in Amsterdam – Kilo stores, vintage markets and more!

Amsterdam is of those places that I’ve always wanted to go to but the opportunity never arose.

I’d heard loads about it from friends so I was incredibly excited to be invited on a hen party there

It was one of the most fun-filled weekends I’ve ever had – and the vintage shopping was also amazing!

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Beautiful Amsterdam

We flew in on a Friday afternoon and had quite a busy itinerary with a drag show and dinner planned for that evening at ‘t Sluisje Traf Cafe.

As our hostel Via Amsterdam was outside the city, we purchased a three-day train and tram ticket which was incredibly good value for €28.

When we got to the station near our hostel, however, we couldn’t get through the barrier with our tickets as they apparently wasn’t valid for the airport train – BUT it worked on the way back.

I hadn’t stayed in a hostel in years and I’d forgotten what it was like, basically, hostels are like Ryanair, cheap initially but you’ll pay for every little extra!

We necked a drink in the room while frantically applying makeup as we were in a hurry to make our dinner reservation.

I wore a shimmery green River Island dress that I bought in my local charity shop with ankle boots as I figured we’d be walking quite a bit!

Getting into the city was easy as the train was just a few minutes’ walk away.

The weather was really mild and loads of tourists, including other raucous hen and stag parties, were on the streets.

Sitting down to a delicious appetizer of beef carpaccio while the drag queens serenaded us was the perfect tonic after a day of travelling.

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The drag queens were awesome
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Drag queen

The three-course meal was gorgeous and unlimited wine kept flowing making us merry in no time.

The show was gas and the songs were really entertaining, in terms of a fun hen activity, I couldn’t recommend it enough!

Drinking on the streets of Amsterdam is illegal and could land you with a hefty fee but we didn’t know this when we took an unfinished bottle of wine out…

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Canal cruises

Thankfully, we weren’t stopped for public drinking but the next day I noticed warning signs everywhere. Public urination is frowned upon also FYI.

Our night continued in the Bulldog Cafe where you can buy a drink or something stronger to smoke if you prefer.

Word to the wise, smoking tobacco is not allowed in most of the coffee shops and bars that sell weed.

I had a very sore head the next day but with brunch booked for 12pm, we had to be up early.

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Boats on the canals

We made our way back into the city, watching out for the dozens of bikes that came speeding past as we crossed roads and cycle paths.

It was lovely to see the city’s canals and buildings in the peace of the daylight.

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Street corner
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Walking the streets of Amsterdam

A boozy brunch at Box Sociaal was our next port of call but I needed coffee and a pint of water before I could tackle the mimosa!

With dishes such as “Chai’ll be Pear for you” and “The Sandwich of Liberty”, this one hipster cafe that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The food was gorgeous and I felt more alive after scoffing a “Mortgage on Toast” with chorizo, no prizes for guessing the key ingredient!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Box Sociaal Restaurant
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Amsterdam city centre (no idea what building this is)
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I loved these buildings

More drinks were on the menu after brunch and I swapped my usual G&T for Aperol Spritz and Radler.

Radler is basically a shandy which I’d drank before in Munich and loved it – great if you can’t sink heavy pints of beer or lager.

Fun fact: Radler is German for cyclist.

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I was dying to go into the Primark but never had a chance

Afterwards, we hit up the Sex Museum to check out the weird and wonderful exhibits.

The museum was only €5 and isn’t that big but you do have to traipse up and down windy stairs to get around.

The pin-up exhibition was interesting and pretty innocent in comparison to the other exhibits.

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Raunchy playing cards
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Old calendars
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A recreation of Marilyn Monroe’s infamous nude shoot
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Marilyn’s photographer
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Marilyn again (looks kinda like a drag queen )

Most of the stuff was pretty amusing, especially a moving figure of a trenchcoat flasher with a sinister laugh!

A more sobering exhibit displayed the names of men who were executed for having sex with other men, it reminded me of the book The Minaturist.

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Names of executed men

The chastity belts were pretty terrifying…but there was also some pretty old-fashioned lingerie on display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mata Hari
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Red Light District sign

Walking around the city, I saw resemblances to Munich and Brussels, especially the Dam Square area but the network of canals, humpback bridges and narrow houses are uniquely Dutch.

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Dam Square
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Don’t know what this building is
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Beautiful architecture
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Skinny buildings, bikes and canals
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Canal bridges

We then headed back to the hostel for an outfit change and a few hen party games (Hostel quality toilet paper is NOT the best for creating tissue wedding dresses!)

Back in the city, we stopped for dinner at The Chicken Bar which specialises in rotisserie chicken dishes.

The food was great but the bottles of water left out on the table were €6 a pop so we quickly switched to tap water!

I wore a leather look Bershka dress and matching beret – if you can’t dress entirely in pleather in Amsterdam then where can you?!

I also wore lace-up Topshop flats- leave the heels at home if you’re going on the lash in Amsterdam, the dress code is pretty casual and there are lots of cobbled streets!

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Outfit of the night in Amsterdam
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My Bershka leather look dress

We took it easy on Saturday night, staying at one bar all night, sipping on Aperol Spritzes and cocktails.

It wasw easy to get home after a night out, with late trains and buses as well as Uber – although we did have a slightly unsettling encounter with an angry Turkish Uber driver!

We had to check out at 10am on Sunday so we were up early once again.

As our flight wasn’t till late that night, we availed of the handy storage lockers at the hostel. They were €5 per locker but we could fit two or three bags into them so it wasn’t too pricey.

Two of my favourite things ever are pancakes and rap so when we ended up having breakfast in Moak Pancakes, a pancake cafe with a rap music theme, I was in heaven.

With a flower wall, neon signs, rap lyrics on the steps of the stairs and tip jars named Tupac and Biggie, Moak appealed to every fibre of my being.

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Neon signs
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What’s not to love??
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Pancakes at Moak

I couldn’t quite afford The Golddigger (€100 pancakes with 22-carat gold leaf served on Versace plate with gold Versace cutlery and a glass of champagne) but the more affordable Blue Magic Deluxe for €11.50 was delicious.

The name Moak comes from “Mokum”, a local name for Amsterdam.

When we left Moak on Jodenbreestraat, I realised we were only around the corner from a kilo store so I had to check it out.

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Kilo Store Amsterdam
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Kilo store Amsterdam

The stock was amazing and I was grabbing items off the wall in a frenzy to try them on.

Vintage stores can be very hit and miss but the majority of the stock was in really good condition, including the shoes.

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Kilo store shoes
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Pretty vintage shoes

I spent at least 40 minutes here but eventually narrowed it down to a long denim dress, a pair of high-waisted denim shorts and a tapestry print skirt.

The entire haul came at about €50 which wasn’t bad, each item had a coloured tag and each tag represented a price per kilo.

I’d been in one of these shops in Paris before and gotten some really good pieces there and had to restrain myself from spending any more!

We then came across a market which was selling antiques and vintage clothes as well as the usual souvenirs.

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Records
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Cute knick-knacks at the market
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I love browsing at markets
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Old cameras, bookends and ornate scissors

I found a stall with loads of designer wares, Armani, Escada, Valentino, etc. and spied a burgundy Moschino skirt on one rail.

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Armani blazer

I hastily tried it on over my clothes, it was meant to be a size 14 but as they say designer runs small and it was more like a small size 12.

It was only €15 so I went away very happy with my bargain.

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I was tempted by this Valentino blazer but it was a tad small

I also picked up a few souvenirs and presents, including a packet of the delicious StroopWaffel biscuits.

After that, we were all shopped out so we took a stroll through part of the Red Light District.

Most of the girls looked pretty bored and I felt sorry for them having people gawping in at them.

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La Vie Stripclub
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Random boob cupping sculpture
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Condomerie shop

After our final hen activity, we went to Dam Square to sit out and enjoy cones of fresh chips from the nearby Chipsy King.

I then accidentally left my phone in a McDonald’s bathroom and realised it was gone about five minutes later.

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I raced back to McDonald’s and was frantically searching but there was no sign and the staff were really unhelpful.

Luckily, a girl had picked it up and when we called the phone, she could speak English and returned it to me.

I’m not sure if she was Dutch or not but I was incredibly grateful to her!

I was panicking as my boarding pass for the flight home was on it as well as all my photos.

I was hysterically hugging her and tried to press a €20 note into her hand but she wouldn’t take it.

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Hens on tour!

All of the Dutch people we came in contact with were very friendly and pretty much everyone spoke English.

Given that we were on a hen, we didn’t have time to visit all the tourist spots but it was a wonderful weekend and I hope to come back again to see more of the city.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

 

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Holidays in Barcelona: Park Guell, The Sagrada Familia, Mataro and more

My first trip to Barcelona was in 2013 with my friend Carol when this blog was just a few months old.

We had several mishaps including missing our flight over, paying about €100 each for a new one (I was broke for months after) and I accidentally broke the glass shower door in the apartment we were staying in!

Despite this, I had an amazing time and always wanted to go back. My boyfriend and I discussed going last year but went to Biarritz instead.

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My first trip with Carol and my, I had a lot of accessories back then

This year I was lucky enough to be able to take a long holiday and we settled on Barcelona.

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Park Guell, Barcelona

We chose an Airbnb in Gracia, a bustling hipster neighbourhood, full of cafes and bars and only ten minutes walk from the Rambla de Catalunya.

I had actually stayed in Gracia the last time but I didn’t realise until we were out for a walk and came across the street – I almost fell into a hole in the ground with excitement!

Another random discovery we made was finding Balenciaga’s former house/shop.

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Balenciaga’s gaff

We didn’t make an itinerary but what we did want to do is relax, enjoy some good food and drinks and catch up with some friends.

Temperatures were around 25C to 28C but it was still very warm given we’d just came from Ireland! Luckily for us, our apartment had air conditioning.

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Chilling the beans in Park Guell

We arrived late on a Tuesday night so after ducking into a kebab shop (the only place open that late), we headed home to bed.

The next morning we went to a little square to grab a coffee and then took the metro into the city.

We bought a five-day unlimited metro pass which proved to be excellent value. You can also buy shorter ones and we later bought a three day one for the final few days.

We wandered around the Barrio Gotico, the beautiful old Gothic quarter but returned home after a couple of hours as it was very hot.

Our Airbnb host had helpfully given us a map with areas he recommended visiting and areas to avoid!

After a siesta, we had one mission on our minds, getting a mojito in Bar Miramelindo in El Born.

My boyfriend had been there before and sung its praises and the mojitos were delicious and I loved the interior decor and neon lights.

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Bar Miramelindo, Barcelona
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Delicious mojitos!

We had dinner in a nearby square that night, along with a few more drinks before we called it a night.

Park Guell was on our to-do list but we woke up late and decided to head for Parc de la Ciutadella instead.

This beautiful park is Barcelona’s answer to Phoenix Park, with the Barcelona Zoo, a lake where you can hire a rowing boat and much more.

After a quick walk around the park, we made for Barceloneta and enjoyed a delicious paella with black rice.

That night, we went for drinks in Gracia and dinner in a Syrian restaurant.  We were spoiled for choice in Gracia as it has an abundance of restaurants with cuisines from all around the world and every type of bar also.

Unfortunately I felt quite ill the next day, however, we’d booked tickets for Park Guell so I had to suck it up and go.

Park Guell
Park Guell trencadis mosiac

It was roasting climbing up to Carmel Hill which leads up to Park Guell.

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Park Guell
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Outside Park Guell
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View from Park Guell
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The Sagrada Familia in the distance

The park was originally meant to be a residential area for wealthy families, designed by Antoni Gaudi and his mentor Eusebi Guell.

This is why it is spelled “Park” rather than “Parc” as it was meant to resemble an English estate.

However, only two houses were ever built and it ended up being gardens and a tourist attraction.

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Views from the top of Park Guell

Despite not feeling the best, I was able to wander and admire all the details, trencadis mosiacs, turrets, palm trees and fairytale-like gingerbread houses.

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Incredible details
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A mosiac feature

The park is full of hills, so a sensible pair of shoes is a must.

To avoid long queues, it’s best to book online but entry times are staggered so you may still have to wait around.

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Salamander water fountain
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Turret
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Park Guell tower
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Details from Park Guell
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Pensive in Park Guell!

I felt really sick in the afternoon so I lay down and didn’t do anything. I felt a little better by the evening and we went for dinner in a local Mexican restaurant called MexCla.

We feasted on tacos served in cocktail glasses and I wished I was well enough to eat more!

On Saturday evening we went to meet my friend Eli and her boyfriend Pierre who had recently moved back to Spain.

Beforehand, we stopped on the Rambla de Catalunya for a vermouth and tapas. I hadn’t drank vermouth before but I started to get a taste for it!

We also checked out Casa Batllo but didn’t go inside.

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Casa Batllo

This is an ideal spot for people-watching as there are restaurants lined all down it and pedestrian walkways right beside.

We then went to the Barrio Gotico again where we drank gin, ate tapas and had a great catch up.

I woke up the next morning sweating with a banging headache! A greasy breakfast dish of heuvos fritos with chorizo and potatoes helped somewhat as did a long nap.

In the evening we decided to go to the Bunkers del Carmel, a site where anti-aircraft guns were kept during the Spanish Civil War.

We’d heard that the Bunkers were a great spot to watch the sunset and take pictures but unfortunately, it was an overcast evening when we were there.

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View of the city from the Bunkers

I liked the Bunkers but my boyfriend wasn’t so keen. It was very busy with crowds of people taking selfies, chilling and drinking.

Carmel is a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city and getting to the Bunkers involves a long walk uphill.

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Tibidabo can be seen from the Bunkers
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The Sagrada Familia

I think there may be a bus that brings you part of the way but we were able to walk it although it was tough.

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The city at night

Back in Gracia, we treated ourselves to pizzas in a pizza/Lebanese restaurant.

On Monday, we visited my good friend Marta in Mataro, which is a seaside town approximately 40 mins outside Barcelona by train.

Mataro is easy to get to with trains from the city every hour.

Marta and her fiance Javi drove us to a beautiful restaurant high in the mountains and treated us to a traditional Catalonian lunch.

The Santuari del Corredor is a former monastery which looks like something out of The Godfather and is now a popular family-owned joint.

We stuffed ourselves with tomate con panne,  fresh aioli, bread, meats, cheese, desserts, as well as after dinner shots! Afterwards, the owners gave us fresh figs from their trees outside.

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The Santuari del Corredor restaurant
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The Santuari del Corredor wall
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Mataro

Back in Mataro, Marta showed us their “apartment” which turned out to be an incredible old building that is a UNESCO heritage site.

It had huge double doors with ancient knockers, wooden beams, a wooden staircase, and an enclosed courtyard.

We also got to walk around Mataro, visiting the stunning cruciform cathedral the Basilica Santa Maria and walked down the pier before leaving around 7pm.

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Mataro harbour

Tuesday was September 11 or Dia de Catalunya, the national Catalan day.

We had been warned that there would be a lot of demonstrations so we decided this might be the best day to go to the Sagrada Familia.

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Outside the Sagrada Familia
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Stained glass windows in the Sagrada Familia
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View of the ceiling of the Sagrada Familia
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One for the four pillars, each representing one of the Four Gospels

I had been before but it’s 100% worth visiting again.

We booked tickets online which were about €15 each (I think there may be a discount for under 30s).

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Even the Sagrada Familia was draped in a Catalan flag
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Reliefs on the Sagrada Familia
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Incredible details from the Sagrada Familia
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I could look at the Sagrada Familia all day

There was a bit of a wait outside but we didn’t have to queue up at the front thankfully as it was 28C!

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Gaudi was inspired by nature and animals and plants feature on the Sagrada Familia

Gaudi himself is actually buried in the crypt of the church. He met an unfortunate end after he was hit by a tram in 1926.

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Details from the inside of the Sagrada
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The light shining through the stained glass creates amazing effects
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The pillars and ceiling of the Sagrada Familia
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Crucifix suspended from the ceiling
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Chimneys of the Sagrada

After fortifying ourselves with Five Guys, we headed back to Gracia where demonstrations were underway.

Everyone seemed to be wearing the same neon pink t-shirt and waving Catalan flags and there was a lot of shouting “Libertat!”

It was quite interesting to watch as I didn’t know much about the campaign for independence until now.

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Catalan flag
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Dia de Catalunya

I saw yellow ribbons everywhere but I initially thought they were in memory of those who died in the 2017 terror attacks.

They actually represent imprisoned and exiled Catalan politicians.

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Demonstrations in the city

That night, we donned our glad rags to go to Terraza Alaire, a rooftop terrace bar overlooking the city at the Hotel Condes.

We watched the sunset while sipping cocktails (me) and beer (him) and listening to live music.

It took me a while to relax up there as I am terrified of heights but it was an experience I would 100% recommend!

It was pretty pricey but you’re paying for the view as well as the drinks!

We headed into the city for a Mexican dinner followed by mojitos in Bar Miramelindo.

Getting home was problematic as we missed the last metro and it proved very difficult to get a taxi (possibly because it was Dia de Catalunya).

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Cocktail at Terraza Alaire

On the way home, we nipped into a Cuban mojito bar called El Sabor to watch people salsa dancing to amazing reggaeton tunes but I wasn’t too impressed with the bar service.

Service in some of the bars and restaurants wasn’t great but as the minimum wage in Spain is pretty low I can understand why.
Another place I was not impressed with was a shop in Gracia called In Love With. I really wanted to look at their dupe bags and shoes, however, when I went in 15 minutes before closing, the owner started to scream at me in Spanish to get out!

I later discovered it has a lot of bad Google reviews…

While my boyfriend slept in the next day, I hit the Rambla de Catalunya to shop.
There were all the usual chain shops, including Zara, Mango, H&M, as well as designer stores and I picked up a t-shirt and black pinafore dress in H&M.

We intended to go to the beach that evening but a MASSIVE storm erupted and went on for at least 40 mins, pouring rain, thunder, and lightning.

We were running from one spot to another before we finally found shelter at an underground garage.

The storm
We got soaked in the rain

We paid a brief visit to Barceloneta beach the next morning but didn’t sunbathe or swim as we had bags with us.

Our final day was spent wandering around the city centre, picking up some souvenirs and I bought some Rayban sunglasses.

I came across one vintage store Flamingo Vintage but my suitcase was stuffed so I didn’t buy anything.

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Flamingos Vintage

Unfortunately, I felt sick again on the final day but I was better by the afternoon.

I was really sad to leave Barcelona but it was an incredible trip that I’ll never forget.

Word of advice, I was there in September on both occasions and there are still a LOT of tourists at this time of the year. We were also warned about pickpockets but thankfully, we weren’t robbed.

Thanks to our lovely friends for making the trip even more fun!

Have you been to Barcelona? Leave me a comment and let me know. Thanks for reading and if you would like to follow me on social media,  check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

 

 

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Visiting Galway: A weekend away in the city of The Tribesmen

I lived in Galway for almost six years so it’s surprising that it hasn’t yet featured on my blog!

Not only is it a stunningly beautiful city but the people are also very friendly and you’re guaranteed the best craic on a night out.

I find it mad that some Irish people have never been there when it’s top of the list for most tourists coming here.

I recently spent a fun-filled weekend in Galway with my boyfriend and I can’t wait to go back again.

A word of warning – we visited on a bank holiday weekend and a lot of hotels were booked up or wouldn’t take taking one-night bookings and Airbnbs are surprisingly scarce, so we were lucky to find an affordable bnb on College Road, five minutes walk from Eyre Square.

After we checked in to our accommodation, our first port of call was lunch. We headed to McCambridges, a lovely gourmet shop and restaurant on Shop Street.

McCambridges are renowned for their delicious bread and gourmet produce and our lunch didn’t disappoint. I would highly recommend the chicken and chorizo salad!

We then strolled around the city taking in the sights and in my case, window-shopping.

I nipped into Nine Crows Galway, which has to be one of my favourite shops in Galway, jampacked full of vintage goodies.

I was really taken with a pair of hexagonal sunglasses and returned the next day to buy them for €20.

Unfortunately, they seem to have gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of my recent house move 😥 I have a terrible habit of losing sunglasses, not gonna lie…

Among the other shopping delights Galway has to offer, include Public Romance, a great vintage shop and Kembali, great for jewellery and bandanas, both situated on Upper Abbeygate Street.

There are two shopping centres, the Eyre Square Centre and the Galway Shopping Centre, the Eyre Square one is the best one, with most of the usual chain shops, however, there’s no H&M or Zara in Galway.

The Spanish Arch is the place to sit and chill when the weather is nice and it’s also one of the oldest parts of the city, dating back to the 1500s.

It was a lovely sunny day and we enjoyed looking out over the water and watching a happy little dog go for a swim.

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Anyone who’s ever lived in or partied in Galway will know the delights of drinking by the Sparch in summer but as we had no alcohol, we did the next best thing and headed for the pub.

Galway’s nightlife is excellent at the best of times and as it was a bank holiday weekend, the pubs were hopping in the middle of the day.

We headed for O’Connell’s on Eyre Square which is one of my favourite pubs in Galway.

Like any good Irish pub, it’s stuffed to the rafters with all kinds of memorabilia and the beer garden is one of the best in the city.

There was a wedding party in the pub so there wasn’t much room to sit but we sat outside for a while, before returning inside to another cosy corner.

After a nap back at the BnB, we headed out for dinner in Cactus Jacks Mexican restaurant, (it was Cinco de Mayo and we both love Mexican!)

Most of the good restaurants and bars are in the Latin Quarter, a lively spot where Quay Street meets the Spanish Arch.

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The Latin Quarter Galway

The food was absolutely delicious and I also enjoyed a margarita for the day that was in it.

With full bellies, we took a walk down to the west end of Galway, which is probably the most “hipster” part of the city.

We popped into the Bierhaus for one but didn’t stay long due to the ‘music’ or shall I say noise the DJ was playing!

Looking for somewhere quieter, we wandered into Garavan’s on Shop Street where we remained for the rest of the night.

The next day, we headed out for breakfast, winding up at An Cupan Tae at the Spanish Arch.

This is a kitsch and cutesy cafe specialising in lots of different teas.

The tea names were a tad notions (Dreamy Creamy Breakfast Tea?!) but we had delicious breakfast sandwiches which went down a treat.

It was a hot sunny day so we headed down to Salthill after breakfast and took in the gorgeous views from the promenade (after we found parking that is).

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Salthill beach Galway
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Salthill, Galway

It was sunny enough for shorts but there’s always a bit of a breeze in Galway so I was glad to have a jacket also.

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Sitting on rocks at the promenade
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Yet another one

As we had a car, we decided to spin out west to see some of the countryside.

I’m ashamed to say that I lived in Galway for so long yet never went outside the city to explore Connemara.

First port of call was Spiddal, a stunning fishing village in the heart of the Gaeltacht.

The scenery in Spiddal is lovely with a thatched cottage, old church and the old harbour among my favourite sights.

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Thatched cottage in Spiddal, Co. Galway
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Old church, Spiddal, Co. Galway.
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The old quay, Spiddal

You can go out on trips on the fishing boats from Spiddal which sounds like a great activity for a sunny day.

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Moored boats

After a walk around the village, we had lunch in a cafe before hitting the road for Oughterard.

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Carraig an Teampaill, Spiddal

We went to St Brigit’s Garden in Rosscahill close to Oughterard, a traditional Celtic garden, complete with crannogs, standing stones, nature trails and beautiful flowers.

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Standing stones, St Brigit’s Garden

There are four small gardens with a theme for each season, Imbolc, (Spring), Bealtaine (Summer), Lughnasa (Autumn) and Samhain (Winter).

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Crannog hut complete with glass window – v authentic

It’s a lovely spot to chill out and we enjoyed being big kids, playing on some of the playground amusements!

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Trying to balance on a see-saw log!

I would recommend anyone who is visiting Galway city to take time out to go out to the countryside as it’s really worth it.

Public transport isn’t the best so it’s advisable to rent a car if you do plan on leaving the city.

Hope you all enjoyed this post and if you’d like to see more travel or lifestyle content on my blog, please leave me a comment and let me know.

PS – this is not a sponsored post – we paid for everything ourselves with pleasure!

Thanks for reading and if you would like to follow me on social media,  check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steps of Schloss Nymphenburg

Visiting Munich: A most convenient city

The best word to describe Munich city is convenient.  It’s easy to navigate, well-serviced and very accessible.

English is widely spoken (obviously attempts to speak German are appreciated), there’s loads of affordable public transport and the city isn’t overly expensive. Even the main shopping street Kaufingerstrasse never feels overly crowded.

One of the best things about Munich was being able to use the underground stations to cross the road which was super handy. Germans, after all, don’t tolerate jaywalkers!

And the stations had one escalator which ran both ways – how efficient!

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Marienplatz Munich

I shouldn’t have expected any less but this was my first time in Germany.

I hadn’t much interest in travelling to Germany previously because I always thought it seemed dull and unromantic compared to France, Spain and Italy.

I also had the displeasure of living with a German housemate in the past who ran the gaff like Mountjoy!

However, I put my misgivings and grudges aside – and had a wonderful time in Munich.

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Marienplatz – the main square in Munich

Before Christmas, I spontaneously booked a trip to Munich in Ryanair’s Black Friday sale, €16.99 each way.

Flying mid-week was great as the flight wasn’t full and we even got emergency exit seats – all the leg room!

Tip: If you’re flying Ryanair, wait as long as possible to select a seat, this is one way to get an emergency exit seat as they have to put people sitting there.

We landed in Munich eager to sample some Bavarian delicacies and drench our thirst with a beer.

Marienplatz Munich
Marienplatz Munich

We took a train into the city centre from the airport which took approximately 30 minutes.

On disembarking, we wandered down the magnificent archway to Kaufingerstrasse. (Pronounced “Cow-finngir-strassa”, rather than “Cow-Finger-Strassa”!

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This archway to Kaufingerstrasse is beautiful but I couldn’t get a photo in the day time

We found a little restaurant called Augustiner Klosterwirt down a side street where we ordered beers and food.

The weather was quite mild and we could even sit outside. Most of the restaurants leave blankets out for patrons on cold days.

The beer was called Edelstoff so it got my approval right away. It was delicious and light and the perfect accompaniment to our meal.

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I had two sausages with a pretzel, black bread and a delicious cheese and butter dip called obatzda.

After our meal, we checked into our hotel, Le Meridien Munich. The hotel was centrally situated, right across from the train station on Bayerstrasse and was gorgeous.

After a brief rest, we headed out to the famous Hoffbrauhaus to grab our second beer of the day.

Although the Hoffbrauhaus was busy, we found a quiet corner, where we ordered two steins and a giant pretzel.

It was a lively place, thronged with tourists and had a live band in traditional dress playing in the background.

After drinking a stein, I didn’t think I’d be able for food anytime soon, so we wandered around the streets.

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Huge pretzel and huge beer!

My appetite soon returned and we nipped into a movie-themed restaurant called 35 milimeter. Here we enjoyed a dinner of burgers and chips, however, I failed to finish a pint.

The next morning I saw the nasty effects of dehydration from flying and drinking. My face was incredibly puffy and it remained like that all day!

Breakfast consisted of a coffee and a schmalznudel, a delicious traditional pastry,  from Cafe Frischhut.

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Delicious schmalznudel

After this, we took a train to go to the Schloss Nymphenburg, or Palace of the Nymph, a beautiful Baroque palace outside Munich.

Schloss Nymphenburg

We had to walk for about 15 minutes through an industrial-looking neighbourhood but gradually, our surroundings changed as we got closer.

The palace was stunning, like a smaller Versailles.

One thing we immediately noticed was that there weren’t loads of visitors, one huge perk of travelling mid-week.

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Inside the Great Hall

It was so quiet that some of the museum workers were even painstakingly brushing dust off a chandelier. Rather them than me!

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On the steps of the Schloss
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Walking up the steps of the Schloss

Given that we were only there for two and a half days, we didn’t plan an itinerary but Schloss Nymphenburg was top of our list as we both like history and I love art and architecture.

It was only €6 to visit the Schloss and the adjacent porcelain museum but we decided to give the museum a miss.

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Details from inside the place

I thought this was great value considering many similar places are far more expensive.

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Decoration inside the palace

The Great Hall is absolutely breathtaking and I could spend hours looking at the stunning rococo design.

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Chandeliers in Schloss Nymphenburg

King Ludwig’s I Gallery of Beauties was also fascinating, a collection of portraits of women deemed to be the most attractive of their time.

The Gallery of Beauties
The Gallery of Beauties

When we came outside, I climbed the steps of the wrap-around balustrade to take in the view from the balcony.

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Views from the steps of the Schloss

Our beer house tour continued in the evening as we set out for the Augustiner Keller. I opted for a radler, a mix of beer and lemonade – ideal if you don’t feel in the mood for more beer.

We headed to a second beer house Augustiner Braustuben for dinner.

My boyfriend had the wiener schnitzel but I wasn’t crazy about eating veal so I gave it a miss.

Afterwards, we went to the bar of our hotel and enjoyed some expensive but delicious drinks – I swapped the beers for tasty French mojitos!

Initially, we had hoped to visit more attractions including the Alte Pinakothek art museum and the Residenz palace in the city centre.

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However, time was limited and my ankle wasn’t up to walking far (although we did do 16,000 steps every day) so we decided to go to the English Gardens instead.

It was a cold day and although we enjoyed our stroll, it probably wasn’t the best time of year to enjoy the gardens.

English Gardens Munich
English Gardens Munich

We stopped off at the Chinesischern Turm or Chinese Tower, a wooden pagoda, five storeys tall.

Here, we finally got to try currywurst with chips at a restaurant and it was absolutely delicious!

Chinese tower, English Gardens
Chinese tower, English Gardens

The restaurant was almost deserted so we enjoyed a peaceful lunch before getting on a tram back into the city to go shopping.

Munich has all the chain stores, H&M, Zara but although there were still sales on,  I was tired and bloated from all the food and beers and trying on clothes was frustrating.

On a whim, I went to Pimkie where I spotted a gorgeous midnight blue puffer coat. It was marked €30 on sale from €60 but was just €24 when I took it to the till! Result!

Our final few hours were spent wandering around the Marienplatz, the main square, stopping off for a look into St Peter’s Church and of course, another beer in the Rathaus beer hall before going heading to the airport.

You can climb up the tower of St Peter’s Church and look out over the city but it was dark by then so we decided against it.

One random observation, there seems to be a lot of people on crutches in Munich. I tend to notice people on crutches more since my injury but there definitely seemed a disproportionate amount of them here!

We mainly walked and used the underground to get around and we bought multi-trip tickets which were very convenient.

Hope you’ve all enjoyed this post. If you’ve been to Munich and leave a comment and let me know what you thought.

Thanks for reading and check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page here.

Edel

 

 

Visiting the Basque Country: Biarritz and San Sebastian

After a rather difficult year, I was badly in need of a break and my holiday in Biarritz and San Sebastian was just that.

We booked this holiday prior to my accident and it gave me something to look forward to.

We’d found reasonably-priced flights to Biarritz and after I read Indie and Lily’s blog post on San Sebastian, we decided to spend two nights there also.

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With the cost of two Airbnb’s and renting a car, it was definitely one of the more expensive holidays I’ve been on.

As we’d booked it a long time in advance, it gave me time to save up spending money, however, I did find myself buying clothes for holidays all summer…

I was worried about how my injury would affect my enjoyment of holidays but I actually walked for at least an hour most days.

The most amazing thing happened during our first evening there. I walked a few steps without my crutches! (I’d been trying to do this for some time but could only lurch rather than walk).

I couldn’t believe it as it had been FOUR MONTHS since I had last walked. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing when I showed my boyfriend and I almost cried with happiness!!

Biarritz is a hilly city so there were lots of inclines for me to navigate.

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Biarritz coast

Our Airbnb host informed us that there was a free shuttle bus (the navette) into the city centre every day and we made use of that on several occasions.

However, the city centre navette only ran till 7.30 pm, which meant we usually went for dinner in the local area.

This wasn’t an issue though because our apartment was only 10 minutes from the bustling Les Halles area, full of restaurants and bars.

Our Biarritz Airbnb was a charming retro apartment with a huge terrace.

We spent most of our time at the apartment on the terrace eating outside or chilling in the sun. It was about a 15-minute walk from the city centre but on crutches it took longer.

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The terrace complemented my dinner outfit.

One thing I immediately noticed was that there seemed to be few chain restaurants and stores.

I didn’t see one MacDonalds or Starbucks which was really refreshing. (That’s not to say they weren’t there but there certainly aren’t as many as at home…)

We stuffed our faces with delicious food, from ice-cream to seafood, burgers and frites, churros, croque madames et monsieurs and croissants.

Biarritz is full of gastronomic delights and my diet went right out the window!

Alcohol was also plentiful and I enjoyed several delicious mojitos!

We didn’t really go shopping in Biarritz apart from a brief trip to Galeries Lafayette but this was just for a browse.

We took two day trips, one to St Jean de Luz, a pretty little Basque town.

We lounged on the beach and enjoyed lunch there. I even managed to get into the sea and swim – yay!

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Basque or Euskara is a bit of linguistic mystery, it has no relation to any other European language.

As we drove out of Biarritz, we saw more signs in Basque and signs featuring the Basque cross.

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Sunday was rainy and we decided to drive up into the Pyrenees to a town named St Jean Pied de Port.

The town is famous for being part of the Camino de Santiago Compostela.

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Streets of St Jean Pied de Port

The hilly town wasn’t the easiest for me to negotiate but we walked right to the top of the town, stopping off for a coffee and a trip to a tiny local museum.

Walking up the steep hilly cobbled street in the rain was no mean feat!

I then took a rest while my boyfriend climbed up the Citadelle, a 17th century fortress sitting on the highest point in town. 

On our last day in Biarritz, we wanted to visit the two main tourist attractions, the Rocher de la Vierge, a statue of the Virgin Mary which resides on a rock formation in the middle of the ocean and Le Phare, the historic lighthouse overlooking Biarritz.

However, my injury presented challenges as the Rock of the Virgin entails a long walk out on a metal footpath and the lighthouse has 258 steps and no lift!

We decided to catch a little tourist train out to the Rock of the Virgin (we thought it would let us off but instead it just stopped on the promenade).

This meant we only saw the rock from the distance but given my limited mobility, it was for the best.

It was €6 for a round trip which dropped us back to the city centre.

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Le Phare lighthouse

We drove to the Le Phare and enjoyed taking some photos of the beautiful scenery outside.

I decided against the climb and enjoyed a coffee instead.

The weather was mid-20’s to low 30’s most days with our final day being the warmest and most humid.

We’d gone to the beach that morning to catch a few rays.

That evening there was a thunderstorm which we enjoyed watching out the terrace doors.

After the storm passed, we went to a hipster burger joint called Bonheur. I wasn’t too hungry so just had fries with parsley and garlic -delicious!

The next day we had to rush as we got a message from our host asking if we’d left – we had forgotten to check what time we had to check out at! Oops!

Luckily, we were pretty much packed and ready to go and we set off for San Sebastian or Donostia as it’s known in Basque.

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The streets of San Sebastian

We were only in San Sebastian for two days but it was a wonderful two days.

Buses were plentiful so we didn’t need to use our car.

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Plaza de la Constitucion San Sebastian.

Our first day was spent strolling through the city streets in search of pinxtos.

We soon found a pinxto bar on a side street called Bardulia.

We sampled a mix of cold pinxtos here but to be honest they were quite underwhelming.

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Pinxtos

I noticed that one street was called 31 Agosto and when I discovered that’s because the city was burned to the ground by invaders on the date, apart from that one street.

We arrived on the 29th and apparently, there’s a commemoration on the 31st every year but we were leaving early that day.

We meandered down as far as La Concha promenade and took in the beautiful spectacle of the shell-shaped beach.

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La Concha Beach San Sebastian
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Views from the promenade.

The promenade is lined with ornate white railings with old-fashioned street lamps at the entrance to the beach.

Beside the promenade was a stunningly beautiful carousel which stood out against the bright blue sky.

That evening we had burgers and one of the best mojitos I had all holidays at a restaurant called Muuk in the main square.

The burgers came with a tiny serving of potato shavings, kind of like mini chipsticks!

The following day we went to the beach where I finally got to wear my new bikini from PLT.

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It turned rainy in the afternoon so we went shopping.

I had my heart set on a Longchamps bag but I hadn’t time to go to the Longchamps store in Biarritz.

However, we tracked down the only store selling Longchamps in the area.

N.B shops in San Sebastian tend to close between 2-4, so be aware of this if you are shopping.

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Frizzy hair don’t care

The store in question, Styl, didn’t have a huge stock of Longchamps bags but I decided to get a navy rucksack.

While Stan Smiths were everywhere in Biarritz, in San Sebastian, everyone seemed to sport a Levis t-shirt. I picked one up in Noa and Judy for €25.

I also bought an Iron Maiden tee in Donostia Rock for €24.

After that I wandered through Stradivarius and Bershka, unfortunately, I didn’t get to Zara or Sephora. *sobs*

On our last evening, we stayed in with pizza and beer and watched some ridiculous Spanish TV.

There were some bizarre sketch shows that made us laugh but seeing bullfighting on one channel was horrible.

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Church San Sebastian

I highly recommend both cities and wish we could’ve had more time to explore San Sebastian. Have you ever been to either? Let me know.

PS I’ve been very busy lately so haven’t had any time to blog but will hopefully have an autumn trends post coming soon. Thanks for reading and check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page here.

Edel

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Capsule Wardrobe – What to bring on a sun holiday

I’m not a very organised person and often pack for holidays the night before I go. (This could also be down to the fact that I like a spontaneous trip..)

But for once in my life, I’ve booked holidays A LONG time in advance and I’m already outfit planning for it. I haven’t been on a proper holiday in almost two years and I’m really happy to have the chance to go away.

Last summer, I was working Monday to Friday in an internship and working a part-time job at the weekends. It was zero craic…

But this year, I’m going away for an entire week to Biarritz and San Sebastian and there’s no way I’m paying for a check-in bag.

10kg is PLENTY for this outfit-repeating gal!

I’ve already put together a rail of items to bring and hopefully there will be some space left for new purchases 😉

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Looking through the clothes I already have, I realised I don’t really need many new items.

So far, I have one light summery jacket, a pair of white jeans, a playsuit, a dress, a skirt, five pairs of shorts, a bikini, two one-piece swimsuits, two t-shirts, one camisole top, one dressy off the shoulder top and two crop tops. All of these pieces mix and match pretty well together.

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I may bring another bikini or substitute one of the swimsuits for another one, we’ll see.

Holidays are a good time to experiment with colours you don’t normally wear, for instance I normally steer clear of yellow as I’m very fair-skinned and it doesn’t suit me. However, I love these fluorescent yellow shorts for a holiday and have tops with yellow detail to match.

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I don’t wear a lot of white or cream either, but white looks way better in sunshine so I’ve included some white and cream tops to wear with my blue denim shorts.

If you’re going on a sun holiday, casual clothes are more important than fancy clothes, so bring more casual dresses, shorts, skirts, t-shirts and swimwear. Hence, my five pairs of shorts!

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Leave your heels at home and bring a nice pair of neutral sandals for night-time.  For day time, bring another pair of sandals or flip-flops for the beach and a lightweight pair of runners for exploring.

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Heels take up too much room, they’re an awkward shape to pack and your feet may swell on holidays making them even more uncomfortable! (Haha jokes on me I broke my ankle a month after this and spent my holiday in a moonboot).

You can bring a couple of nice outfits for going out to dinner or a night out but try and bring items that double up as daytime wear also.

For instance, I’m bringing a stripy loose -fit playsuit and a floral dress. These will work just as well during the day, unlike a tight bodycon dress or sequin mini-skirt.

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The terrace complemented my dinner outfit.

I have included my lilac faux leather mini-skirt but the rest of my clothes are cotton or cotton-mix to stay cool.

When going to the airport, pick something to wear that you can utilise in your holiday wardrobe also.

For instance, I usually wear a light jacket, a t-shirt, jeans and light runners. Comfortable but easy to shed a layer once you get there. You should always aim to wear your heaviest or bulkiest items, i.e. jeans and runners to keep your suitcase light.

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The first time I ever went on a girl’s holiday to Turkey, I went mad and bought loads of new things, several pairs of heels, three bikinis and loads of going out clothes.

Apart from the shoes I barely wore any of the items again. I was only there for three or four days..mad or what?!

One pieces are great as they double up as a bodysuit with shorts.

You’ll need to leave room in your case for underwear, socks, PJ’s and a small handbag for going out.

I always bring a tote bag to throw all my essentials into, i.e. purse, passport, cosmetic bag, camera etc.

This may not be everyone’s idea of a “capsule” wardrobe as it already contains 19 items before I add shoes but I am going away for a full week,

If I decide to leave anything out, it will probably be some of the dressier items.

With three pairs of shoes, it takes me up to 22 items in total but I will be wearing one pair on the plane.

Let me know your thoughts on packing for holidays, do you stick to a capsule wardrobe or not? I’ll be putting up a swimwear post soon so keep your eyes peeled.

Thanks for reading and if you would like to follow me on social media,  check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page here.

Edel

Shopping and sight-seeing in Edinburgh

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After a long stressful year in college, I couldn’t wait to go to Edinburgh and visit my friend Jacqui.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, surrounded by hills with a medieval feel. It’s a bit like Belfast, minus the sectarian murals. It’s also quite small and the airport seems tiny in comparison to Dublin.

The first thing I did was wander into Princes’ St Gardens and up the hill beside the castle.

Just beside the castle, is the Parish church of St. Cuthbert which has an old kirkyard or graveyard beside it.

The graveyard has old graves and tombs, some with bizarre inscriptions. There was also a cute wedding complete with pink balloons and tutu bridesmaid skirts taking place but I didn’t want to go too close!

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Naturally, I hit Prince’s St which is the Scottish equivalent of Oxford St. It was a lovely sunny day and I’d arrived just in time for the H&M sale.

I also came on holidays without a pair of walking shoes so I bought these cute snakeskin plimsolls for £15 and a floral dress for £7. #bargain

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I got lots of wear out of this dress, wearing it on hols in Barcelona here

H&M is so cheap in the UK and I spent ages browsing. I have a €5 off voucher from recycling clothes through H&M so may spend that soon.

H&M has some great swimwear  and I’m loving this a-line baby blue skirt which also comes in a lovely burgundy red.

I later found the red one in a charity shop back in Dublin.

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Word to the wise, you now have to pay for plastic bags in shops in the UK.

I was lured into the giant stuffy Primark and spent ages trying stuff before buying fake septum rings, a Star Wars t-shirt and high-waisted shorts.

I ended up bringing the shorts back as they just didn’t fit right, however.

The fake septum ring was not a good idea either as it was very loose and I kept feeling like I would inhale it!

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Southbridge is where most of the charity shops are located, the British Heart Foundation shop is particularly good.

On my second day, I headed up Arthur’s Seat, an ancient extinct volcano overlooking the city.

Here’s the beauty of Edinburgh, everywhere you go there’s something you can climb to look out over the city.

Some places such as the Scots Monument and the observatory at Calton Hill charge a fee of £5 for “the best view of Edinburgh” but if you ask me the best view is from Arthur’s Seat and will cost nothing except perspiration!

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Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill are conveniently close to the city, so close, in fact, you can walk to both. Arthur’s Seat is quite a long climb but it doesn’t get tough till near the end.

I was distracted by a pheasant (or a grouse?!) and many other photo ops on the way up! If you’ve ever climbed Croagh Patrick, Arthur’s Seat is certainly easier.

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The views from the top are breathtaking, from the city to the sea.

The weather was great (although I suspect not as good as in Ireland, I managed to go away during the heatwave).

The hot weather at home meant I foolishly brought almost all summery clothing with me and I was not prepared for the chilly evenings in the north!

Also climbing + dresses is not advised. The wind and gravity were conspiring against my wardrobe choices on Arthur’s Seat.

At Calton Hill, it was even harder to climb up the monument without compromising myself!

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The monument is dedicated to the Scottish military and navy who died in the Napoleonic wars.IMG_20160603_144146530

I returned to the city past Holyrood Palace, the Scottish Parliament and the Royal Mile.

The Royal Mile is full of touristy shops, with slogans such as “Thistle do” and souvenirs ranging from sporrans to whiskey flavour condoms!

I sampled an Irn-Bru on my journey.

This was not the only Scottish delicacy I tasted. I also had chip shop sauce which is sort of a brown sauce but with vinegar, delicious with fish and chips.

I mistook this for maple syrup at my friend’s house… Oh and I had some “porage” also.

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“Porage” It will make you a shotput champion with short forearms!!

But no haggis or deep-fried Mars Bar. 😦 Jacqui told me “Haggis is like black pudding..but more sheepy.”…yum

My third day was spent exploring the Scottish National Gallery which has an amazing collection.

It is free to the public although they encourage making a donation. It also has seats and wifi if you get tired.

I particularly liked the Scottish painters and the Painting as Spectacle exhibition. The gallery is in the city centre and opens every day.

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After two low key nights, we went to the Three Sisters for a night out. Cue too much pre-drinking, some vague memories of dancing and arguments with a taxi driver. I had fun is all I know 😉

After resting my head on fluffy pillows for hours and cooking a pizza in the microwave (don’t ask) I was ready to face the outside world again!

I had intended to do the castle and visit Stockbridge on my last day but I was really tired and just stayed in the city centre..window shopping of course. 🙂

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I loved Edinburgh and can’t wait to go there again. If you’re visiting bring a rucksack as it’s much easier to have when climbing and some sensible shoes.

Also, bring a jacket for the evenings and some climbing-appropriate clothing!

It’s a very affordable city, the buses are the easiest way to get around and a day ticket for the bus is only £4.

Big thank you to my hostess Jacqui, I don’t think I laughed so much in months, it was the perfect tonic for a frazzled Master’s student.

If you’re Insta-obsessed, then check out Sarah’s Five Instagrammable Places in Edinburgh – she’s a photographer so she knows what she’s talking about!

I’m delighted to have been nominated for the Irish Blog Awards again and will have a festival fashion post up soon.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

Visiting Brussels

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Prior to visiting the Belgian capital, I’d heard that Brussels isn’t the prettiest or most exciting city but I was more than willing to keep an open mind. Belgium is a mix of French and Dutch cultures with some parts predominantly French (Brussels city) and others like Ghent are completely Dutch.

However, there are also many English speakers which makes it a little easier for tourists. Brussels has a French feel but is decidedly more relaxed and friendlier.

I arrived early on a Friday morning and headed into the city. I’m quite proud of myself for navigating the city’s public transport on my own as I’m normally useless in foreign countries!

My friend Michele wasn’t flying in till later and I managed to two buses and an underground without getting lost once.

I had a stroll around the E.U. parliament and then headed to a little park to rest. I also went to OR Coffee Roasters where I had a gorgeous latte and a “wafel.”

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I then made my way to our hostel in Brussels North which is a lively area full of shops, tourist pubs and friteries.

(Word of warning, Brussels North can be dodgy at night-time but like any capital city if you keep your wits about you, you will be fine).

Also, Brussels has many cobblestone streets, some are pedestrianised but beware most are for cars also despite the lack of road markings!

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I was keen to sample some Belgian gourmet delights and found a restaurant named Cafe Georgette. The restaurant consisted of a main dining area and a takeaway fries service.

The fries looked very enticing so I ordered them with meatballs. “French” fries are in fact Belgian in origin!

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The heavenly fries were served with peppery mayonnaise and unsurprisingly I returned later that night with my friend!

Once she arrived we set out to try out the delicious Belgian beers starting with a “Kriek” or cherry beer.

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We went to a bar called A la Mort Subite first before moving on to the appropriately named “Cafe Delirium”.

Here you can buy beer in a one-litre glass, a two-litre glass or a Wellington boot glass, needless to say, it attracts huge crowds of tourists. At peak times, it’s more like Cafe Pandemonium!

The next day we headed out of the city to visit Ghent and Bruges. I’m going to devote another post to this as there’s simply too much for one post!

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In the evening we went back to Brussels and out once more to Cafe Delirium. Their signature beer is known as “Delirium Tremens.”

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On Sunday we decided to take in the sights of Brussels and we headed first to the Belgian Comic Strip Centre.

Our reason for going here? TINTIN! Yes, the famous cartoon strip is revered here and it made my day to see the comics I grew up with come to life!

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Ermagerd Tintin’s actual moon rocket!

As well as Tintin, the museum also pays homage to cartoons such as  The Smurfs, Asterix and Obelix and provides insight into the history of cartoons.

We later found a Tintin wall mural and a Manneken Pis mural. Another thing the Belgians venerate-a small statue of a urinating boy 😛

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We then went to the famed Manneken Pis and realised the statue is tiny! His wardrobe is also more impressive than mine! (He probably has more vintage too, the bastard…)

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We then climbed up to Place Poelart where you can view the entire city from a great height.

Also here is a monument to the Belgian soldiers who fought in both World Wars. This monument has a golden crown on top which can be spotted miles away.

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On our way back down we finally found the Grand Place which we’d been trying to see all day! As its early spring, the famous floral carpet is yet to bloom.

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As always I was keen to see what shops were on offer.

Brussels has loads of lingerie stores as well as all the chains such as Zara, H&M etc. In Pull and Bear I spotted this vintage-style jumper which will be mine yet.

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I didn’t buy anything here as the prices were similar to home.

They also have a nice store called Pimkie which has lots of cute stuff like this chain-trim denim jacket and fringed jumper.

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I found a kilo shop (€15 per kg!) sadly it was late and I couldn’t try on anything.

If any of you vintage-lovers are heading to Brussels, definitely pay a visit to Melting Pot Kilo. You can have a peek at their stock below.

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We also visited a market where they had beer shaped candles and waffle-shaped earrings.

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I couldn’t resist these doughnut earrings..I’ve never seen anything so bloody cute!

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So my verdict on Brussels? Great food and drink and a lot of fun! Reasonably easy to navigate and lots of resources for young travellers. Our hostel Sleepworld Brussels was great value and also had free maps made by locals with lots of tips.

Our trip to Bruges and Ghent will feature in my next post.

Hope you all enjoyed this post and thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

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