So my wonderful Mum and I took a long weekend in London to visit the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s always been on my to-do list and living back in Ireland now allows for a quick trip to London Baby!
I bought tickets back in January and these were about £45 per person. We stayed at the Royal Lancaster London, overlooking Hyde Park. The location of this hotel was excellent – Lancaster Gate tube was just underneath us and this is on the Central line which connects you to the shopping mecca that is Oxford Street. We flew in to London Stansted so it was really easy to get from Liverpool Street Station (via the Stansted Express – 47 minutes from Stansted to the City) out to the hotel. Not having to change tube lines with suitcases is a blessing! The hotel was nice, the location was definitely the number one selling point – the rooms were small but that’s pretty much par for the course in London.
We did Chelsea on Friday afternoon after lunch at Polpo, Chelsea. The weather was glorious all weekend so we ate outside and there was a lovely relaxed vibe. Sloane Square tube station is the closest 🙂
We travelled from Dublin to Copenhagen with Ryanair for €112 return for 2 people, including 10kg carry-on baggage per person. I LOVE travelling in Europe! It’s so much cheaper than what we’ve been used to in Australia over the past few years, AND you get to experience a whole different culture over a weekend. Oh how I’m excited to live back in Europe 🙂 We landed on Saturday night and flew back to Dublin late on Monday night so we had all day Sunday and all day Monday to explore. We took the metro from CPH airport to Nørrebro station and then walked approx. 15 minutes to our hotel. The metro takes about 15 minutes to the city centre.
We stayed in the citizenM hotel, which has a fantastic location right in the city centre, within walking distance from all the hot-spots. It’s right around the corner from Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world. We were excited to visit this place…however it’s closed from January to April (until just before Easter) so that didn’t quite work out for us!
Obviously, my number one goal for Copenhagen was food related…so our first stop was breakfast in GRØD, a porridge mecca, housed in foodie hotspot, Torvehallerne. You can get your porridge fix here from 7.30am – 5pm every day. I went with their Oat Porridge 1, homely porridge smothered in their home-made caramel sauce (it’s dulce de leche), apples and roasted almonds. It’s approx. €9 with today’s DKK/EUR exchange rate so not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Worth it though. We went back on Day 2 for more. Torvehallerne is an airy, twin-building food market in the Nørrebro district. One of the buildings houses little eateries such as The Coffee Collective, GRØD, and Lauras Bakery and the other, separated by a gorgeous little flower market, has stalls with all you’d need to cook up an epic dinner.
We walked A LOT over our weekend break, 15km on Day 1 and 20km on Day 2. Partly because Ryanair drop you about two villages away from the airport exit 😉 but also because that’s typically how we see new cities. We rarely get those City Bus Tours or public transport tickets – we like to just meander and see where we end up. We always end up at a must-see!
After breakfast on Day 1 we went to see the Round Tower/Rundetaarn, a 17th century observatory, with a paved ramp circling you to the top which offers a spectacular view of the city. This opens at 10am and costs 25DKK (c. €3). We walked to check out the Freetown Christiana area/commune. It took about 30 minutes to wander there from the Round Tower. Well…this place. It is a former military base which was taken over by ‘hippies’ in the 1970s. Maybe it was a nicer (?) place to visit back in the day, but now it’s a rather unsettling place to be honest. It’s basically just a dodgy, druggie area. After this we walked back to check out the Gasoline Grill, a petrol station/burger joint. I had seen it on Somebody Feed Phil, so definitely wanted to check it out. We queued for about 15 minutes and once there were 2 people ahead of us they said there was going to be another 40 minute wait. Maybe next time 🙂
On our first evening we checked out a bit of the local night-life. We were there for St. Patrick’s weekend so we started out in The Old Irish Pub, right around the corner from our hotel. We then had dinner across the road in Vapiano. I know it’s an Italian restaurant and we were in Denmark but I just love their food – it’s so quick and it’s a great place for chatting. It wasn’t very busy as we got there quite late but it had a lovely vibe and the staff we’re very friendly. Another plus for Vapiano is that it’s housed within Tivoli Gardens and the lovely chap making our pizzas let us outside on the decking area so we got to see within Tivoli Gardens at night. Can’t wait to go back just to visit Tivoli!! After dinner we went to the Dubliner Irish pub. Bit crap but also a bit of craic. We pottered on to check out jazz club La Fontaine for a drink and a little bit of music (free entry on the Sunday night we visited). We often end up at jazz clubs when we go away. There’s always such a great cozy vibe 🙂
Day 2 once again started out with some epic porridge from GRØD. We then took a walk and wander around the Nørrebro area. It’s residential but is home to the Assistens Cemetery. Cemetery you say? Yep. Danish literature giant Hans Christian Anderson is buried here so we wanted to pay our respects. The cemetery is also a public park and it really is beautiful. Not as beautiful as Buenos Aires’ Recoleta Cemetery (where Evita is buried) but beautiful none the less. Poetically, people have left pens and pencils on HC Anderson’s grave. After Assistens we had a quick coffee pitstop at Ansersen & Maillard. It’s an industrial style roastery from a Noma alumni so you might want to try some pastries from here 😉 Next on our food-stop tour was Aamanns Deli for some typical Danish food – smørrebrød. Smørrebrød is basically little open sandwiches. We didn’t book in advance and it was very quiet but that’s perhaps because it was Monday lunchtime. I highly recommend a visit here – we had a lovely lunch. Onwards and upwards and we next strolled through the park (where there are swings – get thee on these!) behind Aamanns Deli and in to the Kastellet, a star-shaped 17th century military fortress. There are still military offices here today so you’re likely to see uniforms patrolling the area. It’s a short walk from here to see the famous bronze statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s imagined Little Mermaid (by sculptor Edvard Eriksen). I had read about the Genetically Modified Little Mermaid, another bronze statue about a 10 minute walk Eriksen’s. It’s by Professor Bjørn Nørgaard and is part of The Genetically Modified Paradise exhibit, offering an alternative (read: sobering) look at modern society. We then checked out the Royal Guard/Den Kongelige Livgarde, at the Amalienborg Palace, the home of the Danish Royals. There is a museum here but it’s currently closed on Mondays. We made our way back to the Nyhavn harbour area and stopped for some tea in McJoy’s Choice, a hyggelig little pub and perfect spot to warm up. We headed back to Vapiano for more Italian food before heading back to the airport 🙂
So the very first thing we noticed when we arrived in The Netherlands is just how flat it is compared to Ireland – no wonder everybody is on bicycles! We started our trip in Zaandam (a little town about 15 minutes by train from the centre of Amsterdam) and then we moved in to the city for a few night after that. I had seen the Inntel Hotel Zaandam on Instagram a few years ago and decided to make it my mission to stay there someday. Mission accomplished!
On arrival to Amsterdam (we did take a couple of trips in and out from Zaandam as it’s so close) the first thing we all noticed was the architecture – the buildings are quite quirky. Tall, tiny, crooked, cramped, palatial – they have it all! Camera click bait! We had a jam-packed few days in the city but managed to arrive on a morning when there was a market on – first stop: cheese, please! The market was the Biologische Noordermarkt, an Organic Farmers Market held every Saturday from 9am – 4pm. It’s 100% worth a stop. Right across the street from the market you’ll find Amsterdam’s famous apple pie spot, Winkel 43. There was a major queue for this so we didn’t check it out on this trip but it’s on the list for next time! We happened upon a tiny little Puglian/Italian cafe, Rigoletto, so we stopped here for a lovely breakfast. Amsterdam is a very walkable city, you could get a lot of it seen in 1 or 2 days. After the market we wandered in to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. This one’s a shop at the front and a tulip museum at the back. Mum and I got lost perusing this spot for about an hour. We bought SO many tulips – Spring is going to be colourful! They have tulip bulbs here that you can send all over the world. The staff are very helpful. There’s a cheese museum next door too that’s worth a little perusing. There are cheese stores on every street corner – they’re the Starbucks of Amsterdam!
We took a trip to the Heineken Brewery. I booked online around 2 hours beforehand. You take a self-guided tour which takes a couple of hours. Tickets are €18 and you get a couple of tokens to have two beers at the end of the tour. It’s an interactive tour and definitely worth a visit. We walked down here after a visit to the Flower Market/Bloemenmarkt. The market is a row of floating barges awash with an assortment of tulips. Bulbs, slippers, fridge magnets, knick knacks – any item you can put a tulip in or on 😉
I’d been following the Avocado Show on Instagram for a few years so HAD to have lunch there. It’s very close to the Heineken Brewery (address:Daniël Stalpertstraat 61 HS, 1072 XB Amsterdam) and if you like avocado then this is the place to have some lunch. The food is oh so colourful so I’m taking that as it’s oh so nutritious too!
We visited the Anne Frank Museum/Anne Frank Huis – I also booked this one online the night before we visited. We visited on the last booking slot of the evening. Thankfully it wasn’t too cold or rainy because you have to queue outside for your allocated time slot. Once inside you’ll receive headphones which you use for a self-guided tour. Tickets are €10 online plus a booking fee. It’s a small museum and the stairs are pretty small. You’re basically standing in a queue of people listening to your headphones. There’s a sombre vibe here, obviously, but it’s a must visit destination in Amsterdam.
My favourite part of our whole trip to Amsterdam was our visit to the Moco Museum. We only had time for one museum and there was a Banksy exhibition, Laugh Now, on at the Moco Museum so that was an easy decision (Moco Museum are open about the fact that Banksy did not collaborate with them on this exhibition nor did he consent to it. They sourced his work from collectors). I think my Dad is a Banksy convert now so that’s a great result!
Zaandam is a lovely little town; there was a fun-fair on during our visit so obviously John and I went on the rollercoaster. Pre-that though we had the most amazing pizza at de Pizza Bakkers in the main square in Zaandam – the staff were fabulous and it was the best pizza I’ve had in aaaaaages!!
We took a morning trip to an area called Zaanse Schans in the Zaandam region too. It’s a very relaxing area and the perfect spot for a wander after a huge breakfast – it’s a little village with a grouping of historic windmills. De Kat Colour Mill is the last working colour mill in the world – they’ve been producing natural dyes and pigments in this mill since 1782. You can take a self-guided tour for €4.50 (€2 for 6-12 year olds).
We made an impromptu 1 year anniversary trip from Dublin to London on our way to a family wedding. Oh gosh I LOVE LONDON!! It’s such a bustling city, the weather was perfect and our hotel stay was just perfect. We just had a one night stay in the newly refurbished ‘The Principal‘ hotel right on the Piccadilly tube line at Russell Square, overlooking Russell Park. The location is excellent. And the bathrooms! Brass, marble and a roll-top bath and I’m 100% set. It’s currently in the midst of a soft opening so everything looks quite fresh and the staff are fabulous. I’ve never stayed anywhere with such lovely staff. There’s a nice coffee shop attached too, Burr & Co.
After checking in our first port of call was straight back on to the tube and off to London Bridge station to check out Borough Market. More specifically it was a coffee pitstop, to the Gentleman Baristas just outside the market to help himself get through the day. 4 out of 5 rating on this one. There was a queue for a little gelato spot called Gelateria 3Bis so obviously this was pitstop number 2. This one is worth a small queue so again, 4 out of 5. Pretty good start to the day! We ended up wandering around Covent Garden a few times so we popped back here after our gelato stop and went to check out the Deciem/Abnormal Beauty company little store. J’adore!
We had a 3pm booking for the Art Afternoon Tea at the Rosewood Hotel just off the Holborn tube stop. Afternoon Tea is served in the Mirror Room, a copper-hued beaut of a location. Again, epic bathrooms. That’s really how I judge a place!! We just missed the Rodin art tea by one day so we got in on the new Cubism/Pop Art theme. It was delicious and they gave us their signature Banksy concoction with a little candle to celebrate our anniversary; so lovely. It’s an exceptionally sweet afternoon tea so prepare for a major sugar rush!
Some more sugar was called for on our second day so we got ourselves to Belgravia to check out the Dominique Ansel Bakery and to see the queues for the Peggy Porschen Cakes. Holy crap that cookie shot with Tahitian vanilla milk is the tastiest morsel I’ve come across. Probably devoured it in 10 seconds flat. By probably I mean actually… I also tried their frozen s’more – also absolutely delicious. John got a Cuban sandwich (mainly because we had recently watched that Chef movie) and he loved it too. He was super impressed that a bakery actually sold something savoury. Yes, he’s the person that orders a cheese board as dessert. Opposites attract!!
We also made a quick stop at the Victoria & Albert Museum, for a quick mooch around. The jewellery collection is astounding – Beyonce gifted her Papillon ring which I’m sure is worth a gazillion pounds so that’s definitely worth a look. We didn’t get too much of the museum done, more of a drive-by but I cannot wait to get back!
Just a 1.5 hour drive outside of London (1 hour by train) lies the cutest little English village, Hitchin. We tripped up to Hitchin from London to see the lavender fields in full bloom at Hitchin Lavender. We stopped off in the little village of Hitchin for a scrumptious lunch at The Groundworks cafe, situated just next to St. Mary’s Church. There’s such a lovely village vibe here, it would be a really cute place to stop over for a night.
Hitchin Lavender is just a 5 minute drive outside of Hitchin, just after Ickleford village. It costs £6 per person and you receive a little brown bag (and some scissors) which you can fill with as much lavender as you can squish in. Hitchin Lavender is a working farm and there’s a little tea-room where you can stop off for a quick cuppa. They have 25 miles of lavender here so plenty of space to get a picture with just you in it! Currently, they also have sunflower fields right next to the lavender and they look so, so beautiful. You can cut sunflowers too and it’s 50 pence per stem. There was a bridal party taking their photos (how amazing are those pictures going to look?!) and if you need to do something along those lines then there’s a £50 professional photography charge.
So, 13 years in we thought we’d get this thing done!! We married in the countryside of the Dordogne region of southwest France last August. Yep, like nearly a whole year in 🙂 It’s definitely different being married – I love the feeling of having John as a husband. It’s really special. So I won’t go in to too much detail, I’ll just pop some photos below but here’s a little information just in case it’s of interest to anybody out there in the blogosphere.
As we’re not residents in France we had to have a civil ceremony back home in Ireland before our religious ceremony in France. It wasn’t that easy to organise from Australia to be honest but my Mum was a superstar helping out with SO much stuff.
To get married in Ireland you need to provide 3 months notice. Here’s some information on the technical side of things. After our ceremony we took some photographs at Muckross House and Gardens (my Mum and Dad took photos here on their wedding day so it was something I really wanted to do hail or shine). We then had a small family lunch in the Europe Hotel in Killarney. We stayed here before flying to Paris the following day. Oh ya, John decided to go mountain climbing whilst feeling a little under the weather a couple of days before and ended up with full blown tonsillitis. He could barely speak for this ceremony and his doctor told him he shouldn’t fly to France. What the actual…
Anyhoo!! We celebrated our wedding at Eglise Saint Thomas in Excideuil and we had our reception at the Chateau La Durantie. Most of the wedding party stayed on the grounds with us for the weekend which was fantastic. We booked the chateau from Thursday afternoon to Monday morning and this was our itinerary:
Thursday: Everybody does their own thing. John and I frantically chase around the countryside buying alcohol and food. Also, Ciara has to visit the GP as John passes on his disease and I end up with a blocked ear!! NOOOOO – antibiotics for both of us on our wedding day!!
Friday: Our guests had the day to themselves to lounge by the pool or wander to the local village. In the evening we organised welcome drinks and lasagne at the Chateau.
Saturday: Wedding Day!!! Ceremony: 3pm. Reception back at the Chateau.
Sunday: Poolside BBQ and chill.
Monday: Guests loaded up on the bus and John and Ciara hit the road! Honeymoon time!