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2.7.18

Travel: Dunc and Dees Quirky Apartments in Central Edinburgh


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Back in May me and Alex enjoyed a quick mini-break to Edinburgh which was absolutely fabulous. We were so lucky because the weather was glorious and we spent most of our time sitting outside indulging and drinking cocktails in the sunshine or walking here, there and everywhere. I've never stayed in central Edinburgh before so was super excited to be able to explore a new city. 

So where did we stay?

VIBRANT APARTMENT BY EDINBURGH CASTLE

For the two nights that we were visiting Edinburgh, we stayed at Dunc and Dee’s vibrant apartment located close to Edinburgh castle. It is comfortably nestled within Edinburgh’s Old Town district, on Lady Lawson Street, and sits directly above a fine-dining restaurant (called Timberyard) that if you're foodie lovers like us you’ll no doubt be desperate to visit - we promise we'll be back to visit on our return! ;-) 

If your looking for a central base to stay in Edinburgh, then this apartment is perfectly placed, as its minutes from Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens and the famous Grassmarket district.

When researching our weekend break to Edinburgh, it was cheaper (and certainly much quicker!) for us to fly from Gatwick-Edinburgh late on a Thursday evening, so we arrived at the apartment around 11pm, after a quick taxi ride (around 15-20 minutes) from the airport. 

Check-in was super easy and stressfree - if you’re concerned about arriving late, there’s no need to fret. All of Dunc and Dee’s apartments have a key-box on the outside, and Dee shared a passcode with us before we arrived, so its super ideal for those who look to check-in outside of normal hours. 

The apartment was vibrant and fresh throughout, with a unique style of new, vintage and up-cycled decor - the apartments are very boutique by nature.

Each individual room was very spacious, yet cosy and homely at the same time. Dunc and Dee really have thought about all the little details and essentials you would need during your stay; a well-stocked kitchen with complimentary breakfast cereals, milk, tea and coffee and in the bathroom, a full range of toiletries are provided, plus fluffy white towels for each guest. 

It was also lovely to see cute personalised touches throughout the apartment which included a chilled bottle of prosecco waiting for us in the fridge (now where else do you get this?), a bowl of jelly beans and some delicious homemade shortbread - which proved a welcome snack for the flight home :)

STYLISH OLD TOWN RETREAT BY THE GRASSMARKET

On our first morning waking up in Edinburgh, we had arranged to meet up with Dee to visit another one of their local apartments; the stylish old town retreat, which is in the nearby Grassmarket district. It was a quick five/ten-minute walk from our apartment on Lady Lawson Street, so would also be perfect if you're looking to travel as a group of friends to Edinburgh and would benefit from two apartments in close proximity of each other. 

 The old town retreat is the smaller apartment of the two with one-bedroom, however, is extremely spacious with a large double bedroom, separate bathroom, living area with dining space and kitchen - a brilliant base for two people. The second apartment was equally as glamorous with its quirky and individual character and style. 

A touch that we appreciated most was the local “food and drink guide” that clearly been given lots of thought and consideration from Dunc and Dee. Before embarking on a weekend away I would usually spend a good few days researching the best restaurants and cocktail hotspots to visit, however, I admit, on this occasion I was awful so the food and drink guide was very welcome indeed! Dee is a chef so the hosts really do know their stuff when it comes to recommending local foodie hotspots. 

The more I travel, the more I have developed a penchant for seeking out quirky and boutique accommodation; less and less am I drawn in by the standard hotel chains - sometimes its ideal for convenience, however, I find it so much more exciting locating a hidden gem, which offers much much more in terms of hospitality, individual style and personality and all the home comforts for a very competitive price! 

Its great when you've found an absolute gem that is SUPER reasonable in the price where you get triple the space of a standard hotel room - the apartments really are you're "home away from home".  We will definitely look to stay at Dunc and Dee’s apartments again on our next visit to Edinburgh :)

In my next blog post, I'll be sharing what we got up to, plus all of our new favourite foodie hotspots and cocktail hides in Edinburgh. 

Where's your favourite place to visit/stay in Edinburgh?

xo. 

For details on the individual apartments see below: 

Stylish Old Town Retreat by the Grassmarket:
one bedroom apartment priced from £90 per night 

Vibrant Apartment by the Castle:
two bedroom apartment priced from £120 per night

(*) Our stay at Dunc and Dees Edinburgh self-catering apartments was provided on a complimentary basis in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All opinions expressed here are my own (*)
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18.6.18

Food & Drink: Breakfast Brunch At The Newly Refurbished White Horse in Dorking

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inside the new restaurant at the white horse in dorking
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we've got a bun in the oven van

 Breakfast Brunchin'

I am very fortunate to live super close and work in Surrey, an area of outstanding beauty and surrounded by plenty of cliche rolling hills, where you'll also find the quaint, historic market town of Dorking, with its cosy cafes and quirky independent outlets. 

I was recently invited to the launch party of the newly refurbished and relaunched White Horse in Dorking. Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the actual launch party, however, was invited back to for an individual press review. Unsurprisingly, I chose breakfast :) 

The historic White Horse Coaching Inn which sits in the middle of Dorking high-street houses 56 bedrooms - you would not believe this is possible from the outside! 

The hotel has been taken over by Bespoke Hotels (who also own The Talbot, in Ripley where I previously stayed and wrote about here) It's great to see that the hotel has been sympathetically and comfortably modernised, while retaining lots of its original character and charm. It's the perfect pairing of old and new.

We were here to check out the all-new bar and deli concept, The Dozen. Service was prompt and the staff were very friendly, full of smiles and equal parts chatty. Breakfast arrived in the form of a very tasty full-English complete with black pudding, a large field mushroom, and locally sourced sausages, bacon and hens eggs

Breakfast included special additions such as service from a waiter suited and booted in a tweed waistcoat and denim shirt (how cute!) and locally pressed apple and orange juice served in small and dainty glass jars. Most importantly, I love that many of the ingredients are locally sourced, as well as the ales and wines at the bar from local Dorking breweries and vineyards, celebrating the very best in local, Surrey produce. 

As we were brunchin' on a Sunday we were able to see their "Sunday Luncheon" menu in full swing; a 3-course Sunday Lunch offered at £27.95 per person. 

The first course, is served as a country table spread, a help-yourself-buffet which looked absolutely delicious by the way (see the pictures above!) with a selection fresh seafood, crustacea, charcuterie, pates and a selection of salads, vegetables and freshly baked artisan bread, local chutneys and sauces. This is followed by the main event and then tastebud tempting puds like hot sticky toffee pudding, butterscotch sauce, and vanilla ice-cream.  

We then had a tour of the rest of hotel and the premises from the wonderful General Manager, Rebecca. The bedrooms are contemporary and spacious with grey and green touches and luxurious headboards with contrasting textures of leather and wood. 

The White Horse offers something for everything, a casual, laid-back vibe for your girly weekend brunch or mid-week date night. If you're visiting Denbies Vineyard (a short 10 minutes in the car) then The White Horse is definitely a great base to stay for the night, or if you're more the explorer-type, the surrounding North Downs and Surrey Hills provide excellent walking and cycling routes for a weekend of exploring, as well as plenty of fabulous views! 

xo.

(*) My breakfast at The White Horse in Dorking was provided on a complimentary basis in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All opinions expressed here are my own (*)
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11.5.18

Food & Drink: Love Gin? Here's Why You Need To Attend The Gin Festival!

Press at Gin Festival 2017
Gin festival in Surrey Guildford Cathedral Marquee
Gin festival 2017 at Guildford Cathedral Marquee
Gin supplier menus and ballon glass
Black tomato gin at the gin festival in Guildford
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Live music at Gin Festival Guildford
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The boutique gin bar at the gin festival
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Gin cocktail bar at gin festival 2017
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Gin festival 2017 balloon glass

Love Gin? There's A Dedicated UK Festival Just For You! 

In recent years, the popularity of drinking Gin has grown and grown, don't get me wrong, there has always been a huge fanbase of loyal gin drinkers, however, I've noticed that gin and tonic and gin cocktails have been much more mainstream with young millennials in the last couple of years, so much so, there is now a dedicated UK festival for gin lovers, for all ages, far and wide! 

I previously attended the Gin Festival when it arrived at Guildford Cathedral's Marquee for a four-day gin-fuelled pit-stop! 

To give you a little bit of background, The Gin Festival was founded five years ago in 2013 and is now on a mission to introduce the best craft gins to as many people as possible, while supporting both homegrown and international gin and tonic brands. 

I was kindly invited along as press for the evening, to experience and see with my own eyes what the festival has to offer and of course, sample plenty of gin along the way :)

For the festival, everything was neatly arranged inside a large marquee outside Guildford's iconic cathedral, with plenty of gin distillers dotted around the outside of the tent, a gin cocktail bar at the back, a couple of different bars with different gin and tonics to purchase, a live band and a couple of food stalls outside, one, in particular, serving homemade pizzas from a wood-fired oven and the other nachos!

Inside the marquee, tokens = power! Basically, everything (food and gin) are purchased via tokens. When you arrive you need to exchange cash for tokens. As a press invite, I received 20 tokens free to share between me, my dad (a huge gin lover) and my husband, Alex. 

However, you don't have to pay for everything, there are plenty of gin distillers to meet in person who is showcasing their creations, who you can chat to and try free samples. 

Throughout each night they also host a series of gin masterclasses, run by some of the gin distillers. If you like a little bit of education, with lots of free samples thrown in, attend a masterclass! 

One of the most memorable samples we tried was a Black Tomato Gin at a whopping 42.3% volume. It's a unique concoction, as it's made from signature black tomatoes which are grown near the distillery in the Netherlands. They even go so far as to add a splash of seawater to the mixture! Sampled on its own, its a bold mix of sweet and savoury, however, what is most unusual with this gin, is that when you mix the black tomato gin with tonic water and rub basil around the outside (as demonstrated by our stall host), hands down it tasted exactly like a bloody Margherita pizza! Delicious!
My next stop? The cocktail bar of course! As a fairly new gin convert, I first discovered my liking for gin a few years ago through its pairing with different ingredients in its most lethal, cocktail-form! On the night, cocktails could be bought in exchange for x 2 drinks tokens. 

I opted for the Juniper Breeze first which muddled Jenson's Bermondsey Dry Gin with St Germain Elderflower liquor, grapefruit juice, lime and cranberry juice and second Fuddled Daisy - Adnams Copperhouse Dry Gin with cranberry juice, Creme de framboise raspberry liqueur, prosecco and a squirt of lemon juice. 

Gin, tasty food, fantastic music, entertainment and a community of gin lovers alike, what's not to enjoy? 

We had a great night and I'd like to say a huge thank-you to organisers of Gin Festival for inviting me along. I look forward to attending my next location :)


xo.

(*) My entry into the Gin Festival was provided on a complimentary basis in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All opinions expressed here are my own (*)
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9.5.18

Travel: Where To Visit In Barcelona - Park Güell

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Barcelona Travel Guide - Park Guell

As any Barcelona travel guide will tell you if your visiting for a short city break Park Guell is a must-visit tourist destination to check off your Barcelona bucket list. 

With only 72 hours to spare in this iconic city, we were determined to fit in Park Guell alongside another popular architecture hotspots; The Sagrada Familia and foodie and social corners, La Rambla, Gothic Quarter and Placa Reial, where I previously highlighted one of my top 5 food and drink hotspots

After a quick research online and my standard rummage through a couple of different travel blogs, they came to the same conclusion. As Park Guell is always a popular hot-spot, I (and plenty of others) would definitely recommend booking your tickets in advance to avoid having to join a lengthy queue on the day.

From the comfort of our central NH Collection Barcelona Podium hotel room, I booked our park tickets via the Park Guell website with the piece of mind that we stroll straight in tomorrow morning. Tickets cost €7.50 each for self-guided tour entry into the Monumental Core where you will find most of Gaudi’s artwork. Easy breezy. 

However, if you like to be a little more organised, you can book your tickets up to 3 months in advance! You will be assigned a dedicated time-slot, so you need to make sure you arrive at the access point so you don’t lose your assigned entry time. 

You do not require a ticket to explore the rest of the Park so if your early, there’s plenty to explore beforehand. You can also purchase group saver tickets and private guided tours. 

There are three different entrances for Park Guell, one directly by the famous Gaudi landscapes, Carrer de Larrard (main entrance) which is immediately recognisable by the two Hansel and Gretel style gatehouses and another, where we entered via Passatge de Sant Josep de la Muntanya, a 15 minute walk from Lesseps metro station (green line L3). From here, we had to pace up a couple of hilly residential streets. 

Thankfully, there is always someone else heading to Park Guell so it’s quite difficult to get lost and luckily near the top, the hilly streets are replaced with a couple of escalators to help you reach the top. It is quite nice to enter the park via this side because you get to walk through the architectural gardens. 

During our weekend visiting Barcelona, the weather was particularly humid. 

Just a warning, Park Guell is a very open space and if your visiting on a hot day, you’ll be extremely susceptible to the heat, there is very little shade, as we found out in the 30-degree heat that day! In between admiring the beautiful Gaudi artwork, we found ourselves regularly retreating to the beautifully tended flowerbeds where it was thankfully, sprinklers galore - a refreshing welcome! 

As I’m sure you will have already noticed, all over the internet and the blogosphere, there are plenty of valuable photo opportunities at Park Guell where you can capture Gaudi’s creations with Barcelona’s cityscape gracing the background. 

An Instagram favourite is the Banc de Trencadis, a tiled bench that curves sinuously around the Sala Hipostila’s perimeter, such a colourful and eye-catching centerpiece for this broad open space - obviously I made time to pose and grab a cliche shot for the gram :) 

To see our favourite food and drink hotspots: Top 5 food and drink hotspots

xo. 
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