Take me back to Portugal

I’ve broken this blog down into sections; by hotel, restaurants and sightseeing, to hopefully give quick tips and ideas if you’re visiting the Algarve. We visited around mid-September (which isn’t peak season). The weather was warm during the day and got slightly chillier in the evenings.

Landing into Faro Airport

Accommodation

We stayed at the São Rafael Atlântico hotel in the Algarve.  It was on São Rafael Beach, which was a large, sandy beach, framed by limestone cliffs and mesmerising views of the Atlantic Ocean. 

The beach our hotel was located on
Pool area at São Rafael Atlântico hotel

I loved the location of the hotel.  Every morning, after a filling and yummy breakfast, we would walk to the Old Town in Albufeira.  It took about 45 minutes and the views on the walk were stunning.  You also get to pass the Albufeira Marina on the way. 

Albufeira Marina
One of the many stunning views on our walk to the Old Town

As well as being on the beach, the hotel has a pool, and spa if you fancy.  We lounged by the pool in the afternoons, and there are plenty of good lunch and snack options near the pool area and beach.

Activities and things to do

Tuk-tuk sightseeing tour

This was of one of my favourite activities!  Our guide was excellent – friendly and fun.  We explored the Albufeira coast, with breath-taking beaches and cliffs. Our guide took us to some beautiful hidden gems, which were really secluded.  We wouldn’t have known to find these places without doing the tour, so I really recommend taking a few hours for this!  There are a few different companies offering the tuk-tuk sightseeing.

View atop a cliff, during the tuk-tuk sightseeing tour
One of the secluded, hidden gems we were taken to, on the tuk-tuk tour

Vineyard tour

We took an afternoon to visit Cliff Richard’s vineyard in the Algarve – Adega do Cantor. This was a pleasant tour, which we booked through our hotel. We got to roam around the vineyard, see where the wine is made and of course, end the tour with some wine tasting and visit in their gift shop. A nice way to spend half a day, before relaxing at the beach again!

Vineyard tour
Cliff Richard’s vineyard

Food and drink

Casa Del Mar

This was a lovely seafood restaurant with stunning views overlooking the beach.  It’s in Old Town Albufeira, so conveniently located if you’re visiting that area. We chose our fish from the counter, which was freshly caught that day.  The price is based on weight and the waiters debone the fish at your table – a wonderful experience and food was delicious. 

The view from Casa Del Mar restaurant

Sal Rosa

A cool bar, with good music, serving delicious cocktails. (This was right next door to Casa Del Mar restaurant.)  We went here one evening for pre-drinks before dinner.  Ideal if you want a sun downer in the evening, as it overlooks the beautiful beach.     

Castello Del Mar

This restaurant was located on a cliff with an ocean view, so it’s worth paying a visit.  I think the restaurant has changed to an Italian restaurant and pizzeria since my visit.   

Bank Restaurant and Bar

A lively steakhouse in the heart of Old Town Albufeira, if you fancy seeing the night life around there.

Staycation in The Cotswolds

With the coronavirus pandemic, we couldn’t get away abroad in 2020. So we opted to do a few short stays in the UK. We have always wanted to visit The Cotswolds, so this was the perfect opportunity to start appreciating some of the beauty in the country we call home!

We were only in The Cotswolds for 2 nights but really wanted to stay longer – there is so much to see!

Day 1

When we arrived in The Cotswolds, the first village we visited was Bourton-on-the-Water. This was just a quick stop, sitting by the river and enjoying some fish and chips in the sun. The village is known for its cute little bridges that cross the River Windrush.

Bourton-on-the-Water

With our bellies full, it was time to burn off our lunch. We drove to the point of our first hike, Cleeve Hill, on The Cotswold Way trail (The Cotswold Way National Trail is a scenic route, through the Cotswold countryside in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)). We parked at the Cleeve Hill Golf Club to begin our walk. Make sure you look out for the Cotswold Way pointers, all along the trail, when you do your walk.

This was a truly stunning experience; we crossed hills and farms, many sheep and passed forested areas with sounds of trickling streams. Much of the time we were the only people there for miles! We felt truly revitalised and refreshed, in the clean country air. Its amazing how therapeutic being surrounded by nature is!

Cotswold Way National Trail
Cotswold Way National Trail
Cotswold Way National Trail

After the long walk; we checked into our hotel, Cotswold Grange Hotel in Cheltenham. The hotel was Covid-friendly; check-in was contactless, breakfast had to be pre-ordered the day before, staff wore masks / shields and social distancing was observed in the breakfast room. Parking was free and convenient and the rooms had a lovely traditional feel. Hotel staff were pleasant and I liked the intimate, B&B vibe of the hotel.

In the evening we headed to the nearby area of Cheltenham and had a lovely dinner at the Chelsea Brasserie. The town of Cheltenham has many restaurants, bars, shops and so on.

Day 2 – village hopping

Today was village hopping day! Driving from village to village was beautiful, crossing the Cotswolds AONB. It was secluded, the country roads were windy and quiet and very scenic. Here are the villages we went to:

Bibury

After some Googling, I learnt that Arlington Row, in Bibury, is one of the most photographed Cotswold scenes and one of the most picturesque villages. As you can see from my pictures below, the village did not fall short of this statement!

Bibury, Arlington Row
Bibury, Arlington Row

Broadway

Here we sat on the green and enjoyed an ice cream in the sun.

Stanton

One of our personal favourites! We ended the day here at the Mount Inn pub (extremely good Covid measures in place), which is beautifully perched on a hill. Here we had bite to eat then watched the sun go down, drinks in hand.

Stanton village
Stanton village
View from the Mount Inn Pub, Stanton Village

Day 3

We decided to do our last hike on this day. So we headed towards the medieval market town of Winchcombe. Here, we parked and walked towards Sudeley Castle. The castle was closed due to national Covid restrictions, so we walked around it and through the fields. It got difficult weaving in and out of so many sheep dotted across the whole field! So we gave up on this hike and headed back to the scenic Cleeve Hill, where we started our first hike, on day 1 of the trip. The below image shows the view from Cleeve Hill, the highest point of the Cotswolds hill range and of the county of Gloucestershire.

Cleeve Hill

As we were leaving to go home to London, we decided to stop off at one last village to end our trip. So we had lunch at The Cotswold Arms in Burford.

Three nights in Bangkok

This trip was the first part of our honeymoon, so planning the itinerary was very exciting! We visited Chiang Mai (for 3 nights) and Koh Samui (for 6 nights) after the Bangkok leg.

Day 1

Our flight got in really early, so we were in well need of a nap, after the 12 hour journey! We checked into the Landmark Bangkok, on Sukhumvit Road, a lovely hotel, very central close to Nana and Asok BTS stations. I cannot speak highly enough of the BTS system – its on time, easy to use, convenient to get around the city and air conditioned!

After a quick nap, we decided to walk to Terminal 21 in Asok, which was nearby – a cool shopping mall where each floor is a themed on a different world-famous city. The malls and their food courts are very popular in Thailand and cheap. You will need to buy a card and top it up to pay for the food. I opted for a pad Thai, seeing as it was my first meal in Thailand!

One of the many lovely temples

We then walked to the Erawan Shrine (which houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation). Lots of people there were asking for blessings and ladies in traditional Thai attire danced and sang for each of them. I recommend seeing this. From here we walked to Lumpini Park. We hired a pedalo boat around the lake, which was really pleasant. By evening, the park is filled with joggers and people doing yoga and dance exercises to music! It is also well-known for monitor lizards (unfortunately I didn’t spot any) so look out for them! It was fun pedalling around the lake, under the moonlight, as evening started approaching.

Lumpini Park

After dinner on Sukhumvit Road near our hotel, we went for a foot massage. And it was well worth it – my feet had swelled like balloons from the long flight and all the walking. And the massage was only about £7!

Day 2 – Temple Run

Today was dedicated to the temples. After breakfast and a nice early start, we took a train and boat (along the Chao Phraya River) to Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn). Remember, you are required to cover your legs, below your knees and shoulders (no vests) when visiting the temples in Thailand. They do offer cover ups if you need. Wat Arun’s colours and detailing are amazing. Make sure you climb up the steps for some good pictures within the steps, it feels like a maze! Also take a hat – it gets very hat! (we visited in March).

Wat Arun

Back on the boat and across the river, we headed to Wat Pho (the temple of the Reclining Buddha). This was just as breathtaking as Wat Arun! Every single temple in Thailand is a gem and will not fail to amaze you. The golden reclining Buddha is huge – 150ft long and 50ft tall. I would advise to take shoes which are easy to slip on and off, as you are required to remove them outside the temples.

Wat Pho – the Reclining Buddha

To our disappointment, we then learnt that the Grand Palace was closed (it shuts at 3.30pm. So I recommend you plan your day around this, when seeing the temples). It was a shame as we really wanted to see it on this day! So we decided to grab some lunch near Wat Pho – papaya salad! So refreshing, tangy and yummy. Goes down a treat, in the Thai heat.

No trip to Thailand is complete without a visit to a night market! So that evening we headed for dinner at the Ratchada Night Bazaar. Walk around, have some street food and look at the creepy crawlies on offer to eat! Remember, Bangkok is a 24/7 city and everything is open till late. So of course we had another massage to end the night.

Snacks at the night market!

Day 3

The last day was sad – we were loving Bangkok! We decided to head to Khao San Road (the vibe is very different during the day, compared with the night, so it depends what you’re looking for). We had lunch and wandered around – there are lots of souvenir shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. We then headed back to Sukhumvit Road for a full body massage (£12!).

In the evening we wanted to visit a rooftop bar – there are lots of good ones in Bangkok. We found one (Octave Rooftop Bar) after some quick searching online – the beauty of it? We turned up, no reservation required! The atmosphere and vibe was buzzing, the music was good and the view was serene (and it wasn’t super crowded, so service was quick). This really did top the trip off nicely, as we sat sipping drinks under the moonlight, before our next exciting stop in Thailand!

Bangkok by night (view from the rooftop bar)

The hustle and bustle of Brussels

From my experience, city breaks can be confusing to plan. So I thought why not write my own experiences, to give ideas to others! It also keeps my fond memories of the holiday alive 🙂

Day 1

We stayed at Hotel Hubert which was convenient and walking distance to the Grand Place. The hotel itself was charming and intimate. It had a pool table, food truck and Nespresso machine in the lobby. The decor was cool and quirky and staff were so helpful and friendly. 

After checking into Hotel Hubert and leaving our luggage, we had a whole day to explore (our Eurostar got in nice and early). 

First we walked to the St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral. It was peaceful and tranquil inside, worth stopping by. Next, we headed to the Grand Place (close to the cathedral), considered to be one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It definitely lived up to its reputation, it was beautiful. 

The Grand Place

Just off of Grand Place is the statue of Everard t’Serclaes. They say it brings luck and grants wishes to all who touch it, so of course we had to. We then strolled over to the Manneken Pis (one of the most famous statues in the world lol). It’s very small but nevertheless had a crowd around it. We still managed to get a pic up close! He’s dressed up in different outfits regularly. 

We then wandered the streets of Brussels which was pleasant. Make sure you nip into the chocolate shops, they’re super cute. After wandering around, it was time for Belgian frites at Maison de la Brouette, in the square. I had cherry beer which went down a treat with the fries. It was a cosy place with a fireplace. After a bit more walking it was time for another Belgian snack! This time we opted for a waffle (there’s loads of spots around, so it won’t be a struggle to find good waffles!)

One of the many chocolate shops

We had dinner near the Grand Place so make sure you see it in the evening, it’s so lovely when it’s lit up.

Day 2

After an apple strudel (not the healthiest of breakfasts, but hey, we’re on holiday!) we went to the Royal Palace of Brussels. It’s free to get in certain days / times of the week, so check online before your trip. The queue was pretty long, so after some snaps of the stunning architecture and landscape, we walked to the European Quarter, where the headquarters for the European Union is. We had a brief look around at the buildings (it was quiet, being a Sunday). The Parc du Cinquantenaire is at the easternmost part of the European Quarter. So it’s worth walking down here and also checking out the Arc du Cinquantenaire. 

The Royal Palace of Brussels

After a quick lunch, we headed back to the Grand Place for a Belgian waffle, a walk around and some beer (this time I had peach flavour) with frites! 

Peach beer

Day 3

We saved this day to visit the Atomium, before catching our Eurostar later on. We took a train there and snapped lots of pics of the Atomium! The structure is very cool. We didn’t go inside as time was limited – and we wanted to squeeze in some more Belgian snacks before our train! 

The Atomium

We headed back to the Grand Place and stumbled upon a great underground bar called Delirium Cafe, which offered a wide selection of beers. The decor and vibe was really quirky, with various brands of beers trays all over the the walls and ceilings. After a drink, a walk and some lunch, I really wanted to try a Belgian hot chocolate! I recommend it. And then it really was time to savour our last Belgian waffle before saying goodbye to Brussels! 

Belgian waffle

Valencia isnt just an Instagram filter

From my experience, city breaks can be confusing to plan. So I thought why not write my own experiences, to give ideas to others! It also keeps my fond memories of the holiday alive 🙂

I loved Valencia with its mix of old and new! The historic Old Town and the other side, with its modern and futuristic Arts and Science center.

View of Valencia Cathedral

Day 1

The flight got in early, so we had a chance to have some rest then a wander around and have lunch near the hotel (we stayed at SH Valencia Palace Hotel which was walking distance to everything and very central). In the evening we decided to take a stroll to the Old Town and had a lovely al fresco tapas dinner in the square. The Old Town is just as lovely at night as it is in the day!

Valencia Old Town at night

Day 2

This day was dedicated to the Old Town. After a cafe con leche and some breakfast, we wandered the cobbled alley ways and streets, looking around the Silk Exchange,  Valencia Cathedral, Turia Fountain, Plaza de la Reina, and the street art of el Carmen (all within walking distance). After venturing the streets, it was time for a refreshment – so what better than a sangria outside!

After a siesta at the hotel, we headed back to the Old Town (we liked it there!) for another al fresco dinner – paella (which actually originates form Valencia). A gelato from Heladeria Veneta (awarded best gelato in Valencia) topped off the evening nicely. Its close to Valencia Cathedral and Plaza de la Reina.

Turia Fountain
El Carmen street art

Day 3

Today was kept free for the Arts and Science park (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias). It’s great to walk around and really photogenic, with its futuristic architecture. Walk through the palm tree lined, Umbracle. We didn’t go to the aquarium, as some of it is outdoors and the weather was slightly wet. So we headed to the science museum instead (8 euros). We ended up passing more time than intended here, as it’s really interesting with lots of interactive exhibits. By the time we wanted lunch, everything was closed (remember, everything shuts at about 3.30pm in the afternoon, so try to get lunch in before this!). So we bought some fresh bread and cheese from a supermarket and sat on a park bench eating with some cold beers, which went down a treat!

Umbracle, Valencia Arts and Science park
Valencia Arts and Science park

After another afternoon siesta we returned to the Old Town. It was our last night and wanted it to be memorable. French and Italian restaurants are really popular in Spain. So we had lovely Italian meal, in a cute alley way, with street musicians serenading us. Dessert was a scrumptious tiramisu. 

The last day

We really wanted to go to Marina Beach Club and this was the only day that we could squeeze it in, before our flight in the evening. A short bus ride from our hotel (the only time we needed public transport, apart from to and from the airport, as Valencia is very walkable). We went to the beach club (no reservation needed) for some cocktails. The music and atmosphere was awesome, with a DJ and good music. While we were there, we took a stroll to the beach. Sadly we wished we had more time at the beach club! We could have easily spent an entire day there and rented a sunbed (totally worth it, with food service). But it was time to go back to the hotel, change and get our luggage to leave for the airport. 

Marina Beach Club

Roaming in Rome

When researching for my Rome trip I remember getting very confused, as there is so much to see in a short space of time! I remember planning my holiday based on someone else’s blog, which was super helpful. So here is my version!

Day 1

After checking into the hotel, we dropped off our luggage and headed out for a stroll. Our hotel (Rome Glam) was extremely convenient and very central.  We walked to the Trevi Fountain and the timing was perfect.  It was nearly evening and such a great time to see the magnificent Trevi Fountain, lit up, with a gelato in hand! We walked to the Pantheon nearby, where a musician was playing a saxophone inside. It was so peaceful hearing the beautiful music echoing off of the high ceilings.

The Trevi Fountain

The Spanish Steps are just a short walk away, so we headed there, before having dinner at That’s Amore – a restaurant serving heart shaped pizzas! Make sure you reserve though! 

Day 2

Starting the day early, we went to Vatican City.  This was the only time we used the train in Rome (other than to and from the airport.  Everything else was walkable from our hotel).  We wandered around the Vatican Museum and had coffee in the little cafe inside.  We saw the Sistine Chapel (while a guard constantly repeated “no photo, no video”, so remember that!).  The queue for St Peter’s Basilica was slightly too long so we headed to a sandwich shop nearby for some lunch.

The Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museum

Crossing the St Angelo Bridge, we walked towards Piazza Navona and had the “best tiramisu in Rome” (TripAdvisor swears by it!) from Two Sizes Rome.  I had peanut butter flavour and my partner had pistachio – I highly recommend a visit.  We spent the rest of the evening in Piazza Navona, sitting by the Fiumi Fountain, then going to a wine bar and siting outside under an awning, opposite a fountain. We had red wine and watched a musician singing and playing her guitar which was pleasant. Piazza Navona is also a good spot to see cool street shows. The comedy / magic was very entertaining. 

The best tiramisu in Rome!

Dinner was in the same square – cacio e pepe!  A must eat in Rome!  A pasta dish consisting of cheese (cacio) and pepper (pepe)!  So simple but so yummy! 

Day 3

We walked to the Roman Colosseum and were lucky with the queues as it wasn’t peak season. Make sure you buy tickets in advance though.  We booked onto an English tour which was so informative and super interesting. I was stunned hearing about the history of this Wonder of the World.  After looking around the Colosseum, we ventured around Palatine Hill which overlooks the Roman Forum. This is a must see when you go to the Colosseum (all within walking distance). Then it was time for, you guessed it, another pizza!  We found a pizza joint near the Colosseum (there are loads in the area).  After a rest back at the hotel we headed out for dinner near the Trevi Fountain, at a cosy little spot called Il Chianti Vineria.  And of course, more gelato for dessert. 

Inside the Colloseum
Overlooking the Roman Forum

The last day 

We went back to the Spanish steps as we hadn’t seen it in the day. It’s a great spot to sit and people watch. We then had a coffee and a cannoli at a cafe. I really didn’t want to leave Italy without a spag bol! So, our last meal before getting the train to the airport was a spaghetti bolognese and tiramisu at L’Archetto (a quaint and quirky, authentic Italian restaurant).

Cannolis and coffee

Tip: we travelled in November (and it wasn’t even cold. A light jacket is enough). All the tourist spots were less crowded and busy, compared to when people flock there in the summer!