landscapes, nature, photography, Tips and Ideas, Travel, UK

One-day trips from London – Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters was our first trip after lockdown so you can imagine how happy I was getting a really sunny and warm day in UK and heading to the beach and to these cliffs, called Seven Sisters. Even though we REALLY wanted (and needed) to get away from our house and our jobs we also wanted a place that would be outdoors and not crowded. From this point the decision of visiting Seven Sisters was made easily.


So what is “Seven Sisters”?

The Seven Sisters are a group of seven sucessive chalk cliffs by the English channel, hence the name. They are part of the South Downs National Park and it comprises of a total of 21.9 Km. No, we didn’t walk all the way through especially because we drove here so it would be more than 40 Km to walk both ways. And even though the walk is not extremely hard it is a lot of going up and down.


How to get here?

You have a couple of alternatives to get to Seven Sisters. We decided to drive to Seaford because there is a free car park “South Hill Barn Car park” which led us to a beautiful small stony beach where people were sunbathing when we arrive (but not crowded).

From London:

  • Train to Eastbourne or Brighton and then getting a bus to the Seven Sister County Park
  • Train to Seaford and walk straight to the Seven Sisters

If you think it is not going to be too tiring and you will walk the 21.9 Km – you can for example get the train to Seaford from London and then walk all the Seven Sisters trail and get the train at Eastbourne to London.

Both by train or car it will take you around 2 hours to get to the Seven Sisters from London.


What to do?

  • If you are coming from Seaford (as us) and the weather is warm enough, you can do a bit of sunbathing and maybe adventure yourself into the water. We did a bit of “trying” the water before starting our hike.
  • Walk, Walk and Walk. It is a lot of up and down but it is worth it. Believe, it is a beautiful scenary. I advise you to bring water and food with you. So you can stop at the middle or at any point of your journey and make a picnic with the amazing view of the cliffs and the sea. Even if you don’t fancy to a picnic bring water with you – it will be for a couple of hours without opportunity of buying some drinks/food.
  • Mainly enjoy! We travellers sometimes got trapped in the stress of having to visit everything and go everywhere and we forget what travelling is about – It is enjoying the journey, the experience and also it is knowing how and when to relax .
city break, Eat and Drink, itinerary, Tips and Ideas, Travel, UK

One day trips from London – Watford

Many of you would include Watford to your list even if COVID-19 hasn’t happened. This is because it is in Watford more especifically in Leavesden where the Harry Potter studios are. As a person living in Watford I can assure you that there’s much more than the studios, however as a person who grew up with Harry Potter books and movies I can also say the studios are a place that cannot be missed. I have been there only once but I as like a child in a sweet shop.

So in this post I will share the places you can visit and where you can eat and drink and have a good experience in Watford. To get here you can get the train at Euston Station in London, it is around a 20-minute journey (if you get the train that doesn’t stop a million times) and then to Leavesden you can get the bus or UBER. If you think it is better you can also get the Harry Potter bus that will get you directly to the studios.

What to visit?

Warner Bros studios

Anyone can deny that the studios are the main attraction. Obviously if you don’t like Harry Potter (as my husband) visiting the studios will not have any meaning to you. However for those who have joined the Harry Potter world at same point of their lives it is amazing to visit the studios.

You will recognise different scenarios, clothes and objects. The price of the tickets is not cheap, and that is the common opinion but everyone ends up going.

We visited the studios in September but if you come during special occasions of the year like Halloween and Christmas the studios will be decorated accordingly giving something extra special. With or without COVID-19 you have to buy the tickets months in advance (especially during Halloween and Christmas seasons). It is well worth it to come to Watford and visit the studios, as I said above I felt like a little kid enjoying a magical world.


Leavesden Country Park

If you have time either before or after the visit to the studios I will recommend you to go for a walk around the Leavesden Country Park. The area is really nice and you will have a park and a bit of woodland vibes and even if you like you can do a picnic (if the weather allows it!). Leasveden and Abbott Langley are very cute and pintoresque neighbourhoods with houses decorated with fresh and colourful flowers.


Whippendell Woods

If you are someone who loves to explore and be in contact with nature Whippendell Woods is a good place to go. The woods will connect to Cassiobury Park which leads you to the town center.

In the middle of the woods there is also a big golf club so be aware if you see someone playing. The last thing you need during your holidays/travellings is ending up in the hospital for getting hit with a golf ball. There is also a little boat-cafe in the canal where you can stop and have some beverage or food.


Where to Eat?

Breakfast

There are good options around, depending how you are getting here and which kind of food you want to try. I have mainly two options, which are my favourite.

Watford Town Center: Bill’s

This place is my favourite for a good breakfast.

Most of the times we decided by something that will fill us in until the end of the day. Be aware that sometimes it is really busy so maybe booking a table is not a bad idea (and especially with COVID_19). This franchise can also be found in other locations including London, so if you don’t have a chance to try it in Watford there are other alternatives.

Leavesden: Kingswood Cafe

For those who want to try the famoust “English Breakfast” you have to try this cafe.

It is a simple restaurant but the food is good (and we had some bad experiences with breakfasts in other places around). You can also have lunch but I think if you have the English breakfast you will be happy for the rest of the day.


Lunch/Dinner

In Watford there are loads of different and good options to eat. Watford in the last couple of years have extended the number of restaurants and it is now a very vibrant and “foodie” town center. I am going to list the restaurants that I have tried AND I have liked!

Watford town center

  • Bella Italia (Italian restaurant – pictures of the 1st row)
  • Ask Italian (Italian restaurant – pictures of the 2nd row)
  • L’Artista (Italian restaurant)
  • Bacarruda (Mediterranean restaurant)
  • Wagamama (japonese restaurant)
  • Spicy Lounge (Indian restaurant)
  • Kasturi (Indian restaurant)
  • Nando’s (grilled chicken but also vegetarian options)
  • Tortilla (mexican – fast food – picture on the left)
  • Five guys (Burguers – fast food – picture on the right)
  • Creams (ice cream and waffles – left and middle pictures)
  • Dessert Island (ice cream – picture on the right)

You will have also the “usual suspects” like Burguer King and Macdonald’s but you have a lot of good options around so why not try something different?

Leavesden

  • The Swan

Leavesden is a residential area and for that reason there are not many places to eat but I will recommend this pub. Before COVID we were going almost every weekend not only for food but also for drinks. The pub is really cute and close to the studios and to Leavesden Country Park.


Drinks

Watford town center

The places I am going to mention they also do food, but I will recommend coming only for drinks and then have food in any of the places I mentioned above. I am going to choose my favourite three places for drinks because they are cheap and/or the cocktails are super tasty. I will advice you to book a table in advance, for example I have tried multiple times go to the Florist but it is usually fully booked

  • O’neills
  • Slug and Lettuce
  • The Florist

Leavesden

  • The Swan (pub)
  • Hammer in Hand (pub)
  • The Artichoke! (really cute pub but you have to drive/get a Uber from Leavesden/Watford)

Other suggestion!

If you are coming to Watford during a lovely sunny day and you like to do picnics you can spread your towel or table cloth in the grass at the Leavesden Country Park and order through Uber Eats Pizza Gogo – the pizza we ordered almost every week! There is also a Tesco (supermarket) close by if you fancy buying some drinks or nibbles! And trust me you are not going to be the only one doing a picnic, this is something that British people love to do when the sun comes out for a bit.

photography, Tips and Ideas, Travel, UK

One day trips from London – Windsor and Thorpe Park

This is the second post of the series “One day trips from London”. Today I am going to get you one hour drive from London – to Windsor and Thorpe Park.

I’ll recommend that you go by car but you can also choose to go by public transport or maybe go in a exercusion if your interest is only in Windsor. This serie of suggestions to get away from London is mainly to the pandemic situation that has been happening recently and also for you to see that UK is much more than London. In my opinion, London is not by far the most beautiful and worthwhile place to visit in UK. However, London feels like a whole world closed in a city. But about London I will post another time.

Why Windsor?

Apart from being a really cute village with loads of pubs, cafes and a river crossing the town where you can do some canoeing during summer it is also the place where the Windsor Castle is, one of the Royal Castles and where Megan and Harry got married in 2018.

We visited the Windsor Castle right before Christmas when my and my husband’s families visited us. Because of the weather we didn’t explore the area that much, but I didn’t mind because the Christmas decorations were so impressive and everything looked so festive that visiting the Castle itself and the streets around were enough. It was not allowed to take pictures inside de castle and for that reason I am just posting the outside and the garden.

The Windsor Castle is still used by the Queen, mainly during weekends and it is the largest and the oldest castle occupied in the world. The castle has different rooms and expositions and prepare yourself to spend some hours exploring this place.

My advice if you are coming by car is to park in the car park near the train station and then walk to the castle. It is a short walk and you don’t need to be looking for a place to park especially when the traffic can be a bit hectic around this area.

Website: https://www.rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle


Thorpe Park

Now if you are looking for some silly fun and adrenaline you can visit the Thorpe Park. Thorpe Park is an amusement park and it is good, especially when you are up to some craziness. There are a lot of different attractions but the most famous is the Saw- The Ride, The Sealth and the Nemesis Inferno. I think we tried almost all of them or at least the ones that we wanted to go. Maybe the most impressive is “The Stealth” with an accelaration from 0-80 mph in 1.9 seconds – it is the fastest coaster in UK and second tallest.

The Stealth – the semicircular coaster on the left side

If you need some encouragement you just need to go with someone that is as crazy as you. When we arrived me and my husband looked at the Stealth and we were like “Oh that is the one I would never go” until the end of the day when we looked at each other and asked at the same time “Shall we try it before going home?” (crazy people!)

You can spend a full day on the Thorpe Park and it would go fast, but I thought for those who need to compromise you could also add Windsor to your day.

Website: https://www.thorpepark.com/


Extra suggestions:

  • If you are going to visit both Windsor and Thorpe Park perhaps it is better to start by the amusement park with an empty stomach and then move on to Windsor
  • You can easily spend one day at each place, we actually visited both sites in different occasions
  • Don’t forget to take a face mask with you
  • Book the tickets in advance either for the Castle or the Park
  • There is a hotel that belongs to Thorpe Park if don’t want to drive
  • See some videos on the Youtube of the Thorpe Park attractions, it will make you want it to go
  • Practice social distancing at all times and stay safe

city break, Driving, landscapes, photography, Portugal, Tips and Ideas, Travel

One day to the westernmost point of Portugal

If you are in Lisbon and with some days to spare I recommend two trips outside but close to Lisbon. One of them is going to Sintra – you can go by public transportation and that is the best option. The second choice is driving to the westernmost point of Portugal, Cape Roca, while stopping in some strategic points. And this second option is where I am going to focus today.

I will recommend you to rent a car – it is usually cheap and the traffic is not bad so you will be able to enjoy your day. This day can be organised according to your taste. You decide how long you stay in each part of the day or even if you want to skip some steps so you can spend more time in one of them.

Cabo da Roca

So let’s start the trip – and we are starting by the westernmost point of Portugal, Cape Roca or as in Portuguese – Cabo da Roca.

If you are staying in Lisbon it will take you around 45 minutes driving until to get here. But don’t worry, this is longest drive you have to do all day. When you get here you will have the most AMAZING view of the sea and Sintra’s mountain. Take a deep breath and explore the area. I have been here a couple of times when I was living in Lisbon either during Summer and Winter and it doesn’t matter the weather (maybe unless it is raining) the panoramic view is worth the drive. Don’t worry about parking, there are a lot of space around and for free.


Praia do Guincho

When you decided you are done, it is time to go behind the steering wheel again and drive to Guincho beach (praia do Guincho). In here you can decided if you want to just lay down in the sand and enjoy swimming in the sea (be careful, sometimes the sea is a bit rough in this area) or you can walk around or even stop in a cafe or restaurant and have a snack or a drink. You decide what you want to do. This is one of the beaches of Portugal where many surfers visit all year around.


Boca do Inferno

From here you have the “Boca do Inferno” (direct translation in English “Hell’s Mouth”.

This cliff formation with an unique sea-arch is an amazing place to walk around. I recommend when driving from the Guincho beach to here to follow the coastline,you will get fantastic views of the sea and it is such a nice drive.


Cascais coastline

Depending on your plans for the evening, you can still stop in one of the beaches in the coastline such as “Carcavelos” or “Torre”. If you fancy something more up level you can spend some hours in the Oeiras Oceanic pool. Even though I think it is a bit expensive especially because you have the beach next to you, but it is always a good experience. I have been there twice and I haven’t regretted (however a bit pricey for my liking).


Dinner

For dinner you will give you three main options, have dinner in a restaurant around “Carcavelos” beach. I have tried an Italian restaurant “Capricciosa” but there are other alternatives.

Crepes from Capricciosa

Just be careful to not choose a restaurant that will rip you off. The second choice is “Alges Market” or Mokuzai (sushi) that I have already mentioned on the previous post about Lisbon, where you have different choices in a vibrant environment and for good prices.


Spend the day as you wish

As I said in the beginning is up to you how you want to spend this day. You might want to start in the beach and then drive all the way up to the Cape Roca or you can skips both beaches and maybe spending some time exploring Cascais city which is also a good choice. Completely up to you!

city break, Eat and Drink, Tips and Ideas, Travel

One day in Lisbon – Belém

I have lived in the outskirts of Lisbon most of my life and obviously I have a sweet spot in my heart for this beautiful city. The weather, the food, the white buildings and the cobblestone streets all together makes Lisbon an amazing city to visit. In this post I will focus in one part of the city – Belém. It is one of my favourite areas of Lisbon and you will quickly understand why.

So, let’s start with places to visit

The Belém Tower

Maybe you will find this monument more impressive outside than inside since inside it is quite simple and plain. Outside it is a beautiful tower. Made from lioz limestone its structure is a promonient example of the Manueline style. The Belém tower was built between 1514 and 1519 and it served as a point of embarkation and disembarkation of Portuguese explorers during the Age of Discoveries. Nowadays this tower still stands proud and a memory of those magnificient times of the Portuguese history.

Website: http://www.patrimoniocultural.gov.pt/en/museus-e-monumentos/dgpc/m/torre-de-belem/

Address: Av. Brasília, 1400-038 Lisboa


Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Close to the Belém tower this 52-meter high monument is a celebration of the Age of Discoveries. It is possible to visit this building inside and have the most amazing view of the city and the river from the roof top. In front of the building, on the pavement, you have a world map.

Website: https://padraodosdescobrimentos.pt/en/home/

Address: Av. Brasília, 1400-038 Lisboa


Naval Museum

Keeping the subject, on the Naval museum you will find not only a lot of different ships from caravels to more modern cruises, you will also find a lot of information about the life in the sea and activities related to these activities. In total there are more than 17 thousand items displayed inside this museum.

I would recommend a visit on the first Sunday of each month when it is free to enter. Plus, bear in mind on Mondays this museum is closed.

Website: https://ccm.marinha.pt/pt/museu/

Address: Praça do Império, 1400-206 Lisboa


Jerónimos Monastery and National Archeology Museum

It is impossible to miss the most beautiful example of Manueline style, the Jerónimos monastery. This monastery and the Belém tower mentioned above are classified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. You will be awed by the cloisters, the architectural details, the gardens and the luxury of this amazing building.

The National Archeology museum is located next to the Jerónimos monastery and you will find the largest archaeological collection in Portugal. There will be displays items from the Paleolithic period to the Middle Ages.Both the monastery and the museum are free every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm and closed on Monday.

Website:

Jerónimos Monastery: http://www.patrimoniocultural.gov.pt/en/museus-e-monumentos/dgpc/m/mosteiro-dos-jeronimos/

National Archeology museum: http://www.museunacionalarqueologia.gov.pt/

Address: Praça do Império, 1400-026 Lisboa


Planetarium Calouste Gulbenkian

The high-tech projector that takes you to the universe

Maybe some of you will see the Planetarium more as place to take the children but I am a 31-year-old adult and I love this place. There are different regular sessions every day each explaining different subjects of astronomy. The most recent one I went was about black holes and I found it really interesting.

For those who dont know, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a prestigious institution in Portugal and its main purpose is “to improve the quality of life through art, charity, science and education” according to their website. You can be sure if the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is involved the information displayed will be accurate and reliable as it happens in the Planetarium.

Website: https://ccm.marinha.pt/pt/planetario

Address: Praça do Império, 1400-206 Lisboa


Tropical Botanical Gardens

It is also in this area of Lisbon where you can find the Tropical Botanical Gardens. It is a good choice if you want to go a relaxing walk and see the amazing tropical and subtropical species. Entrance fee is 2 euros.

Website: https://museus.ulisboa.pt/jardim-botanico-tropical

Address: Tv. Ferreiros a Belém 41, Lisboa


Go for a stroll

There is nothing better to enjoy the view of the river and the city in a sunny day. Lisbon is the most perfect city to relax and just enjoy the present. Walk along the river, the gardens or just sit and have a picnic or take a nap.


Food

Pastéis de natal (Portugueses custard tart)

This is one of the most famous pastries in Portugal. In UK they have become quite famous in the past few months and there is a reason for that. The flaky pastry filled with smooth sweet cream is delicious. The “pastel de nata” is also called “Pastéis de Belém” and as they name indicates Belém is where they are orginated from. You will see the dark blue tilt with white letters and you have to go inside this cafe where the original Pastéis de Belém are there for you to try. Don’t be embarassed if you have to eat more than a few (everyone does in the end!)

The picture of their website https://pasteisdebelem.pt/

Website: https://pasteisdebelem.pt/

Address:  R. de Belém 84 92, 1300-085 Lisboa


Pão Pão Queijo Queijo (Bread, bread, cheese, cheese)

The name of this place may sound funny but it is the direct translation of its Portuguese name. This little place is next to Pastéis de Belém and maybe you should come here first to have lunch and then head to Pastéis de Belém for dessert. You have several options to choose from, you can have falafel or a pitta with lots of meat or a huge baguette and even salad. Even though this is a fast food cafe the food is really delicious. It is one of the places I miss so much and I try to go now and then when I visit Lisbon. You have the option to eat in or eat in the park with the river Tejo right in front of you.

Address: R. de Belém 126, 1300-086 Lisboa


Mercado de Algés (Algés Market)

This food market is around 30 minutes from Belém Tower. You can choose walk which is a nice walk or take a cab, public transportation or UBER. This is a nice place to have lunch or dinner (I prefer to come here for dinner) and choose which food counter most appeals you. The environment is very relaxed and informal which reflects the Portuguese culture. Good food, good wine and good friends. What else do you need?

Website: https://www.mercadodealges.pt/

Address: R. Dr. Manuel de Arriaga S/N, 1495-037 Algés


Mokuzai

For those who love sushi as me there is a really good restaurant not far from Belem, but maybe you should get an Uber. Mokuzai is the name of the restaurant and you can choose to have a “all-can-you-eat” or just some pieces of sushi. It is really good and you will have a view of the river which is very enjoyable.

Website: https://m.facebook.com/mokuzai.sushi/

Address: Largo Leonor Faria Gomes 10A, 2770-134 Paço de Arcos

Accomodation, Christmas, city break, Eat and Drink, food, Geneva, Hotel, photography, Tips and Ideas, Travel

Switzerland – Geneva

Geneva is not a proper touristic city. Almost everyone that had visited it was either because they know somenone who live there or had time to spent before or after heading to the mountains. Even though we only spent one weekend in this city and for that reason didn’t have time to go to the mountains, my husband, who had lived in Geneva for 8 years assured me that is the best part of the region. Which means the mountais closest to Geneva are one of the places to add to the already too long list “Places to go in the future”. Adding to that he also said that Geneva is not the best city around the big lake Léman. He told that there are other cities more worth to visit such as Montreux, Lausanne, especially if you want to visit Switzerland either during Summer months or during Christmas. And yes, I can say the Christmas market in Geneva is rubbish so definitely choose another city if the Christmas markets are the reason why you are travelling. And as quick as that, other trip was added to the list – a trip to visit the cities around the Lake Léman.

You must be thinking, so why you chose Geneva to visit in the end of November?

  • 1st reason – We wanted to go to a concert of Hans Zimmer and this was the weekend we could go and it was in Geneva.
  • 2nd reason – My husband had lived in here for 8 years when he was a child and he haven’t visited ever since. This trip was basically a journey through his childhood.

I am also not saying Geneva is not worth to visit. In the end we had fun, cheese, cakes and lot of beer. My advice is for you to add Geneva to a bigger holiday – like before or after going to the Mountais for skiing or visiting another city around. 2 days are enough to see the main touristic places in Geneva.

I am reading what I have written so far and maybe I have put you off visiting Geneva, but don’t.

Next, I will add the places we visited, where and what we ate, and you will see this city is much better than I pictured above.


Places to Visit

  • CERN
  • Jet d’Eau (water jet)
  • Bains de Pâquis & Phare des Pâquis (Pâquis baths and lighthouse)
  • Rotunde du Mont-Blanc (Mont-Blanc rotunda)
  • Brunswick Monument
  • Jardin Anglais (English Garden)
  • Parc de La Grange (Rose Garden)
  • Basilica of Notre-Dame
  • Bourg-de-Four Square
  • Bastions Park and Reformation Wall
  • St. Peter’s Cathedral
  • Russian Orthodox church
  • Museum of Art and History
  • More option to visit in the Old Town
  • Palais des Nations and Ariana Museum
  • Broken chair
  • International Red Cross and Red Crescent museum

Food and Drinks

  • Cheese Fondue – Café Vaudois/ Au petit chalet/ Bains de Pâquis
  • Harmonie – Italian Restaurant
  • Cakes – Migros
  • Drinks at home/hotel – “Drinks of the World” store
  • Late Night – McDonald’s for food and La Makhno for drinks

Accommodation

  • Hotel International & Terminus

Tips and Ideas

  • Public Transportation
  • Extent your trip and see more
  • Disappointment with the venue but amazed with the orchestra