Active in Manchester | 48 hours

Just because I’m a born and bred Southerner that doesn’t mean I’m not enchanted by the North. There’s something about the northern industrial revolution vibe that I can’t resist. Don’t get me wrong, I love London, but it’s completely different to the North – and until very recently, I had never visited Manchester and exploring more of the island I live on is firmly top of my new years’ resolutions. So if you fancy a break from London, or just want to see another side to the UK, jump on a train up to Manchester.

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The lowdown

It’s one of the UK’s largest student cities and has definitely put music back on the map. Although it’s a lot smaller than London (and you can walk around the centre in 40 minutes), it’s got a lot to offer without being touristy.

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Conor and I arrived by car (which takes about three hours on a good day) but parking can be incredibly expensive and as many central hotels don’t offer parking, I’d recommend getting the train, which is by far my favourite way to travel. It’s incredibly fast to get a Virgin train from London which only takes two hours.

Where to stay

Manchester is full of places for every budget, but you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere which tops King Street Townhouse. It’s a boutique hotel slap bang in the centre of town with an element of country chic. It even comes complete with a rooftop pool, a sauna, plus its own bar and restaurant.

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What to do whilst you’re there

Wander around the Northern Quarter. It’s full of record shops, vintage boutiques, and original crafts. Pop into the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, which is housed in a former Victorian fish and poultry market and it’s been home to independent artists for over 30 years. It’s full of people selling textiles, jewellery, ceramics, prints and sculptures.

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I’d also recommend popping into Oklahoma, it holds the title of the biggest independent gift shop in Manchester. It’s full of colourful trinkets, stationary and homeware, as Conor and I were wandering around I kept adding things to my mental list of ‘things to buy when I have my own home’.

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Although Londons got an incredible music scene – it’s nothing compared to Manchester. It’s home to the likes of Oasis, The Smiths and The Stones Roses, who really put Manchester on the music map. It’s worth heading to a gig of any kind during your visit, check out Songkick for all the information you’ll need.

Where to eat and drink?

Go for brunch at Federal, which is located just across the road with Oklahoma. It’s a pretty popular spot, so be prepared to put your name down on a waiting list, but trust me, it’s worth it. Food-wise, it’s got everything you could ever want. It may be one of the best brunches I’ve ever had. I opted for the halloumi and shrooms – grilled halloumi which was served with roasted garlic, thyme mushrooms, poached eggs, spicy tomato relish, dukkah and sourdough toast. Conor hit up their special of eggs benedict with pulled pork and crispy shallots. We were definitely that person making mmmm noises in the corner.

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Another place to add to your hit list is Bundobust, a place which brings together vegetarian and vegan Indian street food and craft beer. It’s an unassuming little entrance, but don’t let that put you off. When you eventually find it, you’ll descend the stairs into a cavern of delights. The restaurant itself is a large area, with long communal tables down either side. Definitely get yourself a portion (or two) of the okra fries – they were crispy and salty, but yet sweet because they come dusted with mango powder.  Their beer selection is a homage to local craft breweries, and have about 10 different taps serving a complete range.

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Speaking of craft beer, you need to go on a tap room bar crawl! Conor and I started at Alphabet Brewing, which is about a 10-minute walk south of Manchester Piccadilly.  We then hit up Beer Merchants, Track (we only stayed for one here, as we didn’t really rate it), Cloudwater and then Seven Brothers. If you have time for only one, make sure you visit Cloudwater, they’re constantly voted in the top 5 for craft beers in the UK.

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Soak up all that beer at Rudy’s Pizza, which served traditional Neapolitan pizza in an ex-industrial spare with minimum fuss. The pizzas come with a raised crust, with a flat moist base. The kind of pizza which you can rip with your hands and tear chunks off.

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How much does it cost?

The average price of a meal in a restaurant without alcohol is £10, and a pint can be everything from £2 to £6 – it just depends if you live the Carlsberg life, or the Cloudwater life.

 

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Active in Portland | 48 hours

It’s taken me a bloody long time to write up this guide… but better late than never, right? I can’t stop gushing about this city to everyone – I’d go as far as calling it my favourite city in the US, and I’d definitely pack up my bags and leave London for it. Portland’s got everything – from the food and drink, the cool neighbours, and forest hikes right on its doorstep. 48 hours is long enough to scratch the surface of the city but will leave you wanting more.

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The lowdown

It’s Oregon’s largest city and is located along the west coast of the United States. It’s named after Portland in Maine after a coin toss back in 1845 when the city was just a settlement, otherwise, the city would have been called Boston.

Much of Downtown Portland is pretty flat, and on clear days, you can see Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens on the horizon.

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Best time to visit

Head to Portland in the summer months (June till August) – the days are long and thankfully dry, you might have heard a rumour that it rains a lot in Portland.

I’m definitely planning a visit to head back in July for their Oregon Brewers Festival. But regardless of the weather, there’s always tonnes to do.

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Where to stay

Head to the Northwest District – it’s an area full of old craftsman-style houses which are packed tightly together with grand apartment buildings within walking distance from restaurants, bars and shops. It’s got that perfect small village feel within a city.

I stayed at the HI-Portland within ‘Alphabet district,’ which gets its nickname from the streets, which run parallel in alphabetical order. It’s got an amazing location, with decent restaurants and bars on its doorstep, plus all the top sights are within walking distance and it’s such good value for the money.

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What to do whilst you’re there

Get lost in a good book at Powell’s City of Books – although I can’t guarantee that you won’t actually get lost in this shop, so make sure you pick up a map on your way in. It’s the size of an entire block and it’s the world’s largest and used bookshop with over 1 million books across 3,500 different sections. I could easily spend all day here nursing a cup of coffee in their cafe.

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Lace up your walking boots and escape to Forest Park. Located northwest of Downtown Portland, it’s one of the largest urban parks. It’s no surprise Portland’s got a rep for being green as this 5,000-acre park is just a short distance from a freshly brewed cup of coffee or a microbrewery to quench your thirst. If I had more time in Portland, I would definitely hike the 30-mile Wild Wood Trail which winds through the park.

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Browse Portland’s artisanal wares at the Saturday market. Located in Waterfront Park, the market is a pretty popular destination for local handcrafted goods. From food carts, live music, cheese, knitted clothing, paintings and incense – it’s all there and then some, it is home to over 250 small businesses after all.

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Where to eat and drink

You really can’t write a guide to Portland without mentioning Voodoo Doughnuts. Head here after browsing the Saturday Market where you can grab some pretty avant-garde creations. Their namesake is the Voodoo Doughnut, shaped like a voodoo doll (of course) which oozes red jelly, whilst their official doughnut for the city is the googly-eyed Portland Creme.

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During my visit to Portland, I stayed at close to the hostel as possible when going out for dinner, and because of that, I stumbled upon The Matador. It’s a Mexican restaurant in Northwest Portland but let’s be honest, anywhere that serves complimentary chips and salad is going to be a winner in my eyes.

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Portland is known as the Craft Beer Capital of the World and the city has earnt the nickname ‘Beervana’ – and that’s actually one of the main reasons why I choose to visit. The best way to visit these Brewpubs are by bike – there are loads of places around the city where you can simply rent a bike, or book into a tour. Either way, you need to try Black Pedal, 10 Barrel Brewing and Fat Heads.

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How much does it cost?

The average price of a meal in a restaurant without alcohol is $15, and a pint can set you back around $6.

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Active in San Franciso

The crimson bridge, wooden cable cars, and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes – are some of San Fransico’s iconic features. It’s a city where you can spend weeks in, but still not experience everything it has to offer.

One of my best friends from college now studies at Berekely, which is just across the bay from San Franciso – a perfect excuse to visit her and see the ‘City by the Bay’. For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to explore San Francisco, and last month I finally got to tick it off on my bucket list.

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The lowdown

Located along the coast of Northern California, the city measures less than 50 square miles. And although the city is geographically small, it’s ‘big’ in terms of attractions and amenities. It’s pretty easy to see and do many things in a short period of time.

The city is built on 43 hills but it’s pretty walkable. Just think of those slopes as a naturally occurring stair-master.

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Best time to visit

While visitors tend to assume that since San Francisco is in California, the weather will be warm, they are often faced with a rude awakening when they find themselves shivering in summer clothes under the city’s notoriously fog-filled sky.

In the mornings and evenings the fog rolls in during the summer months but rarely persists – just be sure to have a light jacket handy otherwise you might end up buying an overpriced jumper from Fishman’s Wharf. August through October are usually the warmest months of the year and temperates rarely rise above 21°c, but you can’t count on it as the weather in San Francisco can change by the hour.

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Where to stay

San Francisco hotel room rates are incredibly expensive and you can end up paying at least $200 per night. As I was staying alone in San Francisco (there wasn’t enough room in Naomi’s flat in Berekely to host all of us) I opted to stay in a hostel in Downtown San Francisco.

At the heart of Downtown San Franciso, you’ll find Union Square, which is one of the cities main hotel and shopping district, plus it’s a major junction for transportation lines. There’s a couple of shady streets nearby, but you really can’t beat it because of its central location.

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What to do whilst you’re there

San Francisco’s signature landmark is the Golden Gate Bridge, and as far as best views go there’s nothing quite like standing at Fort Point to truly take in its beauty. But if you want a view of the city, rent a bike and cycle the bridge’s 1.7-mile span and head to Martin’s Vista Point for striking views.

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Another viewpoint you need to hit up is the one from the top of Coit Tower (although go on a day when it’s not foggy or you’ll be really disappointed). Walk up Lombard Street Steps to Telegraph Hill, then take the lift up for panoramic views of the city and the bay.

Head East towards down Lombard Street to see one of the world’s windiest streets. With its redbrick pavement and beautifully tended flowerbeds, it’s no wonder tourists flock here to watch cars navigate the sharp turns of the road.

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Take a tour of one of the world’s most famous prisons; Alcatraz was once a formidable fortress in the middle of San Franciso Bay. It’s a pretty haunting experience and the audio cell-house tour is narrated by former inmates and guards. Be sure to book in advance as the tours do sell out quickly in the summer months.

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Check out the piers. The one of most note is Pier 39 where amind the street performers, souvenir shops and seafood restaurants you’ll find groups of sea lions. They’ve been a permanent fixture on these docks for at least 25 years.

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Head down into Mission and walk through Clairon Alley and Balmy Alley. These alleys are a mix of incredible street art expressions of political and human rights issues which have been around since 1992. The Mission also has some unique shops and delicious Mexican food, so browse and wander through this vibrant neighbourhood.

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Where to eat and drink

You can’t visit San Fransisco without heading to Boudin Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf. Its bread is still made from the same mother culture which was made back in 1849. They even have a museum where you can have a cheeky look into the showcase kitchen. But make sure you head to the cafe and sample their soups served in a sourdough bread bowl.

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Clearly, San Franciso is a bread mecca. If you find yourself in The Mission you must head to Tartine. It’s a corner space packed full with baked goods, salads and sandwiches. Their most popular pastry is by far the morning bun, a type of croissant that’s rolled topped with sugar, orange zest and cinnamon.

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Pull up a pew at Magnolia Brewpub. With high, dark wooden booth it has an English pub feel (so it’s no wonder I felt right at home here and ended up staying for at least a couple of hours…). It boasts around 20 beers on tap, but make sure to head here on a Tuesday as all house beers are $3.

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As I didn’t have the biggest budget for this trip, I didn’t eat out as much as I usually would and ended up buying salads from Trader Joes a lot. I’d recommend checking out The Infatuation for the best eats in San Francisco.

How much does it cost?

I won’t lie, San Fransisco is expensive and your bills can start to rack up pretty quickly. The average price of a meal in a restaurant without alcohol is $20, and a pint can set you back everywhere from $4 to $7.

Hotels actually come in almost all price ranges, but cheaper ones will inevitably be in less desirable locations. The public transportation system is pretty decent, The Bart (sort of like the tube) runs all the way from San Fransisco airport, through downtown and out into Berkely.

But don’t let the cost of things put you off, you need to try and visit San Francisco at least once in your lifetime.

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Beyond San Franciso

Berekely

I spent half of my time staying in Berekely during my visit. It’s home to the University of California which is home to some pretty vocal activists. If you have time to spare whilst you’re visiting San Francisco, hop across the bay and spend a day wandering around campus and the botanical gardens.

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For healthy food in Berekely check out Sweetgreen, a place dedicated to sourcing local ingredients to make their wholesome salads. Everything is seasonal and organic, you can either order off their menu or build your own salad. Plus, they also ask if how heavy you would like your dressing, perfect if you’ve spent the majority of your trip eating doughnuts and sourdough…

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Or if you fancy something naughty and indulgent, you’ll want to check out Homeroom in Oakland. It’s a restaurant dedicated soley to mac n cheese. It’s comfort food at its best, and so popular they opened a second location just for takeout.

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Yosemite National Park

Even though I’m a city girl, I’m a massive nature lover. Yosemite National Park is about a four-hour drive from San Francisco and we spent two days there. If you’re ever in California, I insist that you make time to go and visit Yosemite.

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The best way to see this stunning national park is on foot, so make you sure you pack some decent walking boots or trainers. I wish I could have packed more hikes in, but there wasn’t enough time.

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We stayed inside the park in an Air BnB, just a 20-minute drive away from Yosemite Valley, but you’ll want to get to the park early so you can nab a decent parking spot in the more popular areas of the park.

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Active in Lisbon

Lisbon has slipped under the travel radar of many for decades, but these days the secret is well and truly out. Perched on the River Tagus, the city is full of steep cobbled streets with houses decorated in titles of pinks, mints and indigos. The rumbling trams are the soundtrack of the city, and you’ll be enticed with the smell of char-grilled seafood which fills the lanes.

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I had originally booked this trip for myself and my ex-boyfriend… but sometimes life has a different plan, and the next thing you know, I’m heading to Lisbon solo. Armed with only my Lonely Planet pocket guide and a new-found sense of adventure and independence. I couldn’t wait to start exploring the city which has been hailed as one of Europe’s coolest hidden gems.

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The lowdown

Lisbon is Western Europe’s oldest city and it’s Portugal’s capital. It’s got a welcoming vibe and one of the sunniest skies in Europe, so it’s no surprise that the city has attracted hordes of enterprising young startups. But amid the gentrification of formerly-shabby docklands and the neighbourhood of Bairro Alto, Lisbon still retains a sense of history.

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Where to stay

Bairro Alto is a tangle of lanes which plays host to shabby-chic shops and hole-in-the-wall bars. It’s spread out on a hill above the old town as it has long been the city’s bohemian quarter. It’s not the place to come for a quiet night in, so stay on the fringes of the area.

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As I was travelling solo, I booked myself a bunk in a 4-bed dorm at The Loft, which describes itself as a boutique hostel. At around €20 a night during peak times, it’s pricier than other hostels in the area, but it has a beautiful outdoor terrace where I could have my breakfast and read in peace.

What to do whilst you’re there

I had four days in Lisbon, so I explored the city at leisure. I started my sightseeing trip by exploring the Castelo de Sao Jorge. It towers above Lisbon (so it sneaks into almost every snapshot). Get here early to avoid the crowds and gaze over the city as peacocks strut their stuff in the gardens.

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Wander down the backstreets of Alfama (or jump on the tram 28), a jumble of cobbled alleys where you can peer down across a mosaics of red rooftops complete with cafes and galleries to mooch in.

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Another favourite site of mine was the Convento do Carmo, which was almost devoured by the earthquake of 1755. It’s got wishbone-like arches which are completely exposed to the elements.

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Put a whole day aside to explore the neighbourhood of Belém. Rise early and explore the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos before the crowds descend. Hide from the midday heat in the contemporary and modern art museum and watch the sunset from the top of the Torre de Belém.

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Where to eat and drink

Portuguese cuisine is simple & seafood heavy. But whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or prefer something savoury, Lisbon is a foodie heaven.

For fresh, cheap fish, head to Pateo 13 in Alfama (near the castle), it’s full of locals and is tucked away in a small plaza. It’s loved for its outdoor cooking where you can see the chefs preparing all the food out on the street.

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The Time Out Market opened a few years ago as it’s the first permanent foodie venture for Time Out. The market itself hosts 35 kiosks selling street food, from regional specialists as well global cuisines. It’s easy to lose a few hours here eating your way around the market.

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It’s impossible to visit Lisbon and not have a custard tart, and while they’re a dime a dozen, the best ones can be found at Pasteis de Belem. Join the hoards of people queuing and get your mitts of one of the best custard tarts in the city. They’re best served a little warm so when you bite into it a little custard oozes out.

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Another place foodie place in Belem to visit is Entoca de Belem. It’s tucked down a quiet lane and it’s a wine bar with serves modern Portuguese fair (and you just have to get the octopus). It’s small and has only 10 covers, so get here early if you don’t want to be disappointed.

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Whilst Lisbon is characterised by its seafood, pasteis de natas and jugs of sangria, so most people overlook Lisbon’s beer scene. Most bars and restaurants are stocked with either Sagres or Super Bock, but I had been told about Duques before my visit and I was so glad I made the trip. It’s an unassuming venue located on a cobblestone street that requires a laborious session up a series of steps. It boasts 12 taps (and more bottles or cans in the fridge) and only Portuguese breweries are represented.

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Best time to visit

Lisbon has long hot summers, so if you can’t hack the heat – it’s best to avoid July and August. Plus the beaches are packed with of tourists and the midday heat makes wandering around the city almost impossible. Although ‘the heat’ makes a good excuse to wander from bar to bar…

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How much does it cost?

A pint or a glass of wine will set you back €4. Being the capital of Portugal, you can either splash the cash or live like a backpacker.

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Active in Milan

From it’s Renaissance architecture of Church of Santa Maria, to its postcard-pretty canals in Navigli, to the heavenly gold hue of the Risotto Milanese, and a catwalk-highstreet scene which makes every day seem like Fashion Week – Milan has it all. Add to that a glorious climate, Prosecco on tap, and the fact that the beautiful, natural lakes of Nothern Italy are just a short train ride away – it ticks all the boxes for a weekend break.

My sister and I jumped on a 5:30am plane (ouch) last Saturday to visit my cousin, who has recently moved to Milan after spending her Erasmus year there. She was official tour guide and translator; the perfect way to visit a city is to be taken around by a local.

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The Lowdown

Located in Northern Italy, just south of the Alps, Milan is Italy’s industrial powerhouse and is at the heart of European fashion. It has been ruled by the likes of the Caesars and Napoleon, so it has a fascinating cultural history. But these days it leads the way with the largest post-war redevelopment in Italy whilst keeping most of its historical past intact.

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Where to Stay

South-west of the city centre lies the Navigli District, which plays host to bars which spill out onto the street with unmatchable aperitivo offerings, and an emerging art scene which really adds to the area’s cobbled-street charm. My sister and I booked a charming studio flat on AirBnB complete with exposed brick walls and a juliet balcony – I’d die happy if I could find a place like this in London.

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What to do whilst you’re there

If you’re visiting Milan on a weekend, spend one of your days exploring the city by foot and start your sightseeing trip by visiting Milan’s most famous landmark, The Duomo. It’s a magnificent white, Gothic cathedral, which is home to more statues than any other in the world. You can even climb the steps to the roof, where you can enjoy spectacular 360 views over the city.

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Just to North of the cathedral, lies the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – one of the world’s oldest shopping centre, where you can find the likes of Prada, Gucci and Ferrari. It’s four stories tall and highly decorated in marble with glass domed ceilings.

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Castello Sforzesco is a must-see and is home to lakes and the most luscious green lawns I have ever seen in Italy. For a city that doesn’t shout about its history (unlike Rome, Florence and Venice do to excess), it’s the perfect place to visit and really gain a sense of Milan as it hosts 12 mini-museums.

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Jump on a tram and head South until you reach the Prada Foundation, which is an institution dedicated to contemporary art. Make sure you get an Aperol Spritz from Bar Luce which was designed by Wes Anderson. It’s full of colour-blocked Formica tables, whimsical wallpaper and themed pinball machines and junk boxes – it could be easily be plucked from a glossy set.

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Dedicate a day and head north out of Milan to Lake Como. We visited the quaint village of Varenna which is made up of pastel-coloured houses dotted along the steep slopes that rise from the lake.

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Where to eat

Exploring Milan with an adopted Milanese meant that we were taken to places which were off the beaten track – and the locals all lunch at Luini which is just a stone throw away from The Duomo. It’s a hole-in-the-wall takeaway eatery, where they serve panzerotti – a fried dough parcel which is stuffed with tomato and oozing mozzarella, I’d call it Italian street food. It’s greasy and oh so bad for you, but it’s incredible.

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I had one of the best pizza’s I’ve ever had at Pizza AM and it’s somewhere I would have never ventured to without my cousin and her Italian pals, where I learnt that it’s sacrilege to put meat on a pizza (whoops). But be prepared to queue for your dinner here, but as you wait, they will bring you a slice of Margarita and a glass of Prosecco! I was shocked when the whole meal came to €16 per person – and someone told me Milan was expensive.

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On the doorstep of our apartment in Navigli, was MAGs Cafe. If you’re in this area for breakfast I’d highly recommend grabbing a custard croissant and cappuccino (fun fact: the plural for cappuccinos is actually cappuccini). It’s also the perfect place to grab a cocktail in the evening and watch the sunset over the canal.

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Best time to visit

The best time to visit Milan is during April to May or late September to October. Visiting during the spring and autumn months means you can avoid the summer’s scalding temperatures.

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How much does it cost?

Milan is more expensive than many other cities in Italy, purely because it’s the country’s business centre. We were however taken around Milan by locals, so managed to do it on the cheap – and actually brought Euros home with us for a change! A coffee will set you back €2 and a beer or spitz in a bar or restaurant will cost around €6.

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Active in Warsaw

Visiting Warsaw was never high on my bucket list. Before jumping on the plane, I didn’t research Poland and all I knew about the city is that it saw terrible events of WW2. So, I imagined it to be a depressing city without much character. I didn’t even look at a single travel book about Warsaw (because there actually isn’t one). There’s a part  of me that loves the feeling of travelling to a place that you have no previous impressions of!

My mum, sister and I decided to have a girly weekend away and our decision to go to Warsaw was based purely on the cost as the flights and accommodation was dirt cheap.

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The lowdown

Warsaw is the Polish capital and it’s unfortunate location has meant that it’s struggled a lot through the past centuries. For a traveller, Warsaw’s turbulent history, beautiful architecture,  abundance of green spaces, cheap eateries and quirky bars are a massive draw.

It’s further off the beaten track and Karkow appears to be the tourist hotspot of Poland, but Warsaw’s got a more local and authentic feel to it, don’t waste another second overlooking it.

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Where to stay

Stay in Praga, which is located in the east of Warsaw just over the Vistula River. It’s an incredible district which is overflowing with studios and galleries, and many hidden underground clubs and bars. Much of the post-industrial buildings in Praga survived the war and it’s here where you can find some beautiful pre-war streets and apartment blocks.

We stayed in a two bed apartment that we booked on AirBnB – it was incredibly spacious and it was complete with exposed brick walls and high ceilings. It was also next to this fab cafe, Halas, which just sold coffee, vinyls and banana bread.

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What to do whilst you’re there

One of the most remarkable things in Warsaw’s skyline is the Palace of Culture and Science, dubbed as ‘Stalin’s Penis’. It’s aggressive but is a beautiful piece of Soviet architecture. If you fancy it, you can take a lift up to the 30th  floor for a 360 view of the city.

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The Old Town of Warsaw has literally risen from the ashes and to say that it was hit badly by WW2 would be an understatement. It was completely flattened during the uprising and only two building survived! The buildings here are beautiful and it’s hard to believe that they aren’t the originals. Craft beer is something the Poles know how to do well, so after you’ve wandered around the old town, put your feet up and have a pint at Same Krafty.

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If you’re not staying in Praga seriously consider taking the tram and a day to explore this district. Make sure you head to the SoHo Factory as it’s where designer shops and incredible restaurants are located (but more on the food later), alongside the Neon Museum. It’s an overwhelming experience of colours and shapes which date back to the Soviet time and are collected from all over Poland.

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Another incredible museum to visit is the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which is a modern and interactive look into the story which shaped the city forever. It’s heartbreaking and expect to walk around the building with goosebumps and tears in your eyes.

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Where to eat

You can’t head to Warsaw without trying some Polish food so trying pierogi’s at Goscciniec is a must. It’s a small restaurant located in the Old Town and their traditional food is fresh, hot and delicious. We had piergois with spinach and cheese, and potato dumplings stuffed with pork.

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Wandering around Warsaw we found a lot of Italian restaurants or places serving up Italian inspired dishes. If you’re in the eastern part of the city head to Pausa Włoska and make sure you save enough room for dessert because you don’t want to miss out on their tiramisu.

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And if you find yourself in the western part of Warsaw, then hit up BYC Moze. Locals love it because you can get your hands on fresh bread, buns and cakes. We loved it for their creamy risotto and breaded turkey with the smoothest mash. It’s complete with communal tables and floor-to-ceiling windows. The perfect place to take a pit shop, rest your feet and people watch whilst you bathe in the light that comes streaming through the windows.

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On our last day we headed the SoHo Factory where we stumbled into Warszawa Wschodnia for brunch. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and if you’re lucky you can sit around the open kitchen and watch the chefs cook your food in front of you. I had the best eggs benedict that I’ve ever had here. It was so rich and creamy, plus it only cost £3!

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Best time to visit

We were incredibly lucky with the weather when we went in March. We were told by many people that it would be freezing but we actually didn’t need all our thick, woolly layers. To get the best out of the Polish weather, visit in the summer.

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How much does it cost?

I can’t get over how cheap Warsaw is! When we went the exchange rate was 5 Polish Zloty to every pound. A pint of craft beer costs around £1 and we were constantly dining out. We have so many 3 course dinners, bottle(s) of wine, cocktails and even some shots of vodka and the most we ever spent on dinner was £30 a head.

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Active in Edinbrugh | Falling in love with Scotland

Edinburgh is one of those places that I’ve been desperate to visit for a really long time. And for those of you who’ve been following me for a little while may remember last year Scott and I headed to Edinburgh for the new year.

The Scottish capital really out did itself with it’s many Hogmany parties, but it’s also got a whole lot more to offer at any time of the year. It’s got beautiful cobbled streets, gothic buildings and narrow alleyways, it’s the one places apart from London where I could picture myself living. And if Scott wanted to whisk me away for Valentines day… I wouldn’t complain.

The lowdown

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and is nestled between two extinct volcanoes. The old town is where the tourist flock, and it stretches from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the foot of the Royal Mile. Edinburgh is a cultural playground and it’s the perfect blend of old and new.

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Where to stay

Book yourself into a night or two at the 24 Royal Terrace, which came into being as Alan Campbell’s collection of contemporary art outgrew his house. You’ll find this boutique hotel a stone throw away from the Royal Gardens of Holyrood Palace and Calton Hill. It was built in the 1820s and the restoration has retained much of it’s architectural features. The mix of Georgian style and contemporary interior design is a fusion not to scoff at.

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What to do whilst you’re there

The best of the beaten track is definitely Edinburgh Castle which offers 360 degree views of the city. As you walk down from the castle onto the Royal Mile, pop into one of the many Scottish taverns and sink and pink or two. At the foot of the Royal Mile you’ll stumble across the Scottish Parliament building and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. After a little hike, you’ll find Arthur’s Seat. It’s the perfect place to end the day and watch the sunset. Pretty romantic too if you pack a bottle of bubbly in your bag.

The recently refurbed National Museum of Scotland is also not to be missed and is home to vast collections covering the natural world, world cultures, art and design, science and technology, and of course, Scottish history.

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Where to eat

You can’t head to Edinburgh without trying some traditional Scottish food, and you must try the Haggis from The Royal McGregor. To start to can get haggis fritters with sweet chilli and honey dressing, and for mains get the Highland burger served with haggis and whisky sauce. Many people are put off by haggis as it’s made with either sheep’s of calf’s offal, but seriously, just try it, you won’t regret it.

Scott and I stumbled upon Maison Bleue by chance, we were following our stomachs and landed here. It was my favourite place that we ate in Edinburgh. It’s a perfect date spot and is full of cosy corners, and not to mention beautiful French and Scottish food.

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Another cherished foodie spot is Mums, it’s comfort food at its best. It’s basic but you’ll leave full and satisfied. Their menu consists of various pies, different types of sausages with mash, and they also make a banging fry up. If your head is feeling a bit sore after too many malts, then mums will cure you.

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Best time to visit

A trip to Edinburgh is perfect for a long weekend. Look to the summer when the Fringe is on as it has 50,000+ performances in over 300 venues. It’s also a great place to ring in the new year with its many Hogmany celebrations, get involved in the torchlight procession which will take you from Edinburgh castle to Calton Hill.

How much does it cost?

Prices are a little bit cheaper than London and a pint will set you back around £4 and a meal will start from £10+

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