Active in the Isle of Man | Why the Isle of Man should be on your British travel bucket list

Scott and I have developed a little habit for getting away from London for new year’s eve – last year we headed to Edinburgh, and this year, to ring in 2017 we headed to the Isle of Man.

The lowdown

It’s smack bang in the middle of the Irish Sea, between the coastlines of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales – and if you climb to to the submit of Sneafell you can actually see all four! It’s 33 miles in length, and 13 miles in width. Make sure you walk the width of the island along the Heritage Trail from Douglas to Peel along the old railway, which can easily be done in a day. The Isle of Man is just a short flight from London, and it’s rugged coastline, medieval castles and picture perfect bays make it the an ideal spot for a weekend break.

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Where to stay

If you can’t drive, I’d highly recommend staying in Douglas which is the capital of the island and is the hub of the bus networks. The town is also home to two of the main railway lines: the steam railway to Port Erin and the electric tramway to Ramsey, these however only run in the summer months.

Scott and I used Air bnb to book our cottage, but Grenabye Estates have some beautiful properties in the south of the island. Next time I visit, I’ll definitely be staying in Sheerghlass  – a two bed contemporary cottage just outside of Castletown with a sleek open-plan set up, garden and sea views!

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What to do whilst you’re there

Lace up those walking boots and get outdoors! Stroll along the Douglas promenade and along the coastal path to Laxey. You’ll be surrounded my lush hilltops with the sea by your side. On your way through Laxey head to the Shore Hotel which is the islands only brew pub. Grab yourself a pint of Old Laxey Bosun Bitter as it can only be found here.

If you’ve taken the Heritage Trail from Douglas to Peel, have a short stroll around the town and have a dip in the sea (if it’s warm enough!). Pay Peel Caste a visit and watch the sunset over the bay.

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 Where to eat 

Queenies (giant scallops) are the local speciality, they’re dead cheap and you’ll find them on almost every menu. Try a Queenie bap at The Fish House in Port St.Mary, they pile them high on in between slices of thick white bread.

If you’re looking for somewhere to dine in the evening, then look no further than 14North. It’s located in the heart of the North Quay in Douglas (which is the islands dining destination). They aim to use seasonal and local ingredients to showcase the best of the island. Scott and I feasted on this Pork Belly which was served with a black pudding sausage roll and heritage carrots.

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Best time to visit

Visit during the summer months in order to make the most of the island’s beautiful beaches and walks. But even on a rainy weekend in December cosying up with a good book, and a log burning stove in a cottage isn’t the worst thing in the world…

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How much does it cost? 

Prices are similar to London, if not slightly cheaper – a pint will set you back around £4. Manx pound is an actual currency, but you’ll get on fine with sterling.

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The Isle of Man is a perfect place to visit if you’re had enough of long haul flights, love the outdoors and want to explore more of Great Britain.

 

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Active in the Peak District

As much as I love London, sometimes it’s nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Last weekend my family and I hosted a reunion up in the Peak District. It’s the perfect place to host a gathering as you can stay in huge cottages (there’s no fighting for somewhere to sleep) and you can really disconnect from the strains of everyday life. And boy, did I need to – I think the last time I had a week off work was March when I headed to Copenhagen.

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I had the pleasure of staying in Valley View, which is located in the hamlet of Mill Dale. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid, so it really feels like a home away from home. If you want to relax and zone out, lie in and lounge with a good book and a cup of tea, and explore the great outdoors you need to come here. If you’re thinking about a staycation in the countryside, this is the perfect place to enjoy a lazy weekend out of the city – though the WiFi connection is fab if don’t want to completely disconnect.

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The Peak District is a real gem, it’s located in the middle of England and is full of rich history to discover. It was named the first national park of the United Kingdom back in 1951. It’s just a short drive or train from London and it makes the perfect spot for a weekend break as you can be as active or as laidback as you’d like.

Autumn is a wonderful time of year to explore the Peak District – I love spending my days kicking up the leaves on a walk followed by an evening cosying up by the fire. We saw the weekend off by going to the Derbyshire Food and Drink Festival which was being hosted in Bakewell.

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I was invited by Burtree Puddings and got to try some of their delicious brownies. Scott also brought some of their sticky toffee pudding to have later that night. I haven’t got the biggest sweet tooth and I’d much rather have a cheese board for dessert, but their sticky toffee pudding really hit the spot.

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On Sunday we laced up our walking boots and headed down the River Dove and in no time at all we were at the famous Stepping Stones. We took a walk that looped us back around through Mill Dale and to Alstonfield, where we headed straight for The George for a late lunch – it’s one of my favourite gourmet pit stops. As you walk in you’re greeted timeless small rooms with old beans and crackling log fires. The food is seasonal but you’re bound to always find steak and ale pie and treacle tart on their menu.

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I can’t wait to go back to the Peak District in December. It’s the perfect place for a weekend out of the city, where you can turn off your phone and soak up the fresh air.

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A North Londoners Guide to Eating in North London

If you’re ever spent more than 5 minutes with me, you’ll know how much I love North London. I currently live in Southgate, but I’m counting all my pennies and hoping to move to Finsbury Park. It’s somewhere I’ve always dreamed on living – it’s close enough to the city so I can lace up my trainers and either run or cycle to work, or pop home for a Sunday lunch (or bbq knowing my family).

I get pretty tried of people simply describing North London as only Kings Cross, Islington and Camden. There’s so much more to see and do! Let me take you on a little adventure down the Piccadilly line through your stomach…

Kings Cross

Kings Cross is a huge transport hub for London, and it would be silly for me to ignore it in my guide. Since the development of Granary Square, Kings Cross has become a foodie’s paradise. You’ve got the likes of Granger and Co, Caravan, The Grain Store, and of course Dishoom.

I’ve been to Caravan numerous of times and it never fails to disappoint – their coffee is the perfect pick me in the morning, and their sweet potato and cumin waffle is to die for.

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Holloway

Getting my family to come to this part of London is a nightmare – they’re avid Spurs fan and my dad actually refuses to get off the tube at Arsenal (and still refers to it as Gillespie Road). Some of my highlights include Zia Lucia (a newly opened Pizza joint using black charcoal bases), Vagabond and Le Coq.

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I recently visited The Highbury Arts Club for my sister’s birthday extravaganza – it’s a cute little cafe serving up tapas with exposed brickwork, cosy corners and communal long tables. The food here was so good, I’d highly recommend their pandron peppers, tortilla, and coquettes (and whilst you’re at it.. you might as well order their whole menu). They also do amazing dessert – Scot and I devoured their cheesecake.

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Finsbury Park 

Now I could write a whole post about Finsbury Park, and narrowing down what to include in this section has been incredibility hard.

Get Brunch at Fink’s Salt and Sweet and get to their Avocado Toast. The portion is more then generous and is topped with goats cheese and comes with a harrisa spread – it’s such good value for money.

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Grab a cup of joe at Blighty Coffee. They’re got signature drinks like the Orancino, which is basically Terry’s Chocolate Orange in a cup, and the Spitfire, which is served with cinnamon and chocolate.

Hit up either Yard Sale Pizza or Petek for a spot of lunch or dinner. Petek serves up spot-on Lebanese food, their portions are generous and everything is incredibility tasty.

Finally, grab a pint at the Faltering Fullback. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s always full or the main room looks like a cross between a sixth-form common room crossed with a 1970s pool hall. It has the most stunning beer garden – it’s quite simply one big treehouse.

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Harringay 

I’ve only recently started exploring Turnpike Lane and Woodgreen since Scott moved here. You’re got to go for a spot of food at Blends, and I simply adore their eggs on sourdough with asparagus and hollandise.

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Mosaica at The Old Chocolate Factory is another one of my favourites – it’s the perfect date spot. It’s in the middle of an industrial estate in Wood Green, but I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

Southgate 

You’re almost at the end of the Piccadilly line, and here’s where my foodie journey ends. But before it does, make sure you visit Green’s Steakhouse. They do week day offers, and from Monday till Thursday can grab two steak dinners and a bottle of house red for £39 – bargain.

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The Winchmore is one of my favourite local boozers, run by a brother and sister duo and boasts over 70 gins. Their bar staff are incredible as well,  simply let one of them know your favourite fruit and they will whip up a gin for your taste.

Let me know if you visit any of these places or if you have any hidden gems you’d like to share!  

Active in Rome | How to Spend a Weekend in Rome on a Budget

I went to Rome last weekend, and I definitely learned that sometimes, spontaneity is best. For a meticulous planner like myself, the idea of not booking a hotel and flights at least 3 months before a trip is crazy. I like to have it all mapped out – where I’m going, where I’m going to stay, and most importantly, where I’m going to eat.

I tore up my rule book last and jumped on a last minute plane heading to Rome to visit Scott (as he is currently travelling around Europe). The flights cost a small fortune, so I had a tight budget for when I landed. Going to Rome with limited funds may seem like an almost impossible task but they are plenty of ways to enjoy its sight, without breaking the bank. Here is how I spent three glorious days in the capital of Italy..

Getting into the City

Before my trip began I read everywhere that taxis into the city are incredibility expensive and rip tourists off (shock). The buses are by far the cheapest way to go and will take you right to the main train station in Rome for €6.

Where to Stay 

Scott and I booked ourselves into a cute little apartment a stone-throw away from the Colosseum through Airbnb. The one thing I love about airbnb is that you usually have your own kitchen – meaning you can have a lot of your meals come at a faction of the cost because you’re not dinning out.

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Roma Pass – Is it worth it?

For €40 you’ll get free entry to 2 museum or archaeological sites of your choice and free use of the city’s public transport network.

Personally I don’t think it’s worth it. Firstly transport to and from the airports aren’t included so you’ll have to fork out for this separately. Secondly, Rome is best seen on foot – you’ll be amazed what you’ll see by simply wandering around. Scott and I didn’t actually go into any museums or archaeological sites, and most of the sites can be seen from a far. Scott, being a bit of a history buff, was my walking tour guide so I didn’t feel that I missed out on anything.

The Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, Spainish Steps, Pantheon, and The Piazza Navona are some of Rome’s top attractions – not to mention they don’t cost a penny.

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Food

It can be extremely easy to get carried away when dinning out anywhere – especially in Rome. If you’re on a really tight budget, pack sandwiches in your rucksack for lunch. Scott and I found a couple of local sandwich shops and ate our lunch along the river.

If you love food like me, it’s really hard to strike the right balance (and this is usually where I blow all my money). Dinner is the one meal of the day where we decided to treat ourselves and even then we were careful to only spent €15 each. Cutting back on the alcohol really helped keep costs low.

One night we visited a restaurant near our apartment called Luzzi. If you’re looking for a cheap and tasty meal this is definitely the place to go, so it’s no surprise is popular with families and large groups.

And of course, when in Rome don’t deny yourself that ice-cream.

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Where to Enjoy Rio 2016 in London

Four years ago I was working for the retail team in the London Olympics and I really can’t believe how quickly time has passed. The Olympics has moved onto Rio and starts this Friday but you don’t have to leave the city to catch a glimpse of the action…

Pop Fields, Brixton 

Pop Fields is the new hub for watching sports and with one of the biggest screens in South London, it’s clearly the one of the best places in town to watch all that sporting action. It also comes with a side of top-knotch street food by Made of Dough, Baba G’s and Mama’s Jerk.

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CopaCapanaBeach, SouthBank 

Let CopaCabana bring Rio to you – they’ve recreated Rio’s most famous beach with 85 tonnes of sand on London’s South Bank. And because no sporting event is complete without food, they’ll be serving up some of their best-selling Spicy Malaguete Chicken and Sweet Potato Fries. Pass us a Caipirinha!

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Beach East, Stratford

Catch the coverage in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with Beach East. You’ll find a Rio-themed celebration with fun fair rides, two paddling pools, and fine, white sand (and families galore) – but don’t worry, they have two beach bars you keep your refreshed.

BoxPark, Shoreditch

Grab yourself a deckchair and enjoy this open air screen by Shoreditch High Street station. BoxPark also have a variety of food and drink shops to help your refuel. Grab yourself some souvlaki from The Athenian and reminisce about the first ever Olympics in ancient Greece.

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How do I stay healthy on Holiday?

I’ve got a serious case of wanderlust at the moment so I’ve only gone and booked myself a last minute holiday to Rome. I adore travelling but taking a holiday shouldn’t mean taking time off from a healthy lifestyle. I thought I’d share my top travel tips with you, please don’t throw away months of hard work for one gluttenous geteaway.

Hydrate 

I can’t stress this enough – whatever you do, you need to stay hydrated. Air-conditioning is a main contributor of dehydration. Now I’m guilty of this one – but we often mistake dehydration for hunger, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to keep those hunger pains away.

My top tip is to always carry a bottle of water with you. This can be tricky when flying as you can’t take a bottle of water through security, however you can take an empty bottle and fill it up once you’re through.

Walk

I’ve talked about the benefits of walking before (and I now get off a stop earlier before work so I can get a quick 15 minute workout in before my day start). I think it’s such a great way to see things on holiday and it comes with several health benefits as it will help with:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight (if you hit 10,000 steps a day)
  • Strengthening your bones and muscles
  • Building a healthier heart
  • Improving your balance and coordination

A Treat a Day 

This is my mantra when on holiday as you can often overindulge as you relax. I do try to only have one treat a day and here’s how I do it:

  • Plan ahead and bring your own snacks, I often have a bag of nuts or fruits in my bag for when I get hangry.
  • Eat local produce and research restaurants before you go to them. I tend to look at menus online and make my decision before I even walk through the door.
  • I love a glass of wine, but more and more I’m finding myself switching to low-calorie options. A gin and slim is now my go-to drink

Rest

 We all need to embrace this one, free your mind and keep work away – it’s a holiday for a reason. Part of the reason I love travelling is because I can completely disconnect and live in the moment.

 

Things to do if you’re new to London

Moving to a new city can be extremely daunting, especially to London as it’s a big old baffling place. When I moved back from home from Leicester everything I knew had  completely changed. There are a thousand and one things to do here and here’s my list of fun ideas and some advice on how to fit in and feel at home in the capital.

Tweet me at @anna_boast or @activeinldn if you try any of them out!

 

Walk Everywhere 

It’s seriously the best way to orientate yourself in London. The tube map is incredibility misleading and most station are only a stones throw away from each other. Use Transport for London’s walking tube map to discover how near or far stations really are. Since I got my FitBit I walk everywhere and I can’t wait to move out of the suburbs so I can run to work.

Catch London’s Cheapest Bus Tour 

So, walking isn’t your thing. That’s fine, how about a tour of London’s major sites for just £1.50? Hop on the number 11 bus and you’ll get to see some of our most-loved landmarks. It travels from Liverpool Street to Fulham Town Hall, taking you past the Bank of England, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.

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Don’t go up The Shard 

Seriously – don’t. It’s a complete rip off at £30. Instead head to the Walkie-Talkie building and visit the Sky Garden which is completely free! Avoid the queues and book into one of their early morning yoga sessions. Nothing beats watching the sunrise over London.

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Go for a £10 Steak

There are few places where you can get a cheap steak dinner, but Flat Iron serves up the best. Their menu is incredibility simple and some of their branches are attract queues of up to two hours. Luckily, they work the queue with an app so you can have a few pints at a pub nearby whilst you’re waiting.

Wander along the South Bank 

It’s home to dozens of street performers, the National Theatre, outdoor food markets and second-hand book stalls. Borough Market is a must see, it’s got every type of food and drink you could ever possibly dream of.

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Attend a Supper Club 

Turning up solo in a restaurant can make a lot of people anxious, so why not book a supper club instead? The goals is to bring strangers together over food. London Pop-ups have a great list here of the regular and best supper clubs in town.

Try a new Exercise Class 

It’s the perfect way to find a new gang of workout buddies, plus London has heaps of unique and insanely fun workout options. I’ve recently tried 1Rebel and Another Space and I can’t wait to go back.

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