My 2016 travel roundup

Friday, 30 December 2016

This year has been a bit of a big deal for me when it comes to travel. I didn't start it any different to usual but coming to the end of it now, I have well and truly caught the travel bug. I booked my first Kuoni holiday which totally changed my outlook on terrible travel agents, I went on my first press trip and I managed to squeeze in a few European city breaks as well! I posted my first travel post in May and from there I was hooked and this year, I travelled more than ever before and I loved writing about it here afterwards! Now I'm set on seeing the world in any way I can!
 In May, I went on a little city break with Andrew and his family. We visited Madrid for two days with his parents and his sister (who lives in France) and her fiance. They split off for a few days of exploring the parks and other attractions whilst Andrew and I headed into the center and spent most of our time on the hunt for some of the best hotels and rooftop bars in the city. We did hop on a tour bus for a couple of hours as well which was fun! We've done a few red buses together now.
 Next up was our, whats becomming, annual trip to the ME hotel in Mallorca at the end of June. We've done this short trip twice now and I would do it again in 2017 because it's a holiday that we know we both love. On our first day, we usually buy a giant rubber ring and spend most of our time there chilling in the sea with it. The rest of our holiday is then, in a bikini, split between eating paella (yes, every night) and drinking cocktails at the hotel bar.
Stena Line Blogger Trip
 The week after we got back from Magaluf, I was off to Holland on my first press trip. I had a fabulous weekend away with the girls as we drove between Germany and Holland, sampling lots of local delicacies and staying in a brand new hotel. On Monday morning at 6.30am, we got off of our Stena Line ferry and hopped on the train straight to work!
Hotel Gotthard Press Trip
 July was a little bit crazy because three days after that, I was off to the airport to catch a plane to Switzerland and then drive to The Hotel Gotthard in Lech, Austria. It was an adventurous three days that pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to experience lots of new things. After cold days out exploring the mountains, each evening, I enjoyed retreating back to my warm, cosy hotel room and taking a long hot bath! 

Hong Kong
 After a couple of months spent enjoying an amazing summer in London, it was getting closer and closer to our big trip. Andrew and I fell in love with Asia after our trip to Thailand and couldn't wait to go back and see more. This time, we flew to Hong Kong and spent three days there before getting back on a plane to Bali. In Hong Kong we had a few very busy days exploring the temples and street markets, navigating the underground and spending the day at Disney; all fueled by lots of delicious Chinese food. 
Ubud, Bali 
We spent our time in Bali between Ubud first and then Seminyak. Ubud is the most amazing place and although we were only there for one day, I think it was my favourite location of the year! It was such an amazing cultural place and incredibly romantic, I was so pleased to be there with Andrew. I wish we had stayed longer although we certainly made the most of the one day we had.

Seminyak, Bali
 Semintak was the last stop on our holiday this year and was mostly a chance to relax. We stayed at another amazing villa with a private pool meaning we had lots of slow mornings by the pool followed by a chilled out afternoon exploring the town and looking for the best places to eat lunch and a couple of temple visits too. I think my highlight here was the in-villa BBQ that we had one afternoon - actually, all of the food we had here was incredible!

Malaga Press Trip
 My last trip abroad in 2016 was to Malaga with the Spanish tourism board. I've never been away for a bit of winter sun before but I really enjoyed taking a trip later in the year when it was cold and miserable here. Our days were full of exploring towns, taking far too many photos, non-stop eating and lots of laughter. I still have a few more posts on this to go up in early 2017!
After that, there were a couple of domestic trips before coming back home for Christmas.

Soton was first and we drove down after work on a Friday. After a burger in the car (classy, I know) we were ready to hit a club as soon as we arrived! Andrew and I stayed in a Premier inn so we went back to a lovely big bed afterwards while the rest of the boys slept on the floor at our friends house. The next day the football was on so whilst they headed to the pub, I took the opportunity to explore the Christmas Market there and do some shopping at The West Quay - which is a pretty amazing shopping center might I add! It was huge. 
aaannd my last trip was to Birmingham for the Christmas market. It was a lovely weekend and kind of inspired me to explore my own country a little bit more in 2017!
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6 London Hotels I Stayed At In 2016

Thursday, 22 December 2016

You'd never have guessed that Andrew and I both work in London with the amount of weekend breaks we take here too. What can I say, we love our city and like spending time exploring and enjoying it as well as working here five days a week. Any special ocassion is an opportunity to visit a new hotel and we managed six stays in 2016, most of which were brand new places for us. We stayed in some really lovely rooms so this year it was quality over quantity. 

 The St Martins Lane Hotel: 
This year started with Andrews Birthday in January at The St Martins Lane Hotel. Already huge fans of the other two Morgans Hotels in London we were excited to finally book a couple of nights here and we were both very impressed! It is similar to The Sanderson, very white and eary but much cheaper and in another great location - Covent Garden. A definite new addition to our favourite local hotels. 
Montcalm Marble Arch: 
Next was Valentines day in February and we stayed with the Montcalm Marble Arch. The room we stayed in was pretty amazing in terms of size - we had two adjoining rooms to ourselves but the hotel wasn't as modern as I would have liked. The deal we got was really good though so we did enjoy it and all of the extras (spa, strawberries, champagne breakfast), it's just not somewhere we would go back to again.
 The Mondrian Hotel: 
Easter was very exciting because we decided to go back to our favourite hotel in London - The Mondrian. We first stayed there for Valentines 2015, fell in love with it and have been back five times since; the rooms, the spa, the food and the overall vibe have been incredible each time not to mention we have been very lucky to have stayed in their incredible river view apartment suites (twice). This year, we booked two nights over the Easter break and stayed in a loft suite which was also great.
The Rosewood Hotel: 
There was a little bit of international travel from then onward so our next stay in London was in August and it was a big one. Andrew had planned this one as a surprise and decided we were going to stay at two different hotels over my birthday weekend. Our first stop was The Rosewood hotel which is somewhere I've wanted to visit for a very long time. This hotel stands apart from any of the other we have stayed in. The hotel itself is in an incredible Edwardian Grade II-listed building but the rooms were amazingly designed to still fit with this whilst being very modern. This was probably our most expensive night but we both really enjoyed our stay. 
The South Place Hotel: 
The next day we were off to a new hotel in Liverpool street called The South Place and I think this would be our favourite new find of 2016. Again, it is very modern and quirky - I'd love to go back and explore the rest of the hotel. Andrew booked us a studio which meant we had a free run of the mini bar in the room. I had never been in this situation before so took full advantage of trying out all the snacks and drinks, and anything I didn't have time to eat went straight in the came for later. The room also had a huge marble bathtub for two and large seating area. Isn't it funny how my photos got better though the year. 
M By Montcalm: 
and our last overnight trip into London for the year was in September for our 7 year anniversary. We decided to try the Montcalm again, although this time, we stayed at their little sister hotel in modern 'Tech City' aka Shoreditch and this one we would go back to! Its that crazy pointed building thats popped up on city road and everything in the room is controlled by Ipad. They have a bath butler service which involved us watching TV in bed whilst someone came to the room, poured us a glass of champagne and disappeared off to the bathroom to prepare a rose petal bath. 

Have you stayed at any of these hotels?

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Eating my way around Birmingham Christmas market

Monday, 19 December 2016

My brother started university at Birmingham over two years ago and up until last month, I hadn’t been to visit him! My parents had been a couple of times so with Christmas just around the corner and Birmingham having one of the best German markets in the UK, this time I decided to go with, Andrew came with as well so we made a proper weekend of it. We literally spent our whole visit eating.

We started the day with a mid-morning snack. A stick of deep fried cheese. Andrew wanted the cheese and salami kebab (just get the cheese one because it was delicious on its own) which was then dipped in batter and deep fried in front of us. After a few minutes of salivating, we were rewarded with a stick of gooey goodness to keep us going until we found the next stand.
Soon after that, we came across the Ostrich burger stand, it was about 11.30am by now so we were ready for lunch. Having had my first ostrich steak a few weeks ago and loving the flavour of the meat, I was excited to try one. The stand also had reindeer burgers so we got one of each to share. Honestly, they were a little bit disappointing for something other than a nice Christmas market burger so it was on to the next thing which we all preferred – a pulled pork bun! Andrew wandered off and came back with one and as soon as my mum saw, we all went back to get another. This was delicious pulled pork drenched in gravy and stuffed into a soft hotdog bun.
For dessert, I started off a the chocolate fountain. Obviously. I’d already have a stick of milk chocolate covered strawberries the day before so this time, I went for just a shot of chocolate. I have never seen people selling these before and it was only £1 so I ended up having three. While I was preoccupied with my chocolate, my dad and brother disappeared to the next stall and returned with 7 wheels of cheese to share between them.

You can’t go to a German Christmas market and not sample the beer; and in true go big or go home fashion, my dad and Andrew both went for a two pint tankard each. It worked out to £5 a pint plus a deposit which you get back when you return the glass although we never got that back, they decided that these glasses were going to be an essential everday item so we took them home.
Next we found a stand selling huge marshmallows. Not knowing if we would like them, my mum and dad decided to get one each, a plain milk chocolate one and a white chocolate and strawberry one. They queued for 10 minutes and after taking the first bite, decided that they were delicious and got back in the queue to buy 12 more. We all loved how light the marshmallow inside was, not like a normal one but more like marshmallow fluff instead.
After that, it was time to start making our way back, not before stopping off for one last sweet treat.  This was the one we were all looking forward to most as we decided that we were going to get some before we’d even started on lunch – the mini pancakes. We could just about manage one portion between us and ordered them with Nutella and icing sugar on top. Lucky Andrew didn’t want any because between me, my brother and my parents, they were gone literally within seconds.

Have You Been To Birmingham Christmas Market? 

Christmas Menu at Pivaz, Epping High Street

Monday, 12 December 2016

Pivaz opened earlier this year and it was quite a big deal for Epping, a brand new trendy restaurant that brought some glamour to the high street. They're a Turkish restaurant (which is one of my favourite cuisines) and I’d been once already, for my birthday but my parents already love it there so when I was invited to come and try out their new Christmas menu, I brought my mum along with me.
Whilst Turkish isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of a Christmas dinner, I’m actually not a huge fan of roasts so I was pretty pleased when the email came, saying that they were focusing on evoking the taste of the Mediterranean’s rich heritage and there would not be a turnkey in sight. So if like me, you’re not interested in going for another Christmas dinner this festive season, Pivaz is the place for you!

Let’s start with the décor because it’s something that I really do love about this place. There are lots of different sections as the restaurant twists around in a U shape and each part is different. It’s very interesting to walk from one to the next although all of them seem to exude luxury and decadence with lots of jewel toned velvets and secluded seating areas. We took our seats in the main dining room which was designed with blue velvet; buzzing with people on a sunday afternoon.
The Christmas menu is £39 for 3 courses and while there is quite a good choice for anyone who is new to Pivaz, the menu didn't have any of my mums favourite dishes from the normal menu on it. I however quite liked that because it meant we had to choose dishes that we'd never tried before and for me that meant that I found a new favourite!

I started with the Escargot as I don’t often see them on the menu and that are a dish that I really enjoy especially when they are smothered in garlic sauce. This time though, my very generous portion of snails were served in a cute little pot with a sweet, spicy tomato sauce. Mum had the mix mezze platter for one which was a pretty looking dish and perfect to get a hit of all the best turkish starters! We loved the filo parcel and beetroot tarator!
For mains, I went for the Char-grilled mixed fish as I had the lamb shish last time and I found a bit dry. The fish however was absolutely delicious and would be a dish I order again and again! The halibut was soft and full of flavour, the king prawns were huge and the salmon tasted great, placed between layers of onion and peppers. The dish comes with a fruity pomegranate salad but I had to order my rice separately. Mum had the beef shish which looked surprisingly succulent and juicy to me - it was much nicer than the lamb I had had previously so maybe they've improved since my last visit.
Dessert was a fruity affair with our first Christmas dish spotted top of the list - a Christmas pudding! There were none of their usual chocolatey options but I didn't mind because some of the other choices were still very tempting! We ordered the raspberry creme brulee and the passionfruit cheesecake and shared both. They tasted delicioius but quite heavy so neither got finished.

What's your favourite cuisine?
*My meal was complimentary in return for this honest review
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