How much does a weekend in Europe's Best Destination cost?

Tuesday 30 May 2017

The flights from Stanstead were cheap - that's why we originally chose Porto although I later found out  that it has been voted European Best Destination three times including for 2017! I met up with Selena at the airport and made our way to the gate. Selena had an aisle seat and I had a window one so we switched - I love a aisle seat. We arrived into Porto at about 9am and after Selena made it through passport control, everything takes longer because she is from Canada, we were off to explore. [Return Flights with Ryanair: £66/75.99]
Porto Blue Tiles
The station is just underneath the airport so we bought a reusable train ticket and headed 15 stops to Trindade. It is the most central station on the airport line and from there, everything is in walking distance. [Train ticket: €2.55]
Porto Train
We started by finding out hostel for the night, The Rivoli Cinema Hostel (More of that in another post) but we weren’t able to check in straight away so it was time to start exploring. We walked just down the road to Majestic cafe which had so many reviews online, it was a “must visit” although when we arrived there was a long queue and it was very overpriced so we decided against it and instead went on the hunt for a Porto specialty - La Francesinha. It wasn't the most amazing thing I've ever eaten but when in Rome and all that. We shared an original one which was was stuffed with different meats and cheese and came with chips.
[Hostel for one night including breakfast: €15 | La francesinha: €9 (€4.50 each)]
Porto La francesinha
Porto Hostel
Next it was time for dessert and one of the things I was most excited about visiting Portugal for – Natas! These delicious puff pastry and custard tarts are what Portugal is famous for and can be found in bakeries all over the place. Selena lead us to a residential area away from all the touristy stuff and we round a local bakery where we bought our first fix. They were deep filled, just the right amount of brown on top and seriously delicious! We also found the cheapest bottles of water on that street – move away from the tourist spots to save money.
[Natas: €1 each | Water: €0.20]
porto custard tart
High on custard, we were off to explore! This, surprisingly, is when we stopped spending money! We grabbed a map, which had all of the points of interest marked out and we made our way through all of them. We saw many beautiful churches covered in Azulejo (blue tiles.) On our free walking tour we found out that, apart from looking pretty, the tiles were originally added to buildings to prevent humidity and help with temperature control, I’d recommend Capelas del almas (just across the road from Balhoa station) and Church of Saint Ildefonso as they were the prettiest. We spend the afternoon learning about the history of Porto and finished up at Louis I bridge in Ribera. [Walking tour: Free | Lift up the cliff as the steps were closed off: €2.50]
porto church
backpacking porto
For dinner, we hit up a tapas bar and indulged in garlic prawns, bacon and mushrooms and all of the potatoes. They tried to add a dish to the receipt that we didn’t ask for but after kicking up a fuss, they took it off.
[Two tapas dishes and a bottle of water: €12]
porto tapas
The next morning, we had breakfast in the hostel before heading out to explore some more. This time we went straight to Livrera de lello which is a famous book shop in Porto. Remind you of anything? Did you know that J K Rowling lived in Porto for 18 months? Apparently this beautiful bookshop inspired her. It was packed and it cost to even enter but it wasn’t too much and we really wanted to go in so we paid for it. I also stopped off to buy Andrew a shot glass for his collection. [Entrance to the bookshop: €4 | Shot glass: €2.50]
porto bookshop
porto bookshop
 For lunch, we stopped off in a bakery for a slice of quiche and another nata before heading to my last tourist stop of the trip. The Clerigos Church which again cost to get in. We climbed to the top of the tower and looked out over Porto before exploring the exhibition and church below. Afterwards, it started to rain so, I went back to the hostel for an hour whilst Selena headed to a park for some more exploring. I met her back at the station and we loaded our travel cards up and heading back to the station. 
[Quiche: €1.31 | Nata: €0.65 | Church entrance: €4 | Train top up: €1.55]
Porto tower
So, in answer to my original question, for me, a weekend in Porto costs €127.75

Summer Holiday Shoes

Monday 22 May 2017

For me, espadrilles are the epitome of summer holiday shoe; they're lightweight, breathable and perfect for keeping your feet cool in the sunshine whether that's by the beach or at a festival. So when Ego shoes asked me to pick out three pairs of summer shoes, I thought I'd show you guys my take on them.
 Junior Flatform Trainers | £24.99 | White or Black: What I loved about this first pair was the platform. I've never seen espadrille trainers before but I think they look great on and would work well for some of those more active holiday days; of course that doesn't mean anything too strenuous, maybe just hitting up the local town or walking along the beach front. The are super comfortable so they would also be perfect for running around a festival in. I loved that the white upper also has a slight shimmer to it.
Justice Lace Up Espadrille | £19.99 | Gold, Silver or Black: Although I don't wear closed toe that often, I love a lace up shoe! These have a super soft sole and loosely lace up the leg - and I think with the colour in a choice of silver or gold, they are perfect for both the day time and evening. I went for gold as I think it looks great on the beach but the shimmery colour means they will instantly dress up an outfit in the evening.
Natalie Pom Pom Espadrille Flatform | £29.99 | Grey or Pink: The last is a flatform shoe with just a touch of espadrille in the line along the top of the platform but also a fun, furry pom pom on the front. This particular style come in subtle grey or pink but you can buy similar styles in a more harsh black, white or even demin. I almost bought the Abigail style last year but it was a lace up fastening and it just wasn't strong enough to keep the block sole secured to my foot. The buckle fastening on this style sorts that problem out.

The Best Places To Eat In New York City

Sunday 14 May 2017

To me, its quite obvious that the food in America is better than the food here in the UK. They do everything bigger, better and more sugary and as someone who never passes up the opportunity to have dessert (breakfast dessert is a totally normal thing in my house) that sits pretty well with me! I'm also a huge fan of Man V. Food it's not just dessert that I want to stuff in my face, the main reason that the US is currently on my travel bucket list is the food so today I am going to share with you all the places that I want to visit. Maybe one day, I'll finally get around to visiting NYC again, and I will be able to come back to this list and tick each of them off! I’d love to know if you guys have been to any of these place or if you have any more suggestions for my hypothetical list.
We recently got a new egg waffle place down the road from work and it was a huge deal. Meanwhile wowfuls are killin’ it over in the US with their incredible creations. Why don’t our egg waffles look like that?!
Claw daddy's
It has always been a dream of mine to sit down at a table and have a bowl full of seafood and sweetcorn poured out on the table in front of me. Burger & Lobster will have to do for now.
No matter how many times I was told not to eat raw cookie dough, I was always the kid that ate the cookie dough before it went into the oven. Look it's delicious ok, I couldn’t help it. Little did my 7 y/o self know that one day, it would be possible to buy risk free cookie dough which I could eat until my heart’s content. I was super sad when I found out this was just an american thing but luckily, there is a cookie dough pop up opening in London this summer as well!

 Katz Delicatessen
Growing up in a Jewish family means that Katz Deli looks like home. Their pastrami and mustard on rye looks like NYCs answer to the brick lanes salt beef beigles. (Jewish ones are not called bagels ok)
Milk & Cookies
Ice cream coated in multi coloured candy (getting into the american spirit) and sandwiched between two freshly baked cookies. This place know what they're doing and it looks delicious.
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Joe's Pizza
Did you know that NYC eats 150 slices of pizza every minute?! and I can understand becasue it looks delicious over there! I hate 'thin and crispy' over here; seriously, who wants a crsipy pizza. All I want is a greasy slice of thin pizza that is bigger than my face is that too much to ask?
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Sugar factory
Sugar factory has been on my radar for a while. I used to spend a lot of time on Instagram looking for places to have quirky cocktails in London but you don't find cocktails like this in London. Any that I did find were always outdone but photos of crazy colours, huge cocktails from Sugar Factory.
Soft Swerve
This place have some pretty strange flavours including ube purple yam (which I'm pretty sure is big in the phillapines) but I'm always up for trying an adventurous flavour and aren't these the most beautiful ice cream cones you've ever seen?
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My Favourite Essex Days Out

Monday 8 May 2017

Whilst I love the hustle and bustle of working in London and I really do, I spend most of my life up there whether it's in the office, eating out or just wandering around the streets; Essex is my home. It's a completely different world from the big city, much slower and relaxed with lots of grass and lots of wild animals. Well, there is in my part anyway - there's a peacock who lives across the road from us with his chicken friends and also a couple of goats.

With all my traveling recently, I haven't really had much time to talk about exploring my home here on my blog so when The Essex Business School at the University of Essex got in touch, it gave me the perfect opportunity to put together a post. With the launch of their new BSc Tourism Management degree and a competition running alongside it to find Essex’s Best Youth Tourist Attraction today, I'm sharing my favourite Essex days out.

If you live in Essex then I’m pretty sure you would have been to Southend seaside at some point during your childhood. One set of grandparents used to live there and my other grandparents love it there too so I spent a considerable amount of childhood weekends there. Whilst the cold, stony beach isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I still love to walk along the front and spend all of my money at the arcades - hitting up the 2p arcades is one of my favourite things in the world and I have the best memories there. I loved going with my grandparents as a child and I still love going now whether it’s with them or with Andrew.
Epping & Hainault Forest
So we have a lot of forests in Essex and I love them both as a quiet sanctuary. Epping Forest is somewhere that I make alot of time to visit because its quite close and Molly loves it there and I love to take her out on a walk when I have time; it's always full of dog walkers.

Hainult Forest is all about the petting farm. I went with Andrew and his family for a post boxing day walk, we saw the goats (you should understand my love of goats by now) and I had the best day! After a frosty walk around the lake, we stopped off in the cafΓ© for a warming cup of tea. Hainault forest is also a lovely place for a picnic so we do that quite often as well.
Hylands House
This one is a little bit further away from me but is somewhere that holds loads of cool events. I’ve been in the past for the Dukes Polo with Freeport Braintree (another amazing day out in Essex) and more recently to the Dog Show with Frontline. It’s also the location that they hold V festival at each year!

Freeport is great for discount designer goods but Lakeside will always be my favourite shopping center because it's the one I come home from with bags and bags of shopping every time; the shops there always have the best stock. Apart from a three story Primark and all of my other favourite shops, they have the best range of food for a shopping center. We usually get lunch at Pret or Pizza Hut before devouring milkshakes, cookies and who knows what else as we wander around. Another thing that I absolutely love about Lakeside is that it's never too crowded so shopping is actually a nice experience; we literally spend the whole day there.
If you’re aged 16-25, Post a picture on Instagram of your favourite place to visit in Essex to win a prize package of summer days out worth up to £500. Include a caption naming the attraction, explaining why you love it and remember to tag @essexebs #essexyouthtourism. Ends 18 May. See T&C

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Making Tagines at Le Maison Arabe Cookery School, Morocco

Monday 1 May 2017

After a morning exploring Marrakech’s best hotels, we made a trip to La Maison Arabe Country Club. Away from the madness of Marrakech this little area of calm was the perfect place for an afternoon cookery class. We walked through the gardens and took a seat under a canopy by the huge wood fired bread oven. There, our afternoon plans were explained to us as we watched our dada (Moroccan chef) spread dough over a wooden board and throw it into the oven.
At the school, we learnt the actual process for making a cup of traditional Moroccan mint tea which was really interesting considering how much of it we had drunk in the two days that we had already been in Morocco. First the green tea is added, brewed and then it is supposed to be poured away but people don't always bother; that explains some of the questionable cups of murky brown stuff we had seen around. The next step is to add the mint leaves and sugar to the tea pot. I thought the blocks of sugar that they had brought out were just for show but I was mistaken. Each tea pot got a fistful of mint leaves and two huge rocks of sugars; not that I was complaining, the sweeter the better if you ask me and if that’s the way they drink it in Morocco, then that's how I wanted to drink it.
It was then poured from a height into the glasses, put back into the pot and done a second time to mix it properly. After that, it’s ready to drink!
Since we were such a large group, we paired up at a cooking station for our class. La Maison Arabe has 16 stations each complete with two hobs and a live video stream so you can keep up easily. For something that is so flavourful, our chicken and apricot tagines were so simple to cook. We put the chicken and some chopped onions into the tagine, covered it in an array of spices and left it to bubble away under the tagine lid whilst we caramelized the apricots with some sugar and water in another pan. After we had finished up rosewater was passed around to pour over our hands leaving us all smelling incredible.
We were taken back out into the garden and off to a beautiful room set up with three big, round tables and a tent style ceiling made up of colourful material. We had actually all just had lunch before making our way to the class although that didn’t stop anyone from trying our creations. The tagine was placed down in front of us and as the lid was lifted the smell of our second lunch filled the room. The chicken fell off of the bone and the sweet chewiness of the apricots and the crunch of the almonds was the perfect accompaniment. Honestly, it was actually delicious and we finished the lot even though dinner was in just a couple of hours.

*Huge thanks to Visit Morocco for inviting me along on this trip
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