I’ve been back from Madeira almost two weeks now and I’m already missing it.
It was my fifth time there, as Michael has family on the island but I think I was starting to take it for granted; however this time round I explored it with new eyes and fell in love all over again. I’ll do an in-depth guide soon but for now, I want to share my lovely afternoon at the Reid’s Palace for afternoon tea.
Michael had been paragliding in the early afternoon and after getting a little sunburnt watching him, we headed across the island to Funchal. I’d spotted Reid’s Palace before as it’s a beautiful pink building and seeing as I love an afternoon tea, it was the perfect opportunity to visit.
Reid’s Palace is so unlike most of the other hotels on the island, it has quite a British feel so it, which I actually love, especially as it’s very much a luxury hotel. Back to the afternoon tea. Although I love afternoon tea, this was actually Michael’s first and it was a spectacular first. Afternoon tea is served on the most beautiful terrace, with an amazing sea view- unlike any other afternoon tea I have ever experienced. The tea list was extensive – which was convenient as Michael hates tea- I’ll admit he added a stupid amount of sugar but actually enjoyed the tea (or at least the sugar.)
The standard afternoon tea comes with (as you would expect) delicious sandwiches, scones and cakes, all sourced locally. It was the perfect amount of luxury: a good classic afternoon tea, in a beautiful location but nothing too showy.
The waiters were all very friendly and we may have taken them up on their offer to refill a few of the sandwiches and scones – they were just that good!
Probably one of my favourite afternoon teas ever; the setting really made it a wonderful experience.
After an hour of enjoying the view and the delicious food, we were lucky enough to be given a tour of the hotel. My favourite part was the hall which housed all the photos and history of the hotel – I didn’t photograph it but it you ever visit, I would highly recommend spending half-an-hour exploring. It was amazing to see all the iconic figures that have stayed at the hotel over the years and how the hotel has developed- the hotel is 125 years old and with the incredible history to prove it.
We explored the suites, inspired by both England and Portugal, the outdoor area, the spa and the sea area, where visitors use to dock when visiting the hotel when it first opened. If you’re ever in Madeira I can’t recommend Reid’s Palace enough; I haven’t stayed the night but I would imagine it’s a dream. If it’s a little out of your price range then I would recommend at least popping in for afternoon tea. It’s pretty affordable, especially compared to London prices.
I’ll be back soon for another serving of tea.
ps. If you are visiting in the summer months, remember men have to wear long trousers for the afternoon tea, Michael went wearing smart shorts and had to return to the car where he luckily had a pair of trousers or the hotel would have had to lend him a pair.
Amsterdam was never high on my list of cities to visit as, growing up, I assumed it was the place you went if you smoke (which I don’t) but I was so wrong. It’s filled with beautiful scenery, friendly people and the cutest restaurants and shops.
I visited Amsterdam in February and it was cold but the weather was beautiful – I really want to go back in the summer. I think it would be the perfect city to spend a weekend in July. We spent hours walking, exploring the little streets, watching people balance ladders on their bicycles and falling in love with the quirks of the city.
I believe that most cities can be done in three days, which is exactly the amount of time we spent in Amsterdam, long enough to fall in love with a city but short enough to have an excuse to go back. February was cold but we were really lucky with the weather – beautiful blue skies the whole time! Whilst booking, the hardest part was finding good accommodation that was affordable, especially as we needed a triple room. I am a little picky about accommodation: I know you don’t spend that much time in your room but I like modern hotels which are clean and in the centre of the city so we can do as much walking as possible.
I ended up booking the Ibis Amsterdam Central which was fine – nothing more and nothing less – just fine. Pretty clean, but a little dusty and with more of a dorm feel than a hotel feel. I think this is because Amsterdam is so popular with large, often young, groups of people. Next time I think I’ll book an AirBnB as I’ve heard you can find some real gems.
That said, Ibis Amsterdam Central was the perfect location and we walked everywhere! (oh, and the boat)
If I recommend one thing to do in Amsterdam it would be a canal tour: it’s a great relaxing and informative way to see the city. The ticket we bought was 24hours so we ended up using it as a mode of transport on the last day when we weren’t in a rush, which was a bonus. It’s Hop-on, Hop-Off isn’t too expensive and passes all the main sights.
Whilst abroad I am a museum goer and Amsterdam has quite a few to offer: I would highly recommend the Anne Frank Museum, which is very popular so always has a long queue. The museum closes at 7PM most days and at 9PM on Saturday. I’d recommend either queuing for opening time or towards the end of the day but you should still expect to queue for a few hours (you can prebook a while in advance too). Queue aside, it’s a very touching museum, very engaging and I would highly recommend visiting!
We also went to the Heineken Museum, which I probably wouldn’t recommend – it’s average at a push. The Sex Museum is pretty inexpensive, so worth visiting since it’s Amsterdam! We didn’t visit the Van Gogh museum – which I now regret – but I guess that’s something to do next time.
Although it was winter, we took the boat to Vondel park and it was a great way to spend a sunny winters day – I can imagine it’s even more beautiful in the summer. We didn’t rent a bike but if that is something you want to do, then Vondel park seems like a great place to do it. But generally, I would say Amsterdam is the perfect place to cycle or stroll around, just taking in the beautiful neighbourhoods.
Where to eat
Hema: If you want a super cheap but nice breakfast then Hema is the place for you. We went more for the gimmick of being able to get a breakfast for 2 Euros. It comes with an omelette baguette, a croissant with Jam, a coffee and an orange juice.
Burgerlijk: we visited here for lunch and it was a nice walk away from our hotel. Although it did get a little busy, we went early and were seen to straight away. We ordered fries and burger which were super yummy, although I’ll admit I think they’re ketchup may be home made and not quite to my taste.
The Pancake Bakery: I seem to be one of the few people that doesn’t love pancakes but we went for breakfast nonetheless and we were quite lucky to get a table straight away. If you love pancakes this is the place for you – even if you’re weird like me and aren’t crazy about pancakes – they were still quite delicious and, of course, I went for the bacon ones.
Vapianos: A boring option but always a failsafe. Wasn’t too busy and the food is always good no matter what country I visit them in.
Overall, I loved Amsterdam. If you’re unsure it’s for you, I’d still go. It’s very quick and cheap to get to from England and it has this free-spirited charm which I fell in love with.
I love being from London but most of the family I have in the UK are also from London which means I rarely get the luxury of escaping to the country for the weekend but last month we did just that.
We drove down to Axminster on Friday evening and checked into our lodge at the Hawkchurch Resort & Spa. The drive was actually not too bad from London and the lodge was really nice! Neither Michael or I had ever stayed in a lodge but it was really beautiful and the perfect place to spend the weekend. We had a large kitchen/living room/dinning room area, a nice bedroom with a huge bed, two bathrooms and even a hot tub!
We arrived pretty late on in the day as Michael had work until a little later and we made the rooky mistake of thinking we could get dinner at 9.30PM as you can in London but luckily there was a Tesco not too far and we had a quick make-shift dinner.
The following morning I discovered that the internet is currently not as good as I’d hoped (something that they’re working on) but it was actually the perfect excuse to switch off. We played board-games which Hawkchurch Lodge kindly provides, went on walks by the sea, cooked and chilled in the Hot Tub.
Sunday afternoon we headed out for lunch and I must admit we failed at this a little, we really wanted to visit The Tytherleigh Arms but didn’t realise we needed to pre-book but I will definitely check it out next time we’re in the area.
We then drove back on Monday morning and were back in London after two hours, feeling far more relaxed and having really enjoyed some country air!
I was surprised by how much I feel in love with Hawkchruch Resort & Spa, it was the perfect way to spend a weekend in England and I’m already planning to book and go back. They’re part of Darwin Escapes and there are lodges up and down the country so I may actually check out one of the other locations but I can’t recommend Hawkchurch Resort & Spa enough.
I’m always hunting new places, not too far from London to explore over the weekend.
Would love to hear your recommendations in the comments!
Before my holiday in Portugal, I spent the night in Windsor in a beautiful hotel which I just have to tell you about.
I’m always on the lookout for cool places to stay just outside of London to get away even for just a day and relax. I’ll share all my favourite places soon but if you haven’t been to Windsor I would highly recommend it.
The whole trip was planned by AccorHotels and I was lucky enough to tour a few of their London ones before hand. The tour started in Euston at the Ibis Euston, when I’m on a budget but still want a nice hotel I always go for an Ibis as I find them to be a great price point and I think I might book another one for a trip I’m considering next month.
However I really fell in love with The Pullman Hotel, I’ve driven past it so many times and had no idea just how beautiful it is inside! Really modern and luxurious as well as located in Kings Cross so in a great location too. We stopped here for some canapes and cocktails and they were really good, it’s a great location for weekend drinks or even work lunch/drinks and the decor is very chic.
For our main dinner we headed to Novotel London Brentford where we had a Moijos in a bag (genius idea!) and a chicken main, again the food was delicious and decor was perfect, maybe not quite as beautiful as The Pullman but not close behind. Location wise it is a little further out near Chiswick but it’s just off the M4 so easy to get to and a great option if you’re looking for a hotel in the area.
Our final stop and where we stayed the night was the Mercury Castle Hotel in Windsor. If you haven’t been to Windsor it’s a really great little town a short drive/train journey from London with things to see and do or also the perfect place to relax. Even if you’re not planning on exploring Windsor and are just looking to relax I’d still highly recommend the Castle hotel, the service was better than in most hotels, decor is perfect for a non-city hotel and I slept amazingly. I had a really lovely evening enjoying a cocktail before just chilling in the super comfy bed.
Breakfast was also amazing, I enjoyed my tea in bed before tucking into my full English breakfast. We even managed to catch the changing of the guards before we left, although it did start to rain heavily!
Can’t wait to visit the Mercury Castle Hotel again and if The Pullman wasn’t so close to my house I’d simply have to book to stay there, such beautiful hotels!
I’ve been back from Berlin for about 6 weeks now, I was only there three days and I am definitely not an expert but I thought I would share my own experiences, which will hopefully help a few of you.
If you’re considering Berlin then I would recommend it for a really inexpensive holiday (if your UK based), it isn’t my favourite place ever but I would go back, especially as the whole trip was so affordable. Flights from London are fairly cheap (mine were around £40 return), we stayed at an inexpensive Holiday Inn and once there most things were quite affordable too.
I’m going to be writing a blog post about how to book/plan a city trip so I am going to keep this very Berlin based.
The metro is super easy to use, download an app or even use Google Maps to find out which train you need to get on. There is an honour system when it comes to the metro so there are no barriers but be sure to buy a ticket and stamp it before getting on the train or you will get a fine.
Although the first day we used the train a fair amount we soon learnt that walking was the best way to see the city, Berlin isn’t a huge city and as long as you have comfy shoes you can walk almost everywhere.
In my opinion three days was the perfect amount of time, we done everything we wanted to and even had some time to relax and chill.
In the winter Berlin is freezing, I wore a hat, thermals and everything else that I could find. Flights are cheaper in winter but bare in mind you’ll need to wrap up warm.
Holiday Inn City Centre
When it came to finding a hotel we went with my trusty inexpensive favourite, Holiday Inn. We stayed in the City Centre one, the location was perfect, not too busy but still within walking distance of almost everything. We had breakfast there which was really convenient and set up our days perfectly. The rooms aren’t huge but they were all we needed and most importantly were clean and comfortable. Of course it isn’t an overly luxe boutique hotel but if you need somewhere to lay your head that won’t break the bank I would highly recommend it!
After arriving just before lunch time and dropping our suitcases at the hotel we headed to Burger Meister, a old public toilet which has now been transformed into a cool burger place. It’s got great reviews on Tripadvisor and I must admit it didn’t disappoint. We each got a burger, shared some fried and it was both ridiculously cheap and delicious.
We then took a stroll to the East Side Gallery which is a 1.3km section of the Berlin Wall, it’s a huge piece of German history and there are some really iconic images on it.
Whilst looking for the Berlin Cathedral we also passed Unter den Linden which is a well known boulevard there but sadly it was under construction so wasn’t as impressive as it probably usually is. We had issues getting to the Berlin Cathedral too as many roads were closed (due to a politician visiting Berlin), although we managed to find it and have a look around the outside the inside was closed and we decided to save this for another visit.
We then walked towards the Neptune Fountain, the base of the Berlin TV Tower and AlexanderPlatz. We didn’t go into Berlin TV Tower and I wouldn’t really say these are a must-see but nice for a quick look around. We did then make a cheeky stop at Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt, which is a fun chocolate shop (think the German M&M world) and naturally we bought some chocolates for family members (& ourselves.)
After warming up in the hotel we went to dinner at Vapianos Potsdam Platz, although it’s a chain and we try not to eat at chains when abroad neither of us had ever been to Vapianos and since it originally started in Germany we thought it was okay. It was a fairly short walk from our hotel and gave us the opportunity to see Potsdam Platz at night, plus the pasta was delicious!
We started day two quite early, having had breakfast at the hotel and realising that most museums didn’t open until 10am we headed to Check Point Charlie. It was originally a point crossing between East Berlin and West Berlin during the cold war, it’s now just a photo opportunity and overly touristy. It’s worth walking past but I do wish that the men dressed in army uniforms weren’t there as it almost seems a little disrespectful.
Just round the corner from Check Point Charlie we accidentally stumbled upon Trabi World which is house to lots of Trabi Cars, which were the most common vehicles in East Berlin. We didn’t rent one this time but I think I probably would the next time I go back, for us it was just a fun places to walk past and take a few photos. If you do visit, make the most of their photobooth, it’s only a few euros and a nice token of Berlin.
We then started our museum visits at Topography of Terror, an outdoor and indoor history museum. I’ll admit that I was a little overwhelmed by this museum, there was a lot of writing and a lot of photos to get through but it is very informative. Our next stop was the Holocaust Memorial which is worth a visit and doesn’t take too long to explore, we didn’t realise that there is a free museum underground so that’s worth noting as it’s suppose to very engaging and touching.
It was then a short walk to Brandeburg Gate, it’s a touristy sight but also a great piece of history so worth a look. We were planning to also visit the Reichstag Building day two but discovered you had to pre-book tickets so instead spent an hour queuing to book a ticket for the following day.
Lunch was at Treffpunkt Berlin which is apparently a German classic, I would probably skip this, it was very average tasting and a little greasy for my taste.
Our next stop was the Palace of Tears which was once the train station border crossing, it was probably one of the most interesting places we visited and I’d recommend the audio tour if you have the time. We followed this with a train to the Berlin Wall Memorial which is worth a look but we didn’t spend too much time here but partly because it was so cold and started to snow.
Also up there with the most interesting places was the Jewish Museum, it’s different to the other ones we visited and more like a traditional museum you would see in London. It was a really educational, thought-provoking museum with lots of rooms and things to see and do.
For dinner we faced the Mustafa Kebab queue which I’ve heard can be hours long! We were lucky it was a really cold night so the queue was a little shorter and we only waited an hour or so. Rumour has it that these are the best kebabs ever and I’ll admit they were pretty good although I am not a kebab connoisseur. As you can imagine it’s super cheap and there also isn’t anywhere to sit as it’s a street stand not a restaurant but still worth queuing for!
Our final day in Berlin was a pretty relaxed one, we had booked tickets for the Reichstag building the day before but I would really recommend doing this online as you’re unable to book tickets for the same day and the queue to book for the following day was long (and cold!). It’s free to get in so I would definitely recommend visiting it and even listening to the audio tour. The audio tour gives you a great overview of Berlin’s history and architecture plus the view is beautiful!
We ended our trip by buying a few fridge magnets as a souvenir and chilling in a cute little coffee shop.
I’m off to Rome tomorrow so I would love any tips and recommendations in the comments. Also follow me on Snapchat for live updates from Italy, username: alittleobsessed