Amsterdam

If you have read my most recent post (if not don’t worry you can catch up here), you will know we recently spent 48hrs in Amsterdam. We had a lovely time and it was the first time we have been away together since my birthday last August, so it was good to just be away together exploring a new city.

I wanted to share with you a few bits about our trip & hopefully give you some inspiration if you are thinking of heading that way on your travels!

Where did we stay?

We spent 2 nights at Hotel Estheréa, which is located on Singel Canal. It is a BEAUTIFUL boutique hotel, the decor is simply stunning and they could not do enough for you. We checked in around 9 am, they took our bags offered us free tea, coffee and little sweet snacks in the butterfly room should we want it at any point, but advised that our room would not be ready until around 1 pm and to head back then. When we returned from our travels, we were a little early so took full advance of the butterfly room, free drinks and gorgeous log fire – it was much needed after spending a good few hours in the Amsterdam cold. We were given our room key and told that when we head out to hand the key back in, they are rather large and heavy so they don’t want them getting lost and to be honest I couldn’t imagine carrying it round all day/evening. Our room was stunning and I am gutted I didn’t get any pictures, but it was a lovely blue with a canal view, the bathroom was massive, it include a his & hers sinks and a full bath! I was in heaven and knew instantly that whilst Matt had a nap that I would take full advantage and have my first bath since we renovated our bathroom at home. What was really great about the hotel and I wish we had taken more notice was the free tablet that they give you in your room. We took a quick glance and it had some hints and tips and a map function, they even allow you to take it out the hotel, but we just didn’t bother – had we have had more time I think it would have been a really useful tool! Breakfast wasn’t included, but it was available as an extra, we didn’t take this up but the reviews on Trip Advisor are really good – so I would say its definitely worth a try!

 

What did we do?   

When I booked this trip, I took lots of advice from friends who had been there recently as well as doing my research online. I like to think that I know Matt pretty well and what he would enjoy, so straight away I knew I wanted to book us on to the Heineken Experience and a Cheese Tasting Experience. I was really interested in booking us on a canal tour, but I had heard and read mixed reviews & I wasn’t sure if it was something he would be interested in doing, so I had some reserve money aside should we wanted to have done that whilst we were there (turns out we didn’t!).

Anyway back to what we did do!

The Heineken experience, I booked us in for the last one of the day so that we could carry on our evening after having some free tasters! Almost classed it as pre-drinks haha! So the experience is completely led by you – you can walk round as fast or as slow as you want, it can be as interactive as you want it to be. If you want to get involved with activities as you walk round you can, but if you would rather just rush round and go straight to the bar then you can do that too. We had a lovely time learning all about how the Heineken brand came to where it is today, my favourite bit has to be when you are made into a pint (I think it was called). Its like a 3d ride, its brilliant, just a video really but you get to see lots of different bits and the room moves and vibrates which is pretty cool! All in all you get 2.5 pints, but you can buy more if you want to AND you can play for more pints in the pint pouring competition (which I have to say I won!)! By the time we left, about 2hrs later I was definitely a bit woozy, Matt can obviously hold his drink better than me.

It was really tough for me to book a cheese tasting experience, I looked at about 3 all in all, but what won me over and really swayed my decision was the trip advisor reviews. So I booked with Reypenaer Cheese, it promised an hour of tasting paired with different wines and other drinks, there were 3 time choices to book into and I chose the one at midday, thinking that would give us the rest of the afternoon to do some sight seeing. However, during our first day there I got an email asking for us to change to 2 pm as there was no-one else booked onto our tasting and that they would rather move us to 2 pm when others are booked in as the experience is much better in a group. After a chat between us, we agreed to be moved and I am glad we did, it wouldn’t have been the same if it was just the 2 of us. We had a just over an hour in a room dedicated to cheese tasting, overall we had 5 or 6 cheeses to taste, all Gouda cheese but some where goats cheese and I am not a massive goats cheese lover. During the tasting experience we were encouraged to note down the flavours we were tasting and smelling, we were taught the best way to cut cheese (thinly if your wondering!) and what to pair it with. I even tried (and loved) a red wine that we tried – I definitely need to give red wine another go and pair it with a few nice cheeses! At the end of the tasting, if you fill out your form and get it signed off your giving a certificate that if you present this each time you shop there you get a discount! That was the only 2 set things we did whilst we were there, obviously we were typical tourists and walked for miles taking in all the sights that Amsterdam had to offer!

What did we eat?

Firstly, don’t be mad! We probably didn’t really explore what food delights Amsterdam had to offer, but we only really had 3 meals there – but that is part of the reason I want to go back – I want to try more! So, we ate (as we always try to when we are away) at The Hard Rock Cafe, wherever we go we always try to eat there – its become a thing and we love it, even if it is generic! Then during a drunken haze after booking to go to Vegas, we tried to sober up with a late night McDonalds! However, the 1 independent place that we ate breakfast at and was truly amazing was The Happy Pig Pancake Shop, the pancakes were the best I have had in a long time and it was so filling and such a good price. It was just round the corner from our hotel and we both really liked the fact that you could pick your own fillings and see them being made FRESH there was none pre-made, everything was made fresh to order which was really great. Now we do love our sweet tooth and we definitely wanted to try stroopwaffels whilst we were there, so in an emergency purchase after our McDonalds on the way back to our hotel to pack we stopped off at a bakery, picked up a packet of stroopwaffels for us to try and a muffin each that was warmed up and drizzled in a chocolate sauce topping of our choice. I am gutted that I don’t remember eating this, but I am pretty sure from my face that I enjoyed it!

 

Well, that’s our time in Amsterdam in a nutshell really, it feels like a lifetime ago now. I guess one question I always get after our travels is would I go back? YES! 100% would love to go back to Amsterdam, perhaps in warmer weather so we can see the Tulip fields and experience the city in the summer, but I would love to go back with a bit more time so we can properly explore and take full advantage of all the different foods there are on offer!

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Crazy Week

Last week Matt & I had the week booked off work, we had 3 days away planned for Matt’s birthday and a few days at home to relax and take it easy. Unbeknownst to Matt we were heading to Amsterdam on the first flight out Monday morning, I had some great things planned and an amazing hotel booked.

We arrived in Amsterdam early Monday morning and after checking in just started exploring, walking everywhere checking out all the neighbourhoods and seeing what this beautiful city had to offer. That evening I had booked us a slot at the Heineken Experience which we really enjoyed (more about that in a dedicated post for Amsterdam) and on the way back into the main part of the city we got to see all the lights that were up for the light festival. There were some amazing light sculptures and it really was cool to see.

The following morning was a bit of a lazy one, we got up late headed for breakfast and walked towards Anne Frank’s house, we weren’t booked in for a tour but I just wanted to see the house. There are so many beautiful places in Amsterdam, we really like just taking a turn and seeing where we end up and it felt like every corner we took there was something to see & nothing is too far from anything.

Early afternoon we did a cheese tasting experience (we are both massive foodies and love nothing more than cheese and chutney!) which was great. We both tried things (cheese & wine) that we wouldn’t have usually and it definitely broadened our horizons as to what we will be getting when we next visit the supermarket.

Once that was over we decided we would do our own little pub crawl and just hit a few pubs and bars for the rest of the day before figuring out where we would eat. In what I think was our 2nd pub, Matt turned to me and said “shall we go to Vegas tomorrow?”. I genuinely thought he was joking, we are never that spontaneous and we still had 1 day of exploring to do in Amsterdam, however I had about 4 pints in me by this point! Out came my phone and opened up my Expedia app and did a search, I was shocked when 3 nights at The Mirage came up for £921 for both of us!!! The only problem was the flight left at 10.10am and our flight home was in the evening, with just £50 to change our flight we did that then booked Vegas, just like that. It was booked and done within 10 minutes.

I must have checked us in and everything as when I woke up the next morning our boarding passes were in my inbox. However what I do remember is my massive strop and leaving the pub in rage, as I remembered that we didn’t have any ESTA Visa’s and we couldn’t get into the website at the pub. Back at the hotel in a calm environment Matt managed to complete his application and get authorisation within about 10 minutes. Me on the other hand, I couldn’t get the picture of my passport to load up, I kept missing things out on the form and after about 45 mins when I was ready to give up the application went through. I kept reloading the page and it kept saying application pending, by this point I was shouting at Matt that we had wasted almost £1,000 on a holiday that wasn’t going to happen and it was a really stupid idea.

With that he made me get my coat and shoes back on and we headed to MacDonalds for a quick bite to eat, as either way we needed to be up at 5am to get the 7am flight home we had changed to! Stood waiting for my burger Matt asked me to refresh my internet page, in the wishful hope that something would have changed. I think my face must have been a picture as it said Application Authorised!! That was it, we were going to Vegas – time to go back to the hotel and pack up our stuff!

Wednesday was around 32hrs long and the first part was reallly stressful! It was full of worry that our flight would be delayed back to Gatwick, we wouldn’t make it to the south terminal to get our Vegas flight. However luck seemed to be on our side, our flight back to London was 45mins rather than the hour and 20 it should have been and the connecting shuttle bus was there waiting for us when we got to connections. We arrived at Gatwick South Terminal with 2hrs to spare, perfect amount of time to get more deodorant and some quick brekkie! However at this point I still didn’t believe we were going, even when we were sat on our flight and taking off it felt very surreal.

Sat in Gatwick waiting to board we had to get travel insurance, extend our parking booking and figure out what we were going to do about dollars – I will share all my tips with you in a separate Vegas post!

We landed in Vegas and headed straight to our hotel, checked in dumped our bags in our beautiful room over looking Trump Tower and the stunning mountains in the background, but there was no time to stop we needed pants and socks we didn’t bring extra’s so needed more to keep us going!

We had such a fun adventure in Vegas, we ate really good food, drunk lots, shopped even more and just really ended our already amazing week off in such a fantastic style!

We are so lucky that Matt is such a good saver otherwise it would never have happened, I am so rubbish with money BUT this has made me want to do better. I want to have a comfortable amount in the bank so that if we want to go off and have a spontaneous adventure we can and I have us covered – nothing like an independent woman!

If this last week has taught me anything its to seize every opportunity you have and make the most of every moment you get!

I can’t wait to see what the other 11 months bring us in 2019, as this first month has been AMAZING!!!

 

Budapest 2018

We recently spent a lovely 4 days in Budapest, it was a trip to celebrate Matt’s birthday earlier in the month and it was nice to have a few days away together and explore a new city.

Although I booked the trip, I didn’t really set us with an itinerary and we just went with the flow, as soon as we arrived and checked into our hotel we started to explore straight away. Not wasting a minute of our time there we did most of our exploring on foot, that way you get to see so much more and often things you wouldn’t expect. I wont lie, the weather was bitterly cold, but dry at least apart from our last day where we were lucky to experience the wonderful European city in the snow!

I love sharing our little trips with you all, especially our photo’s however, first up is some little things that we did in Budapest that we wanted to share with you all!

  • Don’t take the Budacastle tour by the Buda Hill Funiclar, on our first day we were spoken to by a lovely tour guide that for just an extra 1,000 ft you can get a tour up that will take you all round and you can get on an off wherever you want. However, we soon realised that actually everything at the top (this doesnt include the Citadella), is within walking distance, so if you dont mind a walk and exploring on your own the just get a return trip on the Funiclar and enjoy the walk!
  • When you go to the Central Market Hall, go upstairs first hunt for some souvenirs to take home and have some real Hungarian street food. We did downstairs first, which was great we had some pastries and Duck scratchings (not pork!) before heading upstairs and deeply regretted it. We wished we had gone up there and stuffed our faces before going down to see all the meat, fruit, pastry and cheese stalls!
  • Buy yourself a hop on, hop off ticket for a bus tour – more so in the winter. Its a great way to get around town and with city sightseeing we got a 48hr ticket, including boat tours cheaper than the budacard! We just wanted it for a trip to the Citadella and up to Heroes Square and Szechenyi Bath rather than rely on taxis and walking in the cold weather.
  • Don’t forget your towel & flip flops when visiting a thermal bath! We ended up buying flip flops, which ate into our spending money, but it was so worth it! We paid for a 1 person with a locker and 1 person with a cabin, the cabins are pretty small but we took turns to get changed and it did us fine. We were really lucky, there was no cue and the baths weren’t busy at all, we visited on Saturday morning around 10 am so we were really surprised that it wasn’t full and busy!
  • Head to Szimpla Kert for drinks late afternoon, the best ruin bar in all of Budapest just enjoy the atmosphere and once your done, just walk around the Jewish Quarter there are plenty of places to eat and drink that you cant go wrong – there is something for everyone!
  • Drinks – if your drinking beer and are happy to drink the local stuff (we drank Dreher) then your fine, its around £2 a pint, less if its happy hour. However if your drinking long drinks (vodka/rum), or wine its a bit more expensive. I dont usually drink beer, but in a bid to keep our costs low I decided to give it a go and actually it wasn’t too bad!
  • Food – now, I am not sure if we have expensive taste and we like to eat in nicer places, but we didn’t find food to be much cheaper than we would pay at home which was surprising as everyone said it was really cheap. It didn’t bother us too much, we tried Goulash which we both wanted to do, ate at Beef Heaven which Matt wanted to try and had Breakfast at Circusz which was my choice!

We had a really nice time in Budapest, the history and architecture is amazing, food and drinks were good too! Would we return to Budapest? Possibly not, but that’s purely because we felt we did everything we wanted to do, however I hear the Christmas markets there are amazing so perhaps a return visit just for that?

Love

Emma

Where We Stayed: K+K Hotel Opera – great location!

Where We Drank: Szimpla Kert, Ellato Kert, For Sale Pub, The Pointer Pub

Where We Ate: Beef Heaven by Tuning, Circusz, Spinoza, For Sale Pub, Bazilika Cafe & Restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe (we always eat at one its tradition!), Pizza Me

When In Rome

I was round my friends house the other night and realised I hadn’t shared with you my Roma experience!

I went with no expectations of Rome but I am soooo glad I went as it is such a lovely place, the buildings and churches are stunning, the people are lovely and despite what some people have said it wasn’t too expensive either!

On our first day we were disappointed to see that the Trevi Fountain was under renovation, but we still joined the queue and walked through the walkway. We then headed over to the Pantheon and I was blown away by its beauty and just the sheer size of it.

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The following day we headed out to Naples and Pompeii, we literally had 45 minutes in Naples and I wasn’t too impressed, there was a lot of graffiti, but it may have just been the parts we saw! Pompeii was interesting and as a complete skeptic I did have to ask if it did really happen as the pillars are sooo big I struggled to believe that they could have been completely covered.

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We also did a tour of Vatican City, Colosseum, Palentine Hill and The Roman Forum. All the tours and sites were fantastic, there are things in Vatican City that you never see again in your life and the art is sooo beautiful it’s hard to believe that it is all hand painted or made out of one piece of granite or marble. Rome was very hot when we were there and often we struggled to find shade, but we had plenty of water and lots of ice cream to keep us cool!

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Now, I couldn’t write about Rome, without commenting on the food…..it was lovely! We found 2 good restaurants whilst we were there and the food was fantastic. We didn’t pay much more than we would on a meal out at home, but the food was 10 times better than any Italian we have been to at home!

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Where We Stayed: Hotel Trevi
Who Our Tours Were With: Gartour – booked through Thomas Cook
Where We Ate: That’s Amoré & La Fontana Di Venere