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First day back at work after two weeks away is always a struggle but I'm happy to get back into a healthier routine after far too much dim sum and ramen! 😋 I've added Hong Kong and Tokyo to my Stories highlights for those who missed my updates!

We found this pretty street in Shibuya, Tokyo, near the famous and very hectic Scramble/crossing. So nice to see some more traditional streets hidden amongst the super modern tower blocks and huge neon lights.

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First day back at work...

After a long hiatus from the blog, I've just shared some of my recent favourites. From @oddboxldn to @olio_ex, they're all helping to make our lives more sustainable! Click the link in my profile and let me know what you think.
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Featuring my beautiful WWF KeepCup!
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#sustainability #sustainableliving  #keepcup #london #thisislondon #wwf #noplanetb #sustainable #ecofriendly #londonblogger #plasticfree #londonbylondoners #climateweek #reusable #reducereuserecycle #foodwaste  #olio #oddbox #allplants #eatlessmeat #londonblog #ecofriendlyliving

After a long hiatus from...

Spending a few days enjoying Sicilian views, sunshine, food, and spritz!
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#sicily #topsicilyphoto #sicilia #sicily_my_love #ortygia #syracuse #siracusa #ortigia #italy #topitalyphoto #prettylittleitaly #ladiesgoneglobal #gltlove #girlsborntotravel #thetravelwomen #travelgirlsgo #girlsjustwannatravel #darlingescapes #girlslovetravel #sheisnotlost #letsgosomewhere #athomeintheworld #guardiantravelsnaps #lppathfinders #lpfanphoto #postcardplaces #prettylittletrips

Spending a few days enjoying...

Take me back please!! 🙏🏻 The walk to the calanques near Marseille was tough in the heat but the views made it worth doing! Loved having a picnic in the shade before going for a swim in the clear waters.
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#provence #southoffrance  #frenchriviera #igersfrance #merveillesdefrance #travelblogger #travelblog #travelfrance #topfrancephoto #visitlafrance #jaimelafrance #france_photolovers #marseille #prettylittletrips #darlingescapes #athomeintheworld #neverstopexploring #travelfolk #iamatraveler #mytinyatlas #letsgosomewhere #postcardplaces #lifeofadventure #traveldeeper 
#calanques

Take me back please!! 🙏🏻...

When you spot a pretty backdrop! 🏃‍♀️ Marrakesh was 10x more beautiful than I had been expecting, with decorative arches, colourful tiled courtyards and orange trees being common sights. I loved the smells as well - argan oil, orange blossom and fresh mint all remind me of Morrocco now.
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#marrakech #marrakesh #maroc #Morocco #visitmorocco #africa_vacations #moroccovacations #simplymorocco #moroccotravel #visitmarrakech #inmorocco #exploremorocco #ladiesgoneglobal #gltlove #girlsborntotravel #thetravelwomen #travelgirlsgo #girlsjustwannatravel #darlingescapes #girlslovetravel #sheisnotlost

When you spot a pretty...

I think the cats of Essaouira and Marrakesh deserve to have a post dedicated to them, given how much time I spent admiring them! 😍 #catsofmorocco
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#marrakech #marrakesh #maroc #Morocco #visitmorocco #essaouira #africa_vacations #moroccovacations #simplymorocco #moroccotravel #visitmarrakech #inmorocco #exploremorocco #ladiesgoneglobal #gltlove #girlsborntotravel #thetravelwomen #travelgirlsgo #girlsjustwannatravel #darlingescapes #girlslovetravel #sheisnotlost #cats_of_world
#catsofinstagram

I think the cats of...

Newcastle: A Foodie Weekend Guide

By Posted on 6 min read 757 views
Wylam brewery sunday roast

NEWCASTLE GATESHEAD

I had the pleasure of visiting Newcastle for a weekend thanks to NewcastleGateshead.com. Their latest campaign, #TheTyneIsNow aims to show people that Newcastle (and Gateshead across the river) is an amazing, underrated weekend destination.

The “Toon”, as locals like to call it, will be hosting the Great Exhibition of the North this summer so it’s the perfect time to visit! Over 80 days, Newcastle Gateshead will be filled with amazing art, exhibits, and live performances. Head over there between 22nd June and 9th September to see the city buzzing even more than usual! 

Newcastle Queen Street Tyne Bridge
Newcastle Dean Street

How to get there

Virgin trains East Coast first class

Virgin Trains East Coast only takes 3 hours to get from King’s Cross in London to Newcastle Central Station. We travelled First Class which was fabulous as they served us a light breakfast and plenty of much-needed tea and coffee. The same journey would take you 5 hours by car, so I’d recommend opting for the train for a quick and stress-free journey.

Where to stay

Jesmond Dene House is a lovely boutique hotel in a quiet neighbourhood just a 10 minute taxi ride away from the centre. Rooms are spacious, beds very comfortable and service was friendly and helpful. They do a great afternoon tea, which was the best way to end our trip!

I stayed in the city center on my first ever visit to Newcastle and wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to go clubbing – it can get pretty wild! Jesmond is a very nice alternative.

Eat your way around the city

Around 90% of our time in Newcastle and Gateshead was spent eating delicious food, so it only seems right to make this guide a foodie one. We had everything from elegant dinner and afternoon tea to lunch in a shipping container and snacks at a fancy food hall.

What I love about Newcastle’s food scene is that there seems to be a real community of restaurateurs, pub owners, and local artisans. Ask questions and people will happily tell you about where their coffee/beer/cheese/chicken comes from. Geordies (as the locals are often called) take real pride in supporting small businesses and using local produce, which is really lovely.

Cook House

Cook House restaurant Newcastle

Head to Cook House for delicious food cooked by the lovely Anna Hedworth using fresh local produce. Eating at her restaurant feels like sitting in her kitchen – in a good way! Cook House was featured on Channel 4’s ‘Hidden Restaurants’ TV show and The Guardian has called it a hidden gem, so you know it’s good! Have a look at the website for supper clubs and food market dates, and keep an eye out for Anna’s upcoming book, merging recipes and stories of starting a food business. Her food blog is fantastic too.

Update: cook house has now moved to a bigger venue which is super exciting! I’ll be dropping by for some lunch next time I’m in Newcastle.

Wylam Brewery

Wylam brewery building
wylam brewery sunday roast


Visit Wylam Brewery in Exhibition Park for Sunday roast and craft beer. We were taken on a tour of the brewery and weren’t meant to eat anything there, but the lovely Dave couldn’t resist giving us a taste of the Sunday Roast. It was one of the best I’ve ever had! The roast pork was incredibly tasty. Book 3 to 4 weeks in advance to make sure you get a table – it’s very popular at the weekends.

Dobson and Parnell

dobson and parnell newcastle
dobson and parnell dessert

Book a table at the elegant Dobson and Parnell restaurant for a sophisticated meal. This is modern British cuisine with some pickling, curing and smoking incorporated. I really enjoyed my rack of Yorkshire lamb and the other girls only had good things to say about the halibut. Go for lunch Tues-Sat and get a 3 course set menu for only £19 – bargain!

Fenwicks Food Hall

fenwicks newcastle food hall

Visit Fenwick food hall for locally sourced treats including gin, baked goods, locally roast coffee, and cheeses from nearby farms. Try Doddington Cheeses or the Northumberland Nettle cheese, they’re delicious. Gin is the best selling category here and I can understand why: the variety of gins on offer is amazing and a pretty bottle from a local distillery makes for a lovely gift. The food hall reminded me of Selfridges Foodhall in London, but friendlier and with more local products. 

Grainger Market

Grainger market for retro signage and a variety of shops and cafes. One of Marks and Spencer’s original penny bazaars is here, and its beautiful signage dates back to 1895!

Try some freshly prepared dumplings from Nan Bei – I recommend the excellent house special!

Riley’s Fish Shack

rileys fish shack opening
rileys fish shack

Head over to the beach in Tynemouth for the best seafood in town, from a shack (two containers) on the beach. Riley’s is incredibly popular on a sunny day, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it have a prime location on the beach next to Tynemouth priory and castle, it also serves up fresh, seasonal and delicious fish dishes cooked on a wood fired oven. The menu is ever changing but you can expect it to feature dishes like monkfish kebab, chargrilled lobster, and stuffed squid with chorizo.

House of Tides

If you feel like trying the very best fine dining in Newcastle, House of Tides is the place to go. This is the only Michelin Star in town, and Chef Kenny Atkinson has become quite the celebrity chef. He’s a double winner of The Great British Menu and is a regular on shows like BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen & ITV Saturday Morning with James Martin. Sadly we didn’t have time to visit on this trip, but the food has been described by the Michelin guide as “creative dishes which are well-balanced and attractively presented”.

Try some local watering holes

Ouseburn Valley is a fantastic place for craft beer lovers. Our guide for an evening, beer writer Alastair Gilmour, took us around this area of Newcastle and showed us all the best places. He is an expert and a fountain of knowledge, so check out his website and get in touch if you need a guide!

Cumberland Arms

Walk up a hill to The Cumberland Arms, my favourite of all the pubs we visited, and take a seat in the beer garden or inside by the log fire. The owner was happy to chat us through all of the different types of Northern Alchemy beers and I loved the sweet Pineapple IPA and the breakfast-inspired Marmalade & Assam Tea IPA.

Free Trade Inn

Head to the Free Trade Inn just before sunset to enjoy some real ales and the amazing views over Newcastle and Gateshead from one of its two beer gardens. Rumour has Jimi Hendrix used to spend time here!

Wylam Brewery

As mentioned above! The Tap Room is open Thursday to Sunday, and the beer is brewed in this beautifully restored building from 1928. There are tours of the brewery on Saturdays. We were told that it’s dog friendly, child friendly, and caters to everyone from hipster to hip replacement! Try the coffee-flavoured Macchiato beer while you’re there.

The Cluny

the cluny newcastle

Family-friendly pub by day, intimate bar venue by night – check The Cluny‘s website for listings.

Ouseburn bridge Newcastle
Ouseburn Newcastle
tynemouth castle and priory

More places to see

  • Quayside, as the banks along Tyne river are called, is lovely for a scenic stroll. Take in the views along the river, including some of Newcastle Gateshead’s seven bridges. For a spot of culture, visit the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art housed in an old industrial building on the Gateshead side. In the summer enjoy Quayside Seaside, Newcastle’s very own little beach.
  • Grainger Town is the historic heart of Newcastle, with classical architecture designed in the 1830s by Richard Grainger. Head South down Grey Street to admire some of the city’s finest buildings, including the much loved Theatre Royal.
  • Tynemouth Castle and Priory used to be one of the largest fortified areas in England, and enjoys views of the coast and out onto the North Sea. A nice picnic spot!
  • The Angel of the North is a huge sculpture in Gateshead that has become a symbol for the North East.
  • Next time, I want to visit Saltwell Park in Gateshead. It looks very pretty!
Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Newcastle Blog

This foodie weekend made me fall in love with Newcastle. I had visited the city once before but hadn’t been convinced – it just goes to show that knowing the best places to go instead of just wandering around can sometimes make a huge difference! I can honestly recommend all of the places listed above, and would encourage you to start conversations with every local person you meet. They’re usually more than happy to recommend their favourite places and share interesting stories about their beloved Toon!

This post was written in collaboration with NewcastleGateshead.com. Thanks to them for organising such a fun foodie weekend!

A foodie's weekend guide to the best food, restaurants, pubs and breweries that Newcastle has to offer. Taste the best that the city has to offer in only two days.

A Londoner’s London Bucket List

By Posted on 6 min read 1138 views

westminster sunset

Exploring London as a Local

It’s always easy to overlook all of the amazing things on your doorstep. Growing up in Belgium, I didn’t realise that beautiful places like Dinant or Ghent were just a train ride away. Now, having lived in London for around 7 years, I often take the city for granted. I often think “I’ll do that one day” and put things off, which is a shame because I might never get around to doing them! So my new resolution is to do more things in London, including all of the things that have been on my bucket list for ages.

Tate Britain

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I’ve always loved visiting Tate Modern, but I think going to Tate Britain when I was very young kind of put me off – I thought all that classic art was very boring at the time! (Thanks mum for dragging me there) Recently though, I’ve been thinking it’s time to pay the museum another visit. If anything, I’ll definitely enjoy the architecture and that beautiful spiral staircase!

Tower Bridge Glass Walkway

This is on my list because I’ve never done it, but I’m actually not sure if I’d enjoy it at all! I’m a bit scared of heights, and glass floors make me feel very uncomfortable. It does look like an amazing experience though, so I’m keeping it on the list!

Strawberry Hill House

Strawberry Hill House is a Gothic villa that was built in Twickenham in the 18th century. Isn’t it so pretty? I think it looks like it belongs in a fairytale! Have a look at pictures from Town & Country magazine to see what I mean. My plan for this summer is to have a picnic in the garden with the villa’s tower as a beautiful backdrop.

Make sure you check the opening days and times on the website before you go, as the house is not open every day.

Highgate Cemetery

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Visiting graveyards isn’t usually on my bucket list, but Highgate is different. From its website: “Highgate Cemetery opened in 1839. It was run by a private company. But when in the 1970s they found it was no longer profitable to run commercially, nature took over and vandals had their day.” Fortunately, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust took over in 1975 and rescued this amazing Victorian cemetery.

Many people go there just to see famous graves, like that of Karl Marx and George Michael. I really want to go on a guided tour of the spooky and overgrown West Cemetery, which is where some of the most beautiful Victorian monuments are. I bet the guides have some interesting stories to tell!

I hope I’ll get to meet the resident black cat one day.

God’s Own Junkyard

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I’ve been meaning to visit the neon wonderland that is God’s Own Junkyard for years. Its owner Chris Bracey has built a whole career around creating neons for hollywood films, famous artists, music videos and fashion shoots. The “Junkyard” is his own collection of reclaimed neon signs, old movie props and retro displays. You might recognise something from Batman or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sitting next to a salvaged fairground piece. It looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before! I want to go at the weekend when The Rolling Scones Cafe is open!
 

Inside St Paul’s Cathedral

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I’ve walked past St Paul’s countless times and have taken many photos of it, yet I still haven’t been inside!

At £18 a ticket (£16 online) it isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely worth going at least once. Highlights include the Whispering Gallery, which gets its name from a quirk in construction which means a whisper on one side of the dome is heard on the opposite side. Climb 528 steps and you also get a fab panoramic view of London from the Golden Gallery at the top of the Cathedral.

New Design Museum

As soon as the new Design Museum announced its opening in November 2016, I knew I wanted to go there. Initially what attracted me were some aerial pictures of the roof of the building, which made it look very cool – like a spaceship or some origami. Since then, the museum has had many interesting exhibitions but I still haven’t been! Who’s coming with me?

Maltby Street Market

On Saturdays and Sundays, artisan producers serve up their goods at Maltby Street market in Bermondsey. I’ve heard that the market is quite small, but the food looks amazing! I want to try the caramel hot chocolate with a marshmallow rim from Fatties Bakery some doughnuts from St John bakery (I’ve heard they’re amazing).

Update: went to Maltby Street on Sunday and it was great! Definitely recommend the hot chocolate from Fatties and we had some waffle with fried chicken which was great (although a bit pricy!). The market is quite small but has a nice atmosphere without getting crowded. A lot less touristy than Borough Market (which I love too).

The Emirates Air Line

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Again, I’ve been meaning to do this for years but just haven’t got around to it. Cable cars are always fun and I never get tired of a nice London view!

The Emirates Air Line takes around 10 minutes to connect the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks. The journey costs £3.50 and you can use your Oyster or contactless card. I recommend exploring Greenwich while you’re at it – it’s a beautiful part of town!

Berners Tavern

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been yet, but I feel like Berners Tavern has become a real London classic. It’s run by Jason Atherton, the renowned chef that’s also responsible for Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social and my personal favourite, Sosharu. It’s the interior that’s the real reason I want to go there though: high ceilings, walls covered in beautifully framed art, and Grand Central-inspired chandeliers.

Who wants to go for brunch with me?

The Conservatory at the Barbican

Hidden in the Barbican centre, this conservatory houses over 200 species of plants. If you haven’t been to Barbican complex before, the brutalist architecture alone is worth a visit. The contrast between the lush greenery in the conservatory and the harsh architecture is pretty cool, if you ask me.

Top tip: Check the opening hours and dates before you go because the conservatory is only open on selected Sundays and Bank holidays.

I actually made it to the conservatory right after I started writing this post, so that’s one ticked off!

I’ll definitely be adding more things to this list at the same rate as I tick things off! One of my favourite quotes is “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” (Samuel Johnson) – because how could you get tired of this city when there are so many things to discover here?

What’s on your London bucket list? I’d love to know!

London: Roast Restaurant Review

By Posted on 3 min read 308 views

Roast Restaurant

After what felt like a very long week at work, I took Chris to Roast Restaurant for a special date night dinner last Friday. I’d noticed the elegant restaurant above Borough Market before but hadn’t had a chance to try it.

The restaurant has great big windows with views over the hustle and bustle of the market below and St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance.

We were lucky enough to get a fantastic table by the window – I’d definitely try to request one again next time!

Roast’s menu was perfect for Chris – he is definitely a meat-eater whereas I’m quite happy to go veggie now and then. His picks were so predictable! The Welsh man chose to start with chorizo Scotch egg followed by a Welsh rump of lamb. I wanted something a little out of the ordinary, so ordered crab and avocado to start with, followed by the famous “Roast” burger.

If you enjoy wine, Roast has a sommelier who can help you to pick the perfect bottle to go with your meal. He was so lovely but we’re just not wine drinkers! Instead, we had gin cocktails and craft beer.

The chorizo Scotch egg with piccalilli was perfectly done: slightly crunchy on the outside and a slightly runny yolk. The chorizo was a nice twist on a classic.

My Dorset crab and avocado with cucumber, white radish and apple was beautiful. The combination of flavours worked really well and I found the whole thing very light and refreshing – perfect before a hearty main!

Next time I’d like to try the charcoal soufflé – it looks incredible! Check it out on Katy‘s blog.

Chris’ Welsh rump of lamb with tabbouleh and harissa carrot was perfectly cooked and the Welshman connoisseur was very satisfied. They did his national dish justice!

I was amazed when my main arrived. It looked glorious!

The ‘Roast’ burger included 48 Day dry aged sirloin of beef with ale cheddar, pickled red cabbage, carrot piccalilli, and Yorkshire pudding. It even came with its own little jug of gravy! The beef was cooked just the way I like it, the gravy was better than most, and the cheese was so tasty and mustardy. The Yorkshire pudding was perfect as well (and not dry like the one I had in York!).

Don’t I look happy?

As if all of this food wasn’t enough, I got greedy and ordered a side as well!

The grilled field mushrooms with garlic and parsley butter were sooo delicious. I am a big fan of garlicky mushrooms.

And now for the most important part of the meal for me…

I went for one of my very favourite desserts: sticky date pudding with toffee sauce, almond brittle and clotted cream. IT WAS FABULOUS! I was very, very full by that point but that didn’t stop me from gobbling up the whole thing. The pudding was beautifully moist and the sauce was almost like salted caramel.

cheesecake

Chris had the Dorset blueberry cheesecake with stem ginger shortbread. It was an unorthodox take on the traditional cheesecake, with a combination of textures: jelly, crunchy meringue, shortbread, ice cream and creamy cheesecake. This made Chris a very happy man!

London blog restaurant review

I’d definitely return to Roast just to have that sticky toffee pudding again.

Overall:

  • the food was delicious
  • the service was friendly yet professional
  • the atmosphere is relaxed but still feels special
  • the location in Borough market is fabulous – I’d recommend going for a drink at one of the neighbouring bars before or after your meal here.

I’ll be recommending Roast to anyone who wants to try British food done well. I find that the UK doesn’t deserve its bad reputation for food – you just need to visit the right restaurant or gastropub to really come to appreciate it!

We were guests of the restaurant for this review but I will definitely be back for a good Sunday roast and that excellent sticky toffee pudding!

Castle Combe, a Fairytale Village in the Cotswolds

By Posted on 2 min read 850 views
Castle Combe is a picture perfect village in the region of Cotswolds in England.
Castle Combe Nissan Figaro

CASTLE COMBE

Having a car has given the boyfriend and me the freedom to explore further than we normally would. For my birthday weekend we booked a lovely cottage on airbnb (get £30 off here) in Batheaston, a village near Bath, and drove over from London. Before buying a car we would have had to stay in the centre of town and probably wouldn’t have ventured very far out, but this time we decided to enjoy driving the tree-lined country roads and visit the Cotswolds.

I’d been wanting to see Castle Combe for a long time (it’s all over Instagram!) and it was only a short drive away from our cottage so it made for the perfect excursion.

Castle Combe is often called the prettiest village in England, and it’s easy to see why. Every cottage in the village looks like it could be on a pretty postcard. Don’t expect to see an impressive castle here though; little remains of the one the village gets its name from.

malthouse
castle combe cotswolds
Castle Combe Cotswolds Nissan Figaro

How to get to Castle Combe:

The village is a 25 minute drive from Bath, or a 10 minute drive from Chippenham. If using public transport, get bus 35 from Chippenham train station.

There are free parking spaces at the top of the hill, North of the village.

Castle Combe
castle-combe cakes

“It’s run on trust”. This baker is counting on people to put money in the letterbox if they want to buy any cake. Very sweet to see!

Castle Combe door
Castle Combe houses
Castle Combe road
Castle Combe bridge

Things to do in Castle Combe:

  • Go for a walk along Bybrook river
  • Visit the tea room – contact them before you go as they don’t have regular opening times
  • Alternatively, have afternoon tea at the luxurious Manor House Hotel
  • Have a pint at The White Hart, a 14th century pub
  • Take pictures by the bridge – obviously!

Question is: where should we drive to next?

London’s Lavender Field: Mayfield

By Posted on 2 min read 1301 views
City Cookie lavender field

Mayfield Lavender Farm

If you’re following me on Instagram, you’ll know that there’s nothing I love more than a colourful door or some beautiful flowers. I love to watch blooms change with the seasons, from snowdrops to bluebells and wisteria to peonies. When it started looking like summer was finally here in London, I decided that I had to visit a lavender field.

Luckily, after a quick Google search I discovered Mayfield lavender farm in Banstead, South London. My friends didn’t need much convincing so we headed over to the farm on a sunny Saturday morning.

lavender field london
How to get there:

From central London, the best way to get to the lavender field is to get a train from London Bridge to Purley, then take bus 166 all the way to Oaks Park. Easy!

If you have a car you can of course drive around 32 kilometres (20 miles) from London to the farm.

The farm is usually open from June to September but check the website before heading there.

english lavender

When you get there, you’ll be asked to pay a £1 entry fee per adult, which I think is very reasonable! Don’t worry, there are plenty of opportunities to spend your money once you’re inside – the café’s lavender scones are popular.

london lavender field
London lavender fields
mayfield lavender field
Lavender Fields in London
mayfield lavender
lavender london mayfield

Do not underestimate the English sun! My shoulders got sooo burnt that day.

If you do visit Mayfield, take lots of pictures – the lavender makes for the most beautiful backdrop. Oh, and make sure you stop to smell the flowers too…

Be quick, you only have until mid-September to visit the lavender fields!

Did you know that you can find lavender fields just outside of central London? These look beautiful from June to September.