Edinburgh, You Have Lovely Cafes and Restaurants!

Edinburgh is a beautiful and charming city that’s bursting with history, art and cobbled streets; it’s the perfect place to visit during a crisp, cold January-  especially because you can pop into one of it’s many unique cafes to grab a coffee every now and then when your hands start to go numb!

On our first evening, we began our very cold city break at Monteiths, a hidden restaurant in the heart of Edinburgh’s old town. We followed a cobbled pathway down an alley that was draped with fairy lights and it led us to the entrance of the bar. We bought some cocktails from there, before heading to where we were staying for the weekend.

The next morning, we decided to explore more of the old town, one place I fell in love with was Victoria Street and its curvy line of colourful shop fronts.

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This fascinating street is packed with quirky gift shops, stylish restaurants, bars and boutiques, I wanted to peer into them all and have a look around! J.K Rowling was actually inspired by this street when she created Diagon Alley, a place in the the Harry Potter series and there is also a little red coffee shop in the old town called ‘Elephant House Cafe’ which is where she put her wonderous ideas together and wrote the books- I love the idea of sitting there with an Earl Grey Tea, writing my very own story one day.

Some places to eat in the Old Town: 

Scott’s – This café is situated on Victoria street above the colourful shops on Victoria Terrace; if you peer over the Terrace, you’ll get a stunning view of the street and if you’re like me, you’ll take photos of it. The food here was delicious; we tried some vegetarian Haggis, which was really nice and the soup of the day came with a home-made cheese scone that was perfect for dipping!

Southern Cross Café- This quirky café serves a perfect, luxury hot chocolate in a pineapple mug- what more could you need!

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There are sparkly lights that hang from the windows, along with artsy, mouth-watering cakes, a gingerbread house and other sweet treats! The cafe is decorated with homely furniture to give the place a cosy feel to it. We sat next to a fireplace and enjoyed our hot chocolates before heading back out into the chilly, Edinburgh air.

Blue coffee box- This very little coffee shop in the street isn’t exactly bigger on the inside (I love doctor who), but it makes use of an unsused police box and sells a hot drink and a chocolate chip shortbread for £4, which was perfect for a mid afternoon drink and a snack after all the walking we had done.

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Places to eat in the New Town:

We spent sunday wandering around the new town, but on the way, we stopped off at The Gardeners Cottage for Breakfast, a pretty café in a park.

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The cottage was built in 1836 and began as a home to a gardener, but was soon transformed into Edinburgh’s humble home for seasonal food. We enjoyed a croissant with jam and a bowl of granola and yogurt, the waiter topped up our teas and coffees and we munched on our food. I actually painted this beautiful place before my visit, and for giving them my watercolour, we were given complimentary drinks as a thank you.

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Henderson’s: There are two of these cafes in the new town of Edinburgh; a vegetarian one and a vegan one, so we tried out the vegan one. If you like sweet hazelnut milk lattes, i’d definitely recommend stopping by this place. I had the soup of the day here, a lovely heart-warming tomato soup and sour dough bread after a cold, breezy walk to the castle!

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Tigerlily: This glamorous restaurant on George Street was the perfect place for our last night in the city. We were sat amongst chandeliers, fairy lights and candle lit tables, I spent far too long deciding which cocktail to get from a list of hundreds! I also tried Roti bread for the first time. I really loved it here, it was a perfect sparkly touch to our evening! I had to brush my windswept hair a bit to look a little fancier!

As well as good food, there are some fantastic galleries and museums in Edinburgh that are worth visiting, one of my favourites was The Scottish National Portrait Gallery as there is a J M William Turner section that is only open throughout January, so we were very lucky to see some of Turner’s stunning stormy seascapes in all their watercolour glory.

We had a great weekend strolling around lots of Scottish streets, wrapped up warm in our scarves and hats! I’m on the plane now, goodbye wonderful city, thank you for having us.

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Saturday in Venice

This Fairytale City made me feel as though I had entered another little world, far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As we exited the train station, we were welcomed by the grand canal and its beautiful old-fashioned gondalas, stunning Venetian architecture adorned the banks and a selection of bridges stood in front of us. I couldn’t wait to explore this unique place.

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As we strolled through Venice’s alley ways, we found lots of hidden gems; secret bistros with their warm pastry aromas, quaint gift shops that were collaged with glittery masks and we unveiled little walkways that lead us deeper into an enchanting maze.

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There had been a flood during the time we visited in November, so most of the Piazza San Marco square was covered in giant puddles. Wooden boards had been set out so that tourists could walk along them, everyone followed each other in a line in their wellies and coats.

 

Venice is a boutique of bridges, so of course I ended up having a bit of a bridge photoshoot:

 

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I could have spent a few days here holding banana and salted caramel gelatos and posing for photos, the day went too quickly and before we knew it, the evening sky appeared and the canals were lit up by the street lights, making orange and yellow ripples in the water. We enjoyed a salad and pizza before we said goodbye to this beautiful city and got back on our train to Bologna.

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We had a wonderful Saturday in Venice, I’d love to go back there soon.

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Us by a canal, featuring another aperol spritz!

 

 

Autumn in Bologna

It was wonderful returning to italy, I had missed its orange, yellow and peach buildings, the beautiful architecture and the little quaint cafes with the custard croissants. I was very excited to explore more of this exquisite country.

Whilst wandering through the streets of Bologna, we found ourselves in the main square, Piazza Maggiore; it is a plaza that is lined with arched colonnades that adorn the lively city of markets, shops and galleries. There are lots of lovely restaurants here (one of them served a very delicous pumpkin ravioli dish) and we were spoilt for choice with lots of charming cafes- we sat outside them, sipping ginseng tea and espressos whilst we planned out our adventures.

One of the cute cafes we spent our mornings at.

Among the many medieval towers that Bologna is known for, Asinelli and Garisenda stand next to each other in the heart of the city, watching over the streets as people pass by.

The two towers, Asinelli and Garisenda

We ventured up the never-ending wooden staircase of Degli Asinell to see the beautiful views from the top, and of course, we took lots of pictures!

We also saw some stunning views of the city at dusk from the Basilica di San Petronio viewing terrace.

Another wonderful building we visited was the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. It is a grand, orange coloured basilica church that sits proudly on a hill, we ventured off on a cute tourist train to see it. On our journey, we passed a monumental roofed arcade that has 666 beautiful arches that lead you up to the basilica. It was fantastic seeing the gorgeous views from the top.

A view from the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca

As well as historic architecture, we also experienced some of Bologna’s delicious desserts in the chocolate and gelato boutique, Venchi. This fancy little shop is full of treats that are perfect to give as gifts. We tried one of their scrumptious hot chocolates, it was so tasty that we ended up going back for another one!

Towards the end of our City break, we decided to pop into a place called Vetro; it was once an abandoned greenhouse but it has now been transformed into a unique and quirky bar and cafe and also a work space. We sat outside on one of their tables (the lights on each table were upside down plant pots) and I had a green tea in a mason jar.

I have painted my tea in watercolour.

A little watercolour painting of the view from the Basilica di San Petronio viewing terrace.

We had a wonderful time in Bologna and i’m looking forward to seeing even more of lovely Italy!

My First Art Exhibition

I’ve always wanted to have my own art exhibition and on the 1st September, it happened!

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Me sitting outside my art gallery on a Saturday morning

I was lucky enough to be asked by Finchley Nurseries Garden Centre whether I’d like to use their seed shed for two weeks to exhibit my art, so of course I said yes and started planning how I was going to set up the area as soon as I could.

What I really loved about having my exhibition there, is that it’s actually the garden centre I used to visit when I was little, back when I lived in Mill Hill.

With help from my mum and auntie, the seed shed was turned into an exquisite little gallery of my art; watercolours were in frames and my Porridge and Cornflake books were placed on a table in the centre. We also hung up some ditsy floral bunting to create a cottagey, homely atmosphere!

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Over the two weekends, myself and my wonderful helper, James, spent the day welcoming customers into the gallery, handing out leaflets, business cards and sipping on coffees and Earl Grey teas. It was really nice watching people glance around at my work, making some lovely comments.

A few people purchased some paintings and a few of my children’s books were signed (my moment of fame) and overall, the gallery was a great success!

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We had some delicious lunches at the Garden Centre, I loved their toasties and tea cakes. We enjoyed sitting outside by the sunflowers, despite having lots of wasps wanting to try my hot chocolate!

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It was also great to see some of my friends and family coming to support and of course we took lots of photos:

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Thank you so much again to Finchley Nurseries Garden Centre for letting me use their shed, it was a fantastic experience and I’d love to do it all again!

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Cafés and Watercolours

Hot Chocolates and cute pink lattes are perfect for Saturday afternoons in the city, whilst brunching with your friends. There’s something lovely about sitting in a quaint café, sipping a latte that’s sprinkled with petals, or even a tea that’s been brewed in the most beautiful teacup you have ever seen (so naturally, you take a photo of it to put on your instagram). These wonderful beverages are delicious, they warm your heart on a windy Autumn day and they’re also perfect to paint! Recently, I have been painting some cakes and coffees from some of the cafés I have visited- I’ve also painted some of the shop fronts too!

I began my coffee painting adventure at Farm Girl; It is an Australian style café that serves lots of colourful food, pretty acai bowls, salads and gorgeous hot drinks. I have been to two of their cafés: the one based in Soho and the cafe in Notting Hill, which is hidden behind a lilac door along Portobello Road. I loved their hibiscus matcha latte so much that I decided to paint it once I got home. I also created a little watercolour of one of their stripey pink croissants and one of their Lady Negroni drinks.

I then stumbled across Biscuiteers, which is a luxury biscuit boutique (in Notting Hill and Kensington). They sell a wonderful range of hand iced biscuits for all different occasions, I absolutely adored their summer biscuit collections! (Have a look at some more of their designs on their instagram: https://www.instagram.com/biscuiteersltd ). The shop itself, particularly the one in Notting Hill, is so stunning and unique I just had to paint it!

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I sent the watercolour to Biscuiteers and as a thank you, they very kindly sent me a box of biscuits in the shape of birds!

If you haven’t already been to Peggy Porschen, you should definitely pop in! This little pink café is speckled with lots of pretty cupcakes, traybakes, fresh macaroons and biscuits. Each cupcake is adorned with wonderfully swirly icing and delicate decorations – they’re too beautiful to eat! Here are a some watercolours of  their confectionary :

I have painted a few coffees and cakes from a few other coffee shops such as Farmers Mistress:

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The Dayrooms Cafe:

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Primrose Bakery with it’s beautifully vibrant yellow exterior:

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Feya:

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Soft Swerve:

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Bluebird Cafe:

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As well as coffees and cakes I have been creating little watercolour cocktails too. Over summer, whenever I had spare time, I’d sketch some of my favourites: Rhubarb and ginger gins, mojitos, pina coladas.

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I even painted some cocktails for one of my favourite bars in Lancaster, Tipple. If you visit, you’ll see my watercolour painting of their ‘Number One Tipple’ in a frame on their wall!

 

So if you fancy a coffee and a cake as those crispy auburn leaves begin to mosaic the streets, these cafes and bars are definitely worth a visit- especially if you’re out with that friend who joins you with your need to photograph all the rose lattes and iced mochas!

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Moonflickered

 

Firenze looks beautiful in lamp light at midnight.
We’re wandering down little cobbled roads,
fingers entwined, Aperol Spritz lingers on my tongue
as I walk in my jelly shoes. We cross
the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, moonflickered
along the old fashioned shops, hiding
sparkly treasures that are only seen at dawn.
You spin me around as the guitarist in the street
plays a song we can’t understand, angry-dreams
vanish down the River Arno. Smiley eyed people
pass us in these lemon and orange evening hues
and the warm Tuscan air pecks our cheeks- we share
a hot chocolate from a shop near the Duomo.

 

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Beautiful Florence

As well as being the perfect place to enjoy a risotto and an Aperol Spritz on a sunny evening (on one of those cute outside tables), Florence’s pretty streets are also home to some wonderful architecture, history and art!

One of the main places to visit would be the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as Il Duomo (Dome).

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This remarkable cathedral stands tall over the city and has the biggest brick dome in the world; it was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, who didn’t actually leave any blueprints or the design of the dome, so there is still a mystery of how the masterpiece was built.

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It was fascinating going into the Cathederal and going up into the dome. We went up flights of stairs into small doorways and walkways until we reached the viewing platform at the top. So naturally, we took lots of photos of the view, and this gorgeous photo was born:

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To get the best view of the city, take a wander up Piazzale Michelangelo’s  hill and watch the sunset from the big steps. You’ll see the stunning blue hills and mountains and how they contrast with the orange and peach buildings in the distance and the iconic dome, standing proud in the middle of it all. We spent the evening walking around, looking out at the pretty landscape and the apricot sky. Below, are some photos of the view at night:

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One of my favourite places in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio Bridge;  it is a medieval bridge that goes over the Arno River, and jewellery is sold along it behind beautiful old shop doors. During the day, the bridge is packed with people glancing at the sparkly items in shop windows and by night, when the shops are closed, people sit on the bridge walls and listen to a man playing his guitar in the warm evening street.

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Exploring this exquisite city was wonderful; I even loved little things like walking around with a banana gelato and spending the mornings sat outside a café with a custard croissant, soaking up the artsy atmosphere. Something about this place made me very happy. When we left, I felt delightfully inspired to write and paint my many photos I had taken during my time there.

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If you fancy a cute Italian break with stunning views and buildings, Florence is definitely the place to visit- you’ll get lost in its beauty.

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I also found a shop with my name on it!

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Below is a watercolour inspired by Florence’s incredible Dome. You can find more of my art work on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccafreemanartist/

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