Exploring Budapest with My Mum

Budapest is embellished with stunning architecture, cool ruin bars, delicious food and wonderful views of the city. I absolutely loved exploring the streets with my mum, strolling across the Chain Bridge at sunset, getting lost in a market and going for a swim in a thermal bath! There’s so much to do and we had so little time there, so we squeezed everything we could into the weekend. Below are some of the places we visited, that I definitely recommend!

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Vintage Cafe

Start the day fresh and flowery at the Vintage Garden Restaurant, it’s the perfect breakfast spot- you’ll be welcomed by friendly staff, flower walls and a beautifully pink interior. We chose a table in the conservatory section of the cafe next to a pretty fireplace and we ordered their cereal with yogurt and fruit, and their pancakes that were sprinkled with delicate pieces of apple, banana, strawberry and grape.

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Deryne Bisztro

This quaint restaurant is situated on the Buda side of Budapest, away from the tourist crowds in Pest. We decided to head here for breakfast on our last day in the city, before we wandered off to explore Castle Hill.

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We sat outside and were served by a very friendly lady who brought over a selection of fruit juices in vases for us to choose from. I ordered a delicious granola and Greek yogurt with fruit and my mum chose scrambled egg with salmon and mushrooms, which looked lovely. We were also handed a basket of sourdough bread to munch on whilst we sipped on our teas and coffees and waited for our breakfast- my tea was nice too, it’s always nice when your hot drink comes with a biscuit!

The restaurant is nicely decorated with pretty chairs, there are giant meringues in the window and in the garden, there’s a cute little shed that sells bread.

Mazel Tov

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Mazel Tov is a stunning restaurant with a beautiful high glass ceiling that’s speckled with fairy lights and hanging leaves. This urban dinner spot is located in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, there’s lots of scrumptious Israeli food to choose from on the menu and there’s a great selection of cocktails- I enjoyed a refreshing Hugo cocktail with my falafel pitta and salad. I definitely recommend booking beforehand though, as there was a bit of a queue when we first arrived.

Szechenyi Thermal Bath

There are a few of these fantastic spas dotted around Budapest, it’s definitely worth having a little dip in one! We spent the afternoon at the Szechenyi Thermal Bath near Heroes square, It’s stunning, yellow palace looks wonderful against the blue pools, I felt so relaxed immersing myself into the calming warm water. Lots of other people were paddling about too, sun bathing and sipping on summer drinks in the afternoon heat.

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When you visit, you can have your own little cabin to keep your things in and you are also given sachets of shampoo to use in a shower afterwards. If you’re staying in Budapest a little longer, you could treat yourself to a massage or a facial treatment before you head out in the evening!

Castle Hill Funicular

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The Castle Hill Funicular is a cable car that takes you to the top of Castle Hill where you’ll find Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church and other historic architecture and museums. Travelling by the funicular is fairly cheap and it’s great if you fancy giving your legs a break from all the walking in the City- you’ll see stunning views of Pest across the water on your way up. Even though the funicular was originally destroyed in a WW2 bombing raid, it has since been reconstructed into its beautiful vintage design.

Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion is one of my favourite buildings in Budapest. This gorgeous fairy tale-like structure is perched on Castle Hill by Matthias Church, you’ll see lots of tourists posing like princesses on it and taking photos of its stunning towers- i joined in too!

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The name ‘Fisherman’s Bastion’ was given to the structure because the Buda side castle wall was protected by the Fisherman’s guild who were responsible for defending this area of the city walls in the Middle Ages. I loved wandering up the many steps of this enchanted kingdom and looking at the sunny views from the balconies.

To add a little sweetness to our last day, we took the funicular down to the bottom of the hill again and enjoyed a vanilla and apple pie ice cream in the sunshine!

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We really enjoyed our little weekend getaway, if you’re wondering where to go on your next city break, I definitely recommend exploring Budapest’s many hidden gems!

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5 Things to Do in Manarola

Manarola is a dreamy little haven in Italy, it is known for its medieval relics, it’s colourful buildings and it may also be the oldest of the five villages in the Cinque Terre. There are plenty of things to do there if you visit, but my main top five are:

1. Go to Nessum Dorma, a beautiful restaurant that’s perched on a cliff with stunning views of pastel coloured houses. You’ll be welcomed by smiley staff and fairy lights and you can sip mojitos from a jar- you will also be spoilt with delicious snacks to nibble on whilst you take in the Italian sunshine.

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We actually celebrated a birthday there and we were surprised with balloons, cake and a flower garland!

Before my visit, I painted a part of the restaurant and when I arrived, I gave my painting to the owners. Below is a photo of my watercolour in the Cantina at Nessun Dorma.

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I thoroughly recommend this lovely place, whether you’re stopping for lunch or you just fancy a couple of cocktails in the afternoon, you’ll definitely love it there.

2. Take a little walk up the steps and along the coast and get an iconic photo with the lovely village behind you. All the tourists were taking the same photo and of course I got one too!

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3. Explore the lanes and passageways of the village; pop into souvenir shops and little gelato parlours. There are plenty of quant cafes to pick from if you choose to stop off for a coffee, a wine or my favourite, an Aperol Spritz.

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4. Head down to the harbour, sit on the rocks and watch the sunset. There’s something tranquil about watching the sun go down, seeing the sky change to blues and apricots at dusk. As the evening descends, the houses on the cliff are speckled with little orange lights.

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5. For dinner, I would recommend a lovely little restaurant by the harbour, Ristorante Marina Piccola. I loved their Salsa di tortellini (pasta with walnut sauce) and the bag of bread they brought over to us to munch on as a starter. It was really beautiful looking out at the water in the evening light.

An extra thing to do: Hop on a short train ride to Corniglia, another one of the stunning Cinque Terre villages. Indulge on a coconut gelato and explore the coastal paths, stroll past peoples gardens, fruit stalls, magnet shops and then pop in to one of the pretty cliff-top bars and sip on a cocktail. If you have a wander up some of the hills and steps, you will be rewarded with some wonderful views of the clear blue sea.

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I absolutely loved this enchanting place, we got our train back to Genoa with lots of photos, a very big smile and a little hint of sunburn!

Hill Climbing and Gingerbread

Last Saturday, we woke up early and hopped on a bus to Thirmere so that we could have a leisurely spring walk in the Lake District. We packed some egg mayonnaise sandwiches, some satsumas and some Terry’s Chocolate orange segments, I was really looking forward to taking in the northern air and maybe popping into a quaint tea room to have an Earl Grey tea or a mocha. However, the walk I thought we were going to do, was actually a hill climb; it was also the fourth highest hill in England, Helvellyn.

We followed cobbled paths, taking ‘chocolate breaks’ every now and then, families with little wooly-hatted children whizzed past us as we slowly climbed up the rocks and into the crisp, windy atmosphere ahead of us.

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The views of the lake from Helvellyn were wonderful, I may not have been able to feel my face or fingers (it was so cold) but I was so happy when we finally made it to the top- apologies to my travel buddy for the slightly moany comments on the way up! Here is a photo of me posing like I climb hills every day:

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We had a lovely, chilly hill-top lunch in our hats and gloves, then once we had taken lots of photos of the view, we made our way back down the hill and got a bus to Grasmere where we finished the day off at the Grasmere gingerbread shop.

This little place sits in the heart of the village, you can smell the spicy-sweet scent of cinnamon and ginger as you queue to enter the gingerbread haven.

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The shop was originally invented in 1854 by Sarah Nelson, a Victorian cook in the English Lake District village and ever since, people from all over still visit to try some of her famous sweet treats. As well as their well loved biscuits, the shop also sells its own jams, rum butter, fudges and chocolates. We bought a pack of 6 gingerbread pieces for £3.50, they were absolutely delicious and were perfect to have with a cup of tea in a nearby pub!

I may have painful legs now, but we had a wonderful day exploring some of the lake district and I cant wait to head back there again soon.

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Art Life

Art is a way of expressing all our beautiful, creative thoughts in a visual form- whether it’s on paper, canvas, sculpture and also in music. We all do art, even those who say they aren’t creative, are in fact artistic in their own way, making bread is a form of art, doodling in meetings, cooking, taking photos or helping someone else with a painting idea- all these things show that you are being imaginative and inventive. To me, art is an escape- I love to paint flowers, nature, food and other things that make me feel happy.


When I studied Art at A-Level, to get the higher grades we were encouraged to draw and paint darker things that had deeper meanings, so a lot of my old sketch books were filled with more eerie paintings which is something I did enjoy doing at the time. But when I left the school to study English at Lancaster University, I began to experiment with watercolour more in my free time (when I wasn’t writing stories in the library or making hot chocolates) and I fell in love with how the vibrant colours blended together; I starting painting more nature, pets, objects like teapots and watering cans that associate with homes and gardens. I love painting things that bring smiles to people’s faces, even something as simple as a twister lolly- it makes one reminisce back to summers in the garden with their cousins! The more I practised painting, the more I developed my personal style, which is something that my family and friends pointed out about my work.

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I am based in Hertfordshire and my studio is currently the big wooden table in our kitchen, which is where I spend most of my evenings painting and researching ideas. The table is usually adorned with art palettes, paintbrushes and tubes of watercolour paint and you’ll see me sketching and listening to ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman- one of my favourite relaxing songs.

I have learned a lot about art over the last few years, one thing in particular would be the value of critique. I was used to having my creative writing critiqued in my seminars at University, I quite enjoyed getting feedback so that I could make my work better with new ideas but with my paintings I found it more difficult, It could be because sometimes I would have to start a painting again which I wasn’t always happy to do. However, by having an art critic (mine is my dad) it really pushes you to do your best work and to improve, you’ll then look at the finished product and love it!

The main thing I’ve learned though, is to make sure I keep painting! It is important to keep practising with different techniques and colours to gain more skills and to strengthen the ones you already have. It is also nice to take a break from art though, some days I don’t want to paint at all and it’s healthy to give your brain a chance to collect some new inspiration! I often have lots of fresh ideas when I get back from a holiday or if I’ve been on a train journey where I’ve had time to just sit and think.

We’re told to do what makes us happy, and for me, painting is at the top of the list!

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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!