Something inside me lights up at the prospect of a trip up north, so when Laurence signed up for the Greater Manchester Marathon, making a weekend of it was a no-brainer. Until this trip, I’d only ever seen Manchester under a blanket of thick grey cloud, but on this occasion there was a healthy dose of vitamin D to be had.
There’s more to the Loire than its châteaux. Follow the Loire towards the Atlantic and you’ll reach Nantes, a sprawling city with a vibrant arts scene, historic buildings aplenty and over a hundred parks and gardens. We had just shy of eight hours to see as much of the city as possible, and true to form, we packed in a lot (of steps, pastries and monuments).
When you think of Cambridge, two things probably spring to mind: punting and colleges. Sure, The Backs is the waterway equivalent of the M1 on a busy summer’s day and every other attraction is either a college or owned by one, but there’s more than enough to keep you busy here for a day or two. Whilst Cambridge is an expensive place to live (there’s no two ways about that), it doesn’t have to be an expensive place to visit. Here’s my itinerary for anyone looking to visit Cambridge on the cheap.
Home, in my opinion, is a feeling as much as it is a place: a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, a sense of belonging. That was Hamburg, for me. Germany’s second-largest city – and Europe’s third-biggest port – has a heck of a lot going for it, and the fact that it isn’t (yet, at least) a tourist honeypot is a serious plus in my books.
With 2018 drawing to a close and a couple of days of annual leave still to use up, Laurence and I headed over to Northern Germany for a long weekend, dividing our time between fairy tale-esque Bremen and industrial Hamburg. Admittedly, Bremen wasn’t really on my radar until we plugged various dates into Ryanair’s Fare Finder, and discovered that we could fly into Bremen and out of Hamburg for a little over £25 each, and thereby see two places, albeit briefly, in one trip.
So many sweet treats, so little time. I can’t be the first person (and likely won’t be the last) to have faced this dilemma in Lisbon, such was the number of confeitarias with enticing window displays. Our solution? Cake for breakfast (or rather, part one of our breakfast). Chocolate cake, in fact, with a caramel mirror glaze from Confeitaria Nacional (Praça da Figueira 18). Founded in 1829 by Balthazar Castanheiro, it quickly established a reputation for quality pastries; in 1873, King D. Luís I granted it a royal warrant, and Confeitaria Nacional became a supplier of the Portuguese royal family. Incredibly, it’s still in the hands of the founder’s family six generations on.
Just a hop, skip and a tram ride away from the centre of Lisbon is Belém, a veritable treasure chest of tourist attractions. In Belém, Portugal’s Age of Discovery lives on – in the majestic Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the iconic Torre de Belém and the imposing Padrão dos Descobrimentos.
Lisbon is steep, cobbled streets, canary-yellow vintage trams and seemingly endless miradouros (viewpoints). Lisbon is pastéis de nata, leitão (suckling pig) sandwiches and bacalhau any which way you like it; a foodie’s dream. Lisbon quickly, effortlessly, captured my heart: it’s a city which oozes character and charm; a city which leisurely wandering is made for; a city which feels like a long-lost friend.
Porto packs a punch with its azulejo-clad igrejas, vibrant foodie scene and abundant viewpoints. With only two days in the city, we were keen to see as much as we could – and while we didn’t see everything (in just two days, who could?), we saw everything we wanted to and a fair bit more besides. If you missed out on last week’s post, you can catch up here. If you’re up to speed (or even if you’re not), grab a cuppa, settle in and prepare for another armchair tour of Porto – a city that just couldn’t be condensed into a single post.
I fell for Portugal – for its azulejo-covered façades, its food, its terracotta rooftops – hook, line and sinker. Our first stop, Porto, was everything it was cracked up to be: full of character and cultural gems, and picturesque to boot (even when the sea mist rolled in and enveloped the city). It’s a city for the flâneurs and flâneuses amongst us; a city which, quite simply, is made for wandering. Instead of giving you a minute-by-minute account of what we got up to in the two days we spent there, this week and next I’ll be sharing a selection of places we visited (and, more importantly, things we ate), and a few of my favourite photos.