Adventures in Adversity

Over the past year, give or take a couple of weeks, I’ve adventured solo to Stockholm, journeyed to Berlin and Barcelona for the first time with two of my favourite travel buddies, explored beautiful English countryside and dreamy Scottish cities, and escaped busy London for the day.

Late last week, I stumbled across Inkifi and, without too much thought, ordered 20 of my favourite travel snaps, all taken from my Instagram. They arrived this week and I’m happy to see that they turned out brilliantly (who knew that Instagram photos were actually excellent quality?!). I’ve enjoyed scattering them around my room, filling up blank, empty spaces with memories of my explorations.

I’m not feeling positive about 2018. 2017 has been a tough year, possibly one of the hardest yet, but these Polaroids fill me with hope. They make me excited to plan adventures for the new year. They remind me that this year hasn’t been all bad, even if the negative constantly tries to push it way to the front. They help make my (rented, regrettably) room my own.

It’s true what they say, about that travel bug.

This was originally posted as a shorter Instagram post.

5 Things to Do in Barcelona

In November, I visited Barcelona for the first time with my friend Sarah before she left London for Australia (😭😭). It has taken me a little while to write this post, but here are five things to do in the city!

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Visit… the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Park Güell

Gaudí is everywhere in Barcelona. The Catalan architect’s work is unusual, for this Londoner, and a delight. These spots are pretty standard for any traveller to Barcelona. I particularly enjoyed the stained glass windows (spring, summer, autumn and winter-inspired) of the Sagrada. It’s worth checking out the audio guide and taking a trip up the spire. Casa Batlló was stunning – so much blue and green and turquoise! – and my favourite out of the three, whilst Park Güell is perfect for a sunny day. Don’t forget to book your tickets for all three in advance!

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Go on… The Shadow of the Wind walking tour

Sarah loves Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s popular series for bookworms and so we booked places on The Shadow of the Wind walking tour. It was fascinating to visit places mentioned in the book (such as the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books). As we weren’t in tourist season, we were the only two on the tour and so could ask plenty of questions. Our guide kindly kept it spoiler-free for me, too, seeing as I was only halfway through the book (silly, silly Stacey).

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Eat brunch at… Federal Café

We visited this Australian café in Barcelona twice because we loved it so much – and I had avocado and poached egg on toast both times. It’s certainly a ‘hipster coffee shop’ but, honestly, those are my favourites.

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Drink gin cocktails at… Dux

After dinner, we stumbled across this gorgeous, elegant cocktail bar and it was the perfect spot to sit and chat. I enjoy fruity cocktails (although they don’t love me…) and hanging out at Dux was a great way to spend our evening. In Spain, people eat and drink very, very late and so everywhere you go is super quiet and you can always get a table! Dux had a lovely piano in the corner, the tables were candlelit, and the menu offered pop culture-inspired cocktails.

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Browse… Barcelona’s many bookshops

Barcelona is a haven for bibliophiles and I was fortunate to go on holiday with a fellow book industry friend, so bookshops were at the top of our list. One of my favourites was Altaïr. This travel bookshop was cosy, homely and had a little café with sofas. I buy a copy of Le Petit Prince every time I visit a new country and I bought El Principito in La Central. We drank coffee outside and I enjoy playing around on the swing seat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to Gigamesh, the popular sci-fi bookshop – next time! (I used a handy Guardian article to plan our bookish adventure).

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We only tried churros twice so I wouldn’t dare recommend the best place to eat them! But a few places on our list to go to were Xurreria Dels Banys Nous, Chok – The Chocolate Kitchen, Granja M Viader, and La Nena.

5 Places to Eat in Edinburgh

In July, I visited Edinburgh for the second time… and fell in love with it all over again. If I could move my job to Scotland, I wouldn’t hesitate to rent a (much-cheaper-than-I-currently-pay) flat in one of Edinburgh’s beautiful buildings. It felt like a little piece of east and north London, but with much fewer people. To me, holidays mean food + friends. Lots and lots of food, so here’s five particularly yummy places I went to in this stunning literary city.

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Ice Cream at… Mary’s Milk Bar

I love ice cream. I normally opt for Italian gelato, but Mary’s Milk Bar serves some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. I had a tricky time picking flavours (as always) because they all sounded amazing. I chose dark chocolate & cinnamon and raspberry ripple, and Cathy had dark chocolate & orange and poppy seed. It was so delicious. We promised to come back… but didn’t get time! Cathy and I are planning a wintry Edinburgh trip, so we’ll be heading to Mary’s for more ice cream and hot chocolate.

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Brunch and Lunch at… Loudons

I also really, really love brunch. If it were up to me, I’d happily eat breakfast all day, every day. For our first day in the city, we went to Loudons. I had a yummy bowl of rice, poached egg, avocado and chorizo. We shared haggis bonbons – haggis balls rolled in breadcrumbs – and they were surprisingly delicious. I’d always thought that eating haggis would be a strange experience, but it tastes like herby sausages. I am a fan.

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Brunch at… Spoon

Spoon was recommended to us on our Harry Potter walking tour – it was technically the place where J.K. Rowling wrote chunks of the series, but back then it was known as Nicolson’s Cafe. You may have heard of The Elephant Cafe (the ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter), but I’d personally pick Spoon, which has much fewer tourists. We had the mixed grill: bacon, sausage, black pudding, haggis (again!), beans, and a fried egg. Yum!

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Meze at… Meze Meze

Meze Meze was one of the first places I came across whilst holiday planning. We got there at 8pm, but as we hadn’t reserved, we had to wait another hour for a table (totally fine with us as we were still full from brunch!). Meze Meze does the most amazing Mediterranean food – we had the chef’s selection of 5 cold and 5 hot dishes served with warm pitta bread. We loved it.

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Coffee at… Brew Lab

Edinburgh has so many pretty coffee shops, it’s quite unfair. We were never surrounded by Prets (we counted three, which is quite impressive since I’m within a few minutes’ walk from five) and from what we could see, indies far outnumbered Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero. Brew Lab serves strong coffee, although my Aussie travel buddy would disagree, and was perfectly cosy. I could see myself blogging here every weekend.

And don’t forget to try Scotland’s tap water!

Which foodie places should I add to my list for next time?

Things to Do in Copenhagen (Part 2)

Last month, I had a wonderful time with fellow blogger Debbie, visiting the beautiful city of Copenhagen in Denmark. Here’s part two of ten things we enjoyed and would suggest you give a go too – read part one here

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Go on… a canal tour
I’ve been on canal tours in Bruges and Amsterdam, so it was a ‘must do’ for me in Copenhagen! It’s a great way to explore the city, especially if you’re exhausted. You can just sit there and soak up the sun and sights (in my case, a little too much sun – I got burned!). We passed The Little Mermaid statue, the Black Diamond (Royal Library), Nyhavn and lots more.

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Eat at… Höst, Granola and the Andersen Bakery
If you’re not a foodie, look away now. One of the best things about going on holiday, in my opinion, is eating lots of food. We treated ourselves to a stunning Nordic tasting menu at Höst (six fancy dishes, from lobster sauce and venison to lemon & thyme juice and beer ice cream), ate an amazing ‘sweet plate’ breakfast at Granola (including a mini cinnamon snail and chocolate spread) and had delicious hot chocolate & cakes at the Andersen Bakery. I wish I could do it all over again!

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Visit… the National Museum
The National Museum is a bright and airy (free) museum! I enjoyed visiting the toys exhibition, wandering around old dollhouses and vintage toys, and exploring the modern history of Denmark. There’s an impressive amount of museums in Copenhagen and sadly we couldn’t visit them all. We also took a trip to Christiansborg Palace and visited the royal kitchens and palace ruins, but unfortunately the lift to the tower was broken so we didn’t get to go up. VisitCopenhagen.com is a superb resource that I found immensely helpful when planning our trip.

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Eat at… Slice of San Francisco
All right, so it’s not Danish, but it serves the most amazing cheesecake in Copenhagen. It’s owned by San Franciscan Miriam, who bakes all the cheesecakes herself. She also makes an incredible chicken burrito, which we shared before tucking into creamy cheesecake – I had cherry and cinnamon compote and Debbie had blueberry-rose. It was a lovely place to relax before heading to the Tivoli Gardens. But trust me, don’t go on a spinning ride straight after! Check out scandinaviastandard.com for a longer review and more mouth-watering photos.

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Visit… Christiania

If you’re on a budget, simply walking around the streets of Copenhagen is a treat in itself. Christiania was a neighbourhood that I was told I must visit, and I’m glad we did. It’s Copenhagen’s famous freetown, super quirky and chilled – possibly due to there being hash dealers everywhere! That’s not to say it’s legal, however. It was fascinating to walk around, but you need to follow the rules, such as not taking photos inside the community or running (it causes panic!). Despite this, we felt safe exploring the area.

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I loved Copenhagen so much and would definitely go back. You can never have too many cinnamon snails.

Things to Do in Copenhagen (Part 1)

Only a few days before the upsetting and unbelievable Brexit madness, I had a wonderful time in Europe with fellow blogger Debbie, visiting the beautiful city of Copenhagen in Denmark. Here are five things that I enjoyed and think you might too.

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Visit… the Tivoli Gardens
The amusement park that inspired Walt Disney is tourist staple and it’s easy to see why. Buy the unlimited wristband so you can go on as many rides as you like – we went on the same one five times. And there are no queues! At the end of the evening, they put on a fantastical light and sound show with fire and smoke. It was magical.

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Climb… Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of Our Savior)
If you’re looking for an amazing view and love to climb, go up the 400 steps of this stunning spire. There’s a mixture of tiny wooden steps inside and wider metal steps outside. It’s such a great climb and considering that it has more steps than Covent Garden station (193), it doesn’t tire you out too much.

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Visit… the supermarkets and convenience stores
If you want ‘local’ snacks, always visit the supermarkets. It’s fun to walk around, discovering all the Scandinavian brands and unusual snacks (like Skumbananer). We shopped in Netto and I bought chocolate biscuits for my colleagues instead of going to a fancy tourist shop – they went down a treat! And 7-Eleven had the best cinnamon snail we tasted. Hands down.

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Eat at… Paludan BogCafe (Book Cafe)
You won’t find this beautiful cafe in many guide books. I came across it while looking for bookish places to visit. It’s a former university library turned student cafe and it was an excellent place to grab a delicious sandwich with new potatoes and the best hot chocolate we had on the trip. It was one of the best (and cheapest!) meals we had – being surrounded by books also helped!

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Ride… the City Bikes

But only if you’re tall! Copenhagen is famous for its cyclists and bike-friendly streets. One evening, after eating gelato by the canal, we thought it would be an excellent idea to grab a City Bike and cycle home. That is, until we realised we were way too short – even when we made the saddle go as low as possible. It was too difficult for us (read, me) to stop the bikes, so we ended up cycling around the bike stand for an hour instead. It was hilarious and the motor on the bikes made it so much fun.

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Stay tuned for part two!