Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Dubrovnik is a world heritage site that sits on the Adriatic coastline, and although breathtakingly beautiful, there are reminders that remain throughout the city that tell of its tragic past.

Although it is a small city, there is plenty to do and explore within and surrounding its old city walls. Perhaps the most popular tourist attraction is to take a walk along these city walls that so clearly enclose the old town. In the past the drawbridges to the city would have been raised at night to deter any unwanted visitors from entering. The walk around the walls is something that should be on your list of things to do when visiting Dubrovnik as the birds eye viewed gained from doing so is a great way to understand the layout of the city beneath as well as marvel at the surrounding coastline views.

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One of the many views from the Old City wall

Other Old City  attractions worth visiting are the Franciscan Monastery and Rector’s Palace. The monastery entrance is besides the entrance to the Old City Walls entrance. The monastery is perfect for respite from the summer heat of Dubrovnik, and inside you will find a hidden courtyard garden, only visible to others from the city walls above. The monastery is filled with artefacts, as well as information about the bombings that took place on the Old City, with a hole in the wall showing the damage inflicted.

The Palace is situated at the far end of the Stradun. It was built in the late 15th century and was for the elected rector who governed Dubrovnik. Inside is the rectors office, private chambers, public halls, administrative halls and even a dungeon which you are able to go inside. During the one month term they served, the rector was unable to leave the palace unless permission was granted from the senate.

Today the palace has been restored, with many of the rooms decorated in period style. As well as this, it serves as a museum that catalogues Dubrovnik’s past.

If you have a little more time on your hands, and particularly if you are a Game of Thrones fan, a visit to Fort Lovrjenac is an absolute must. A large proportion of the series was filmed at this fort, and even if you are not a fan, like myself, you can certainly appreciate why it was chosen as a set. To get to the fort you need to head out of the city gates, over the drawbridge, and up the hill past the taxi ranks. Keep waking until you see the signs. The views from the fort are spectacular, and take in the city of Dubrovnik as well as the coastline.

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From the right of the fort we spotted a gorgeous cove with unbelievably clear waters, and decided this would be the perfect place for a cool off swim! To reach this, you need to take the left steps down when leaving the fort, and at the bottom turn left again. Follow this street for a minute or so until you find the secluded cove.

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Views from Fort Lovrjenac

If you are planning to visit even only three attractions in Dubrovnik, it is worthwhile purchasing the Dubrovnik Card. We purchased a 3 Day Dubrovnik Card which cost 250 Kuna. which covered the cost of entry to all the sights and attractions, as well as a very handy information book. The cards can be purchased from the information centre below the clock tower.

A highlight of my short visit, had to be the trip to Lokrum. This is a small island located just off the shores of Dubrovnik. A return ticket by ferry costs 240 Kuna. It is a stunning island, left to nature, in that there are no cars on the island or inhabitants. It is home to olive groves, ruins, gardens, and a large number of peacocks! I recommend a tranquil lunch at Rajski Vrt, which is just a short walk from the pier, and is located in front of the ruins. To walk off lunch you can have a look around the ruins as well as explore the botanical garden. Make sure you bring your swimming gear as when the post lunch slump hits, there are ample trees to take a siesta under, or alternatively, head back to the rocks near the pier, where you can take a dip in the gloriously clear and warm waters, all the while watching the hustle of boats and peacocks.

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For dinners, it is easy to get caught in a tourist trap so be cautious. I can recommend dinner at Villa Ruza, which you will need to book in advance in the busier summer months. Here we had a very fresh and delicious salt baked sea bass. I recommend!

If price is not an issue, it is worth booking dinner at Proto. This is a fish restaurant just off the Stradun and is a family run restaurant that has been around since 1886 and serves the finest seafood. A tip is to ask for a table on the hidden roof terrace.

If you are visiting in the summer months, there is simply no place better to be than enjoying a post dinner drink or two at one of the many bars along the Stradan. The yellow lighting reflects off the marble street and often music is being played whilst swallows race each other up and down the Stradun and over the clock tower. Quite simply, pure bliss.

 

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Naples, Italy

 

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Naples is a city in Southern Italy, sitting in the eye line of the imposing still-active volcano, Mount Vesuvius.
I spent 4 days in Naples, and if I’m being totally honest, I would not return for this length of time again. For a stopover on the way to the Amalfi Coast, its perfect and two days here would be enough to do it justice.
There are a few reasons why I would not return in any hurry. Firstly, I found the city to be very dirty. The Italian economy is under a lot of strain and this is certainly evident in Naples. The streets and pavements were very unclean, not helped either by many also being in disrepair. As well as this, there is a great deal of pollution in Naples. There appears to be far too many cars for the city to cope with, resulting in a lot of traffic jams and fumes, which, after a day in the city, leaves you with a headache. I found there was just a lack of green space to escape from it all.
Finally, there is A LOT of construction. Everywhere. The city of Naples is currently installing a new metro system but when digging down, they keep stumbling onto new archaeological finds. This means walkways are often hard to navigate as they are covered in boarding.
However, it does have charm, particularly on the waterfront, and I would recommend stopping by if you’re in the area, even if its just for a night. I have rounded up the highlights of my trip for you so you can pick and choose the best bits.

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There are of course the classic ‘must-visits’ in any city. The palace in the Piazza del Plebiscito is one of these. Inside, you will find beautiful ceilings and paintings, and even a theatre. The theatre is quite a statement as the Teatro di San Carlo is just a few metres from the palace, and yet the royals felt they needed one of their very own.

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The monastery is definitely worth a visit if you have a bit more time on your hands. To get there I would recommend taking the funicular from Toledo. Well, you can if it’s working, unlike when I was there when it was under repair. No surprise there… If it is still broken, you can catch the metro from Toledo to Piazza Montesanto where you can then pick up a funicular to the top.
The monastery has a stunning chapel as well as the most incredible nativity scene on show. They also have the old royal boats on display, another quite astonishing exhibit.

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If you haven’t got time to visit the archaeological sites of Pompeii or Herculaneum then a visit to the Museo Nazionale is a must. Here you will find the excavated pieces from the sites which will take you back in time to to that fateful day when the cities were buried under the ash from the Mount Vesuvius eruption. The ash preserved everything as they were, including perishable items such as bread. A history trip worth pursuing.

If you have a day to venture outside the city but don’t have access to a car, then I can recommend the Tramvia. There are numerous Tramvia stops across the city and you can buy your tickets at any newspaper stands advertising the trip. Having done Pompeii on a previous visit to the Amalfi Coast, we opted for a trip to Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius. This cost just €20 a person for a bus from Naples to Herculaneum and then from there to Vesuvius and then back to Naples. At each pickup they were bang on time. We opted for this trip as we were not tied to a tour, it was simply just the transport to the sites.

Herculaneum was a fascinating site. It’s much smaller than Pompeii, but this made it much less daunting and meant that you could wander the whole site in a couple of hours unlike Pompeii, which, if you’re short on time, are left just picking a few bits out to visit. Herculaneum is better preserved than Pompeii, with many roofs still standing. There are also many stunning frescoes on the walls in the houses reflecting the wealth of the inhabitants.

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After Herculaneum we made our way to Mount Vesuvius. The drive up the mountain was beautiful and you could see out over the whole bay of Naples. The bus drops you at the closest car park to the top of the volcano, where from there you commence up the final part by foot. I recommend wearing a good pair off trainers for this last part. The walk takes about half an hour, up a rocky path. However, it is totally worth it for the view you get from the top and to peer into the volcano which has smoke coming out from it due the build up of sulphurous gases inside. It is an amazing experience and was my highlight of the trip.

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Of course no blog post would be complete without a recommendation of food! For a cool snack when you’re out and about exploring the city, I can recommend Venchi who do delicious ice creams and sorbet, or Gay Odin. This is a family run chocolate business, and have a couple of small shops in the city. They serve up the most fantastic chocolate ice-cream and I would highly recommend them.

For food, the best place to head at night is the Via Partenope. This is along the waterfront and is where you will find a whole host of restaurants. If you’re looking for a gluten free meal as I do, ‘Fresco’ does a scrumptious gluten free pizza, so good I couldn’t tell the difference. It certainly wasn’t the usual cardboard affair I’m used to.

For lunch I would recommend Gran Gusto on Via Nuovo Marina. This is perfect if you’re near the University or have come in from the port as it just a short walk away from both. Gran Gusto is a food shop similar to WholeFoods, however it has a restaurant upstairs serving up some fabulous foods, and the locals seem to opt for the pizzas. Make sure to give it a visit if you’re in the area.

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Gran Gusto

The best restaurant we found was on the Borgo Marinari. This is a tiny island connected by a cobbled path from the Via Partenope that has an old castle on. Here you can find a smattering of restaurants around a square that feels like a movie set it is so quaint. The restaurant we ate at twice in a row as it was so good, was the Hotel Transatlantico. You can have dinner outside overlooking the marina and they serve up fresh fish. Here I had my favourite meal which was clam spaghetti (gluten free), and I’m still dreaming about it….

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Borgo Marinari

 

All in all, although Naples has its flaws, it is still worth a visit and I hope this post has given you a small insight into the worthy parts to visit.

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Amsterdam has to be one of my favourite cities to visit, just because there is so much to do and see. It is a city that I would find extremely hard to get bored in, and I know I will carry on returning to for many more city break trips.

I thought I would compile a list of things to do in Amsterdam that differ from the ordinary touristy attractions such as the Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Hermitage, etc. Although they are must sees, there are so many other things that you can do to pad out a week in Amsterdam, so here are a few ideas for you.

One of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam, that I make a mission to do everytime I visit, is to stroll through the ‘Negen Stratjees’. These are nine shopping streets in Amsterdam, side by side, that contain individual and unique shops and cafes. You won’t find any chain stores along here, which in my option is fantastic. You can easily while away an afternoon flitting between the shops, and if you need a break from all the browsing (and of course purchasing!), I can highly recommend a cafe called ‘Pluk’ which serves up delicious juices, salads, and cakes. The best thing of all? They have lots of little interior items that you can peruse whilst you wait. Perfect.

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Pluk

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If you have an hour to spare and fancy something a bit different, you could head to the Museum of Bags and Purses on the Herengracht. It is only one of three museums in the worlds specialising in this field and its collection is the largest, with over 4,000 items, with handbags, purses and suitcases dating back to the 16th century. It also has exhibition changes, and at the time of writing, the current one is exploring the use of beads in the craftsmanship of the pieces.

If the weather is good, the best thing has to be to hire a bicycle and head to the Vondelpark. My suggestion is to pick up a few lunch items from Marqt (the BEST grocery store) so that you can spend the day picnicking in the park and taking in all the sights. If you are there during the summer months, check out the Vondelpark website, as there is often entertainment on that you can go and watch for free.

 

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‘Ticket to the Tropics’ in Vondelpark

Another lovely thing to do if the weather is good is to hire a canal bike (pedalo). If it is a first visit to Amsterdam, I would say that a boat ride is the best option as you will travel most of the canals and hear lot of information about them and the canal houses. However if you’ve done the canal boat tour, then the canal bike is a must. It’s likely you won’t get very far, but its just great fun to be out on the water, trying to avoid crashing into all the boats, with the added bonus of getting a workout!

If you have a week in Amsterdam, I would say it is also worthwhile taking a day trip out of the city. Trains run regularly from Amsterdam Centraal, and there are many places to see within an hours travel. Den Haag is 50 minutes away, and although nice, I would not return here as it just didn’t have the same buzz as Amsterdam. However if you do find yourself here, a trip to Hop&Stork is a must a they have the most amazing slabs of chocolate that you can break off and mix and match.

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Hop & Stork

The day trip I would recommend is to Delft, with a train time of 55 minutes. Delft is the perfect size for a day trip, in that it is small enough to walk around and there is enough to visit. Delft is renowned for its blue and white pottery, and there are three factories still producing this in the Delft area. On Thursdays there is also a market held in the main square of Delft and craft stalls set up on the banks of the canal. A visit to a Delft factory is a must, and of the three, I would visit the Royal Delft factory (Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles). This is located just outside of Delft, so you can purchase a shuttle bus ticket from the information office for €2. At the factory you can visit the museum which shows the history of Delft pottery, as well as see how it is made and painted. A the end you will face the conundrum over which pieces of pottery to buy!

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Delt Painter

If eating and drinking in Amsterdam, you will probably face a similar dilemma of where to choose, as there are hundreds of places to pick from. However it is very easy to fall into the tourist traps, so here are a few places I would go.

I’ll start with breakfast, and for a good price, you can eat at Toon. This is a small cafe which has juices, pancakes, eggs Benedict and a scrumptious granola. For a fresh juice and main breakfast dish, the bill will come to under €15. The service here is also very good, with friendly staff.

For ‘elevenses’ nothing quite hits the spot like a little tart from ‘Petit Gateâu’. They have two stores in Amsterdam, one on Haarlemmerstraat, and one on Bellamyplein. There is a great selection and you can see them being made as the kitchen is in store.

Lunch is an easy choice for me. Any place serving frites and bitterballen is after my heart, however one restaurant which really impressed me was ‘George Loves Martini’. This restaurant/bistro is packed full of locals, and is a good alternative to a picnic in Vondelpark, as it sits just outside the gates. Expect simple dishes, done well.

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If you’re in the Dam area, then lunch at the Bijenkorf is always a winner. They have a selection of different cuisines, all cooked fresh in front of you. The added bonus is that if it’s a good day, there is a roof terrace to enjoy your lunch on.

Pre dinner there is always time for a cocktail or two, and the bar at the Hoxton hotel certainly gets my vote. They have an interesting list to choose from and the atmosphere is great. Although dinner here at Lotti’s is good, it was fairly basic and in future I think I would just come here for a cocktail and then go elsewhere for dinner.

For dinner there are so many places to talk about but here are are my favourites.

The first is Cuarenta y Tres on Rembrandtplein. Although this area is full of touristy restaurants, this one really serves up something quite different. The few times I have eaten here, I have left fully satisfied. The risotto I had this time was simply delicious. They also do some great cocktails. (I can recommend the Moscow Mule)

For something a bit different you could try Ali, located just at the end of Utrechtsestraat. This is a turkish restaurant who offer the most amazing hummuses and dips, as well as their hot pillow-like flat breads, that you’ll be thinking about long after you leave.

My best dinner though has to have been at Guts and Glory. This modern restaurant has no menu. When you arrive all your are given is the theme, which changes every three months, and the option to order 5, 6, or 7 courses. You are asked if you have any allergens, but apart from that, the rest of the evening is a complete surprise! When we visited the ‘chapter’ theme was Italian, however expect no pasta. Instead we were delighted with dishes such as osso-buco with saffron risotto, melon granita with parma ham, and plenty more to tickle your tastebuds. Be prepared to book this restaurant in advance though during busy seasons.

After dinner, Door 74 is a great place to venture to. You do need to book in advance as it is speakeasy style where the outside looks like a rundown building, but inside you are greeted to a small cosy cocktail bar. However if you are after a bit more atmosphere, you cannot go wrong with having a couple of post dinner drinks on Rembrandtplein, particularly on a Friday or Saturday night when it really gets busy and there is a great buzz.

All in all Amsterdam is a city where there is always something going on and there are always new and exciting places to visit. I hope this has given you a couple of ideas of things to do, if, for some unknown reason, you find yourself with nothing to do. Highly unlikely I know..

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(Oh and if you’re really looking to push the boat out on your city break, why not book a room at the Waldorf Astoria as it mean you can relax in their pool after a hard day out exploring the city.)

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Graff-Reinet, Eastern Cape, South Africa

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It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog post due to a number of things going on, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things by updating far more regularly, both on here and on Instagram. I would also like to bring in some more lifestyle content, so if there is anything in particular you would like me to blog about, just leave me a comment below.

Over the Easter holidays, I flew out to South Africa for the graduation ceremony of my brother who has been studying out there for the last three years. We decided to combine this with a road trip along the Eastern Cape of South Africa, a part we have never done before.
Although this post is dedicated to Graff-Reinet, I thought I would tell you about another favourite part of the trip.
We started off at a game reserve called Kwandwe, just outside my brothers university town of Grahamstown. Having visited this reserve a few years ago, I was eager to return as I had had such a wonderful experience. I had been diagnosed with a number of food intolerances a few weeks before this trip and so was apprehensive as to how they would be dealt with in South Africa. Upon arrival at our camp, Fish River Lodge in Kwandwe, the head chef greeted me to ensure me that he had dealt with everything and the menu would be adjusted so as to accommodate my dietaries. As I have often experienced, this usually results in me receiving a rather plain and boring meal. However, this was certainly not the case in Kwandwe! They pulled out all the stops and even made a gluten and dairy free coconut cake for my birthday. Considering we were in the middle of the African bush, I could not have been more pleasantly surprised, and will be singing their praises for a long time yet!
We had fantastic game sightings at Kwandwe, including many rhino sightings, which for me was the highlight, as their plight for survival is a cause very close to my heart. Another favourite sighting was that of two lion cubs. They had found an old piece of water pipe, left over from the farms that were previously on the reserve. They were fighting over the pipe like two kittens until they were distracted by a passing Blesbok…
Everything about Kwandwe is perfect, from its setting and wildlife, to the staff and accommodation. If you have the chance, I would urge you to make a visit.

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Lion cub with water pipe 

We then travelled down the Eastern Cape, past Plettenberg Bay where we stopped for a night at the Kurland Hotel. This was previously Relais & Chateaux, but has now lost this accolade under its new ownership. This has the makings of a stunning hotel as it is set in a beautiful setting with gorgeous grounds. The rooms were also of a high quality and of a large size. Nonetheless, the food was just not up to scratch and the management quite frankly needed replacing. With just a bit of investment, it could very easily be transformed back into the destination it was. However at the moment, for the prices being paid, I would not return here.

From here we travelled through the Prince Alfred’s pass to Uniondale and onto Graff-Reinet. The Prince Alfred’s Pass is certainly not for the faint hearted, particularly with the fruit trucks haring past you on the edge of the mountains, however for the view you get to see, it is certainly worth it. The pass finished in the fairly odd town of Uniondale, a place that seems to have been forgotten in time. Even finding a place to stop and have lunch proved quite a challenge!

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A pit stop at Aberdeen in the Karoo

The reason this post is dedicated to Graff-Reinet, is because it is one of the places you just must go and visit. After driving for hours from Uniondale, through miles and miles of desolate Karoo landscape, you reach the haven of Graff-Reinet. It is the fourth oldest settler town in South Africa, after Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Swellendam. It is incredible to think that the hours of driving we did in a car to reach it, the fore trekkers would have done in horse and carts. The town itself sits almost in a basin, with the streets layed out in a very orderly, grid like fashion, a clear trait of the Dutch who founded the town. The main museum in Graff-Reinet is certainly worth visiting. Here you can find many of the old horse carts that were used to bring materials to the town, as well as coffin carts, priest carts, and even an ambulance cart.

Another weird and wonderful place worth visiting is the Obesa Cacti Nursery. Here they have over 7,000 species of cacti, and it is quite a surreal place to be, surrounded by cacti of all shapes and sizes. According to the owner, it is the second biggest cacti collection in the world, with the largest being in Arizona.
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If however, you only do one attraction in Graff-Reinet, let it be Desolation Valley in the Camdeboo National Park. This is truly a sight that you will never forget. Desolation Valley is on the outskirts of Graff-Reinet, with the mountain you drive to reach it, overlooking the town. Here there is a lookout point where you can study the town from above, with the birds of prey swooping just above your head in the warm air thermals.IMG_6032
From the look out point you continue up the road until you reach the parking for the Desolation Valley. It is then just a short walk to the edge. Looking down into the depths of the valley, you realise just how small you are. All you can hear are the echoes of the birds that are flying down into its depths and that perch on the opposite cliff face. It really is a sight that cannot be translated in just a photo.

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Desolation Valley

After admiring this, we decided to take the Crag Lizard trail around the point. Here you may spot some of the mountain wildlife, for us it was of course the Crag Lizard itself, as well as a lone Kudu, which, as we were on foot, managed to get close to and watch as he finished his lunch of some rather dry and crispy looking Karoo foliage!
After paying entry into Desolation Valley, you are able to use your ticket to visit the adjoining wildlife reserve. This is a lovely drive. The game viewing was pretty slim (or perhaps they were all just hiding!), however it was a great way to while away a couple of hours.

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My ‘slave house’ bedroom

Throughout our time in Graff-Reinet, we stayed at the Drostdy Hotel. The hotel was reopened at the end of 2014 after undergoing a major refurbishment. What was so special about this hotel is that it has retained its original architecture and features and the revamp has simply enhanced these snippets of history rather than try to cover them up. One such architectural nod to the Drostdy’s history, is that many of the bedrooms sit in the former slave houses along pretty cobbled streets that retain a sense of charm. As well as the architecture, the food at the Drostdy was fantastic with many local ingredients used, which is always good to see. The head chef also came out to speak to me on arrival to discuss dietaries and had even made sure that the nibbles in my room were also adapted. All in all, the Drostdy was a winner of a hotel for me, and was the perfect base for exploring Graff-Reinet and the surrounding Karoo landscape

I have only touched on a few parts of my trip here, as I simply would not have the space to write about them all! I do hope though that it has inspired you to take ‘the road less travelled’, in South Africa, particularly if it is a returning trip, as there are so many wonderful places to visit that are not on the standard tourist trail, and are little unpolished diamonds, waiting to be stumbled upon.

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Barbados

Barbados is a small island located in the Eastern Caribbean. At only 21 miles long it is fairly small in size and has under 300,000 inhabitants. What favours Barbados over the other Caribbean islands, is that it is only a short 8 hour flight from the UK, as opposed to the more lengthy island hopping and transfers that are needed to visit many of the other islands. As well as this, Barbados can boast of some of the best food in the Caribbean which is a huge plus point if you have visited the other smaller islands and know the food variety is somewhat limited.

Although Barbados is small, there is certainly plenty to do and visit. Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and offers a small number of shops. However Bridgetown is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, so hopefully with this, it will see a revival of more individual shops, cafes, and restaurants.

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If you want to see more of the local culture, head to the fruit and vegetable market in Bridgetown on a Saturday morning where you can see the huge array of fresh  produce and spices being traded.

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In the North Eastern part of Barbados is the ‘Scotland district’, is St Nicholas Abbey. This 350 year old sugar plantation house is certainly worth a visit. It still produces its own rum and sugar, and if you are visiting in the right months, you can still see the sugar cane being processed.

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Another way to learn more about the history of the island of Barbados, is to visit Harrison’s caves. Recently updated with a tram network this is a fantastic way of seeing how the island is made up of over 85% coral limestone. If you take the tram tour, you can explore the beautiful crystallised limestone caverns under the ground.

Another attraction to visit is the Flower Forest. Here you can explore Barbados’ rich flora and fauna and can easily while away a couple of hours winding your way through the different pathways and admiring the brightly coloured flowers on display.

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For a similar, but far more eccentric experience, head to Hunte’s Gardens. Created by well known horticulturist Anthony Hunte, this is truly an extraordinary work of art. Anthony has created a beautiful garden in a sinkhole with royal palms peeping out the top and classical music tinkling in the background as you explore. Afterwards you are likely to be invited into his house that overlooks the garden and have a drink, read poetry, or perhaps be asked to play the piano! All in all, a weird but wonderful experience.

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Finally, if you want to join in with what the locals do on a Friday night, head to Oistins Fish Fry. Here you enjoy dancing to music of two kinds, modern or older music whilst taking in the buzzing atmosphere. This is an informal place so dress down in t-shirts and shorts.

In terms of cuisine, Barbados has a lot to offer. Most of the good restaurants are situated on the West Coast of the island, so these are the ones I will be focusing on.

Lone Star used to be a petrol station but has since been turned into a restaurant. It has some quirky features that have been kept from its former days, such as the waiting staff being dressed in mechanic overalls. Lone Star has a great following and is always full, however the food is basic and nothing to rave about. It seems to be trying to do too many different things, and Chinese duck pancakes and macaroni cheese are not the sort of things you want to be seeing on menus in Barbados.

Fish Pot is quite far out as it is up towards the North of the island. The food is also fairly basic but good with, as the name suggests, an emphasis on fish on the menu, however there are plenty of other options too. What makes the Fish Pot a worthwhile visit is its cosy setting on the water, and the food and atmosphere seem to make this a firm favourite for family dining.

Tides is also a restaurant that seems to always be full. Again it has a waterfront setting and the food is good. Although I would return here, I feel the menu needs updating, so some may feel the menu is a little old fashioned.

Cin Cin is a very modern restaurant and has a delightful setting. The menu is great and the food was of quality, however for me, the menu was a little too long and needed cutting down.

The Cliff restaurant has the finest setting out of all the restaurants in my opinion. It is set literally on a cliff, and when you arrive, you look down onto the water crashing onto the rocks below. The food is pleasurable, however the bill less so. This restaurant is more of a special treat than a frequent haunt as it has probably the highest menu price on the island.

For exceptionally good food, head to restaurant 13°/59° in the Port Ferdinand marina. This newly opened restaurant offers exquisite food with local produce being used in the dishes. For me the setting was not the best, as you are dining in a marina which is a  fairly boring outlook, but if you are interested in fantastic cuisine, this is without a doubt the place to head.

The Sandy Lane has to be my favourite place to eat, due to the whole package. Their main restaurant L’Acajou is formal with an excellent menu, however for a food indulgence, book one of their buffets. Although they are all delightful, the best in my opinion has to be the Asian Buffet on a Saturday night. I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you what is served, but I can say you will not be disappointed. After dinner there is live entertainment,usually a singer, which you can enjoy listening to with one of their many scrumptious cocktails. What really puts the Sandy Lane experience ahead of the others, is the staff training. Their informal approach to the customers is perfect and makes you feel relaxed as soon as you arrive. A special mention has to go to Stacey who was just the most perfect host.

Overall Barbados, is a place you must make a visit to if you haven’t already. There are so many things to do. Even if you venture no further than the beach, you may be lucky enough to see turtles laying or hatching, and if you venture a tad further, you can swim with them in the sea. The temperature pretty much stays between 28 and 30 degrees all year round, with December to February being the cooler months. So for a relaxing but cultural trip, head to the island of Barbados!

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Amalfi Coast, Italy

The Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy is a truly breathtaking place to visit, a destination from which you will never want to return. With spectacular coastal scenery and gorgeous food it is of no surprise that this is a popular tourist destination.

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Coastline

The town of Amalfi itself, famed for its lemons and limoncello, is a fantastic place to visit due to its medieval architecture, quaint shops and of course the Amalfi Cathedral, dating back to the 11th century. The steps leading up to its entrance overlook the ‘Piazza Duomo’, the heart of Amalfi, and a great place to buy a gelato and enjoy the buzz of this town.

Buffalo mozzarella from Ristorante Torre del Saracino
Buffalo mozzarella from Ristorante Torre del Saracino

Another place to visit is the town of Ravello, situated just above the Amalfi coast. If I had to recommend one attraction here, it would be the Villa Rufolo with its stunning gardens overlooking the coast below. If you plan to visit here in summer months, my tip would be to try and get tickets to one of the many concerts that take place in the gardens, a perfect way to while away a balmy evening.

Positano
Positano

The town of Positano is again, a beautiful place to visit. Although it does attract tourists, it certainly has a more traditional Italian feel than the bigger towns like Amalfi. It is the perfect place for a stroll and to browse through the shops, winding their way down to the water front. A delightful place to stop for lunch is in the gardens of the Hotel Palazzo Murat. This hotel was previously a monastery and although in the centre of Positano, upon entering the gardens, the noise of the surrounding streets disappears. This is a perfect place on a hot day with the trees providing a shady, cool place to sit. If you are looking for somewhere lavish to stay, book a room at the nearby ‘Il san Pietro di Positano’. This Relais & Chateaux hotel is not only beautiful, but can also boast of some of the best food in the area.

Waters surrounding Capri
Waters surrounding Capri

If luxury is what you are after, the place to head is the island of Capri where lavish boutiques are in abundance. This is a fantastic place for a day trip and the waters off this island are the colour of turquoise, a place to take a dip amongst the super yachts surrounding Capri. If you are looking to treat yourself, a trip to the newly opened restaurant ‘Mamá’ is certainly in order. This is the second restaurant of the two star Michelin chef, Genarro Esposito, and is a restaurant that you will dream about long after you have left, due to its delectably fresh food that captures Italy in a mouthful.

Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como, or Lago di Como as it is known in Italian, is located in the Lombardy region of Italy. It is just over an hour from Milan, and is therefore a popular destination for tourists and Italians alike. Lake Como The main town of Como is the biggest on the lake. When looking for a bit more buzz than the quieter villages around the lake can offer, this is the place to come. Here you will find museums, plenty of shops, parks etc. A great thing to do when in Como, is to take the funicular railway to the top of the surrounding mountain upon which sits the village of Brunate. From here you get a spectacular view of the lake and on a clear day, you can even see as far as the alps. Further up the lake are a popular group of villages; Lenno, Tremezzo, Bellagio, Mennagio, and Varenna. Lenno does not have much to offer in terms of shopping, so a good day to visit would be on Tuesday when the local market sets up here. However the reason why Lenno is popular is because of the ‘Villa Balbianello’.

Villa Balbianello
Villa Balbianello

This is a spectacular villa and gardens situated on the cliff of Lenno, reached by a brisk 20 minute walk from Lenno, or by a 3 minute water taxi ride. I would highly recommend this as a place to visit, and if you conquer the 20 minute walk, there is a scrumptious  gelato shop waiting for you upon your return in Lenno! Tremezzo again is a quiet village, with its point of interest being ‘Villa Carlotta’. Inside the villa is a museum, but the gardens are the true highlight. Situated on a slope, the views are breathtaking from the top, with beautifully landscaped gardens to match. Although the gardens are wonderful throughout the year, I visited in October when most plants had already flowered, so if visiting Lake Como in the summer, a trip here is a must. Also in Tremezzo is the iconic ‘Grand Hotel Tremezzo’.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Grand Hotel Tremezzo

This hotel oozes style with its sumptuous interior which combine both classic and modern designs perfectly.
The spa here is also of utmost quality, with drop glass windows overlooking the lake from its state of the art hydrotherapy pool.

Menaggio
Menaggio

Menaggio is a larger village than Lenno and Tremezzo with both more shops and more hotels. Half a day here is enough, but a tip would be too leave time for lunch at Hotel Corona Ristorante. This restaurant is positioned in the main piazza under the ‘Hotel Garni Corona’. The restaurant overlooks the lake and serves traditional Italian cuisine. Of all the food I ate in the week I was here, this was some of the best due to its simplicity. Varenna is another village to visit to while away half a day, so my advice would be to spend the morning and lunch in Mennagio, and then make the short ferry trip over to Varenna for the afternoon. Varenna is probably one of the prettiest villages on the lake, and has a charming little walkway around the edge of the lake which connects the two halves of the village together. There are plenty of restaurants, cafés and ice cream shops along the waters edge to stop and enjoy the sunshine and watch the ferries coming in and out.
Varenna

In my opinion, what sets Varenna out from the other villages is its independent artisan shops. Whether this be pottery or watercolour, you are sure to come away with a souvenir from here. Finally, the village of Bellagio, otherwise know as ‘The pearl of Lake Como’. This is a popular tourist destination, so don’t expect the same calmness as the other villages on the lake.

Sunset from Bellagio
Sunset from Bellagio

Famed for its silk production, there is an abundance of shops selling silk scarves and any other item that can possibly be made out of silk! There is plenty to do here from a visit to the ‘Villa Melzi’ gardens to wandering through the romantic cobbled alleyways. A day is certainly needed to experience Bellagio to its full extent, particularly if you intend to include a good bout of shopping. If you are really looking to treat yourself, a visit to the michelin starred restaurant ‘Mistral’ at the ‘Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni’ should most certainly be on the list. The food here is exceptional, and starts from the moment they bring you the bread basket (which is a meal in itself!), the flavours are outstanding.