7 Day Amalfi Coast Itinerary

7 Day Amalfi Coast Itinerary

The Amalfi Coast has been on my radar for years and it was a dream come true when I eventually got to visit in 2019. The stunning stretch of coastline in southern Italy impresses with its lemon groves, sparkling azur waters, rocky cliffs and scattering of spectacular towns and villages that cling precariously to its edge.

In order to explore this area to the fullest, I recommend staying in the nearby town of Sorrento. Not only is this charming town in close proximity to Naples airport, it is also less expensive for accommodation than most of the towns along the coast.  Sorrento has fantastic transport links to all areas along the coast and also has its own treasures to discover.

I have created my very own Blu Blazer Guy 7 day Amalfi Coast itinerary to ensure you get the best out of your trip to the region. (The itinerary is based from Sorrento)

Day 1 – Explore Sorrento

Piazza Tasso is the main square of Sorrento and is a bustling hub with an array restaurants, cafe’s and shops. The beautiful Church of Carmine with its Baroque clock tower and a statue of Sorrento’s patron saint Antonino Abbate are notable points of interest.

Although the square is a fantastic place to sit and watch the world go by, wander into the surrounding narrow streets and you will find a wonderful selection of shops, especially on Via San Cesareo.

Marina Grande is a rustic and laid-back fishing village set around a small bay on the coast of Sorrento. Numerous restaurants, bars and cafe’s are dispersed around the shore and are a perfect places to soak in the views of both the water and the cliff sides.

I especially loved wandering along the wooden decking and seeing the colourful changing rooms that line the beach. 

The Amalfi Coast is known for its lush green gardens, fragrant flora and extensive lemon groves.

Sorrento has the some of the most stunning groves that you can wander through and witness the production of the famous local drink, Lemoncello. I recommend I Giardini di Cataldo, a beautiful and relaxing lemon grove located on Via Correale 27.

 

Sorrento boasts fantastic views over the bay of Naples. One of the best places to experience this is from the Chiesa di San Francesco which is only a short walk from the main square. On a clear day you can watch the sun sparkling across the water and of course the stunning Mount Vesuvius emerging from the horizon.

Bellevue Syrene hotel provided a relaxing yet luxurious escape from the hustle and bustle of the town.

Wander under its tunnel of hanging wisterias where you can sit back and enjoy a light lunch and cocktails with the breathtaking views.

Il Buco

This Michelin starred restaurant housed in a former monks wine cellar is a must when visiting Sorrento.

The intimate and cosy restaurant sells a range of delicious simple food that will ignite your tastebuds and give you a taste of delicious local cuisine.

Day 2 – Visit the world renowned archaeological site Pompeii and then experience the best pizza in Sorrento

Pompeii

Pompeii is the renowned Roman City that was buried under meters of pumice and ash after nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in 70 A.D.

This well preserved and excavated site is very impressive and certainly deserves a full days attention. Stepping out of Pompeii-Scavi train station there are an abundance of tour guides trying to sell you tickets, but doing it on your own is a much more affordable option (see tip below).

Directions to Pompeii: Take the train from Sorrento towards Naples and stop at Pompei Scavi – Villa dei Misteri. Train time from Sorrento: 20-25 minutes

Blu Blazer Guy Tip: Pompeii is a very large archaeological site and can take hours to walk around. Wear comfortable shoes, carry lots of snacks and water and apply plenty of sunscreen. Download the Discover Pompeii app which allows you to wander around whilst experiencing your very own guided tour on your phone.

Duration: 2 – 5 hours
Entry Price: 15 Euros 

Pizzeria Franco – Sorrento

After a long day sightseeing you may to want to replenish your energy with Italy’s most famous meal, Pizza! Travel back to Sorrento and head to Pizzeria Franco, located within walking distance from the station. This little establishment is a hive of activity from the chatter of customers, most of which are Italians (which is always a good sign). You can witness the chefs in the kitchen churning out pizza after pizza to satisfy the hunger of its guests. Its hectic vibe may not be to everyone’s taste but I guarantee once you taste their delicious selection of pizzas you will be in heaven!

Day 3 – Climb Mount Vesuvius, visit another spectacular archaeological site and eat some authentic Italian Food

Mount Vesuvius

If you are up for an energetic morning then why not take a trip up to the summit of the famous Mount Vesuvius. Mount Vesuvius is a towering volcano that casts its shadow over Naples and the surrounding towns below.

Buses depart from outside Ercolano Scavi train station every 40 minutes between 9.30 and 3pm. These buses transport you up a very narrow and winding road which are not unusual for this part of Italy. Once you arrive at the carpark,  you can take the 20 minute walk up to the summit. Make sure you try and pick a day where the weather is clear so that you can take advantage of the views, but even on a cloudy day it makes for an eerie experience.

Directions to Mount Vesuvius: Take the train from Sorrento to Ercolano Scavi station. When you arrive at the train station there is a small office to the left where you can purchase your Vesuvius ticket. Train journey time from Sorrento: 45 mins

Blu Blazer Guy Tip: Bring warm clothes as it can be much cooler and windier on the summit.

Duration: 2 Hours
Vesuvio Express Bus Price: 20 Euros (includes entry to Vesuvius)

After your tour of Mount Vesuvius, head back in the direction of the station for a great selection of places to grab a snack or something to eat nearby before you head on your next adventure. 

Herculaneum

Herculaneum is another archaeological site which is much smaller than Pompeii and more preserved due to being buried in mud instead of volcanic ash.

I must say I preferred this small site as it was quieter and easier to walk around. 

Directions to Herculaneum: From the same station as Mount Vesuvius, walk straight down Via IV Novembre and you will arrive at its entrance.

Train time from Sorrento: 45 mins

Duration: 2-3 Hours
Herculaneum Entry: 11 Euros

Ristorante O’Murzill’

Head back to Sorrento to experience a really delicious yet affordable meal. This great little restaurant is located down a narrow alleyway and is the perfect place to escape the crowds with friendly service and enjoy some simple Italian cooking. friendly You may have to queue but I can assure you that it’s worth it.

Location: Via Accademia, Sorrento
Price Range: £/££

Day 4 – Capri

You cannot visit the Amalfi Coast without taking a trip to the stunning island of Capri. I advise that instead of doing an organised tour, which can cost a fortune and where you are hustled from landmark to landmark, just arrange it yourself. There are many boats which leave on a regular basis from Marina Piccola in Sorrento that take you to the island in around thirty minutes. On arrival it can seem quite hectic and confusing. I advise using the small local buses which are very cheap (you can purchase tickets on the bus) and will take you to all parts of the Island. 

At the port there are a number of companies who offer boat tours which is a great way to see a different side of Capri. The boat tours take around an hour and visit numerous points of interests such as the infamous Blue Grotto, a sea cave where the water illuminate in different hues of blue. Please be aware though that sometimes this is inaccessible due to weather or tides, so you can check this prior to arrival.

If you are into your luxury retail shopping then Via Camerelle in Capri is the place for you. Filled with the likes of Armani, Versace, Bulgari, Dolce Gabbana and Valentino you can shop until your hearts content. 

If you fancy a more authentic experience then you should head to Anacapri which is located higher up on the island and can be reached by local bus. Its far less crowded than Capri and you can wander the streets or sip on a drink in one of the many quant restaurants, bars or cafes. 

Giardini di Augusto is a beautiful series of panoramic flower-decked terraces which overlook the bay. Take in the views of the sparkling water or the famous Via Krupp, a pathway of hairpin bends cut into the rocks which lead down to the shore. 

Carthusia is a renowned perfumer in Capri and their store and small perfumery is located near the Giardini di Augusto. Head to my previous blog post for more information. 

For a delicious lunch or a refreshing cocktail with the most amazing views, I recommend Capri Rooftop. This contemporary establishment has panoramic views across the bay and has fantastic customer service. 

Directions to Capri: Head to Marina Piccola (Sorrento) , ticket office slightly below street level (boats are very regular and around 17 Euros).

Blu Blazer Guy tip: Ignore the blue tour buses on the right side of the port on arrival, these are specifically for tourists and are expensive. 

Day 5  – Positano

Positano is a chic and stunning cliffside village on the Amalfi Coast and is a renowned tourist destination. Again you can arrange a specialised tour to this town however it is very expensive and time restricted so I advise going on your own by bus or boat.  

Spiaggia Grande is the famous beach that hugs the shore of this village and provides the perfect photo opportunity where many an instagrammer (including myself) stand on its pebbles and pose in front of the rising hillsides and cascading buildings. 

Its most notable architectural point of interest is the spectacular Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta which dominates its skyline. Its gorgeous tiled dome can be seen from many points in the village.

If you are looking for a unique view of Positano whilst experiencing some elegant surroundings with delicious food and drinks then I recommend Le Sirenuse. This luxurious hotel perched above the sea, provides a birds eye view of the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta.

It is a great place to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a refreshing cocktail and to take some photographs but be prepared to pay the price.

Directions to Positano: Go to tobacconist at the bottom of Sorrento Train station and purchase an all-day bus ticket. Buses are located against the wall opposite the station. When on the bus advise the driver that you are going to Positano and validate your ticket. The bus journey will take around 1 hour. 

Blu Blazer Guy Tip: Sit on the right hand side of the bus when travelling to Positano for the best views. Please be advised that the road to Positano is winding, narrow and clings to the side of the cliffside, if you suffer from travel sickness or frightened of heights I advise taking a boat instead. 

Day 6 – Amalfi and Ravello

Amalfi 

Amalfi is a small town located a half hour away from Positano. On arrival to this seaside gem you will immediately notice the stunning Duomo di Sant’Andrea.

Its towering steps lead up to this architectural marvel and once inside you can experience its moorish style arches and decoration.

The crypt is even said to contain some of the remains of Saint Andrews, whom is the patron saint of Scotland!

For a delicious sweet treat head to a little patisserie on the main square called Pasticceria Andrea Pansa. Open since 1830, it is renowned for its delicious selection of pastries, sweets and chocolates. Try and grab a seat outside and enjoy your treat whilst enjoying the hustle and bustle of the square.

There are also numerous small seafood stands where you can sample the freshest fish, delicately battered and served straight away at a very affordable price. 

Ravello

Located an additional half hour from Amalfi via a narrow, winding and almost vertical road is the stunning village of Ravello. Sitting 365 meters above the Tyrrhenian Sea this breathtaking town has a number of stunning villas and gardens to explore. 

The main square Piazz del Vescovado is small and quant and has a few restaurants and bars to enjoy. It’s main attraction is the Duomo erected in 1086 which also has an accompanying museum which houses a marble bust of Sigligaida Rufolo from the 13th Century. 

Villa Rufolo and Cimbrone

To the south of Ravello’s cathedral, a 14th-century tower marks the entrance to Villa Rufolo. Created by Scotsman, Sir Francis Neville Reid in 1853 the Villa is famed for its beautiful cascading gardens.

The second of the two Villas, Villa Cimbrone was my favourite due to its numerous gardens and views.

I especially love the view from the ‘Terrace of Infinity”, a terrace lined by marble busts with the uninterrupted vista of the sea below.

Directions to Amalfi/Ravello: Go to tobacconist at the bottom of Sorrento Train station and purchase an all-day bus ticket. Buses are located against the wall opposite the station. When on the bus advise the driver that your going to ‘Amalfi’ and validate your ticket. If heading to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello on the same day you can get a hop on/off day pass. Hop on/off bus pass: 10 Euros

Blu Blazer Guy Tip: The road to Amalfi and Ravello is winding, narrow and climbs to quite high heights, perhaps avoid a window seat on the bus if you don’t wish to look outside, although the views are exceptional.

Day 7 – Farm by day / Cocktails by night

Fattoria Terranova Shop 

After a relaxed morning in Sorrento I recommend a visit to the wonderful Fattoria Terranova on Piazza Tasso. This is a fantastic shop in the corner of the main square, who sell the best lemoncello, liqueurs and produce made with ingredients from their local farm.

They also have a stunning area at the back of their store for tastings which is decorated with the most beautiful fresco. 

Agriturismo Fattoria Terranova

For a great lunch or dinner with a difference Agriturismo Fattoria Terranova can take you to their local rustic farm outside Sorrento and can be booked in-store. Private transportation will pick you up at your chosen location and whisk you into the nearby countryside. On arrival, you step through the wooden doors and are met with the most stunning rustic restaurant decorated with flowers, hanging fruits and quant furniture.

The smell of the local flora scents the air and you immediately feel relaxed. After a refreshing glass of Prosecco, you can then choose from a delicious range of local foods and fresh fish.

After lunch you can enjoy a walk around the grounds of the farm and enjoy the beautiful elevated views that look over to the Amalfi Coast. 

Price: ££-£££
Location: Via Pontone, 10. 80061 Massa Lubrense

Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria

For your last evening I recommend a lovely cocktail on an amazing Terrace with fantastic views.

There is no better place than Terrazza Vittoria at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria  which is located off the main square in Sorrento.

If you are lucky you may stumble upon the many music inspired evenings that they have but if not you can still sit back and watch the sun sink beneath the horizon as you sip on one of the many delicious drinks served here.

Keep your eyes peeled on the next issue of Guild Magazine for an exclusive feature on this hotel. 

Price: £££-££££
Location: Piazza Torquato Tasso, 34, 80067 Sorrento

Visiting the Amalfi Coast was a dream come true and I loved every minute of my time there, so much so that I returned with my friends a few months later. With its mystical charm, great food and its rustic architecture, the Amalfi Coast will always hold a special place in my heart. Once we are able to travel again I hope you can use this itinerary to enjoy the Amalfi Coast to its fullest and experience the magic that continues to entice me back to its shores.

I love you Italy! Andrà tutto bene.

Edinburgh Festivals – 5 Festivals in 1 Day

Edinburgh Festivals – 5 Festivals in 1 Day

You may have noticed the slight buzz  and electric energy around Edinburgh this month. Guess what? It’s time for Edinburgh festivals!!! I was invited to spend a day with Festivals Edinburgh who do a fantastic job in ensuring that Edinburgh remains the world’s leading festival city. Eleven festivals take place throughout the year, five in August alone, so I set out to explore these five fantastic festivals all in one day.

Edinburgh Art Festival – 25th July to 25th August

If you looking to ignite your creative mind and or have a fond appreciation of art, then look no further than Edinburgh’s Art Festival. This festival is the largest visual art celebration in the UK and attracts an astounding 250,000 people each year. It encompasses work from established to emerging artists, providing a creative outlet to showcase their extraordinary work. The festival includes over 40 exhibitions, most of which are free to attend and include an assortment of contemporary, fine and abstract art. 

Firstly I visited the historic Parliament Hall for the exhibition called ‘The Future is Inside Us, It’s not Somewhere Else’ by Nathan Coley. This was a series of large-scale custom made lightboxes which merge original wallpaper from Zuber & Ice and phrases chosen by the artist. The stunning Parliament Hall provided the perfect backdrop to these thought provoking pieces.

My favourite had to be ‘Looking For Luck’ which was inspired by a story about a South American man travelling with his family across the Mexican/American Border. He was stopped by a journalist who asked him why we was travelling to America and the man replied “I am looking for luck”. 

Next I visited Dovecot Studios to explore a selection of tapestries created by the artist, Grayson Perry. The series is called ‘Julie Cope’s Grand Tour’. I absolutely loved this exhibition, the tapestries were vivid, intricate and full of life.

I concluded the Edinburgh Art Festival by visiting the much talked about ‘I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On’ by Alfredo Jaar. The piece is located on a bridge above West College Street and is said to articulate a perfect metaphor for the era we live in. 

Edinburgh Fringe – 2nd to 26th August

The Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world where performers take to the numerous stages and venues (317 in 2018) scattered all over the city.

 

 

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Unlike the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has no selection process and is therefore open to anyone. Performers can present any type of work and then pay a fee to the Fringe. This makes the Fringe an exciting and unpredictable festival, as you never know what to expect. Due to its thrilling manner, The Fringe has given rise to several stars throughout the years.

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The central area for this festival is located on the Royal Mile. On this charming and historic street you will find an abundance of street performers trying to grab your attention, pop-up stages showcasing some acts and copious amount of promoters handing out leaflets enticing you to the many shows available.

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The Royal Mile

Edinburgh International Festival – 2nd to 26th August

Founded in 1947 to bring people together through culture in the wake of conflict, Edinburgh International Festival invites people from all over the world to perform shows in theatre, dance, music and opera. Over the years this spectacular melting pot of creativity has continued to grow, showcasing some of the finest talent around the globe. These hand-picked shows are spread throughout a number of venues in Edinburgh. 

I visited Church Hill Theatre to watch the charismatic show ‘Roots’. The show blends animation and storytelling with a live musical score all whilst telling the fascinating folk tales. This show was very intriguing and cleverly put together. The timing of each of the characters was impeccable and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the musicians who at some points were playing three instruments at the same time. What made it even more impressive is that there were only four people in the whole show, multi-tasking was definitely one there best skills. 

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – 2nd to 25th August

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is Scotland’s biggest outdoor spectacle, attracting a staggering 220,000 people each year. Located on the esplanade of the iconic Edinburgh castle, over a 1000 military and civilian performers from around the world congregate to perform a show of a lifetime.

With a prime position on the forecourt, I was able to experience this up close and personal. With its multiculturalism effortlessly mixed with traditional Scottish dancing, I must admit it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever witnessed. I especially loved the performance from the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra who brought a touch of sunshine and vibrancy to the show and the New Zealand Army Band performed their impressive Haka display.

This year’s theme is called Kaleidoscope and is a series of performances with colour and light, comparable to the optical invention which was created by Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster in 1816.

The display of music and dance against Edinburgh Castle is a sight to be seen and should be on everyones bucket list. At the end of the evening I had exclusive access to the roof to witness the spectacular firework finale.

Edinburgh International Book Festival – 10th to 26th August

Edinburgh International Book Festival is a celebration of the written word in all its forms and brings together writers from over 60 Countries.

I attended ‘Unbound’, a free event in the Spiegletent which explores poetry in all its glory. All the readings were passionate and witty, taking you on a journey of different emotions.

As I sat in the mist filled ambience of the tent, I looked back on this fantastic day and couldn’t help but feel truly blessed to stay in the heart of the best festival city in the world. 

 

Edinburgh Festivals – The Survival Guide

Edinburgh Festivals – The Survival Guide

Just because Edinburgh is a small city doesn’t mean it cant handle itself when it comes to an influx of people. Great planning goes into the organisation of such well known worldwide festivals and everything seems to work like clockwork. Although to some Edinburgh residents, it may feel like a strain some days, we embrace the injection of energy and enjoy the perks that it brings. Not only do I love the world-wide talent, exciting shows and food and drink pop ups, I especially love the late night shopping hours and being able to get in a coffee shop after 5pm! Although the city is prepared, YOU should also be prepared! So as an insider, I thought I would give you my survival tips on getting the best out of the festivals and the city.

The bustling Royal Mile

1. I am stating the obvious here but its a very important one. Fail to plan, plan to fail. I always make an itinerary no matter where I go in the world, sometimes I don’t stick to it completely but its great to have a structure in your head so you know where to be to get the most out of your trip. It’s especially important in Edinburgh during the festivals. My first tip if you are coming from another country would be to book your hotels and flights well in advance. The prices of these often go up dramatically near the festival time. Therefore, you could save yourself a lot of money. The recently opened budget hotel, Point A is an affordable choice that has a great location close to the city centre. It’s also good to book any particular restaurants to avoid disappointment and not get ‘hangry’. Most importantly if you are planning to see a lot of shows then grab some tickets, as soon as they are released, and utilise the websites.

Rooms at Point A Hotel

2. It is no secret that Scotland’s weather is rather unpredictable, so you have to be well prepared and wear sensible clothing and footwear. With blue skies in the morning and driving rain in the afternoon, people are often surprised with the constant changes in weather. The best advice is to wear layers as you are able to remove or add throughout the day. If you can, waterproof layers are also advisable. Having an umbrella is okay, however unless you want to do your Mary Poppins impression due to the common surprise gusts of wind, a jacket with a hood should be sufficient.

It is sunny sometimes, I promise!

3. If you ever wanted to work out while walking around, then Edinburgh is the perfect city to get those steps in. Wear comfortable shoes as Edinburgh is built on numerous hills, thus walking from A to B can be like a mini hike. Adding to that is the cobbled streets and uneven pavements (which all add to Edinburghs charm), wearing your Sunday bests, are probably not advisable.

The winding steep streets of Old Town

4. If you are visiting from another country, or even from a different part of the U.K. Be prepared for the Scottish accent and unusual/slang words and phrases. We try our best but often forget to slow down for tourists. Being the capital there are many Scots from around the country and dialects change from town to town. Check out some words and phrases here. It shouldnae be that hard fir ye!

5. As Edinburgh is a small city, getting from one part of the city to the other can be easy, however at busy times (like during the festival) it can take much longer. Luckily we have an amazing bus service called Lothian Buses. The bus journey may feel a tad slower due to the increase in people and the introduction of the 20mph limit within the city but the network is great. Download their app where you can buy tickets, view timetables and get updates on any delays. The buses now accept contactless, so it is now much easier to pay for your journey without searching for change. The Edinburgh Tram system is also a fantastic way of getting to and from the airport or back and forth Princes Street without getting stuck in traffic.

6. This is maybe easier said than done but try and avoid Princes Street, unless of course you are out for a fantastic days shopping. This street is usually packed full of people coming from all directions and at this time of the year, it doesn’t make walking through the city a pleasurable experience. Instead, head to the other side of the road and walk through Princes Street Gardens. It is more open and pleasant, enabling you to see the ever changing architecture of Princes St on one side and the old town and imposing castle on the other… much better for photo opportunities!

Princes Street Gardens

7. Queues! I’m sorry tourists but we like our queues, we are still British after all. Whether it’s buses, banks or ticket lines etc we like to be in straight lines and heaven forbid you should cross it. Don’t be offended if you get a sly look if you skip the queues, it’s just in our blood. 

8. If you cannot come for the entire month, why not try to come at the beginning of the festival or the end. Come at the beginning and you will get the chance to snap up some free or 2 for 1 tickets. Come at the end and you will experience the great closing ceremony with its fireworks against the beautiful castle.

9. On a serious note, it’s now time to talk about pedestrian lights. Red means Stop, so don’t be tempted to cross the roads on a red man. We’ve seen it many times during the festival where tourists walk out in front of buses and cars, causing serious accidents.

10. Although being in the festival is incredibly entertaining, there is still an entire city and country out there to explore or relax in. If you are a little tired, there are plenty areas to go to breathe a sigh of relief. There are pockets of relaxation around Edinburgh and you just need to know where to look, head to my previous blog post for some ideas. 

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Dean Village

Edinburgh is a fantastic city to visit at any time of the year but at festival time you can see an exciting and unique side to the city. Follow these steps and your guaranteed your time will go smoothly and you will get the best out of the city making you long to come back again and again. Most importantly, just have fun!! Haste Ye Back!

24 Hours in Abu Dhabi

24 Hours in Abu Dhabi

It is so easy to be caught up in the contemporary exuberance of Dubai (see my last post). When visiting the city, why not take a visit to the its beautiful neighbour and capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi. 

Here is my top Blublazerguy recommendations for 24 hours in this stunning capital:

Visit The Louvre

The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its magnificent doors in 2017 and is a must see when visiting the city. I would not expect the same palatial historic vibes of the Louvre in Paris as this arts and civilisation museum is built to impress in its own unique ways.

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The first thing that captures your attention is the awe inspiring architecture which was cleverly designed by international architect, Jean Nouvel. Its simple base of 55 white cubic buildings is adorned with a spectacular silvery dome constructed with a geometric shapes often used within Arabic design.

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Inside the building the dome continues to impress as the sunlight slithers through its design casting beautiful shafts of light that playfully move during the course of the day. This dome not only protects the building itself but also shields visitors from the harsh sun.

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I loved wandering through the many interconnected galleries filled with international historical artefacts, showcasing the many civilisations of our world.

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The simple architecture and expanse of white provided a perfect backdrop which really allowed the items in the museum to shine. The museum has a relaxed pace with a carefully curated flow that I really enjoyed, hence allowing me to fully absorb and enjoy the experience. 

Check in to Jumeirah at Etihad Towers

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is a hotel like no other and as soon as I saw it, I had to stay! Set in five dramatically sculpted towers the hotel sits like a crown that soars above the Abu Dhabi skyline.

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Photo by Jumeirah at Etihad Towers

This prestigious hotel is designed to meet your every need. From the moment you step into its very large and impressive reception area you are treated with the best service possible.

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This splendour continues when you check in to one of the luxurious rooms which are very spacious and include a great selection of amenities. The main highlight (if you are in an upper floor room) is the awe inspiring panoramic view of the city.

I loved waking in the morning, opening the electronic blinds from the comfort of my bed and watching the expanse of city below me. If you are a resident in the hotel then you can enjoy the benefits of their Observation Deck at 300, located on the 74th Floor of the hotel. This area provides you with an uninterrupted 360-degree view of Abu Dhabi, where you can sit and nibble on a selection of food as you watch the sun glimmer on the Arabian Gulf.

The hotel not only has three swimming pools to lounge around but also boasts its own private beach, where you can lay back and enjoy the sun or enjoy a dip in the calm and warm waters. 

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Explore the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The awe-inspiring Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the most dramatic and stunning mosques I have visited. It is one of the largest mosques in the country and is open to locals and visitors alike.

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I managed to arrive at the perfect time; just before the sun was setting and it was one of the most beautiful experiences I have had during my stay in the UAE. The architecture of the building is simply breathtaking, combining inspiration from different Muslim civilisations.

 

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Every corner you turn you are greeted with an array of beautiful Islamic design, from the golden calligraphy on the domes, the symmetry of the prayer halls, the floral designed courtyard tiles to the glimmering pools of water in the courtyard.

What’s most surprising though is the sheer size of the mosque, which can hold an impressive 40,000 worshippers and visitors. As the sun slowly set and cast its orange and pink hues across the majestic white domes and the call to prayer echoed in the evening air, I felt a true sense of magic that i will never forget.

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Eat at Emirates Palace

Palace by name and Palace by nature, this award winning hotel is simply astounding. If you are looking for an extra special dining experience then this is the place to go. Located only minutes from the Jumeirah Etihad Towers, experience the true opulence of this Arabian treasure. As you walk up its grand entrance lined with dancing fountains and palm trees you know you are heading towards something spectacular.

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As soon as you enter the hotel you are greeted with the most impressive foyer adorned with gold arches and a large domed roof with Islamic design.

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There are many mouthwatering restaurants to try, however if you want something informal then head to ‘Le Café’ where you can experience a range of food with a slight difference.

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Here I tried its renowned 24 Karat Gold Camel Burger, yes you read that correctly. This delicious burger infused with local spices is enhanced with a delicious truffle mayonnaise on a gold-dusted bun.

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I really didn’t know what to expect but I can confirm that it was absolutely delicious. It seemed to be an evening of Camel as I also tasted their famous Camelcinno; a delightful coffee combined with the finest camel milk, again taking me completely by surprise. It didn’t stop there though as I couldn’t leave without trying their camel ice cream adorned with wait for it…more gold!

 

There are many ways in which you can travel from Dubai to the  mesmerising city of Abu Dhabi. You can catch a bus from Ibn Battuta Station, opt to drive, take a taxi, or in true Emirati style you can even take a helicopter.

As soon as you arrive to Abu Dhabi you can’t help but notice the difference to Dubai and somehow in just a day it completely managed to capture my heart and imagination. In no way can I fully judge a place in 24 hours but from what I experienced, the hospitality was second to none, the people were lovely, the sights were extraordinary and the food was delicious.

 

Dubai – A contemporary oasis

Dubai – A contemporary oasis

Dubai – it rises proudly out of the desert, a symbol of its success and a monument of excess. As you race towards the city along the main Sheik Zayed road the towers of skyscrapers get closer and closer and before you know it your surrounded by an array of awe inspiring architectural wonders.

Everywhere you look makes you feel as though you have been catapulted into the future and the best part is that it’s still evolving. If you’re looking for fantastic weather, five star Arabian service, shopping and luxury hotels then this is definitely the place for you.

Here are my blublazerguy recommendations;

La Mer

There are numerous beaches around Dubai, with most of them belonging to the five star hotels that line the shore. However there are some that you can visit including the expansive Jumeriah beach, JBR and La Mer. My favourite was the newest area called La Mer which was filled with beautiful shops, restaurants and facilities.

La Mer eluded a tranquil and laid back vibe, reminding me of Miami with its aura and also its hip street art mirroring Wynwood art district in Miami.

Apart from the beach itself, a highlight for me was the Nitrogen Bar. Here you can choose from an array of different flavoured ice cream, made right in front of you using Liquid Nitrogen. I tried a few of their flavours, including their frozen Cheetos and Nitrogen coffee.

Albeit La Mer is the newest beach resort, it can get very busy, there I would recommend to arrive early if you want a sunbed!

Armani Cafe

You cannot go anywhere in Dubai without gazing at the tallest building in the world – The Burj Khalifa.

If you are heading towards the Burj Khalifa, make sure you have a visit to the delightful Armani.

Whether it’s one of their many restaurants or simply just for a drink, this luxurious hotel caters for your every need. In true Arabian style, I tried the renowned Gold Cappuccino; a delicious strong coffee decorated with real 23k gold with the addition of some Armani chocolates. It was a tad indulgent but when in Dubai that becomes a regular occurrence.

Gold on 27

For an extravagant experience head to the world’s only 7 star hotel – Burj Al Arab. The Burj Al Arab is Dubai’s most iconic hotel and you cannot visit Dubai without indulging yourself here.

Hotel Entrance

There are vast restaurants to cater for your every need and it is here that you will find Gold on 27.

This beautifully decorated gold bar is located on the 27th floor of the Burj Al Arab and is home to Dubai’s most unique cocktail menu. Your are presented with 24k gold ipad menus housing an array of over the top cocktails while you looking out onto the beautiful shoreline and city view.

I chose the Dubai Frame cocktail which contains homemade saffron and Jasmine Gin. This was a very unique and lavish experience, which I throughly enjoyed!

 

Dubai Frame

Recently opened Dubai Frame is a must when you visit Dubai. This impressive 150 metre tall golden structure is found near the star gate of Zabeel Park.

Take a lift up the frame to their observation deck and explore the history of this amazing city from old to new.

Ensure to take a daring walk across a glass floor which automatically changes from frosted to clear giving you a glimpse of the world below you.

 

 

Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Housed in a large hotel complex the Souk Madinat Jumeirah is a great place to visit for a fantastic selection of shops and restaurants. The Souk itself combines traditional Middle Eastern shopping with a mix of fashion, jewellery, Arabian fragrance and souvenirs.

This fantastic place to visit for an evening stroll in the comfort of much needed air conditioning. It also boasts over 25 different restaurants with cuisines from across the world some of which are lined along the beautiful waterway which connects each of the areas in the resort. I enjoyed traditional Middle Eastern cuisine at the Time of Arabia restaurant.

 

Dubai Desert

Looking for some time outside the city and a little adventure? Take one of the many trips out into the desert. Here you can experience the scary but thrilling dune bashing, a camel ride, falconry, quad biking and sand boarding.

As the sun dips below the sand dunes you are whisked away to a desert camp where you can enjoy an evening under the stars with some Arabic food and entertainment such as belly dancing, flame throwing and traditional Middle Eastern dancing.

 

Miracle Gardens

As Dubai in within the UAE, there isn’t a lot of natural greenery. Therefore if you fancy an injection of colour, head to the beautiful Miracle Gardens.

This garden is filled to the brim with exquisite flower displays and wanderlust of colours and sculptures.

Being in Dubai you cannot simply expect low key flower displays… here you will the largest and most famous flower structure in the world in the shape of Emirates A380 plane.

 

Dubai Mall

If you like shopping then this is the place for you! One of largest shopping mall in the world, Dubai Mall houses some of the biggest and best names in fashion, food and entertainment. Home to the iconic Dubai Aquarium and The Waterfall featuring a number of diving sculptures, you can spend all day here.

If your feet are weary, in true Arabian custom simply hail a taxi (yes that’s right)! As Dubai Mall is one of the largest in the world, you are able to take a taxi around fashion avenue getting off anywhere you wish.

Here you smell the amazing selection of Arabic perfumes or simply just enjoy walking around this expansive mall. In the evening, sit in the one of many restaurants that look over the Burj Khalifa.

If you time it right, you can see the renowned high-spirited fountain display and the impressive light display without being surrounded by crowd of people.

 

Dubai Creek

If you need to escape the sometimes overbearing skyscrapers of the new town then head to the old town.

Here you will find more humble and traditional architecture, a selection of gold, spice and perfume souks and the Dubai Museum.

It is here where you can truly see and enjoy the history of the old city and appreciate how it has transformed into today’s marvel.

For a very small price you can take a traditional boat ride across the river, again providing a different aspect to the place.

If you want an abundance of history and culture then Dubai probably isn’t the place for you. Like a new born child it’s still growing and developing and although it has moved forward architecturally and financially there is still so much more that Dubai can offer. This is precisely what makes Dubai exciting as every time you go back, there is a new district, building or area for you to explore. Even though there is an air exuberance and grandeur there is still a heart to this amazing contemporary city which is why a visit to this luxurious destination is a must.

Only a few hours from Dubai is the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. Keep your eyes peeled for a future blog post on 24 hours in this beautiful city.

Rome – Food & Drink

Rome – Food & Drink

Rome is known as the ‘eternal city’ and having visited it over ten years ago I was excited to take another trip back. I could talk about all the historical sites which are what makes this city amazing however I shall leave that to a later date. What I am extremely excited about is to share with you the delicious foods and drinks that were on offer whilst I wandered around this spectacular city.

If your only in Rome for a short stay you want to ensure you make the most of this intoxicating city. Luckily it is filled with an array of quick pitstops that serve delicious food and drink. Here are my Blublazerguy top picks:

 La Casa del Tazza d’Oro

Just a stone throw from the impressive Pantheon, you immediately smell the enticing aroma from this small coffee shop. Renowned for its delicious coffee, this establishment is often very busy, so expect queues on most occasions. This gives you the perfect time to decide on what delicious drink you wish to try from their extensive menu.

If you want a quiet coffee, then this may not be the place for you. As soon as you enter, you are immediately immersed in the rabble of chatter, the clatter of plates and the hissing of coffee machines. After you order and pay for your choice of coffee, ensure to grab a nice spot at the bar and hand the receipt to the nearest barista. These baristas know their stuff when it comes to whipping up a coffee, usually working on numerous orders at the same time, they tailor your order to suit you.

As there is no seating here, you are encouraged to do like the Italians do and stand, socialise and quickly drink your intensely flavoured coffee. This was by far my favourite place to visit and on most occasions, I would try the simple espresso! At only 1 Euro a shot this delicious coffee was truly worth it with the caffeine hit preparing you for your next walk around the eternal city. 

 Venchi 1878

We all know that Italy is renowned for its Gelato and with so many places to try it, it can become overwhelming. I discovered Venchi purely by chance whilst leaving a nearby coffee shop, and for those that know me, I never walk passed ice cream without trying it!

Venchi is a gourmet Gelateria and Chocolatier which celebrates its 140-year anniversary this year. With an array of delicious flavours, I am sure every individual will find something they would love. My absolute favourite was Cremino Venchi; the “frozen” version of their traditional Cremino 1878 recipe. It consists of a hazelnut base which is added to milk and some hazelnut paste and covered with an indulgent layer of dark chocolate cream. Their larger store on Via del Corso is more crowded however you do get the chance to see their impressive wall of dripping chocolate. I was excited to learn that Venchi also has four stores located in the City of London, now if only they would open one in Edinburgh.

 Forno Campo de’ Fiore

After wandering around the food markets in the quaint square of Campo de Fiori, it is of no surprise that you become peckish.

Luckily, just on the corner of the square is an amazing little bakery; Forno Campo de’ Fiore. Peer through their window into the kitchen and you can see numerous bakers hard at work, preparing and baking fresh bread, cakes and biscuits. The focaccia bread is to die for and is filled to the brim with an array of different fresh ingredients to choose from. I recommend their freshly toasted focaccia with courgette flowers, tomato and buffalo mozzarella. The salty crispy exterior of the bread and the freshness of the courgette flower go well with a deliciously thick slice of mozzarella which is beautifully creamy and melts in the mouth.

 Two Sizes

This is another little treasure that I stumbled upon by chance. This tiny bolt hole located near the Piazza Navona doesn’t look so impressive from the outside, but it’s what inside that truly counts here.

This small establishment is filled to the brim with the well-loved Italian dessert; Tiramisu. Available in ‘Two Sizes’, hence the name, they have an abundance of different flavours and I only now wish that I tried them all. The traditional coffee flavour was available along with Pistachio, Peanut Butter and Caramel.  I opted for the Caramel flavour which was sweet, creamy and deliciously smooth. Whilst in Rome, I have tried a number of tiramisu desserts and this was by far the best. My only regret was not getting the bigger size.  

Grand Plaza Hotel Roma

Enjoy luxurious surroundings and delicious cocktails in this beautiful hotel located off the main street of Via del Corso. Perhaps not a quick stop but after all that sightseeing its a great place to relax in the evening.

As you enter through its old wooden turnstile doors you are immediately transported to an opulent space. The lobby bar is extravagant in every way with oversized crystal chandeliers, intricate frescos on the ceiling and old-fashioned decadent furniture.

Although it can be quite quiet, this bar provides the perfect place to unwind from the chaotic streets outside. With soft music echoing in the background, ensure to order one of their delicious cocktails. I opted for my favourite iconic Italian cocktail; Negroni. 

 Do you have any favourite food and drink establishments in Rome, I’d be interested in hearing what they are?

Istanbul – Turkey

Istanbul – Turkey

One of my favourite places to visit is Turkey, in particular Istanbul. Having visited Istanbul a number of times in all seasons, each experience has been completely different. For me Istanbul has a mystical chaotic charm which I fell in love with the minute I first visited. There is a constant buzz due to the masses of people navigating through its bustling streets and markets; 15.03 million to be exact. Some people may be put off by such things but the wonders of this city has something for everyone.

Even I, who prefers the more relaxed vibe was surprised to enjoy the energy that you feel from this place. Istanbul is truly intoxicating and addictive which is why visiting it only once was not an option. Due to its unique position, straddling both Europe and Asia,  the amalgamation of different cultures makes this city truly unique.

I have been lucky enough to stay with locals on my previous stays but this time I thought I would check out one of Istanbul’s many hip hotels. I chose to stay in the luxury boutique hotel, Tomtom suites. Located in the the region of the Galata on the European side in the Beyoglu district, this small hotel is located within the Italian embassy and within walking distance of many historic sites, one being the famous Galata Tower built in 1348.

Although this time I only visited for three days I did manage to fit quite a few sites and activities in, here are my highlights of this amazing city;

Istiklal Cadessi

On the European side there is the buzzing street of Istiklal Cadessi. This is Istanbul’s answer to the likes of Oxford Street in London. It’s 1.3km street is filled with shops, restaurants, bars and clubs. I loved walking along this street  and taking in the atmosphere both day and night.

If you don’t wish to walk the whole length of the street you can of course take a ride on the lovely old fashioned tram that goes from one side of the street to the famous Taksim Square.

Grab a Tram on Istiklal Street

If your a fan Turkish desserts be sure to visit the very popular Hafis Mustafa 1864. Pick from huge array of baklava and Turkish delight followed by a strong Turkish coffee.

Taksim Square

This is one of the most famous squares at the centre of the European side of Istanbul. It is surround by bars, shops, restaurants and cafes and also the central station of the Istanbul Metro. I loved sitting here during the day just to take in the unique atmosphere and watch the thousands of people that cross this area. With all honesty I feel that it isn’t the most attractive square that I have visited in a city but it is a place where everyone congregates all day long, spending many hours talking over a cup of delicious tea or Turkish coffee, here you really get a sense of community.

The Blue Mosque

Of course when visiting Istanbul there is one definite tourist area that you have to visit, Sultanahmet. I was absolutely blown away with the magnificent structure of the Blue Mosque which is the focal point of the area. With its defiant six minarets pointing towards the sky and its marvelled domes and semi domes, you cannot help but be captivated. Built in 1616, this structure has survived earthquakes and wars. Most mosques only have four minarets but this unique specimen has six. This unique design was actually caused by a misunderstanding by the architect however Sultan Ahmet liked it so much, that he kept them.

Hagia Sofia

Directly across from The Blue Mosque is the Hagia Sophia. This Church was built in 360 and went through many era’s in history. It was destroyed and rebuilt many times and in 1453 when the Turks conquered Istanbul it was converted into a mosque. The church was adorned by mosaics of Jesus Christ and other religious figures. As such figures were forbidden in Islamic mosques, these mosaics were hidden during the conversion. This luckily preserved the mosaics underneath and they can now been seen in all their glory. Visiting the Hagia Sophia was one of my main highlights. By simply acknowledging the immense architecture and its ability to survive many turbulent times alongside its juxtapositioning of both Islamic and Christian cultures, the Hagia Sophia truly defined what Istanbul represents to modern day Turkey.

Basilica Cistern

Situated underground in the same area is the Basilica cistern which has been featured in some blockbuster movies. This huge construction was built to supply water to the Great Palace of Constantinople and surrounding buildings. It can hold 2,800,000 cubic metres of water and is held up by 336 Marble pillars, some of which are beautiful my carved. The most popular attraction is the huge carved head of Medusa, get there early so you can absorb the eerie but beautiful atmosphere of this mysterious site.

Topkapi Palace

This beautiful palace straddling the banks of the Bosphorus was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1466. It’s spectacular entrance is the first thing that draws you in. Wander through it’s courts, chambers and treasuries and admire its selection of intriguing historical artefacts. Be sure to arrive early as it does get busy and be aware that not all areas of the palace will be open due to renovation.

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Bosphorus Boat Tour

The city is split by one of the busiest water-ways in the world; the Bosphorus River. Take a tram to Kabatas, where you will find the Port of Istanbul. Here there are a large selection of boat tours where you can explore both sides of this amazing city. On a warm day, the fresh air is liberating and the city skyline of mosques, hills, monuments and buildings is a wonderful sight. I especially enjoyed the Asian side clad with greenery and beautiful villas.

Dolmabahce Palace

Next to the Port of Istanbul is the impressive 19th century Dolmabahce Palace. Set in beautiful gardens this architectural beauty seems more fitting to cities such as Paris. It’s exuberance feels slightly out of place but it certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s main attraction is it’s crystal staircase and it’s ornate gates looking out onto the Bosphorus , you can definately understand why Sultan Abdül Mecit I decided to move his imperial court from Topkapi to this more elaborate building.

Istanbul is definitely one of my favourite cities. In my eyes it is a very unique city that has stood the test of time and continues with its distinctive buzz, energy and excitement. It is a true delight and one place that I highly recommend that you visit.

48 Hours in Copenhagen 

48 Hours in Copenhagen 
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Marble Bridge
After some tasty drinks it was time to walk back to the hotel and experience a beautiful moonlit walk after a very busy and  memorable first day in the city.
Unfortunately, the clocks chimed and i realised it was time to bid this wonderful city farewell. I sadly walked back to my hotel to collect my luggage and made my way to the main train station. As i got my train ticket to the airport, i was able to glance at the opening of Tivoli gardens amusement park, the second oldest park in the world. Unfortunately due to the time of year I just missed the chance to visit this popular sight, but now I have an excuse to come back to this amazing city!

Edinburgh’s Autumnal Hideouts

Edinburgh’s Autumnal Hideouts

There is a coolness in the air and a change of light in the city. Although I’ve tried my best to clinch onto the last moments of summer, the browning and falling of the leaves are announcing that Autumn has truly arrived. Already, the weather hasn’t been too kind, however us Scots are used to that, and it doesn’t stop us from embracing and enjoying what the city has to offer. Importantly it hasn’t taken away the beauty that the city exudes come rain or shine, however somewhat enhances Edinburgh’s natural mystique.

A lone autumn tree below Edinburgh Castle

Just because its Autumn it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom! Edinburgh has a certain charm when the sun sets early. Take a rainy walk in old town where the cobbled streets shine like black leather and the small sache windows glow with warm light from inside. Wander through the many gardens and woodlands to enjoy the fresh air against your skin and take in the musky sweet smell of brown leaves that pile up around every corner. However, if that’s not your cup of tea and the autumnal outdoors are not for you, then this post is the perfect read.

Autumnal Colours

In previous blog posts, I have written about my favourite outdoor spots to go in the city. However as the cold weather sets in, Edinburgh is also full of cosy indoor spots to eat, drink, wander and explore. So as the alfresco seating is packed away I thought I would give you my recommendations of places to visit in Edinburgh on a ‘dreich’ (wet, cold and misty) day. I hope you get the same feeling as you get when sitting in front of an open fire or putting on warm socks on a frosty day, while visiting my favourite places in Edinburgh.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street.

The beautiful gothic style building of the National Portrait Gallery stands out from the crowd due of its architecture and difference in the colour of stone compared to most buildings in Edinburgh. As you walk in you will understand why this is a great place to escape the cold. The warmth encompasses you the minute you wander into the entrance, with its cosy lighting and low hanging lanterns and dramatically lightened marble sculptures. As you look up, the roof is bejewelled with painted stars and various artwork.

Entrance Hall

Its delightfully warm carpeted stairways are adorned with beautiful stained glass windows and when the sun makes an appearance, the light floods in creating a stream of colours that cuts through the air as if creating a form of art itself.

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Let us not forget why you came though, veer slowly through the different levels of the building and view the astounding collection of artwork from different periods in history. Like most galleries there is a peacefulness to the place that I love, but this building exudes a deeper allurement for me somehow. After you have roamed the many different areas of the building, take your time to sit and enjoy some coffee and cake in their lovely cafeteria surrounded by arched windows and exposed the red brick.

Monteiths, High Street.

Tucked away at the bottom of the Royal Mile is the small but perfectly formed; Monteiths.

Entrance (Instagram)

As you make your way through an archway of entwined branches that delicately adorned with twinkling fairy lights, you enter the door way and step down the stairs into this basement boutique cocktail bar and restaurant. You feel immediately relaxed as you enter this cosy and intimate space. Montieths is garnished with touches of Scottish design such as tartan covered seating, wall mounted antlers and finished off with a modern touch of metal and wood.


The bar area is small and refined and you can either sit at the bar or enjoy the small tables scattered around with cosy armchairs and enjoy one of their inventive cocktails. For coffee lovers I recommend their delicious Espresso Martini. Of course if you want to stay longer, their restaurant serves delicious selection of heart-warming food.

Espress Martini (Instagram)

The Dome, George Street.

This extravagant building situated on the prestigious George Street is a fantastic place to have a coffee or drink, whilst people watching and enjoy the decadent and cosy atmosphere. As you walk up the stairs, through the wooden rotating doors you are immediately greeted with a large sparkling and glamorous chandelier, marble floors and oversized vases of fresh flowers that delicately scent the air.

The Dome Entrance (photo courtesy of The Dome)

Walk into the main bar area and your breath is taken away by the size and grandeur of this place. With its large domed roof, central circular bar, restaurant and numerous tables, you can sit and enjoy a drink or two. For a large space it still scores high on the cosy factor, with its warm mood lighting, dark marble pillars, stained glass windows and candle lit tables.


Enjoy a pot of coffee or tea in a lovely china cup with one of their delicious cakes or treat yourself to one of their exquisitely tasting cocktails, whilst soaking up the luxurious surroundings. I especially love this place nearer Christmas time where the smell of cinnamon resonates throughout the air, the pillars are draped in twinkling icicles and upon the circular bar stands an impressively decorated Christmas tree with its lights illuminating the dome with a multitude of colours.

The Dome at Christmas
Large Christmas tree towers above the bar

Earthy’s, Canonmills.

After an autumnal stroll along the water of Leith, through Stockbridge and onto Canonmills, you will stumble across the organic restaurant and store; Earthy’s. Outside, you will be welcomed with small carts filled to the brim with seasonal vegetables or plants.

Display of Autumn Goodies (Instagram)

As you walk in, the cosy atmosphere immediately envelopes you, with wooden floors and tables decorated with small flowers, candles lit and atmospheric lighting. Why not take a window seat while you grab on to your warm steaming coffee and a slice of their delicious and ever changing selection of cakes (my most recent favourite being the rose and cardamom) and watch the world go by outside. Enjoy a pleasant lunch or dinner with their vast menu filled with organic, nutritious and wholesome foods to keep you going for the rest of the day. If you can peel yourself away from the table and the food, take a wander around their little shop chock-full of delicious nutritious foods. Grab some of their freshly baked bread and purchase some fresh seasonal vegetables.

Rose & Cardamom Cake

Colonnades at The Signet Library, The Royal Mile.

Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town near the famous Royal Mile is the beautiful 19th century building; The Signet Library. Inside this welcoming and historic location is Colonnades. Set in the lower library of this fascinating establishment is a perfect place to eat and drink. What is more comforting than enjoying a steaming hot coffee, delicious cocktail or great quality food in the midst of a selection of beautiful old books and neo-classical architecture. The library feels grand and opulent yet its calming atmosphere provides a peaceful haven away from the crowds and traffic outside.


The large Corinthian columns that surround the central salon tower above you while you tuck into some deliciously prepared food, delicately remind you of its history.

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I highly recommend their slow cooked haunch of red deer, sweet potato, savoy cabbage, gingerbread, hazelnut and star anise. To follow, try their delicious and artistically displayed dessert of Dark chocolate Sacher sponge, beetroot compote, sorbet, cocoa soil and aged balsamic. A true gem in the middle of the city and a definite autumnal treat in such a cosy and luxurious building.

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Keep your eyes peeled for my next blog post and see what Edinburgh has to offer over the festive season.

Key West – Florida

Key West – Florida

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Around three hours south of Miami is the spectacular Florida Keys. I travelled to the most southern island; Key West. Driving down through the keys is an experience in itself. You navigate along the narrow road and cross the infamous 7 mile bridge. I travelled by coach along the meandering road with water on each side, where I felt I was literally skimming over the blue ocean. Each Key that I passed had  its own unique character. My only wish was that I was not confined by the restrictions of travelling by coach and had driven myself. This would have given me an opportunity to stop off at each place and explore. However, due to time constraints my main aim was to get to Key West as soon as possible. This certainly was a place that did not disappoint.
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As soon as I arrived I had an immediate smile on my face as the place was like a little haven of nautical happiness. Each street was adorned with wooden clad, pastel coloured houses with gorgeous gardens with beautiful names to match. Every house felt like a home with a unique story and individual character.

It’s laid back vibe was infectious and charming with chickens walking aimlessly around and small coconut stands on street corners. Everywhere you turned you were greeted with colourful art work and majestic door ways.

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Although I could have wandered its charismatic streets all day, due to time constraints, my friends and I took the Key West Trolley Tour. This tour gave personalised and detailed information on the history of Key West and where to find the best food and drink. You were able to hop and hop off from conveniently located stops all over Key West. You were always guaranteed to be greeted by a friendly and enthusiastic driver, who was also your tour guide. This friendly persona was echoed through the streets, where live music is often playing at the open bars. This open mindedness and culture of acceptance was seen in every local person I chatted with.

The old town was like stepping back in time; with old fashioned bars such as Whistle Bar and the infamous Sloppy Joe’s frequented by Ernest Hemingway. Donned with historical photographs and cultural references, Sloppy Joe’s told a tale of an America that I have only read about.


If Hemingway is of interest to you, you can also visit his house on the Southern coast of the Island. This unique visitor attraction was home to Hemingway from 1931 to 1939 and was one of the first houses on the island to be fitted with indoor plumbing, an upstairs bathroom and the first swimming pool in Key West. You may not be the only visitors in Hemingway’s house, as it is adorned with unique six toed cats. Yes, you read that correctly!

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Visiting the Keys you cannot leave without trying their famous Key Lime Pie. This sweet and tangy dessert is all over the island but according to our tour guide, the best place to try it is Kermit Key Lime Pie. Sit outside in the gorgeous sun and observe the beautiful streets and houses as you taste this tantalising dessert. I must say it was the only time my friends and I were completely silent on this trip! It was as creamy and tasty as you would expect and I was tempted to have two or three slices at the same time.

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Whilst I’m on the subject of food, I have to mention the delicious Conch Fritters and Coconut Shrimp. These delightful treats are sold in abundance here and are traditional to this island. If you like seafood, they are definitely worth trying as a snack or even for lunch with an additional selection of fresh seafood accompaniments.

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Although it’s very touristy; being in the most Southern point of continental US, I had to stop off at the marker point to get my photograph. You will have to wait in a long queue of people however like any Brit that is used to queuing,  this strikes up new conversations with others where you can share your experiences from people from round the globe. This is something you cannot leave the island without doing.

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Everything in this area is called “the Southernmost…” so be sure to visit the Southernmost Beach. Albeit small, this wee suntrap is the perfect place to relax and grab a drink or food at the most Southern bar on the island.

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Sadly my time in Key West had to end, however as our coach departed i was lucky to see the glorious sunset visible over the water. The majestic colours of the sinking sun truly took my breath away and was tranquil end to a lovely trip.