Where to Eat in Edinburgh

August turned into a bit of a miserable month. The weather was awful and I hate the feeling that everything is at a standstill, while the rest of the world holidays. So to remedy that, Tiarnan and I booked a last minute Air BnB and hopped on the train to Edinburgh – a city that is most certainly not at a standstill.

Quite the opposite – August is Edinburgh’s moment. Being at university in Newcastle, I have visited the Scottish capital a few times but never during the Fringe. The streets were alive with actors determined to get every punter to their show, stuffing leaflets into your hands as you try to shuffle your way down the Royal Mile amidst the chaos. It was so much fun.

Before we headed north though, I tried to research the best eateries – something I always do before landing in a new city. To be honest, I didn’t find much on Edinburgh and we ended up making rushed decisions on where to eat by Googling ‘best lunch spot near me’, or similar. Surprisingly – it was a method that really worked. Here it what we found…

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*The Manna House Bakery: We had just stepped off the train and it started pouring with rain. It was too early to head for the Air BnB so we needed somewhere to stop and eat – The Manna House Bakery was Google’s recommendation and now it’s mine. This was a little out of the way for us and somewhere I would never have found alone, but it was a great lunch spot. Fresh loaves filled shelves around the bakery, to accompany salad dishes for lunch and sweet treats for afters. A great lunch spot if you are in the area.

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*Under the Stairs: Located just off Grassmarket, this bar is very easy to miss at street level. It literally is under the stairs. With mix-matched armchairs, an enormous fireplace and huge cocktail list to choose from, this is a unique pre-dinner drinks spot. The cocktails were a little strong for us (they nearly blew our heads off) but the food looked delicious and I imagine it would make a very cosy spot in autumn and winter.

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*Badger & Co: Badger & Co is an old favourite, we visited last year when it had just opened but enjoyed our second trip just as much. Centrally located on Castle Street, Badger & Co is the former home of Wind in the Willows’ author Kenneth Grahame, and the classic tale is the inspiration of the restaurant. The menu uses local and seasonal produce, and really is comfort food at its best. The pies are the stars of the menu, but they also have a creative drinks list and serve food all day. We have never tried the breakfast, but that will have to be one for next time…

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*Cuckoo’s Bakery: I tentatively headed to Cuckoo’s Bakery on Dundas Street late on Friday evening, telling Tiarnan they may have no cupcakes left – to which he replied “what sort of cupcake shop runs out of cupcakes?” But, indeed – they had. Cuckoo’s Bakery bake their cupcakes fresh each day using local ingredients and is becoming something of an institution. The owner told us to come back first thing the next morning, so we did and our efforts were rewarded. There’s a huge range of flavours, including raspberry and white chocolate – voted the best cake in Scotland for two years running – so we couldn’t help but go for the six-cake box to sample as many as possible…

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*Hula Juice Cafe: London has exploded with healthy brunch spots, but I haven’t found any I’m as keen to return to as Hula. Hula Juice Cafe & Gallery is like a healthy spot for normal people – no need to be vegan to fully enjoy the menu. There’s a juice and smoothie list longer than your arm and the breakfasts have a healthy twist but nothing too scary – porridge, yoghurt and granola, toast (with an avocado toast option, of course) etc and they are all delicious. There’s a no reservation policy so prepare to queue, but this cute little cafe, sunk to half-above, half-below ground level at the bottom of colourful Victoria Street is definitely worth the wait.

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*Fudge Kitchen: We first discovered Fudge Kitchen hidden in the Shambles when York was Tiarnan’s university town, so as soon as we knew they had a branch in Edinburgh, we had to visit. Fudge Kitchen is the best fudge out there. They have the most incredible flavours, from Vintage Vanilla to Lemon Drizzle, and they let you try everything. Everytime we have visited we end up rolling out, having filled up on so much fudge. Buy a six slab box and take it home – it’s a LOT of fudge but the only way to do it.

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*Artisan Roast: And finally, Artistan Roast was a final, spur of the moment Google suggestion when we found ourselves wandering around Stockbridge on a sleepy, Sunday morning – a really beautiful, residential part of Edinburgh. Artisan Roast is a cosy little cafe that takes great pride in their coffee. Dogs amble around beneath the tables, there’s an enormous sofa to while away the morning on, the counter top is filled with pastries and the sun streams through the huge glass frontage. The perfect Sunday morning breakfast spot.

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Sundays by the sea: Whitstable

I’ve heard much chat of late that there is nothing better than a free weekend. A weekend with no plans is bliss. I could not disagree more strongly if I tried.

Some live for the weekend. I live for my weekend plans – carefully constructed at my desk throughout the week, ready to over-enthusiastically consult with my long-suffering boyfriend in the evenings. The majority of my favourite plans are decidedly London-based and follow the standard formula of brunch plus something fun. This weekend though, I thought we would try something a little different.

As the sun was shining (on a side note – how awful has the weather been?!) I suddenly felt the need to calculate just how quickly I could get out of London to the seaside. Now, I love a day trip to Brighton as much as the next person, but it felt time to try something a little different. Southeastern High Speed came to the rescue and we whipped off to Whitstable, arriving to bright sunshine and a salty sea breeze in just over an hour.

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Whitstable is a cute little fishing and harbour town in north Kent. Some had described it as “undiscovered” in my online research but there was a fairly healthy load of Londoners disembarking the train alongside us – so that was definitely an exaggeration. That said, you certainly aren’t fighting crowds and there’s more than enough room on the beach for everyone.

Whitstable is the perfect place for a day trip (or even for a lazy Sunday afternoon – we weren’t overly strict on setting our alarms). There’s enough to see to keep you occupied but you still don’t leave feeling as though you’ve missed the majority. Whitstable is still a working fishing village, so everywhere you go you are tripping over fresh oyster stands and endless seafood. We weren’t quite so authentic and instead opted for a classic fish and chip lunch, and highly recommend Ossie’s Fish Bar on the High Street. It looks like a very standard chippy from the outside, but the people were lovely and the food was delicious. We were even given extra chips while we were waiting (winning them all the brownie points).

Don’t over-plan your day and just go for a wander. You can take a fairly long walk along the sea-front, choose your perfect beach house and don’t miss Tankerton Beach. Perching just beneath the castle this stretch of beach has huge grassy slopes ideal for picnics and hundreds of beach huts – it could take you all day just to pick your favourite! If you are feeling a bit trapped in London and especially if the sun is shining, Whitstable really is the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

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Breakfasting in Amsterdam: Pluk

If you thought that my last post looked suspiciously unlike London, you were right. Just last weekend Tiarnan and I hopped over to Amsterdam for the marathon. I refuse to allow our marathon weekends to only be about limbering up and eating shedloads of pasta, though. We had Saturday for exploring, and explore we did.

After some minimal research I decided that I most wanted to visit The Nine Streets, or De Negen Straatjes, area. Just outside the centre and the very heart of Amsterdam’s canal district, it is a beautiful place to wander with plenty of independent shops and small cafes along the 17th century canals. It was here that we discovered Pluk.

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I challenge you to leave Pluk with just a full stomach. It is the most gorgeous café meets gift, stationary and interiors shop and not picking up an entirely unnecessary treat to self is almost impossible. From wooden platter boards, travel mugs, notebooks, photo frames and an enormous selection of fresh fruit and veg, it is only a small shop but you are completely spoilt for choice.

The café is on a mezzanine level overlooking the shop. The girls in there are absolutely lovely and as it was full when we arrived, while we were browsing the shop one of them hovered by the door looking for any leavers whose table we could take. Pluk’s menu is all about healthy and fresh food, with a huge selection of breakfasts, lunches and homemade cakes. We opted for breakfast and ordered a generous selection from the acai bowl to yoghurt to homemade banana bread – all delicious.

It’s only small and incredibly popular, so expect a little wait but the shop will keep you more than occupied. It is the perfect place to fuel up before a morning of wandering the canals. It was my favourite place that we visited over the weekend and the best introduction to Amsterdam.

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A London Bucket List

As you all know from my 2016 Goals post, exploring London is one of my resolutions. There’s just so much to do here, you can never run out of inspiration. As promised, I am blogging all of my adventures, but I’ve been creating a mental list of ‘places to visit’ for quite a while now and I thought it was about time I shared.

Whether you live here, are planning a trip or just need some inspiration for your own hometown, I hope this comes in handy!

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*26 Grains: This is top because it was my obsession with wanting to go here that inspired this blog post! Neal’s Yard is a little crook of Covent Garden that I’m desperate to explore anyway, but 26 Grains serves up London’s prettiest porridge. If you like Instagramming your food, bookmark this one.

*Bob Bob Ricard: This wonderfully eccentric restaurant is decorated in the style of a first-class dining car of an Edwardian train, with Art Deco booths and the infamous ‘press for champagne’ button. It’s a little pricey so best saved for a special occasion.

*Columbia Road Flower Market: A blogger’s favourite. If you haven’t admired pictures of the blooms at Columbia Road, I strongly suggest you do. East London’s flower market is open every Sunday and with independent shops and cafes also lining the street, there’s plenty to explore after picking your bunch.

*Madison: Famed for it’s incredible view of St Pauls, I am cheating a little bit here because I’ve already visited this rooftop bar. But that was a few years ago and I’m itching to go back! With an amazing cocktail menu and plenty of tapas to choose from, this is the perfect stop for evening drinks.

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*National Portrait Gallery, Vogue 100: A Century of Style: I love the National Portrait Gallery, it is easily my favourite museum in London. Their Audrey Hepburn exhibition caused quite a stir last summer (and it was amazing), but I’m now desperate to visit Vogue 100. Celebrating British Vogue’s centenary by showcasing its photography through the years, this one is a magazine junkie’s dream.

*Duck & Waffle: London’s highest restaurant and open 24/7 – I’d love to get up super early and watch the sun rise over London from here. The lift is almost as well known as the restaurant itself, glass-sided and ‘express’, it whizzes you up those 40 floors in unbeatable style!

*Modern Pantry: Apparently, this is the spot to eat amazing eggs. Though to be honest, it was the seating thar first caught my attention. Set in a traffic-free courtyard which acts as a suntrap, it sounds like the perfect place for a casual, alfresco brunch one summery weekend. 

*Go to the ballet: When I was younger, I was a very keen dancer so I’ve been lucky enough to see a few ballets in London. It’s been a few years though, and I’d love to go back. My preference would be The Nutcracker (because is there anything more festive?) but I’m keeping an eye out for anything that looks interesting before next Christmas.       

Memories from Paris

Do you ever find that life can get so busy and crazy things completely pass you by? That’s exactly what happened to me last month with our little weekend away in Paris.

Tiarnan and I went two weeks before Christmas and it was wonderful while we were there, but the second we got back we were drawn into celebrating Tiarnan’s birthday, finishing the Christmas shopping and then all of the Christmas and New Year festivities. Now, looking back on it, I feel as though I instantly forgot about our trip. I didn’t even look through the pictures.

On a rainy evening wishing I was planning a trip, I finally got round to flicking through our Paris snaps, and I instantly wanted to share them all with you. I did give you a glimpse into our visit with Teatime in Paris, but today is going to have a more relaxed vibe and just document our wanderings. Paris is such a beautiful, wonderful place, it seemed such a shame not to!

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This was not our first time in the city of lights. We visited as part of our interrailing trip in summer 2013, and then again in April 2014 for Tiarnan to run the Paris marathon. Both trips were done at lightning speed and completely crazy. This time we wanted to wander, not plan too much and just see what we stumbled across.

We also tried Air BnB for the first time which was a resounding success. If you haven’t done it yet, definitely consider it for your next trip. We found the cutest little apartment on Île Saint-Louis, just above Berthillon ice cream parlour. It really was tiny, but being tucked into a little mouse hole is all part of the Parisian experience!

Having our own apartment was amazing because we could cook for ourselves and come and go as we pleased, with no strict check in and out times. It was also in such an incredible location, everything was on our doorstep. Every morning we took full advantage of this and popped into our local boulangerie to pick up pastries and coffee to enjoy by the river for breakfast, before setting off on the day’s adventures!

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One of our first stops was the Louvre, as it was our favourite spot when we visited a couple of summers ago. The glass pyramid is surrounded by water fountains, so after a particuarly busy day we had sat outside and dipped our weary feet into the water. Of course, we were absolutely not repeating that this time but to just admire the grandeur and take silly tourist photos was definitely worth the visit. We didn’t venture inside as we had plenty more to see, but it’s something that will remain on our Parisian ‘to do’ list.

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You already know about our visit to Angelina’s from my last post, but it is one of the best things to do in Paris in winter! They are famous for their hot chocolates for a very obvious reason, they are so thick and creamy. Angelina’s also have a gorgeous little shop so you can buy the mix and recreate your own version at home.

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We spent the rest of that afternoon wandering through the Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Élysées. We found the enormous Christmas market and most of the afternoon was spent perusing the stands, choosing the best crepe for lunch and singing along to the Christmas tunes while watching the world go by. I picked out some gingerbread to take home and agonised over choosing a beautiful bauble for the Christmas tree (which smashed on the way home! Sad, sad times). There are a few markets but if you are in Paris at Christmas time, I would definitely recommend the one on the Champs-Élysées. There’s a huge variety of stands, plenty of places to sit, eat and be merry and even an ice rink.

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We walked back along the river to our apartment, and stopped off at the love locks bridge which is always a sight to behold. We put one on a couple of years ago but failed to find it, concluding it has probably been cut off. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have had any negative consequences…! We decided to not risk any future severing of our love and passed on putting another one on, instead browsing through all the others and wondering if the couples were still as in love.

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The next day, we wandered further up the river to see all of the sights we’d missed. It’s a fairly long walk, but by far the best way to get around and soak up the city. It was very quiet on Sunday morning and we were mainly joined by early morning runners. On our way to the Eiffel Tower we stopped off in a little cafe by the river for breakfast, and guiltily ate pain au chocolats while counting the runners.

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You don’t need me to tell you that the Eiffel Tower is a must, but do make sure you visit! I would highly recommend whizzing up to the top, whether you opt for the lifts or are a little more hardy and take on the stairs. Get there early to beat the queues and the panaromic view is definitely worth the climb! This time we passed on going up, as we had in the summer and when we arrived the top was shrouded in a pretty atmospheric mist.

We finished the trip by walking through the fancier shopping districts admiring the stores (and the high end shoppers), even though we could feel our bank accounts screaming whenever we got too close… We spent the rest of the morning in Ladurée taste testing the iconic macaroons before reluctantly getting back on the Eurostar to London.

I really hoped you enjoyed this little recap of Paris – it turned into rather an epic! If you have any suggestions for Paris then I would love to hear them. There is still plenty on my list, including an Alice in Wonderland tearoom, the department stores, actually going into one of the museums and cocktails at Hotel Costes! Now just to plan the next trip…