Look at Lucca

Lucca was an unexpected gem on our trip to Italy. A walled city in Tuscany, a short train journey from Pisa and Florence, full of charm and history. We jumped on two wheels (sans motor) and started exploring.

Our first stop was for a Marmalade Cornetto and Macchiato on the corner of the Piazza Napoleone en route to pick up some lunch supplies. I bumbled through ordering focaccia before a cycle around the 4.2km city walls. Cycling within the walls is a bit tricky due to pedestrians, Vespas and small dogs, so watch out!

Lucca isn’t very big, it’s a chilled out city with peaceful piazzas and shaded alleyways. We cycled around the walls for around 2 hours, before despatching our bikes and making our way to our hotel. We didn’t stay within the walls, a short ten-minute walk in a stunning small hotel, complete with grand bed, balcony and ornate cornicing.

We ventured back into the city walls where we enjoyed Aperitivo in the Piazza dell’Antiteatro, before having dinner at the Local Food Market in a beautiful courtyard. The food was spectacular, local cheeses and honey, pasta, followed by perfect pannacotta.

The next day we climbed the Torre Guinigi to take in the beautiful red roofs and Tuscan hills in the distance.

We were there for only one night and two days, and I’m looking forward to returning at some point in the future.

 

 

 

 

Intriguing Iceland

Iceland is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited. The air envelops you with a calming embrace, meanwhile, the scenery induces oohs and ahhs. It’s been over six years since I set foot on the island that caused travel chaos around the world, and I’ve not been able to shake it from my mind since.

Over two trips, I’ve spent a total of eight days visiting, I’ve only seen the South West pocket of the country. However, I’ve waxed lyrical about its beauty and encouraged many friends to visit.

So. What makes Iceland so special? It’s otherworldly. An isolated place, with incredible history, culture and open people. The moon-like, Volcanic terrain and unpredictable geysers stop you in your tracks, visually. The epic landscape has featured in Game of Thrones, and thus increased the country’s popularity amongst tourists.

If you have a limited time, I’d recommend hiring a car. We took the Golden Circle tour with Reykjavik Excursions and while it was really interesting (the tour guide gave us a brief history of Iceland), the freedom to move about more and travel further afield would have been good. Gulfoss, the Geysir field, and the stunning Pingvellir Lake were included in the round trip. We visited the Blue Lagoon (obvs) and it was a relaxing experience if a little pricey. There are many alternatives – less touristy hot springs you can visit – the Blue Lagoon gets a lot of flak, but I liked it.

My friend is a whale fanatic, so we donned full body cozy overalls and ventured out on a whale watching excursion. The whales weren’t playing ball and we only saw them briefly, but it was a pretty special experience. If you’d like to see Reykjavik from the sea, experience some of the coast and drink the best hot chocolate, book yourself on. It’s around 3 hours and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Post whale watching, we had lunch in the harbour. I had fish soup and it was a euphoric experience. Hofnin is a smart restaurant overlooking the small boat harbour, quaintly decorated, serving traditional and fusion dishes. The fish soup was a rich, glossy, brown broth with tender langoustines and shavings of fennel. The bread… Crispy sourdough with smoked salt butter. Six years on and I can still taste the first spoonful.

When we returned a couple of years later, I was saddened to see that the restaurant wasn’t open for lunch, so I ventured round the corner to the Sægreifinn round the corner where I ate another delicious, if less refined, bowl of fish soup. Low and behold, when I left, Hofnin was opening up. That was the day of two lunches and I don’t regret a single moment of it. 

Other things of note in Reykjavik… The church, Hallgrimskirkja is quite imposing on the outside, but warm on the inside. Take a trip up the tower to see a spectacular view of the city. The Opera house (Harpa) is amazing for a wander, even round the atrium.

Top Tips

  • Download the ‘Appy Hour’ app, it shows which bars are hosting happy hour and at what time.
  • You can only buy alcohol (stronger than 2% ABV) from the Government run alcohol store Vinbudin.
  • The Blue Lagoon is near the airport, so tie in a trip when you’re arriving or departing.
  • Bonus supermarkets are cheaper than 7/11 stores.

 

 

Pretty Praha

I’ve known the ‘Murano Girls’ since September 2004. I love them to bits and we try and meet up when we can, which can be a bit tricky as we currently span the globe. The ladies from Paris, Inverness, Aberdeen, West Linton, South Cave and Napoli navigated their way to Prague at the start of March. Hannah and Carrie couldn’t join us, due to the sheer distance they’d have to travel! Hannah is in Melbourne, and Carrie is currently making her way home from 18 months on Bird Island in the South Antarctic!

We didn’t plan anything, other than to talk, laugh, eat and drink. My favourite thing about Prague? Wandering around the stunning architecture and being wowed round every corner.

Despite two modes of transport into the city from the airport, it’s both easy and super cheap. You’ll get around 25 Koruna to the £1 and the journey cost 32. Bargain!

Some highlights from the trip…

FOOD

  • Husinec: traditional Czech fare, great cabbage, sausages and more creamed horseradish than you can shake a stick at. Order the Tank Beer 👌🏻
  • Cafe Colore: beef is luscious gravy, crisp white wine and an eye watering selection of austro-French cakes.
  • V Kolvovne: my 7th, 8th and 9th sausages of the day. Venison, smoked pork and beef, absolutely divine! I ordered the Goulash as a starter and it didn’t disappoint. Rich and the still-warm pretzel was the perfect accompaniment.
  • Trudlnik: you’ll find these sweet twirls of joy all around the city. A cross between a doughnut and a bagel, available filled with sweet or savoury.

TO DO

  • CASTLE: it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours, but unless you really want to see inside the cathedrals, Golden Lane and the castle, you can walk about free of charge. Be prepared to queue for security.
  • TRAMS: old and new, the trams of Prague are a fantastic way to see the beautiful scenery.
  • CHARLES BRIDGE: Made famous by Mission Impossible, walk across this both day and night to see different sides of the city. The small lanes next to Charles Bridge are quaint and host a range of brilliant independent shops including the intoxicating gingerbread shop!!
  • WENCESLAS SQUARE: a lot of people told me it’s like Disney for grown ups. It’s incredibly pretty. The famous clock is under repair at the moment, so is covered in scaffolding. You get a pretty spectacular view of the city from the tower though.
  • SEX MACHINE MUSEUM: eyes were opened. Make sure you check out the vintage cinema 🙈
  • GOAP: luckily for me, three fantastic exhibitions were on when I visited. Salvador Dali, Alphonse Mucha and Andy Warhol. Flawless layout and complimentary lockers.

TIPS:

  • “Tip not included” isn’t passive aggressive, it’s a friendly reminder that’s more than likely borne from many rowdy stag parties!! 
  • As soon as you’ve finished your glass, wait staff will ask if you want another.
  • 24hr travel pass is a bargain at 110k (even works out to the airport)
  • Carry your passport – police may stop and ask you to show it and if you can’t, you may be fined…

LANGUAGE:

  • Prosim: you’re welcome / please
  • Djakuji: thank you
  • Ahoj: hello / goodbye
  • Ano: yes
  • Ne: no
  • Pivo: Beer
  • Prost: cheers!!

 

 

 

 

Coping in Copenhagen.

I’m not referring to ‘coping’ in a negative sense here, but in a positive one. Copenhagen is brilliant. I’ve been three times and there are still things I’d like to see, do, eat and drink.

My love for Copenhagen has grown over the last few years due to Borgen, The Killing and The Bridge. I’ve mourned the last episode of each one and I doubt anyone will surpass Saga as my number one female lead.

So, a few tips! Apologies in advance for the lack of Scandi vowels.

 

Food

Mother: Great pizza, reasonably priced and fantastic atmosphere. Book in advance if you don’t fancy an hours’ wait in a small bar.

Relae: Local ingredients, unusual flavours, special experience. Go for the early dinner tasting menu to save some pennies. If you’re a fussy eater, I’d give it a miss.

Manfreds og Vin: 90-100% organic restaurant, also fantastic for a glass of wine if you’re that way inclined.

108: En route to Papiroen, don’t forget to stop for a coffee and a mind-blowing pastry.

Tommi’s Burger Joint: You won’t regret it. Right next to Mother in Kodbyen sits Tommi’s, home to the best burger I have EVER eaten. Condiments aplenty and perfect chips. Go hungry!

Hot-Dogs: You can buy them pretty much anywhere. On the side of the street, in train stations, corner shops… They are the perfect meal on the hop.

Aamanns: I visited the one in the airport where I ate a delicious rye, beef, remoulade and crispy onion smorrebrod, washed down with a glass (the size of my head) of Jacobsen’s Brown Ale. What a treat!

Torvehallerne: I argued with myself about putting this in ‘Food’, ‘Drink’ and ‘Stuff to See / Do’. A beautiful big food hall. You can buy food to take away, food to eat onsite, have a coffee, drink a glass of Cava while having a couple of Croquetas… I love it.

 

Drink

Lidkoeb: A boozy townhouse tucked away through a courtyard, serving up delicious cocktails and a whisky bar in the attic. What’s not to love?! I drank the finest cocktail on my 30th birthday.

Mikkeller: There are heaps of Mikkeller bars in Copenhagen, each serving up a range of fantastic beers. Warpigs is another one, situated in Kodbyen.

Coffee Collective: We visited the one in Torvehallerne. If carefully crafted coffee is your thing, enjoy.

 

Do

Bycyklen: Hire a bike. It’s a great way to get around and to see a lot of Copenhagen in a short period of time. Bycyklen bikes are fully adjustable, have satnav and are electric. Vroom.

Den Bla Planet: Use your Bycyklen and cycle the 12km out to the Blue Planet – Copenhagen’s beautiful aquarium where you’ll find Nemo and a bunch of other sea creatures.

Tivoli: The number one thing I’d recommend – make sure you visit Copenhagen when it’s open. Buy an unlimited wristband and if possible, visit on a good weather day (unless you plan on going in the evening). We had around four hours and I really wish we’d had more time. It was wonderful and I’ll definitely be back. Prices for food and drink are on a par with the outside world.

Nordic Noir Tours: We did The Bridge tour, but sites from Borgen and The Killing were also pointed out along the way (bonus!!). Wrap up warm, wear comfy shoes and make sure you’ve got enough memory on your camera.

Louisiana: If you’ve got a Copenhagen Card you get travel and entry for FREE. Set by the Oresund Sound in Humlebaek, it has a brilliant selection of modern art, and the grounds are stunning.

Botanic Garden: Foliage and Filters your thing? Get yourself to the Botanic Gardens and enjoy all the succulents and selfie opportunities.

The Round Tower: Round and round and round. Brilliant view of Copenhagen from the top (when it’s not raining and blowing a hooley). Just don’t drop anything spherical on the walk up or down.

The Zoo: There’s not really a lot I can say. If you like animals (Polar Bears and Monkeys in particular) give the zoo a visit.

Underground Art Gallery: Not your usual stark white gallery. An underground reservoir with changing exhibitions. Eerie.

Carlsberg: It would be remiss not to recommend the Carlsberg Experience in this section. The old brewery, stables where you can see the horses and carts used to deliver the Tuborg Christmas beer and a great bar at the end of it. Try the Jacobsens Brown Ale – I am a BIG fan.

Illums Bolighus: A department store on the long pedestrianised shopping street Stroget, is packed to the rafters with home-ware, textiles, accessories… the lot. N.B. I can’t be blamed for your credit card bill.

Boomerang: Want a fun Insta? Visit the street trampolines in Nyhavn.

Christiansborg Palace Tower: If you’re a fan of Borgen, you’ll want to visit the Tower and get a photo on the steps. Bonus – you get beautiful views of the city.

Design Museum: All things Danish design. An Insta-fans’ dream.

 

What am I doing?

I’ve talked about starting a blog to pop my thoughts for a while now. Everything from where I’ve been, what I’m doing, food, podcasts, music… The whole shebang.

Why little shambles? It started a little under a year ago when a trip to York had me wandering through the world famous Shambles. Then I turned a corner, saw a sign for the ‘Little Shambles’ and promptly took a picture. It’s a nickname that was adopted at work and has stuck. I think it has something to do with a 3am taxi journey back from an awards do in Glasgow, when I fell asleep clutching a half-eaten cheese and onion sandwich.

So this is my first post. More to follow…

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