Ice Lolly Blog At the BeachBlog At The Beach Friends I type this semi-tipsy on a 4 hour train journey home from Leeds after an amazing day with Ice Lolly at their #blogatthebeach event. If you couldn’t make it to the event, here’s exactly what you missed! Please excuse the dodgy camera quality, apparently, I was too engaged by the talks to grab my proper camera from my bag and settled for my phone instead (something I NEVER do, so the talks must have been good)! Introduction First up, we were treated to an introduction talk by the lovely people of Ice Lolly, telling us more about their brand and how they want to work with bloggers going forwards - really interesting and you should definitely check out their website if you're looking for a cheap holiday - I've just found some fab deals! Growing Your Instagram – Rhianna (Rhianna Olivia) Blog At The Beach Rhianna Olivia First up was a talk by Rhianna on how to grow your Instagram organically (no bots or follow4follow here)! Let’s face it, Rhianna has defied all odds by gaining almost 10,000 Instagram followers within a year organically, so she’s probably the best person to advise on the matter! To be completely honest, with all of the changes that Instagram has gone through recently with algorithms etc. I’ve completely fallen out of love with the platform. Sometimes I go through posting sessions, but more often than not, it’s a dormant account. But, after this talk, I feel like I probably should up my Instagram game! My favourite tips from the talk were:
  • Engage with other accounts directly before you post a photo – I only ever have a commenting/liking spree after posting, so this will be interesting to test!
  • Make sure you use a mixture of popular and less popular hashtags on each picture and make sure they vary from picture to picture – okay okay, I know shadow-banning exists, but I’m super lazy and do just tend to copy and paste my hashtags from a previous post – having someone actually say the point to me in real life reiterated it a bit more!
  • Use text replacement on your phone to input hashtags automatically to save time – I am totally looking for a way to do this on Android phones as soon as I have finished typing this blog post!
Lunch & Challenges Blog At The Beach FoodIce lolly Challenges Next up, we took a break for lunch and made a start on our “challenges” for the day. Ice Lolly set us a bunch of challenges that we needed to complete by the end of the day for the chance of winning an Instax camera – Gina and I took this very seriously and were on the case! Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but massive congratulations to Ashton who did! Creativity for Busy Bloggers By Jen (She Gets Around) Ice lolly Challenges She Gets AroundNext up was a talk by Jen – who by the way is one of the most energetic people you will ever meet. I wish I had that much energy and I almost felt tired just watching her! Her talk was all about exactly how to spark creativity and enthusiasm for blogging and is something I really needed right now! At one point during the talk, Jen made us all pick an object in the room and write a poem about it to get our creative juices flowing – naturally, I wrote a poem about a light bulb, begging Ice Lolly to let me win the trip to Ibiza, and here it is….
Oh that light bulb, how bright it shines, Like the trip to Ibiza, I wish that trip was mine. The light bulb brightens the day, Oh to go to Ibiza I pray, Ice Lolly, please send me away!
Gina can confirm that I did write this masterpiece in the 5 minute time frame given at the event rather than as a ploy whilst writing this blog post, ha! My top tips from the talk were:
  • Act like a child as they have the most creative brains. They don’t have as many rules in life as they are still learning – this I something I really need to engage with. If something doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t like it. I really need to let go!
  • Make sure you talk to people and get their ideas on your blog as one brain is better than one. At one point during the talk, Jen made us pair up with someone who hasn’t read our blogs, give them a 2-minute briefing on what our blog is about and then they gave us immediate pointers on what they would do within that genre. I was teamed up with the lovely Rebecca who blogs about film and travel, her tip for me was to do multiple posts on each city encapsulating everything so that my blog is a one-stop-shop for everything a person needs to know on that city – something I will start trying to do from now on!
  • Don’t be embarrassed – a lot of the time, people hold back on what they really want to say or who they want to say it to because they are embarrassed. At the moment, only a small selection of my friends know about my blog. Most people don’t understand writing about your holidays on the internet – I need to let go of this and embrace my passion!
Making Money From Your Blog by Jess (The Travelista) Ice lolly Challenges The TravelistaLet’s start off by saying that Jess is an unbelievably beautiful human inside and out. Many people shy away from the topic of monetisation as it can be a touchy subject but Jess was inspiring, down to earth and completely natural/honest. Jess runs a luxury travel blog full time which is incredible in itself, but when she started speaking, that’s when I realised quite how much of a great entrepreneur she is. #girlboss and all that. Have I made it clear how big my girl crush is on Jess yet? Yes? Good, let’s get to the nitty gritty then, my top tips from the talk were:
  • Always upsell your products – the brand wants a sponsored blog post? You offer them the complete package of a blog post, Instagram posts, video content, tweets and a Facebook post. Or, offer something bigger and better, bring ideas to the table and prove your worth.
  • Opportunities aren’t always going to land on your lap, you’ve got to make your name heard and present yourself to brands – I need to stop being so shy!
  • And my favourite quote from Jess’ presentation – “paid blogging isn’t about numbers or luck, it’s about being pro-active and business minded” – it’s time I started treating this little space on the internet as a proper business rather than something that just brings in some spare cash every now and again.
The Alchemist After rounding up the talks and some more mingling, we headed over to The Alchemist for some 2 for 1 cocktails which were amazing as always! It was lovely to meet everyone and all three speakers were really inspiring.  A big thank you to the Ice Lolly team (especially Emma) who threw a great event! Now to catch some zzz’s on the train home – looking forward to the next event!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I was invited to the event by Ice Lolly and had a genuinely great time!

Danielle1

BLOG AT THE BEACH PINTEREST

The Royal Hotel Southend Exterior Royal Hotel Southend Interior Royal Hotel Southend Ballroom Royal Hotel Southend Savoury Platter Royal Hotel Southend Earl of Grey Royal Hotel Southend Cakes Desserts Recently, the lovely Penny organised for a group of #EssexBloggers to head down to The Royal Hotel in Southend-On-Sea to sample their food and drinks menus - and I have one word for the morning - "wow". Okay... I have a few more words, otherwise this would be a very short blog post. I don't spend much time in Southend, so I didn't know much about the restaurant beforehand but I can safely say that it is my new favourite restaurant and cocktail bar in Essex and I will definitely be back regularly! Whilst it is called "The Royal Hotel", they currently do not have any hotel rooms and it is just a restaurant/bar but do not let that deter you - it's worth a trip just for the food and drinks! The History On arrival, we were greeted by the very lovely Matt (who bought the building with his brother a few years ago) and were told a little bit about the gorgeous building. The Royal Hotel is a listed property built in 1971 and was a hot-spot for former royalty and aristocracy including Princess Caroline & Napoleon! Before Matt and co bought the property, it had spiralled into a realm of madness. The beautiful listed building had boarded windows and was used for local "raves". If you saw the interior now, you would have absolutely no idea as the team have done a really incredible job in turning the place around. The Cocktail Bar Matt's brother Dave is the resident mixologist and BLIMMIN 'ELL does he do an incredible job. The cocktail list currently comprises of around 50 different drinks, many of which are created in-house and are completely original! We tried 2 of the cocktails from the main cocktail menu being "The Earl of Grey" and the "Mrs Kensington" - both were absolutely incredible. I wouldn't normally choose gin over other spirits, but if I will definitely be ordering a "Mrs Kensington" on my return! Dave is also working on a number of new and exciting ideas revolving around molecular mixology (if those big words scare you - think Heston Blumenthal and The Alchemist). As it was the Easter weekend, he was experimenting with creating an egg-like shape which popped when putting your straw through the yolk - as an avid fan of both dippy eggs and cocktails, I very much approved of this idea! And don't worry, The Royal Hotel is a very short walk from both Southend Central and Southend Victoria train stations, so there's no need to be the designated driver and miss out on the cocktails! Tapas style "small plates" and tasting platters can also be ordered at the bar - the menu is to die for and I think I could happily surround myself with every one of their small plates! The Lounge We were seated in the "lounge" area which has a super cosy yet sophisticated feel to it. The website quotes that this area is "perfect for an informal  lunch or early dinner in a relaxed setting" and I can agree to that! We were served an array of different tasting platters and all of them were absolutely amazing! Our savoury platters were filled with traditional British finger foods but with a twist - including a scotch egg where the meat had been replaced with fish. I haven't eaten fish in over 10 years, yet one fish dish looked SO good that I just had to try it - this is a BIG deal and a true testament to how good the food we tried was! The sweet platter was just as good with the bakewell tart being my absolute favourite - which isn't a surprise if you know me! We all said that the cakes were on par if not better than top London restaurants which makes me very excited to go back and try the Afternoon Tea that The Royal Hotel offer! The Ballroom The Ballroom is the restaurant's formal dining area upstairs. As we visited during the day, the room had been booked for a wedding reception and we got to have a sneak peak before the party arrived. It is a really gorgeous room with great views out to the seaside! Afternoon teas are also served in this area and it is the perfect spot for it! The Verdict You NEED to try this restaurant if you find yourself in Essex (or Southend specifically). Not only are both Matt and Dave really lovely people, they really know how to run a restaurant and you will not be disappointed with either the food or the cocktails! For information on booking and copies of the menus, see here. A big thank you to Penny for organising and also Matt and Dave for their hospitality. A shout out to Donna and Lucy also who were the best company! Disclaimer: I was invited to the Royal Hotel as a guest and did not pay for my visit, however this blog post is written of my own accord for no payment and all thoughts are my own!Danielle1
After dipping my toes into the realm of UK travel last year and discovering two of my favourite cities (Edinburgh and York, you are beauties), this year I have vowed that I will see more of our glorious little nation. My first port of call in 2017 was the "Island City" of Portsmouth - did you know Portsmouth is technically an island? I didn't - you learn something new every day! Myself and my buddy Alex jumped in the car early one Saturday morning to visit our uni-going friend Graceybum (who would probably prefer to be referred to by the name Grace but that's boring) and we had the BEST weekend. I am now very concious of the fact that Grace has shown my blog to her uni buddies and they are probably sniggering at the fact that someone could write a travel blog post about Portsmouth... shut up guys, I promise I have super exciting posts about Morocco and Canada coming up. When I returned to work, all I heard was "what is there to do in Portsmouth!? That must have been boring" - oh how wrong they are! When you live somewhere, you don't tend to truly explore the area like a tourist would, so we decided to make Grace visit all of the touristy areas! Get ready for the ultimate tourist-fest!

Day One

Drive!  First job of the day was to jump in the car and drive our ass' to Portsmouth - it takes us around 2 hours to get to Portsmouth from our near-coastal towns in Essex, so it's the perfect journey for a weekend! Alternatively, Portsmouth has great train connections to London and the surrounding areas. Grab an Amazing Late Breakfast / Brunch IMG_4841 v2IMG_4843 v2 Before arriving in Portsmouth, Grace had expressed that she wanted to visit The Tenth Hole for breakfast/cake/both. We obviously happily obliged and I shouted from the rooftops to anybody at work who would listen about how amazing the cake in this cafe looked, so obviously this was our first stop. I opted for the the breakfast bruschetta followed by a GIANT slab of chocolate fudge cake and they were both incredible! (If you're reading this The Tenth Hole, please have your bakewell in stock next time I visit - the photo on your website looks TOO good to be true)! Play a Round of Crazy Golf (... or two) IMG_4858 v2 The Tenth Hole is situated on a golf course, which lead to the revelation that Alex had never played golf of any kind before (not even crazy golf), which obviously meant we had to enlighten her on the sport of champions. So we headed down to Treasure Island Mini Golf and completed both crazy golf courses like the absolute cool kids that we are. If crazy golf isn't your thing (I refuse to believe that you visited the sea-side if you didn't play a spot of crazy golf), there are fairground rides and Clarence Pier in this general area - or you can skip to the next stage of the journey... Enjoy the Beach!  IMG_4855 v2IMG_4867 v2 A beach? In England? In February? Yep, you're right, we were blessed with some freaky weather during this weekend and a stroll across the beach was just what the doctor ordered. Splash The Cash at Gunwharf Quay A few years ago, you could count on me for a shopping trip, I'd have been recently and I'd know exactly what each shop is selling at that present moment  right now, I couldn't care less. So it's very strange for me to really enjoy a little shopping area! Gunwharf Quay is an outlet designer shopping centre right in the middle of the city - it's sleek, it's modern and it's surrounded by loads of fab looking restaurants - perfect! Take a Trip Up the Spinnaker Tower IMG_4945 v2IMG_4905 v2IMG_4894 v2Tile 2Now, for perhaps the most touristy item of all - if you're only in Portsmouth for a short period of time, it would be rude not to visit the Spinnaker Tower really! This led to lots of freaking out on my part while trying to get onto the glass floor section of the viewing area - note to self: you don't like heights. Annoyingly, the Spinnaker Tower's windows are tinted blue and whilst the view is fab, taking photos is an absolute nightmare!

Day Two

More Amazing Breakfast... Duh IMG_4919 v2 After yesterday's amazing breakfast, we knew that day two's breakfast would have to be pretty damn good to top it. We headed to Feed and the food was unreal - I opted for the Eggs Benedict (apparently I had an fixation with eggs this weekend) but all of the full English options looked amazing! The Historic Dockyard IMG_4926 v2 Another big "must" if you want to be the ultimate Portsmouth tourist is a trip to the Historic Dockyard to see the likes of the likes of the Mary Rose and the HMS Victory. Tickets looked pretty pricey, but as we were entering,  a nice security man told us that there's a free ticket available if you just want to wander around and not actually enter any of the ships - so we opted for that! Portsdown Hill  IMG_4953 v2Slowly running out of ideas for things to do in Portsmouth, we turned to trusty old TripAdvisor and decided to take a drive up Portsdown Hill for pretty views of the city and the opportunity to play with horses! Grace says that the view from Portsdown Hill is even prettier at night when the city is all lit-up and pretty! Fort Nelson IMG_4987 v2IMG_5001 v2 On the way up to the viewpoint on Portsdown Hill, we drove past Fort Nelson and were sold at the "FREE ADMISSIONS" sign glaring in our faces, so on our way back down the hill, we decided to make a pit-stop. The fort was MUCH bigger than we had expected and is the perfect activity to fill a few hours without breaking the bank (although you would need to drive there). Take a Trip to Southampton Tile 1 On the weekend of our visit, Southampton's Westquay was having a "Festival of Light", so we decided to head down in the evening to check it out and attempt to take some nice photos (emphasis on the word "attempt"). Eat More Food We tried so hard to find Bills, only to be turned away at the door (apparently everyone else at the festival also wanted to eat in Bills) but we stumbled across Thaikhun and fell in love with their Thai food - I'm very upset that they don't have any Essex / London branches! With very full stomachs, we jumped back in the car to start our 2 hour journey back to Essex. After a surprisingly good weekend (tourist attraction-wise, I knew the company would be good!), I'm looking for more UK cities to explore for the weekend - where would you recommend? Have you been a tourist in your own city recently? I'd love to hear about it!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

Malta St Julians Bay October Prague Castle River Foggy Lake Bled Hallstatt fog St Jovan Kaneo Ohrid Macedonia Shoulder season travel is something I recommend to everyone. What could be better than cheap flights, cheap accommodation and best of all, having a destination all to yourself away from hoards of tourists? When it comes to shoulder season travel, I am the Queen. From soaking up 30 degrees sunshine in Malta in October to avoiding the crowds in Prague in May (my friend went in August and said it was unbearable), I’ve done it all. But there is a slight downside... the weather likes to mess with me. You know those glorious photos of Lake Bled that everyone and their dog are currently posting? Yep. My experience involved being stuck in a car for the day with no ability to see Lake Bohinj or Vintgar Gorge due to extreme fog and dangerous weather conditions. When we could exit the car at Lake Bled, we almost got stuck on the island due to a torrential thunderstorm. It’s all fun and games! The next day, a girl from the hostel went and was greeted by a big beaming sun!

RELATED: Read all about my foggy storm-filled day at Lake Bled here

Lake Como? Same thing happened. Luckily I wasn’t a photo obsessive travel blogger back then! But I can assure you that my old photos look nothing like the sunny Italian scenery you’re used to seeing! Halstatt? Forget being able to see those gorgeous mountains, here comes the fog! That was the luckiest experience of the three however as it did brighten up eventually!

RELATED: Find out exactly what there is to do in Hallstatt here!

Should the weather affect your experience, I hear you say? No, it shouldn’t. All three times I was with great people and still had a great time. On the even brighter side, it gives me an excuse to go back (although that’s a scary prospect – I’m not sure my life is long enough to see everywhere that I want to see)! Last year when I was planning an September trip to Bergen and the Norwegian fjords, I was told by so many sources that I was stupid for even thinking about planning a trip to Bergen outside of May – August as even some of Bergen’s biggest tourist attractions close in that time! So, I cancelled the trip. 2 weeks later on the weekend I was meant to be exploring the magical land of the fjords, Planet D post photos of Bergen on their Instagram page looking gorgeous – the caption even saying how they were experiencing freak good weather! Do I regret it? Life’s too short or regrets, but I would I have had more fun in Norway that weekend than I did sitting at home studying? Most definitely. Moral of the story & a message to future Danielle – don’t cancel a trip because it might not be “perfect” at that time of year. You never know what might happen. You know you’re too addicted to finding cheap flights to give it up! What are your thoughts on travelling in shoulder season? Has the weather ever ruined your trip?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

HOW is it almost the end of 2016? This is absolutely ridiculous, I'm sure January 1st was yesterday. Back in April, I wrote a blog post called "My 2016 Travel Plans", so today I'm going to do a big summary and see how well my plans held up! January 2016 - Work Busy Season As long as I'm working in personal tax, I won't be travelling in January any time soon! This is our busy period and we work 6 days a week - I definitely am not allowed a holiday! February 2016 - York, England I didn't get my butt in gear quickly enough after the January busy season at work to plan a trip for February, but I did get to discover a new UK love of mine - York!
  1. A Day In Beautiful York!
March - Krakow, Poland Wahoo, the first international trip of the year! To Krakow, a city I had been dying to visit for quite some time due to my inner history geek! Having the opportunity to visit Auschwitz was incredible and I really want to return to take some of my family members who are as history obsessed as me!
  1. What’s It Like to Visit Auschwitz?
  2. Top 16 Things To Do In Kraków!
  3. Kraków – Is it Worth the Hype?
April - Studying I had two pretty massive exams at the start of May, so April wasn't a great travel month for me! I was confined to my desk with my head in books for most of the month! The good news is that next April should be my last study session EVER! May - Ohrid, Macedonia Lake Ohrid Macedonia Swan Lake Ohrid Macedonia Boat After the mayhem of exams at the beginning of the month, I was dying to have a trip booked for late May. When I saw cheap flights to Ohrid (a place I'd not even heard of) on Skyscanner, I was sold! I treated my friend to the trip for her birthday and I honestly think it was one of my favourite trips this year - I don't think I've ever been somewhere so beautiful!
  1. Best Things To Do in Ohrid
  2. Things You Should Know Before Visiting Ohrid
  3. Budgeting For Ohrid
June - Salzburg & Hallstatt, Austria Here's the true Instagram trip of the year - I can't scroll through Instagram without seeing a picture of Hallstatt! I originally started looking at booking a trip to Vienna but the prices for accommodation were just too ridiculous in June, so we settled for Salzburg and I am SO glad! It was the perfect little city for a long weekend!
  1. How to Spend A Long Weekend in Salzburg
  2. What Is There To Do In Hallstatt?
  3. How To Get From Salzburg To Hallstatt
  4. Is The Salzburg Card Worth It?
  5. Budgeting for Salzburg, Austria
  6. Visting Arundel Castle
July - Arundel & London, UK One of my New Year's Resolutions was to see more of the UK and I think I achieved that this year! Arundel was my favourite little day trip this year, if you live nearby, I would definitely recommend that you visit! I walked around the town exclaiming "I want to live here" more times than I care to admit! The latter half of the month saw me and my friends take another friend on a surprise day trip to London for her 21st birthday which featured drinks at the Sky Garden and dinner at Crazy Bear - both are now highly recommended by me!
  1. Visting Arundel Castle
  2. The Sky Garden, London
August - Cologne, Germany Dun dun dun, my first international trip with Callum! And he was the unlucky soul that got to experience my incessant need to visit remote castles. Visiting Burg Eltz was perhaps my favourite day of this year - the long hike was beautiful in itself but having the perfect travel buddy made it even better!
  1. How To Spend 3 Days In Cologne
  2. Is Cologne Worth A Visit?
  3. Our Experience of Burg Eltz
September - Edinburgh, Scotland (& Nearly Norway) Another UK gem was found in September - how bloody lovely is Edinburgh?! This is the "surprise" birthday trip that I described in my 2016 travel plans! I tried to throw her off the scent by saying in that post that it was an early birthday present for someone when in actual fact it was a late birthday present for her! We had the BEST long weekend in Edinburgh and I have fallen head over heels in love with the city!
  1. How to Spend 4 Days in Edinburgh!
  2. Visiting the Harry Potter Locations in Edinburgh!
  3. Hairy Coo Tours – The Best Tour Company!
This was also the month of the almost trip to Bergen (Norway). I had reserved a space at a hostel and cancelled at the last minute because I had been told by everyone that experiencing the fjords in September was a bad idea because of fog - little to my dismay, after cancelling Planet D were in Bergen that EXACT weekend and took so many amazing photos with glorious weather! October - Centre Parcs, UK This was another month that I should have been sitting at home revising, but I did manage to sneak away on one little trip! I headed to Centre Parcs with my Callum's family for the weekend. It was my first time there and I've just realised that I never wrote about it! Watch this space! November - Birthday Month Keveldon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker At the beginning of the month, I had more exams and I turned 22! Sadly, I didn't go away anywhere to celebrate but I did book my first trip for 2017 in November - so that counts right? Marrakech here we come! We did however take the time to explore some more of Essex (my home county if you couldn't tell by the blog title!). We had the best day at Rope Runners, Kelvedon Secret Nuclear Bunker and Hopefield Animal Sanctuary using my trusty Essex Pass!
  1. £20 Day Out Using the Essex Pass!
December - Toronto, Canada From 26 - 31 December, I will be in the very cold city of Toronto! It's my first time in the city (and Canada for that matter), so any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

IMG_3477 v2IMG_3468 v2IMG_3478 v3 If you've read my London Winter Bucket List, you'll know that I wanted to try a "festive" afternoon tea because there is no combination better than "food" and "Christmas". You may also be aware if you follow me on Twitter that I have two work buddies who are also bloggers, so we jumped at the chance to make a booking a B Bakery in Covent Garden for one night after work! Sadly Charlie (lifestyle blogger) wasn't able to make the evening but it's okay because myself and Amy (baking blogger) definitely ate enough on her behalf! I'll stop nattering now and get on to the good stuff... B Bakery Formally know as "Bridget's Bakery", B Bakery is famous for it's Afternoon Tea bus tours which, if you hadn't guessed, involve eating a selection of Afternoon Tea classic foods whilst touring around London on a big red bus - could you do something more quintessentially English? My friend Charlie has written about her experience on the bus here if you're interested. I really like the idea and it would be great for someone who is only in the city for a few days but wants to sample the English tradition of Afternoon Tea whilst still being able to continue their sightseeing! However, if you're not a fan of eating whilst in motion (not an issue for me, I will eat wherever and whenever I can), you'll be glad to hear that the have a cute little bakery in Covent Garden. The Menu From 15 November 2016 - 5 January 2017, B Bakery offer a "Christmas Afternoon Tea" and the menu features some great twists on the usual afternoon tea classics. The turkey sandwich was to die for (who doesn't love a good turkey sandwich?!) and there wasn't one thing on the menu that we didn't enjoy. I only removed the salmon from the smoked salmon blinis as I don't eat fish - otherwise everything was perfect! The only thing that could have improved the menu is something that truly makes you think of a good Christmas dinner like pigs in blankets maybe? I am obsessed with those tasty little buggers. There was a wide selection of teas and coffees, including one Christmas Tea which is cinnamon based - yum! But of course I opted for the hot chocolate which was great! As well as a hot drink, a glass of fresh orange juice and a glass of prosecco are included in the price! Menu.PNG Overall Opinion For £33 on a weekday and £36 on a weekend, this isn't the most expensive afternoon tea experience available, you get a lot of food/drink and it will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit - there's something about pulling a Christmas cracker and plonking a silly hat on my head (ridiculous selfie below) that makes Christmas seem real - so if you are in London and want to try something new, I'd definitely give this a go! IMG_3480 - v2 I'm an avid fan of afternoon teas and it was great to try something a bit different to the usual fare. Have you visited B Bakery before? What did you think?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

London Winter Pavement LightsLondon Oxford Street LightsLondon Winter Snow Big BenLondon Harry Potter Studios HogwartsLondon Festive Afternoon Tea B Bakery
Where photos are not my own, the watermark shows the credited author. Please click on the photo to view the original source.
Working in London means I take it for granted and don't go out of my way to enjoy what the city has to offer. I rarely visit London at the weekends seeing as I have to do the 3 hour round commute every week day already! However, London is the perfect place during Winter (despite the bitterly cold weather). So in an attempt to get myself out and exploring this beautiful city, here is the ultimate Winter London Bucket List!
  1. Visit the ultimate Christmas London destination - Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
  2. See the Covent Garden decorations because who doesn't love a giant reindeer?
  3. Ice skating at Somerset House (once I stop being a wuss)
  4. See the amazing window displays on Oxford Street
  5. Eat festive treats at Borough Market (... and the non festive treats... JUST EAT EVERYTHING)
  6. Explore the lights of Kew Garden After Dark
  7. See a Christmas show on the West End - Cinderella pantomime anyone?
  8. Stumble across Christmas Markets
  9. Take a frosty walk around the many parks - who knows, you might be lucky and get snow!
  10. See Trafalgar Square's  giant Christmas tree (which apparently resembles a gerkin this year lol)
  11. Grab a mulled wine... or two!
  12. Splurge on loved ones in Harrods and Hamley's for the little ones!
  13. Curl up in a cosy English pub to escape the cold because there's nothing better than a hearty pub lunch!
  14. Treat yo'self to a luxury Christmas decoration from Liberty (and then cry when it comes out of the loft broken next year)
  15. Explore the WHOLE Christmas floor at Selfridges (and probably the other floors too, just for good measure)
  16. If Somerset House isn't your cup of tea, head to Canary Wharf for futuristic skating surrounded by skyscrapers
  17. Experience a luxury Fortnum and Mason Christmas Hamper
  18. Go for a festive afternoon tea
  19. Get squished in the crowds watching the New Years Eve fireworks
  20. Eat your way through the Taste of London Festive Festival (which is stupidly in November and I have now missed)
  21. Go behind the scenes of the films and visit the Harry Potter Studios for "Hogwarts in the Snow"
  22. Hit the Boxing Day sales (... if you're brave)
  23. Drink in a rooftop WigWam surrounded by Winter Nordic Viking decor at Queen of Hoxton
  24. Shop, eat and Drink at the Southbank Winter Market
  25. Test your cold threshold by taking a drink at The Ice Bar
  26. Just explore and enjoy all of the pretty twinkly lights!

RELATED: Want to see my all-year round London bucket list? Be sure to read this!

I absolutely love the city at this time of year and definitely want to take a trip one weekend in December - is there anything else you love doing in London?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.

Danielle1

IMG_3296 v2 What Is The Essex Pass?  If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have heard about my love for The Essex Pass. Despite my blog name, I'm not ALWAYS trying to escape Essex, in fact I love finding new things to do in the local area. That's where the Essex Pass comes into play - 12 months membership will cost you a mere £9.99 and will give you loads of discounts in Essex (most of which are 2 people for the price of 1)! If you live in Essex and want to find some new things to do (like me), or you will be in the area for a short period of time and want to do more of the touristy attractions in the area, I couldn't recommend this card enough! I've recently visited the Original Great Maze and also Hazle's Pottery Barn using the pass, but this was the first time we had used it for a FULL day out - so I thought I'd share it all with you because it was a really great day (although it included a very strange mixture of activities - from sports, to history to animals)! Rope Runners IMG_3269 v2IMG_3271 v2IMG_3284 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £28 per person
  • Essex Pass Price: £28 for 2 people = £14 each
  • Website: http://www.roperunners.co.uk/
If you want to complete the full day of activities listed in this post, you'll need to book on to a 10am Rope Runners course. The booking lasts for 2.5 hours and your get to do as many courses as you like in that amount of time as possible! There are 6 rope courses in total, 2 at ground level, 2 at medium height and 2 high up courses. Being completely afraid of heights, the medium levels were quite enough for me but Callum completed all of them (with only a few little moans on the high levels). Each course ends with a zip-wire (there's a brilliant video of me being terrified on the podium and refusing to do it, before doing it, realising it was fun and then falling on my face at the end - not sure that video will ever make it to the internet!). And there's also a huge stand-alone zip-wire which we both also completed. The staff were super helpful and friendly, so if you want a fun activity-based day out, this is the place for you! They also have archery, air rifle, paint balling and water-zorbing to choose from, so there's something for everyone! You can tell I'm not built for sports however.. it's the day after and my legs hurt... Secret Nuclear Bunker IMG_3293 v2IMG_3300 v2IMG_3339 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £7 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £7 for 2 people = £3.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm (5pm on weekends in Summer)
  • Website: http://www.secretnuclearbunker.com/
If you're visiting Rope Runners, it would be wrong not to also visit the Secret Nuclear Bunker as they are located right next door to each other! This photo made it's way round social media a while back as the "secret" bunker is clearly not much of a secret! You enter the bunker through what looks like a normal little house before picking up an audio guide - I think the tour took us about 2 hours but it was great! According to the website, this is the biggest and deepest Cold War bunker that's open to the public in the South East of England. After the heat of the Cold War died down, the bunker was no longer needed and the Government sold it, hence we are now able to visit it as tourists! It's so strange to see something of such historic importance so close to your home! Hopefield Animal Sanctuary IMG_3344 v2IMG_3359 v2IMG_3400 v2IMG_3444 v2
  • Location: Sawyers Hall Farm, Sawyers Hall Ln, Brentwood CM15 9BZ
  • Normal Price: £5 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £5 for 2 people = £2.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm
  • Website: http://www.hopefield.org.uk/
Located a mere 20 minute drive away, I couldn't help making a quick visit to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary! The sanctuary isn't huge, and it won't take you much longer than an hour to see all of the animals on display. Even so, there's a great range of animals to see including many horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, raccoons, various reptiles, birds and many more! The sanctuary is a non-profit organisation caring for around 200 unwanted, sick or mistreated animals. They require donations and volunteers to continue their great work - so if you're in the area, make sure you stop by! Even the former X-Factor winner Leona Lewis is a huge supporter of the work they do! There are plenty of other ways you can help out including volunteering and adopting an animal. And for only £20 you can have a full animal experience day - my sister has already asked me to buy her this for her birthday! Highlight of the day: I didn't know that Racoon Dogs exist - but apparently they do, and I love them so much. So god damn cute. And in Conclusion... We had a really great day out! The close proximity for these three activities means that it's easy to do all three in one day (providing you get to Rope Runners early)! The full day out would normally cost £40, but with The Essex Pass, it will cost you a mere £20. For three activities spanning 10am to 4pm, I think that's a pretty great deal! Plus, given The Essex Pass only costs £9.99, you've already made your money back! Apart from the Secret Nuclear Bunker, without The Essex Pass, I wouldn't have known these activities exist and I can't wait to find out about more hidden gems near home! Does your local area have a discount pass? Have you ever used it?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

It's no secret, I bloody loved Edinburgh. We booked the trip as a surprise for my friend Grace's 21st birthday and it was one of my favourite trips this year! In total, we spent 4 days in Scotland and here's all the things we recommend you should do! Day One Check Into Hotel and Then Head for Lunch at Deacon Brodie's Tavern We quickly checked into a private 4 bed room at Edinburgh Safestay Hostel and then headed out on the search for food before our first activity! I can't recommend Deacon Brodie's Tavern enough. The food was incredible and definitely set us up for a full day of exploring! Anywhere that does macaroni cheese as a side is a winner! P.s. Everywhere in Edinburgh does macaroni cheese - it's incredible. Become Familiar With the Royal Mile The Royal Mile is the centre of the action in Edinburgh and is where you will find most of the main attractions (or they will be nearby at least)! Our hostel was perfectly situated just off of the Mile, so it was in the prime location for some great restaurants (I can't count the number of hearty pubs and cute cafes on this one road!) as well as shops (it took a lot for me to resist buying complete tartan outfits). Take the Sandeman's Free Europe Walking Tour It wouldn't be an Escaping Essex city guide without a recommendation for a free walking tour really would it? We had Max as our guide and he was brilliant (so much so, that we booked another tour with him the following day). Sandeman's New Europe are one of my favourite tour companies, and as always the tour covers the majority of the free sights you will want to see in the city. The website lists the following sights within the 2.5 hour tour, but it felt like we saw much more!
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • St Giles’ Cathedral
  • Heart of Midlothian
  • The real Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • William Wallace and the Stone of Destiny
  • Greyfriars Kirkyard (cemetery) and Greyfriars Bobby
  • The Royal Mile
  • Edinburgh’s Old Town
  • Mercat Cross
  • National Museum
  • Covenanters’ Prison
  • Martyrs’ Memorial
  • The Scottish Writers Museum
  • Grassmarket
  • The original ‘Hogwarts'
  • The Hub
Grab Some Food and Head For a Drink As we arrived in the city mid-way through the day and were completely exhausted, we wandered around for a while after the tour before heading to a local shop, picking up a pack of cards and heading back to the hostel bar to chill obviously! Even if you're not staying at The Edinburgh Safestay Hostel, you can go to Bar 41 for cheap drinks and good food (they also had events on throughout the week - we respectively failed the pub quiz). If you're more at home in a pub, do not fear, Edinburgh has a pub basically on every corner to fill your needs! Day Two  Browse The Royal Mile Market   Located inside the historic Tron Kirk is a gorgeous market filled with independent crafts, arts and fashion traders. My friend picked up a pretty epic pair of tea-pot earrings and I was almost drawn in by some cute prints (before realising I have no wall space left for more prints!) Make the Most of The Long Walk To The Botanical Gardens We underestimated the long walk to the botanical gardens, it was looooong (made slighly better by the fact that Edinburgh is amazing for Pokemon Go... lol). While the walk is long, there are some good little photo stops along the way! My favourite being the Scott Monument (you can't miss it, it looks like a giant rocket), this is the largest monument dedicated to a Scottish author (Walter Scott), so it's pretty special. With the backdrop of Princes Street Gardens, it's definitely worth a photo stop and if you're feeling a little bit more active, there are 287 steps to the top! Explore the Botanical Gardens There's something so god damn relaxing about being in botanical gardens, I loved my visit to one recently in Cologne and Edinburgh was just as good. As an added bonus, bring a friend who works in horticulture to show you around and pronounce all of the funny plant names. The gardens are pretty huge (especially if you pay to enter the greenhouses too) and with the long walk there, this is easily a half-day trip.

RELATED: Read about my time in Cologne's Botanical Gardens here

Head Back to the Royal Mile Visit the Castle With my friend's love for horticulture now suitably satisfied, it was my turn to inflict my love of castles on the group! Edinburgh Castle can easily take up another half-of your day as there's plenty to see in the castle (including a graveyard to the army dogs - which melted my stone cold little heart). We visited a few days after The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the stage was still in place which blocks the main view of the castle when you are walking towards it - so if you're a photography buff, you might want to avoid Edinburgh at that time!

RELATED: Do you love castles too? Read all about my latest castle jaunts here

Optional Extras Near The Castle The castle is at the far end of the Royal Mile, so when you're in the area you might as well see everything else that the area has to offer. After a long day of gardens and castles, we were shattered and in desperate need of food, but if you have some more energy than us, the main two attractions are:
  • Camera Obscura - A world of optical illusions which sounds like a fun day out for all ages! Apparently there are some epic views of the city from the roof!
  • The Scottish Whisky Experience - Directly opposite Camera Obscura is the ultimate place to try Scottish Whisky! With none of us being big Whisky drinkers and one of us actually being allergic to alcohol, we decided to give this one a miss but I've heard great things!
St Giles Cathedral On our walk back down the Royal Mile to the hostel, we made sure to pop into St Giles Cathedral which is absolutely gorgeous. When we visited (September 2016), a boat used in the current refugee crisis was on view, a really harrowing sight. The Dark Side Tour & Calton Hill  As if we hadn't walked enough today, we decided to take another walking tour. We loved Max so much after our Free Walking Tour in the previous day that we booked onto The Dark Side Tour for the following evening! Edinburgh has a very spooky past and the stories were great (especially when told by Max)! I would highly recommend this tour if you like to hear a little horror story (and if you don't... don't worry, I'm a wuss and I was fine)! During the tour, you'll tick another of Edinburgh's bucket list items off of your list - Calton Hill! What's even better is that you will visit the hill at sunset which is really gorgeous in early September. Day Three  Take A Day Trip Into The Scottish Highlands Whilst Edinburgh is absolutely incredible, sometimes it's nice to head out into the countryside. We decided to take the FREE Scottish Highlands Tour with The Hairy Coo and I couldn't recommend it more. The company were so incredible that they deserve their own blog post and you can read all about our experience here. Learn From Our Mistakes We decided to go for a wander in the evening as one of my favourite times to explore a city is when they are lit up at night... apparently not all that much of Edinburgh is lit up (unlike some of my favourite evening cities such as the view of Parliament from Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest or the view of the Castle in Prague from across the river or the Wesminster area of London). The castle was lit blue but was very hard to photograph! Day Four  National Museum With some time to kill before our flight home that afternoon, and a number of options to chose from in the city, we decided to go to the National Museum (we were mainly swayed by the giant posters of turtles outside telling us that the National Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition was on.... turns out we read the signs wrong and it was next week, oops). I'm not usually a big museum fan, but this one was great! There were plenty of interactive exhibitions and it reminded me of the London Science and Natural History Museums - a good day out! Plus... did you know that a mega sloth once existed?! Eat in The Elephant Cafe I am a huge Harry Potter Fan, so a trip to the Elephant Cafe was an absolute must! This is the cafe that J K Rowling began writing the famous novel series in and for good reason - the food and drinks are great! Make sure you peep into the toilets to see the messages that fans have left scribbled on the walls!

RELATED: Want to find more Harry Potter locations in Edinburgh? Read all about them here!

Shop in Cute Independent Stores Edinburgh is a creative city. It can be felt in the aforementioned memorials to Scottish writers, J K Rowling's inspirational presence, the Scottish Writers Museum, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the sheer number of crafty independent stores. The arts are really celebrated in this amazing city and it's amazing. We headed up Victoria Street and the surrounding roads popping into cute shops, my favourites were Miss Katie Cupcake (specialising in handmade jewellery) and Museum Context (a shop for creative unique interiors). The Things We Missed After exploring the shops and getting some food, it was time for us to head to the airport to catch our flight home. Edinburgh is an incredible city and there were a tonne of other things we could have spent our time doing, so to make this post as informative as possible, here's some other really great options to fill your days in Edinburgh! In the City
  • Real Mary King's Close - We tried really to visit this underground city tour on our last day but unfortunately they had a power cut just as we tried to visit!
  • Arthur's Seat - TripAdvisor lists this as the number one thing to do in Edinburgh and it's very unlike me to have not completed one of the best tourist attractions in a city! However, we were restricted for time and the hike to the top of Arthur's Seat wasn't too appealing on our very worn-out legs but I'm sure the views would have been great - there's always next time!
  • Palace of Holyrood House - This is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland and it looks VERY grand! If I ever find myself back in Edinburgh, I will definitely be making a visit!
  • The Edinburgh Dungeon - Having visited the London Dungeon's, we felt like this was an tourist trap we could probably miss!
Seasonal
  • The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo - Annually Edinburgh Castle becomes the stage for military tattoos performed by the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International military bands.
  • Edinburgh Fringe Festival - In late September, the city comes alive with the world's largest arts festival!
  • Christmas Markets - As with any European city, supposedly Christmas is a great time to visit!
  • Hogmanay - This is the Scottish word for "New Year's Eve" and the celebrations in Edinburgh are huge! Their fireworks displays are world renowned!
Day Trips/Excursions During our time in Edinburgh, I stumbled across some things on the Edinburgh TripAdvisor page that looked great but on further inspection were nowhere near the city centre - if you're in the area for longer than a few days or have access to a car, these could be the spots for you!
  • Craigmillar Castle
  • Inchcolm Abbey
  • Gilmerton Cove
  • Jupiter Artland
  • Portobello Beach
  • Hopetoun House

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. This post does however contain affiliate links which I may earn a small commission from should you purchase from the respective company. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

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Berlin is the city that sparked my love for European city breaks. The reason I spend every weekend possible in a different city. So, of course, it holds a special place in my stone-cold heart <3. I visited back in 2014, so this is a #throwbacktrip. I recently visited Cologne (see all of my blog posts about Germany here), so it had me thinking a lot about my first trip to Germany and just how much I love Berlin. Without further ado, here are 10 reasons why you need to go to Berlin immediately. 1) The History As a massive history nerd, this is probably one of the biggest draws for me. I very nearly went to university to study history and World War II is one of my favourite eras to study. We went on an amazing walking tour of the city on our first day and seeing the spots where so many events I'd studied actually happened felt so surreal. 2) You'll Never Run Out of Things to Do  Out of all the cities I've visited, I still feel like Berlin maybe has the most to do (excluding maybe London and New York). We were rushing around the city at top speed trying to fit as much as we could into 4 days - there is a photo of me sitting on a bench on the last day almost crying because my legs were in so much pain. #travelgoals 3) The Nightlife Now, I've been reliably informed that Berlin has an epic nightlife scene. Given the fact I sat on a bench crying because my legs hurt, I couldn't stand for any longer and I was on a trip with my (then) boyfriend, it's safe to say that I didn't see much of this nightlife! 4) The Food Not only did Berlin spark my love of city breaks, it also sparks my love of curry wurst. Enough said really. 5) The Amazing Buildings Architecture in Berlin is unreal. I don't even know why I loved it so much. I remember being on our first walk through the city the evening we arrived and just falling in love with everything. From the rough and rugged, to the grand and exciting, to the modern and cool. There's something for everyone. 6) The East West Divide I am so fascinated by the East West divide (that inner history nerd is coming out again). There are subtle differences between the two sides of the city which is unlike anything I've ever seen before. My favourite one is the difference between the men on the zebra crossing lights! In fact, we stumbled across a multi-storey shop dedicated to the cartoon man on the East Side crossings! He's an icon apparently! 7) The Most Captivating Monuments With a city filled with so much history, it's only right that there are some good monuments to back up that history. Sometimes you stumble across displays with no real indication as to what they are about (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe for example) but taking a free walking tour of the city explained them all and there's some that really got me choked up! 8) Lush Greenery in a City Despite being a big and exciting city, Berlin has plenty of areas to chill out and relax. Our hotel was near Tiergarten which I loved. The park was peaceful but still filled with things to do (the Victory column and Bellevue Palace are must sees)! 9) Plenty of Things To do Nearby If you're staying in Berlin for longer than necessary, there are plenty of things to do outside of the city - a great list of ideas can be found here. 10) Replace My Old Photos! Okay, so this might just be a reason for me. But I asked my ex-boyfriend to send me our photos from Berlin and the ones shown in this post are the only semi-decent ones he could find on his laptop. I know memories are more important than seeing a city through a camera lense. But I love photos and I'm gutted I don't have anything to show for my trip to Berlin! Have you ever been to Berlin, what's your favourite thing to do?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1