Holiday destinations: Hamburg, Germany

As it was a Bank Holiday weekend last week, we travelled to Hamburg in Germany. I’ve never there before so I was looking forward to discovering this second largest German city with the largest port. Hamburg has became one of the major centres for international trade due to its location and it continues to be one of the wealthiest cities build on maritime stories. Locals have mastered how to live well and if (like me) you like to indulge in diverse cuisine then you would enjoy your stay here as there are a plenty of great restaurants, bars and breweries to visit.

If you like sightseeing then you can take one of the sightseeing walking tours showing you the city’s highlights or grab a map and discover the major sites by yourself.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • Speicherstadt – the largest warehouse district in the world located in the port of Hamburg with some signature red-brick warehouses, canals & museums.

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  • Elbphilharmonie Hamburg – a newly constructed concert hall in the HafenCity on the Grasbrook peninsula of the Elbe River. It is one of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert halls in the world which cost 8 times more to build than the Sydney Opera House.
  • Townhall and Alster – the seat of local government which is one of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. Located next to Hamburg’s most popular river – Alster leading to many shopping malls and boutiques.
  • Planten un Blomen – a large city park with a size of 47 hectares featuring themed gardens, a lake & Japanese tea house

How to get there?

If you live in the UK then you can easily get to Hamburg from most of major cities. We’ve flown from London Stanstead and it took us slightly over 1 hour to get there. Perfect for a short weekend break.

Other tips:

Hamburg has a very good transport network and you should definitely get a Hamburg Card when you visit – it will cover all your travel in addition to some discounts i.e. to some of the top attractions, restaurants, river cruises etc.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Our stay at Regnum Aparthotel & Spa in Bansko, Bulgaria

A few weeks ago, I was in Bulgaria with my husband to resolve some issues with my parent’s holiday home. We spent a few days in Bansko and a couple of days in Sofia. I love travelling to Bulgaria and today I would like to tell you about our stay at the Regnum Apart hotel & Spa in Bansko.

Location:

Regnum Apart hotel & Spa is based in the popular town of Bansko at the foot of the Pirin Mountains, in southwest Bulgaria. It is only a few minutes’ walk from town’s high street on which you can find many nice restaurants, clubs and a gondola. The hotels location is perfect – no matter whether you are in Bansko for skiing, hiking or just passing by.

Atmosphere:

Regnum Apart hotel & Spa has a classic and sophisticated décor. Its guests can enjoy many common areas such as an outdoor swimming pool, spa, bar, reading room and a large lounging area. All staff members we spoke with were helpful and accommodating.

Room:

We stayed in an Executive deluxe suite which consisted of two rooms, bathroom and a balcony with stunning mountain views. We enjoyed relaxing in our spacious living room with kitchenette which was fully equipped with a kettle all plates, cutlery, mini-fridge, safe box, and oven. We didn’t cook whilst we were there, but it would be handy for anyone who fancy preparing their meals whilst away from home. Our bedroom had a stylish décor and a comfortable with king size bed and a flat-screen TV.
Our bathroom had both shower cabin and bathtub and again was finished to a high standard. A selection of complimentary toiletries was also provided.


My favourite space in the apartment was our balcony – the view was simply stunning and as we were in Bansko in June it was perfect to lounging on with a drink after hiking all day.

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Overall experience:
We enjoyed our stay in Regnum Apart hotel & Spa and I would recommend it to anyone travelling to Bansko. In addition, the hotel has recently opened its own thermal SPA in a picturesque village of Banya. Regnum Banya Thermal features an outdoor swimming pool with mineral water which is complimentary to use for all hotel guests and can be easily reachable in 10min by a free hotel’s shuttle bus. The SPA has great facilities including a steam room, sauna and if you fancy you can have one of beauty treatments or a massage whilst in there.


The only let down was hotel’s buffet which we decided to try on one of the nights. All food was bland and overpriced for Bulgaria as it was around 20euros per person. It was a canteen quality food which I would not expect in a 5-star hotel.

Website:

For more information and to book visit:
https://www.regnum.bg/en/

Hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Milan, Italy

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with my husband to Milan in Northern Italy. I’ve been in Milan a few times before as I love the cosmopolitan vibe offered by this global city which is perfect for anyone who loves the art, design, entertainment and fashion.

Milan has been recognised as one of the worlds fashion capitals and the famous Milan Fashion Week takes place here on a yearly basis. It is also one of the key European financial capitals and Italian stock exchange is based here.

Over 8 million visitors are attracted by Milan every year as the city has lots of heritage with some great museums and art galleries featuring some of the most famous collections in the world including works by Leonardo da Vinci.

If you like sightseeing then there is a lot to see and the city will appeal to a wide range of different visitors.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • Duomo di Milano – one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world which completion took almost 600 years. Located on a Piazza del Duomo with many lively cafes and the elegant fashion shops.
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – one of the most beautiful and oldest shopping malls in the world featuring many designer boutiques based in a four-storey arcade opposite of Duomo di Milano in central Milan.
  • Sforzesco Castle – a castle built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza who was a Duke of Milan.

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  • Sempione Park – a large park leading to Sforzesco Castle which was established in 1888.
  • Teatro alla Scala – a well-known opera house which was established in 1778.

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How to get there?

If you live in the UK then you can easily get to Milan from most of major cities. We’ve flown from London Heathrow and it took us slightly over 2 hours.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Our dinner at Informal Restaurant in Barcelona, Spain

As you are probably aware, I love travelling and I am a massive foodie. During my recent trip to Barcelona, I visited lots of local restaurant and bars but only 2 of them really stood out from the rest. Today, I would like to tell you about my experience at Informal Restaurant in Barcelona.

Location:

The Informal Restaurant is located in the Serras Hotel in Barcelona. It is situated in a famous Bari Gotic area, just a few minutes away from Barceloneta station. It is a 7 minute walk from Las Ramblas.

Atmosphere:
The whole hotel has a minimalist, modern decor with its linen fabrics, neutral colors and use of materials like iron and wood that connect it to the surrounding marina. As soon as we entered the restaurant we were welcome by a friendly hostess and introduced to Rodrigo who was our waiter throughout the evening. There was a relaxing music playing at the background. In the middle of the restaurant there was an open kitchen and grill which was great as you could admire your food being made.

The menu:

The menu at Informal Restaurant is developed by Michelin Star Chef Marc Gascons who focuses or Catalan and Mediterranean specialties. He aims to provide its dinners with a delicious selection of dishes made using locally sourced products from land and sea.

The restaurant offers a nice selection of dishes but we decided to order from ‘Menu Experience: Picasso’.

To start with, we ordered a few tapas dishes to share:

  • some homemade toasted flat bread with tomato and extra virgin olive oil;

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  • salted anchovies from L’Escala with olive oil and pepper;

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  • mixed salad of green beans, green peas, Iberian ham and black truffle;
  • steamed artichokes, bulgur, celeriac, orange vinaigrette and black truffle;

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  • patatas bravas;
  • free-range chicken roast croquettes.

For my main I decided to have a roasted monkfish with peas, squid and chicken juice. It was mouth watering!

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My husband had some succulent veal with potato parmentier and some seasonal mushrooms. His meal was simply amazing and he thought that it was the best veal he’s ever eaten which is a big statement to make as we eat out at least twice a week.

I love desserts and I was looking forward to trying some of Informal Restaurant’s roast apple dessert with puff pasty, pine nuts and lemon cream. It was delicious!

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My husband ordered some chocolate ice cream and gnache with olive oil and salt. It was a perfect combination of sweet and salty experiences in one dessert.

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Overall experience:
We both enjoyed our dinner at Informal Restaurant. Chef Marc Gascons offers its diners a great selection of some of the best best local food with a modern twist. Throughout our meal the service was friendly and attentive. They made us feel relaxed and welcomed. The restaurant is also very conveniently located so I would definitely visit it again next time I am in Barcelona.

Website:
For more information and to book visit:

https://hoteltheserrasbarcelona.com/en/informal.html

Address:

Carrer de la Plata, 4,

08002 Barcelona, Spain

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Barcelona, Spain

It was my husband’s 30th birthday last week so I decided to treat him to a mini-break to Spain. I love Barcelona and as he has never been there before, it was a very easy decision to make whilst deciding where to take him.

Barcelona is the largest city of Catalonia, and the second most populous municipality of Spain. It has a population of 1.6 million within city limits which makes it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan.

There are many places worth visiting in Barcelona. Please find a quick summary listed below:

  1. Sagrada Familia – a landmark church designed by Antonio Gaudí
  2. Park Güell – a lovely park with mosaic-covered buildings, steps and sculptures providing amazing panoramic views of Barcelona. It was meant to be an exclusive housing complex with 60 houses however only 2 houses were build and a show home where Gaudi stayed was transformed recently into a museum.
  3. Casa Milà – another beautiful building by Antonio Gaudi popularly known as La Pedrera or “open quarry”, a reference to its unconventional rough-hewn appearance.
  4. La Rambla – a street in central Barcelona, popular with tourists and locals alike. Great for shopping or a bit of relaxation in one of its many eateries.
  5. Plaça de Catalunya – the most famous square filled with fountains and sculptures surrounded with many shops & cafes.
  6. La Barceloneta – a beach located short walk from the central Barcelona.
  7. Palau Nacional – hilltop museum for 11th- to 20th-century Catalan art plus important Romanesque collection.
  8. Arc de Triomf – Classical archway built as the main entrance to the Universal Exhibition hosted by the city in 1888.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Universal Orlando Resort, Florida, USA

I have recently visited Universal Orlando Resort with my husband. It is based in Orlando in Florida (USA).

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Universal Orlando consists of three theme parks:

  1. Universal Studios Florida,
  2. Universal’s Islands of Adventure,
  3. Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park.

If you like theme parks then you will love Universal resorts as it brings yours and your children stories, myths, cartoons and tales to life. As we were in the resort only for a day we decided to visit only 2 out of 3 parks.

Firstly, we made our way to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. This park consists of lots of theme specific attractions such as:

  • ‘Skull Island: Reign of Kong’ – multi-dimensional, interactive ride on a mysterious island.

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  • ‘Marvel Super Hero Island’ – where you can find attraction such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (3D thrill ride) , The Incredible Hulk Coaster (high-speed roller coaster) or a Doctor Doom’s Fearfall.
  • ‘Toon Lagoon’ with a range of water rides.
  • ‘Jurassic Park’ where dinosaurs have been brought back to life.
  • ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade’ where you can walk around the Hogwarts castle, visit the shops of Hogsmeade and enjoy some more exciting rides.

As we had a Park-to-Park admission ticket, we were able ride the Hogwarts Express train from Universal Islands of Adventure to jump in to the 9 and 3/4 platform at Kings Cross in London. As I love the Harry Potter movies, it was a great experience as I was able see characters and creatures from the movies whilst commuting between the parks.

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Once we disembarked the train, we were at the  Universal Studios Florida. This second amusement park consists of many picture and television studios where guests can experience films and TV shows at the variety of locations. There were many attractions to enjoy and these were my favourite ones:

  • ‘Production Central’ where you can experience TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D, Shrek 4-D or Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
  • ‘New York’ where you can experience a thrilling Revenge of the Mummy the Ride or party with the The Blues Brothers.
  • World Expo where you can take the rides with the characters from The Simpsons or shoot some aliens on a MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack ride.

To sum up, we had an unforgettable day full of adventure experiencing many cutting edge and interactive rides. If you are looking for spectacular entertainment for the whole family then you should definitely visit Orlando Resort. In addition, there are many on-site hotels and eateries for an endless fun. I would definitely recommend to visit for a few days though. Although we had an amazing day, our visit felt rushed as we were running from one attraction to another. I will definitely visit this resort again however next time I will stay for a few days to enjoy it fully.

For more information visit:

https://www.universalorlando.co.uk/

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Pauline

Holiday ideas: Norwegian cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida

As some of you know, I have just returned from my trip to The USA. I had a great time discovering New York and its surroundings. In addition, I also went on a cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida and I really enjoyed it.

The common misconception on holidaying at sea is that cruises are only for pensioners. Until a few years ago, that was exactly what I thought. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was my third cruise and I am sure that there will be many more to come. This year, I went with my husband on a 7-day cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) on their ship the ‘Norwegian Breakaway’ from New York to Bahamas and Florida and I  would recommend it to anyone who is travelling to the Big Apple. You are probably thinking why? If you are intrigued then read on…

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Itinerary

The itinerary of this NCL cruise from New York combines the best of two great destinations – Orlando and Bahamas.

Our first stop was in (Port Canaveral). There were many excursions to choose from including a visit nearby Kennedy Space Centre, Daytona International (NASCAR) Speedway Tour, soaking up the sun on one of Florida’s beaches, going shopping or having fun at one of the theme parks. We decided to take a transfer (organised by NCL) to Universal Studios and we had a wonderful day.

Our second stop was in Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas. Unfortunately, due to strong winds we were unable to tender to the island but I had a relaxing day sunbathing on top deck of the ship whilst sipping some cocktails.

Our final stop was in Nassau- the capital of Bahamas. This beautiful island is known for beaches and offshore coral reefs that are popular for diving and snorkeling. Once again NCL’s excursion team had many places and activities to choose from including a visit to  Atlantis Aquaventure park or Balmoral Island Beach.

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We decided to have a beach day at Blue Lagoon Island. Our excursion started with a 40-minute scenic boat ride through historic Nassau Harbour towards Blue Lagoon Island. We then discovered that many celebrities including Beyonce, Michael Jordan and Serena Williams love spending their spare time on the island and have bought some impressive properties there.

Once we arrived at Blue Lagoon Island we went to a private beach and enjoyed sunbathing whilst admiring its clear, blue waters.

The food & drink

As some of you know, I am a massive foodie. What I love about cruising is that you can always go and grab something to eat at one of many tasty eateries and you can dine on your time not on a schedule. As with other ships in Norwegian’s fleet, the Breakaway practices Freestyle dining, meaning there’s no early or late assigned seating and reservations are not allowed in the complimentary dining rooms. There are 28 restaurants on The Norwegian Breakaway ship with a mixture of complimentary and specialty dinning restaurants that range from the buffets to A la carte restaurants. Each day gives guests a chance to wet their appetite with something new. We bought the ultimate dinning package for 3 days and it gave us an opportunity to experience some amazing cooked to perfection meals in:

  • Cagney’s – a classic steakhouse serving cooked to perfection meals;
  • Le Bistro – a superb French restaurant that is perfect for a romantic meal onboard your cruise ship,
  • Teppanyaki – Japanese cuisine in which food is grilled live in front of guests and served to them in a restaurant.

During the remaining 4 nights we dined in the complimentary restaurants – Savor, Taste, Manhattan Room (with a dance floor and live music) and in O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill offering the best chicken wings starter ever! All our meals were enjoyable and the waiters were extremely friendly and attentive.

What about drinks? There are many bars throughout the ship. We bought an all inclusive package that included most alcoholic drinks, cocktails and soft drinks. I loved the ‘mudslide’ cocktail so when you decide to travel with NCL then you should definitely try it!

Cabin

We stayed in a Spa Mini-Suite with Balcony. Our room had a private balcony, large double bed and sofa, TV, minibar and coffee making facilities.

Our bathroom had an oversized waterfall shower-complete with body spray jets and complimentary toiletries from Givenchy were provided.

Relaxing

When it’s time for relaxing, there are several ways to let your hair down. Norwegian Breakaway ship has a Mandara Spa which offers a steam room, sauna, Salt room and therapy pools. Passengers can also enjoy one of many treatments such as massages or facials for an extra charge. The access to Mandara Spa was included with our Spa Mini-Suite room which was perfect as I spent quite a bit of time in there relaxing whilst we were at sea. There was also a hair salons and a gym located just next door to the spa.

Entertainment

There are plenty of activities to do and it’s impossible to get bored on a cruise. Norwegian Breakaway ship has swimming pools, running track, gym, climbing wall and a video games arcade. There are also many dazzling shows on offer including ‘Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy’, ‘Burn the Floor’ or Rock of Ages’. If you love art then you can attend one of the lectures and learn more from the on-board’s Arts Gallery staff.  In addition, you can have a drink in an Ice Bar, attend one of the wine tastings, play bingo or ‘Deal or No Deal’, enter a karaoke competition, or splash some cash in the casinos. Kids can be left under supervision a the Splash Academy (3-12 years old) or Entourage (13-17 years old) so you can enjoy many of the activities available on board.

Final thoughts: 

Cruises are like floating cities- there is plenty to do, discover and enjoy whist on-board. Nothing can beat the thrill of being transported to an exciting new destinations whilst you sleep. In addition, as there are almost 4000 others traveling with you, you can meet interesting people from all over the world and make some friends. I had a great time on my Norwegian cruise and I cannot wait to enjoy some more holidaying at sea.

You can book your cruise on:

https://www.ncl.com/uk/

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline