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

Dinner at The Artist Bistro in Porto, Portugal

Last week, I was with my husband in Porto in Portugal. On our last evening, we booked a table at the popular local restaurant – The Artist Bistro. It was definitely the best meal we had whilst in Portugal.

Location:

The Artist Bistro is located inside The Artist Hotel. The hotel is based in a former art school and provides a contemporary and comfortable environment, inspiring and developing the skills of the current students of the Hotel and Tourism school who work there. It is just around a corner from a famous shopping street and commercial area of Rua de Santa Catarina. The metro closest station (Campo de Agosto) is just a few minutes away.

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Atmosphere:

The Artist Bistro is inspired by the artistic heritage of the building which has previously hosted an Art School. The decoration of the restaurant is classy and elegant.

All art visible in the restaurant is made up of pieces from previous students of the old school Soares dos Reis.

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The dinning experience at The Artist Bistro is designed to socialise with the art one can see, smell, taste and feel. The atmosphere of the restaurant is warm and inviting. We were welcomed by Katia who was attending our table through the night. She was really friendly and professional. Quiet jazz music was playing in the background…

The menu:

Do you like surprises and trying new things? If you are quite open to the new experiences and you like being surprised then you will love The Artist Bistro. The key aim of the Head Chef – Hugo Dias is to surprise his dinners with a unique experience of sampling some great locally sourced food.

You can now be surprised by selecting one of 3 sampling menus:

  • Myth 5 experiences
  • Musa 7 experiences
  • Bistro 9 experiences

What all of these menus have in common is that they change on a daily basis and they offer dinners a combination of unforgettable flavours. At the beginning of the meal, we were asked if we had any allergies and whether there were any ingredients we really didn’t like. Our waitress took notes and explained that every course we’ll  receive will be a surprise-we could only choose what type of main dish we wanted to receive (fish/ meat / vegetarian). The really unique think about this restaurant was that we didn’t know what we will have for any of the courses!

We decided to try a Musa – 7 course dinning experience. Each dish was beautifully presented and made from fresh seasonal foods.

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While sipping some crispy white wine, our first course arrived- oysters with some red onions.

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We finished them in no time and the waitress brought us some mouth-watering mushroom soup with some olive oil, croutons and chives. It was delicious.

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From the next course onward we were surprised with different dish each. We received ‘Samosas de Artist’. We decided to play a game and identify the ingredients of our samosas-a great way of having fun whilst enjoying your meal. My samosa was with goats cheese with pumpkin and my husband received a samosa with a chicken and chorizo filling.

Next, we received some vegetable brioche with some potatoes, carrots, peppers, balsamic vinegar, courgettes which were all baked with egg. It was really enjoyable.

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Moving on, I received caramelized scallops with a cauliflower mouse-they were divine.

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My husband, on the other hand, got an octopus with a lime foam with breadcrumbs and site salad. It crackled like a sea because of the foam popping up.

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Following on from our great seafood dishes, I received some green beans stew based on a traditional Portuguese sausage and bread in a rich tomatoes sauce.

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My husband got some pork belly, crackling with balsamic vinegar.

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Before our main dishes were served, our waitress brought us some lemon & vodka sorbet to clean the palette. It was really refreshing.

At the begging of our meal I decided to have a fish main and I received some beautifully cooked sea bass paired up with an appetizing vegetable puree.

My husband decided to have a meat main and he received some quail with roasted carrots, potatoes pure in a port sauce with some figs and rosemary. It was the best quail he has ever eaten-extremely tender and cooked to perfection.

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If you read my reviews regularly then you will know that a dessert is always my favorite part of any meal. I received a delectable chocolate brownie with large pieces of nuts and some vanilla ice-cream.

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To finish off his meal my husband received a pear that was boiled in port and paired up with some raspberry ice-creams.

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Overall experience:

We both had an amazing time at The Artist Bistro. As I like surprises and trying new food, I was delighted with the concept of discovery. The restaurant serves delicious food with a twist. In addition to food, the service was great and the restaurant is conveniently located so I would definitely visit it again.

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Website:

For more information and to book visit:

http://www.shotels.pt/restaurantetheartistbistrot/en/home

Address:

 Rua da Firmeza 49,

4000-099 Porto, Portugal

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

 

Holiday destinations: Porto, Portugal

Last week, I traveled with my husband to Porto in Portugal. Porto is Portugal’s second largest city after Lisbon set on the northern bank of the Douro River.

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The city is located inland from the Atlantic and the visitors can visit one of its popular beaches which I just a short train ride away.

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Although, Porto is not known as a city-break / weekend break destination, it is quickly becoming one of Western Europe’s most respected tourist destinations. In 1996, the historical center of Porto was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This year, the city was nominated by WTA (World Travel Awards) in these 2 categories:

  • Europe’s Leading City Break Destination 2017
  • Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2017

The city boasts an extensive history, interesting tourist attractions and a buzzing nightlife.

If you like sightseeing then there is a lot to see and the city will appeal to a wide range of different visitors. As we arrived quite early on Saturday morning, we decided to take one of the sightseeing bus tours to quickly see all the main sites prior to exploring this colorful city on foot. There were lots of opportunities to admire the viewpoint of the terracotta rooftops and the city’s dreamy architecture.

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

  • The Ribeira district – the oldest district of the city which is filled with ancient houses, narrow cobbled streets and numerous family owned restaurants, cafes and bars.

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  • São Bento train station – a 19th-century railway station located in the centre of Porto that features some beautiful tiles.
  • A mini-cruise down the Douro rivers admiring the architecture of the city and its beautiful bridges.
  • Dom Luís I Bridge – a double-deck metal arch bridge that spans the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal.
  • Palácio da Bolsa –  a historical building built in the 19th century by the city’s Commercial Association in Neoclassical style.
  • Casa da Música – a modern design, 12-floor concert hall & top floor restaurant  completed in 2005.

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How to get there?

It’s never been easier to get there and Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates year round flights and holidays to Porto from Birmingham, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, from £42 one way (£77 return).

For further information or to book Monarch flightsMonarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk

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I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Washington D.C., USA

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Washington D.C., the capital of the United States. Washington, D.C. is formally known as the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as “Washington”, “the District”, or simply “D.C.”.

Statistics from last year show that Washington had an estimated population of 681,170 however commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city’s population to more than one million during the workweek. Washington, D.C., is located in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. East Coast.

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

  • Learn more by visiting free Smithsonian museums so you can absorb culture the way it was meant to be experienced — in short encounters in the midst of everyday life.
  • Take flight at the National Air & Space Museum.
  • Learn about the freedom of the press and take some cool photos at the Newseum.

IMG_2019You should also visit the Pulitzer Prize photographs gallery which features all the winning photographs.

  • Go and take some photos of the White House. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the access to the building but there are quite a few good places where you can view it from.
  • Visit United States Capitol. You can still access it and the tickets are available from a kiosk just outside the building.
  • Stroll down The National Mall. It is definitely the best way to see most of Washington’s monuments starting from the Capitol all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Visit Washington National Cathedral. This beautiful Gothic cathedral has been used for state funerals for three presidents and many other important burials and memorials.
  • Go shopping at Tanger Outlet. It is located 20 min drive from central Washington and if you like a bargain then you should definitely go there and check it out.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

J W Marriott hotel, Washington D.C.

Last week, I was in Washington D.C. and stayed at the 4* J W Marriott Hotel.

Location:

J W Marriott Hotel is perfectly situated just a couple of minutes walk from the White House in the heart of downtown Washington D.C. . It has a perfect location as it is close to all the major sights and museums of Washington, steps from the U.S. Capitol and a short 5-minutes walk from the National Mall.

Service:

The reception desk is open 24 hours. The service was friendly, attentive and always happy to suggest the places to visit or restaurants to dine in.

Rooms:

I stayed on the 2th floor in room 225 which features some breath-taking views of downtown. The room was chic, comfortable and it was furnished with a spacious desk, modern armchair to rest on and a comfortable king-size bed.

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The room was also equipped with Air Conditioning, flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a minibar.

There is Wi-Fi connection to Internet available throughout the Hotel at an extra charge of $12.95 per night.

Bathroom:

Our marble bathroom had a beautiful modern décor, a bathtub and a shower.

There was a selection of natural bath toiletries provided.

Facilities:

Breakfast is offered for a surcharge and provides a selection of cold and warm dishes to choose from and costs $26 per person per night.

All hotel guests have a complimentary access to the heated swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and fitness area. There are 2 restaurants available to dine in-Avenue Grill and 1331 Lounge. In addition, all guests can grab a coffee at Sturbucks located on a ground floor past reception to recharge their energy levels.

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Overall experience:

J W Marriott Hotel offers everything you need for a wonderful visit to Washington- a great location, friendly staff and comfortable rooms.

Website:

For more information and to book visit:

https://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/wasjw-jw-marriott-washington-dc/

Address:

1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington  District Of Columbia

20004  USA

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Esplanade Zagreb Hotel, Croatia

A few weeks ago, I visited Zagreb in Croatia with my husband. We decided to stay at the 5* Esplanade Zagreb Hotel.

Location:

Esplanade Zagreb Hotel is situated just few minutes away from the heart of historic Old Town center of Zagreb. It has a good location for anyone wishing to do a bit of sightseeing as it is close to all its major sights.

Service:

The reception desk is open 24 hours. When we arrived we went straight to the receptionist to check in. We were welcomed by quite a grumpy receptionist… Throughout our stay, we were disappointed with the friendliness of the staff and none of them smiled. I was surprised as most of the exclusive hotels I stay in have extremely friendly staff which wasn’t a case in Esplanade.

Rooms:

Esplanade Hotel dates back to 1925 and is one of the most famous buildings in Zagreb.

It is famous for welcoming many distinguished gusts such as presidents, politicians, film stars and musicians. Esplanade Zagreb Hotel has 208 rooms and suites. We stayed on the 4th floor in room 404.

Our room was elegant, spacious and offered traditional art deco suroundings. It was furnished with soft carpets, spacious desk, modern armchairs and a comfortable king-size bed. The walls were decorated with some basic paintings.

Our room was also equipped with Air Conditioning, flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a minibar. There was a free Wi-Fi connection to Internet available.

Bathroom:

Our marble bathroom had a classic décor, a bathtub and a shower.

There was a selection of natural bath toiletries from L’Occitaine collection.

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Facilities:

Breakfast is offered for a surcharge and provides a selection of cold and warm dishes to choose from. As my husband doesn’t normally eat breakfasts, we decided to skip it as it was around £20 per person per night.

All guests have access o the health club and the use of sauna and fitness area is free to all guests staying at the hotel. The Hotel doesn’t have a swimming pool.

Overall experience:

Esplanade Zagreb Hotel has a great location, comfortable rooms and nice small relaxation area. There is also a couple of restaurants on site if you are too lazy to walk to the city centre. The only negative aspect of our stay was the service we received and I hope that it will improve as other than that the hotel has the facilities to enable anyone to have an enjoyable stay.

Website:

For more information and to book visit:

http://www.esplanade.hr/

Address:

Mihanovićeva ul. 1,

10000, Zagreb,

Croatia

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Dinner at Vinodol restaurant in Zagreb, Croatia

A couple of weeks ago, I was with my husband in Zagreb in Croatia. On our last evening, we booked a table at the popular local restaurant – Vinodol.

Location:

Vinodol Restaurant is located in the city’s center on Nikole Tesle’s street.

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Atmosphere:

Vinodol Restaurant serves meals that are prepared according to traditional recipes, with a modern approach.  The restaurant has a large inside area that can hold up to 180 guest in addition to a green and spacious outdoor terrace that sits 100.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is warm and inviting. We were welcomed by Lucy who was attending our table through the night. She was really friendly and professional.

The menu:

All guests can choose from A La Carte as well as great daily menus made from selected fresh seasonal foods. They both looked great. We decided to have a glass of Prosecco to start with while considering what we should have.

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Starters:

While sipping our Prosecco, we decided to order some asparagus, shrimp and wild mushroom risotto from a daily menu. It was delectable and I wish I could recreate it at home.

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Mains:

There was a great choice of mains on the menu. We asked our friendly waitress for a recommendation as we couldn’t decide and agreed to share some lamb prepared on spit from Cres island.

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It was really tasty and tender. It also came with a couple of sides and some potatoes.

Desserts:

We were full after having our starters and mains but we still decided to try some desserts: some hazelnut fantasy cake and a creme carmel. They were both delicious but the hazelnut cake was simply amazing! It was definitely the best cake I’ve tried so far this year and you should definitely try it if you visit Vinodol.

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Overall experience:

We both had a lovely time Vinodol as the restaurant serves delicious food based on fresh, seasonal ingredients. I loved my hazelnut cake and will definitely reccommend it to anyone with a sweet tooth. The service was really friendly, restaurant is located in a city center and it serves great quality, traditional and Mediterranean food with a modern influence so I would definitely visit it again.

Website:

For more information and to book visit:

http://www.vinodol-zg.hr/en/

Address:

Ul. Nikole Tesle 10,

10000 Zagreb, Croatia

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline