What to do in Amsterdam

A Weekend Guide to Amsterdam

A breezy one hour flight and we were in Amsterdam, somewhere that had seemed to evade our travel radar so far.  With such cheap and easy flights from the UK, it was the perfect destination for a short weekend break over the May bank holiday and I always welcome the chance for us to explore a new part of Europe.

There isn’t actually a huge amount of sightseeing to do in Amsterdam which made for a wonderfully chilled weekend break.  We spent most of it simply wandering around, taking in the enchanting canals bursting with colourful flowers, and satisfying our bellies with as much food as possible.  We decided to stay on our feet to explore rather than hop on a bike as the city is so full of cyclists – there are more bikes than there are people in Amsterdam (true story) – and the speed they flew past over the narrow cobblestone roads had me fearing for my life when I was on the pavement let alone actually being on one of the bikes myself!  Instead, we picked up our I amsterdam card which includes tram, bus and metro rides, as well as a host of free and discounted sights and tours, and worked our way around the city with a combination of public transport and the simple wearing out of our feet.

If you’re planning a weekend in Amsterdam and want to know exactly what you should see and do then look no further as I’ve highlighted all the best bits here including the tastiest foods and the quirkiest activities!

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Where to stay in Los Angeles

A Chic Beachfront Stay at the Shore Hotel, Santa Monica

Los Angeles was the last stop on our American adventure and I couldn’t think of a better way to finish our trip in style than with a stay at the luxuriously glamorous Shore Hotel in Santa Monica.  Although this part of town is a fair bit pricier than central LA and Hollywood, Santa Monica is a whole lot classier and prettier, with a chilled out beach vibe, miles of sandy beaches, the bright blue sea, and a host of sophisticated restaurants and bars.

We had driven from the sunny blue skies of the Big Sur coast but almost as soon as we made it to Los Angeles, in typical fashion, it started to rain.  Isn’t LA supposed to have year round sunshine?! Apparently not for us.  It seemed that we weren’t going to get our chance to frolic on the miles of gorgeous sandy beaches.  No watching surfers catching some waves or seeing the pumped up bodies working out at Muscle Beach.  But it was still a beautiful part of California and a little bit of rain has never stopped us from doing anything!

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Carmel California

Carmel-by-the-Sea: The Prettiest Little Town in California

Having lived in London my whole life I’ve always been a city girl, craving the flurry of people and the buzz of city life.  Never have I imagined myself living anywhere quiet or calm, away from the tall skyscrapers, the hum of traffic and the fast-paced way of life.  Not until I visited Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Surrounded by the seaside town of Monterey Bay, the mountainous wineries and one of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen, this picturesque village on the coast of California is charm personified.  The pretty streets, quaint cottages and ocean views made me feel as if we’d driven straight into the pages of a story book and its quirky laws and restrictions – such as no postal addresses, high heels or fast food restaurants – just make this town even more quirky and endearing.

Being such a pretty town it was only right that we also stay in the prettiest of accommodations and the Colonial Terrace was just that.  As soon as we arrived, the first thing I noticed was the glittering blue sea just a 2 minute walk from the doorstep.  A difficult feature not to notice when the waves and white sand are calling you towards them, but first we went to check in and unwind in the comfort of our room.

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Where to stay in New Forest

Rustic Charm in the New Forest at Cottage Lodge

As we pulled into the drive of our home for the night in the New Forest, we knew within seconds that we were going to love this place.  Set in the little village of Brockenhurst, surrounded by woodland and wildlife all around, the white building of Cottage Lodge with its bright yellow door looked adorably cute.

We even had our own reserved parking sign that had me feeling like Beyonce.  (Okay, so I wasn’t the only guest with my own little sign but it still made me feel pretty special anyway.)

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Where to stay in Marrakech

Riad Assakina: A Luxurious Haven in Marrakech

We’ve stayed in a huge variety of accommodation during our travels around the world, from budget backpacker dorms in Australia to villas with our own private pool in Kerala, glamping while on safari in Zambia to cabins in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest, but there are only a select few places that I have found truly stunning and that I would go back to again and again.

Our stay at Riad Assakina in Marrakech definitely comes under this category and I’m already longing to go back even though we’ve only been home a few days.

The riad is in the perfect location in the Medina, just around the corner from the Bahia Palace and only a short walk to the souks and most of the city’s other sights. No matter how noisy and chaotic I had been told Marrakech’s Medina was, this is where we wanted to stay. It’s the heart and soul of the city and we always prefer to experience something traditional and atmospheric over something standard and modern.

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Yotel Gatwick

Smart Luxury at Yotel London Gatwick

Our recent flight to Marrakech was at the hideously early time of 5.45am and when you have to take into account driving to the airport, checking in and going through security, let alone the fact that I’m a totally bad traveller and leave packing till the very last minute, there would have been no point in even going to bed the night before.

So we decided to stay at Yotel, a traveller friendly hotel right in Gatwick airport’s south terminal.  You cannot get any closer to check in, being literally 20 seconds from the check in desk and airport security, meaning we could get much more sleep and not start our trip all bleary-eyed and tired.

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Cottage in Cornwall

A Cottage Getaway in Cornwall

When we first visited Cornwall shortly after our wedding eight years ago, we stayed in the bustling town of Newquay, in a luxurious hotel up on the headland overlooking Fistral Beach and the blue sea.  Maybe this shows how travel tastes change as you get older, but this time around we wanted to stay out of the centre for a more relaxing and peaceful weekend, so when I came across Hendra Paul Farm which is home to a group of four adorably cute cottages, I just couldn’t resist.  The Wild Flower Cottage, the smallest of the four, was perfect for us with one bedroom suitable for a couple, out in the countryside surrounded by the rolling green fields yet only a short drive from the main towns and beaches of North Cornwall.

Driving down the narrow winding country lanes, passing trundling tractors, horses in the fields and little bunnies hopping across our path (that I totally wanted to jump out of the car and take home with me), we finally found our way to the farm and as soon as I spotted our home for the weekend I completely fell in love.  I mean look how utterly adorable…!!

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Windfalls Boutique Hotel

Pre-Holiday Luxury at Windfalls Boutique Hotel

Staying at an airport hotel seems to have become my favourite way to start off a holiday, especially when we have to get up at a ridiculously early hour for our flight. Not only does it make the start of a trip so much less stressful but it also means we can technically start the trip a day early!

As soon as I came across Windfalls Boutique Hotel, a small luxury guest house just a short drive from Gatwick Airport, I knew this was where I wanted to stay the night before our trip to Gibraltar. Each of the five rooms looked like pure luxury decorated in calming colours with huge four poster beds. It looked like the perfect place to start off our relaxing break.

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48 hours in Dublin

48 Hours in Dublin

After a flight from London that was so quick I hardly had time for a power nap, we arrived in Dublin, somewhere we have lived so close to our whole lives but were only just getting around to visiting.  Knowing we only had 48 hours in this small but fascinating city we headed straight out to the main strip of Temple Bar to see what all the fuss was about.

As it was late evening by the time we set out, crowds of people already lined the street, spilling out the doors of every pub and restaurant, drinking and chatting away, listening to the street music that was being played on each corner.  For fear of being crushed in the stampede of whiskey induced tourists, we headed to Bad Bobs which was slightly less packed but still had a lively atmosphere.  We just about managed to find a seat, ordered some drinks and a huge plate of spicy chicken wings, sang along to the entertaining live band and giggled at the drunken groups of friends (and a policeman who looked suspiciously like a stripper) enjoying the weekend.

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Bloc Hotel London Gatwick Airport

The Perfect Way To Start A Holiday: Bloc Hotel Gatwick

Ever since I was a little girl, the start of a holiday has always been getting up at stupid o’clock in the middle of the night, the sky still pitch black outside and not a sound to be heard as we pack up the car to head off to the airport. When I book holidays now I will always pick the earliest morning flight there is, not only because it means we get more time away, but also because my older self still loves starting holidays in this way.

Mr Ayla, on the other hand, isn’t such a massive fan of the early starts. He moans and groans about only getting a nap for a night’s sleep and he hates having to wake himself up properly if he’s the one to drive to the airport while I relax in the passenger seat.

So ahead of our long flight to Cuba I thought it only fair that he get a good night’s sleep and we decided to try out an airport hotel for the first time.

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