VEGAN BURGERS AND DUTCH MASTERPIECES: A rainy weekend in Amsterdam

We decided to go to Amsterdam for an easy weekend away by taking the Eurostar. We know the city well, so we mostly spent our time trying some of the many vegan places around.

  • De Hallen: This is a nice place to visit on a cold day. There are local shops, a food court, cinema and a street market. It’s a popular place to visit for local and tourists.
  • Rijksmuseum: to escape the rain we visited the Rijksmuseum, which has a great collection. The Gallery of Honour hosts many major Dutch masterpieces. Tickets for €20.
  • Tony’s Chocolonely: this popular chocolate brand has a superstore in the city centre where you can try all the different flavours, including limited editions.
  • Vegan Junk Food Bar: this popular place had been on my list for a while, and it did not disappoint. They have a great selection of burgers, loaded fries and more, and everything we had was great. We even came back the next day. A small feast for two for €46.
  • Juice Brothers: a good place for breakfast with a delicious selection of smoothies and bowls. An açai bowl for €9.50.
  • Go: To go from London to Amsterdam by Eurostar it takes 4h40 and it’s an easy and comfortable option. The way back requires a change in Brussels, but direct trains will be available from late April.

VEGAN FOOD AND BEAUTIFUL SCENERY: A winter break in Paris

We visited Paris for a relaxing weekend. We’ve been to Paris many times before, so we mostly spent time walking around and checking out vegan restaurants.

  • Hank Burger: this is an old favourite so we wanted to visit it again. They have a nice selection of vegan burgers and they are all delicious. Two burgers, sides and drinks for €27.
  • Hank Pizza: from the same people of Hank Burger, this vegan pizza place offers a selection of delicious pizza by the slice. A meal of two slices, salad and a drink for €13.
  • La Palanche d’Aulac: a vegan place with a good selection of Vietnamese starters and mains. Friendly service and generous portions. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for €38.
  • Cloud Cakes: this vegan café has a popular brunch on the weekends. A plentiful selection for two to share for €26. The lattes are delicious.

Musee d’Orsay: I hadn’t been to Musee d’Orsay in many years. It’s a good option for a cold day, and when we visited it wasn’t too busy. Buy tickets online to skip the queue for €15.40.

Stay: we stayed at Exe Panorama which is conveniently located very close to Gare du Nord. A good option if you’re taking the Eurostar.

SUNNY DAYS AND OLD FAVOURITES: Christmas in Rome

This was my second Christmas in Rome. It’s a good place to visit this time of the year as there is plenty to do (including on Christmas Day itself) and the weather is very mild.

The main attractions are closed on Christmas day, but in the city centre there is plenty to do. It was a sunny day so we went for a picnic at Villa Borghese where plenty of families and tourists were enjoying a nice day out.

Attractions off the beaten track:

I know Rome well, so I prefer to avoid the crowds and check out some new sights.

  • Galleria Sciarra: a beautifully decorated building that not many tourists know about. A nice place to escape the crowds in central Rome.
  • Centrale Montemartini: This museum in an old powerhouse has an impressive collection of sculptures in a modern space. Tickets for €11.
  • I visited Palazzo Quirinale, which was hosting an exhibition about the volcanic eruptions of Pompeii and Santorini. It is a beautiful space and a nice place to check out for something different. Tickets €15 (or €8 at lunchtime during the week).

Food:

I always have a long list of food places to visit when I’m in Rome.

  • I went to explore some of my favourite places in Testaccio and Ostiense. We went to Pasticceria Andreotti for coffee, stopped for pizza at Casa Manco in Testaccio Market and finished with desert at Pasticceria Barberini.
  • Seu Pizza Illuminati: this place has been on my list for a couple of years, but it was definitely worth the wait. They serve a mix of traditional and unusual pizzas, as well as a good selection of starters and deserts. Highly recommended. Dinner for two including drinks, dessert and tip for €50. Booking essential.
  • Necci: Pigneto is an up-and-coming neighbourhood, famous for its cool cafés and shops. When we visited most things were closed for the holidays, but the popular Necci was open, so we stopped there for coffee. Two coffees and a cake for €8.80.
  • La Forchetta: a local restaurant in Prati serving a good selection of traditional Italian food. Dinner for two including drinks, dessert and tip for €52.
  • Guttilla: a gelato place serving a delicious selection of flavours (a cup for €2.20).
  • Cresci: a nice local bar with a good selection of tapas and plenty of other options. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for €30.

A BEAUTIFUL RIVIERA AND MISTY DAYS: A chilly break in Rimini and San Marino

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We were going to visit San Marino, so we decided to spend a couple of days in nearby Rimini.

Rimini is a riviera with sandy beaches overlooked by cool modernist hotels.

The Old Town is beautiful and includes a good collection of Roman and Medieval landmarks. It is also the birthplace of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini.

For lunch we visited Bar Lento, a cool cafe serving delicious vegan snacks and drinks (lunch for two including tip for 18.50€).

Rimini is definitely a good place to visit and relax for a couple of days!

SAN MARINO

San Marino was one of the few European countries we hadn’t visited yet, so we decided to check in out in January.

It is located high up in the mountains, giving it amazing views over the region. Unfortunately when we visited the place was right in the middle of the clouds, and we couldn’t even see further than a few metres ahead.

We spent a few hours exploring the narrow roads and visiting the main towers, even without being able to see much.

For lunch, we stopped at Laminona, which serves piadinas and offered a few vegan options.

San Marino is picturesque and I’m sure we would have enjoyed it more on a sunny day!

  • Go: We flew to Bologna, where you can get semi-frequent buses from the airport to Rimini. You can reach San Marino from Rimini taking a regular bus which departs just outside the train station (return for 10€ per person). The trip takes 50 minutes each way.

CRAFT BEER AND FREEZING TEMPERATURES: A weekend in Riga

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We went to Riga on a quick break in mid-March and were greeted with subzero temperatures! Still it was a nice place for a weekend away and we had fun exploring. The city has lots of really cool bars and restaurants and a great craft beer scene.

These are our favourite places:

Central Market

This market is one of the most popular attractions in Riga and it’s definitely worth a visit. There are lots of fruit and vegetable stalls selling all sorts of local produce including mountains of pickles.

Inside the market we found Labietis, a local brewery offering lots of delicious beers. You can have a drink on the spot or fill a litre bottle to take home.

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Old Town

Riga’s Old Town is small but pretty, and you can spend some time looking at the nice architecture or taking a walk by the river. It’s the best area to stay as everything is within walking distance.

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Skyline Bar

A popular place for brunch and cocktails, this bar at the Radisson has great views over the city and it’s a great place to chill for a couple of hours. A bit pricey for Riga standards but definitely worth it (2 drinks and tip for 15€).

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Folkklubs ALA Pagrabs

This huge and popular underground bar has a great selection of local beers and other drinks. It is very cheap – even more at happy hour when you can get a beer for just 1.80€.

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Fat Pumpkin

This veggie restaurant serving delicious food and plenty of vegan cakes is a great find (dinner for two including dessert and tip for 42€).

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Miit Coffee

This is a nice veggie place. Their brunch costs 9.50€ and it includes lots of delicious salads and fruit.

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Indian Raja

The veggie place we were going to was closed, so we ended up at Indian Raja. This restaurant served lots of yummy food, including a delicious naan bread filled with potatoes (dinner for 2 including drinks and tip for 35€).

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WINTER SUNSHINE AND GLAMOUR: A weekend in Nice and Monaco

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We decided to go to Nice in February for a bit of winter sun – it was beautiful!

We arrived in the afternoon and had time for a nice walk by the Promenade des Anglais. The architecture there is really amazing.

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In the evening we went to the Old Town, exploring the little streets with cool bars and restaurants. We quickly found our favourite place: Distilleries Ideales, a great bar with an impressive choice for beers, cocktails and wine (two drinks for 7.80€ plus tip).

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In the morning we hopped on a train to Monte Carlo (7.80€ return per person). The trip from Nice takes only 24 minutes and goes through beautiful beaches, so it’s definitely worth it.

Monaco itself is what you’d expect, other than spotting Ferraris and yachts there isn’t that much to do, but it’s fun to recognise all the places from the Formula 1 GP.

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In the evening we headed back to Nice Old Town, where the crowds were getting ready for the carnival parade. We went back to Distilleries Ideales for a couple of drinks, then we had dinner at Delhi Belhi, which despite the name served delicious Indian food (dinner for two including tip for 42€).

On Sunday we started the day visiting the impressive Russian Orthodox church. We then headed to the Marc Chagall museum, which is small but has a good selection of his paintings (tickets for 10€).

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We headed back to the Old Town where we had lunch at Caju, a vegan cafe with great food and friendly service (lunch for two including dessert and tip for 35€). They suggested we should check Castle Hill nearby, where there is a waterfall and great views over the city and the promenade.

We finished our little break joining the crowds by the promenade as they left the carnival parade and we boarded the bus back to the airport.

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: We stayed at an Airbnb flat close to the station. The location was good but it was really noisy at night. But there are lots of options to choose from and they are not necessarily that expensive.
  • When to go: We went in February, which is definitely off season but the weather was a pleasant 15 degrees. During low season it’s best to stick to the main areas of the city centre and Old Town as otherwise restaurants and shops may not be open.
  • Get around: Nice’s centre is easily accessible on foot. The city is also served by a good network of busses. You can get a bus to and from the airport for 6€ each way (the ride only takes 20 minutes). Nice is also a good gateway to other destinations in Cote D’Azur, such as Monaco and Cannes, so it’s a good base from where to explore the region.

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SANGRIA BREAKS AND MODERNIST TILES: A weekend in Barcelona

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For our first trip of the year, we decided to go to Barcelona for a chilled weekend. Barcelona is always great, and it was just what we wanted!

On our first day we hit the city centre to check out some highlights. We started at la Rambla and Barrio Gotico, then made our way to Barcelona Cathedral. We stopped for lunch of delicious vegan burgers and beers at Cat Bar, which is great (service was okay) – lunch for two including beers and tip for 25€.

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We wandered around and ended up at culture centre El Born, an amazing market where you can see ruins of old Barcelona.

In the evening we reached Barceloneta, where we watched surfers brave the cold as the sun set. We stopped for drinks at Bar Celoneta, a vegan sangria bar that served delicious food (and definitely the best sangria I’ve had, although I’m no expert!) – tapas and a pitcher of sangria for two for 40€ including tip.

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We woke up to blue skies, so on our second day we headed to Park Guell for outdoor fun. It was a beautiful day, so we took lots of photos. We only visited the free areas, but you can also pay 8€ to access an area of the park where most of the Gaudi sculptures are.

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We then headed to El Bosc de les Fades, which is an old favourite. This whimsical bar looks like a little forest, and it’s an amazing place to get a drink after a few hours of exploring the city (two drinks for 6.50€).

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The Picasso museum is free on Sundays, so we headed in that direction – on arrival the queue discouraged us, so we instead we went to Ale&Hop, a veggie bar with a great selection of local beers (tapas and beers for two for 22€). This bar is in a great area, so we spent some time just wandering around.

And then it was back to out flat for a quiet evening before our early flight back to London!

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HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: We chose an Airbnb flat a bit further from the centre, which is always a good way of saving money. There’s lots of options in Barcelona and prices are generally good.
  • Transportation: The metro is the best way to travel. You can buy 10 single tickets for less than 10€, which is nice and easy. You can also get the metro from the airport to the city centre (tickets cost 4.50€), which is very convenient.
  • Money: With the current exchange rate between the pound and the euro we weren’t sure how expensive things were going to be, but Barcelona is still definitely cheaper than London. We also found that there are lots of budget options for food and drink.

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