I always get so excited when I have a new city to write about because I absolutely adore these kinds of posts – writing them and reading them. Whenever we go to a new, exciting city we make it our mission to pack as much in as possible to our short time there, and Lisbon was no exception! In the last few years I have heard seemingly endless glowing reports of the Portuguese capital from travel savvy friends and, as regular holidayers in the Algarve, I was pretty ashamed it had taken us this long to get there! So, this year on our way to our regular holiday spot we decided to book a whirlwind 48hour stop-over in Lisbon. I feel like we did the city proud, so here is a run down of our itinerary as inspiration for your visit!

 

The basics
Flight: EasyJet London Gatwick -> Lisbon
Just over 2 hours and we found the price to be very reasonable even in holiday time! Lisbon airport is fairly close to the city centre and guess what?? Uber works like a dream there! And it's much cheaper than London – perfect for getting from the airport to our accommodation which only cost around 7 euros.

 

Accommodation:

As we were on a budget we booked a double room in a hostel and stayed in the lovely Hostel Graca 28 which was fantastic value and perfectly fine as a base for all of our adventures! We were located on the Rua da Graca which is a cool area with a buzzing vibe and only 20 min walk from most of the main attractions. I would really recommend staying around this area or the nearby Alfama area for a fantastic vibe and some amazing bars and restaurants which are slightly less expensive than the ones in the city centre.

 

Our Itinerary
Day One – walking, walking and more walking…

Having arrived late the night before we decided to make the most of our first full day in Lisbon and tried to get around all the main city centre attractions in one day! Lisbon is a hilly place and at 35 degrees and very little wind it was not the best conditions for trekking around the place – but we pushed on regardless! We always love to explore cities on foot, as you see much more. There are trams and buses in Lisbon but on the first day we got around by walking only, and covered 28,000 steps (not even joking)!! If you don't fancy walking we would recommend the local tram to get around as the buses don't tend to get up some of the more steep and skinny roads.

 

First: Miradouro da Senhora do Monte
We headed up here first thing to get some stunning views of the city before the crowds descended. This view point is only a few minutes for the area which we stayed in, being slightly outside the main city centre it can mean that it is slightly quieter. This viewpoint is hailed as the best place to take in the whole of Lisbon from above, and I'm inclined to agree.


Next: Exploring!

We put the map away and basically went for a long old walk! We knew we were heading in the direction of the city centre and just kind of walked to see what we could discover. Lisbon is all about the beautiful terraced building and general kind of rustic charm so exploring on foot brought us through so many gorgeous cobbled streets and just general beautiful architecture. Pretty much all the streets are like this and it's what makes the city so gorgeous! Taking photographs of the coloured houses was one of my favourite things. We wandered up to the old castle and had a coffee and cake (when in Lisbon how can you not??) but decided not to go into the castle as the queue was intense and … ya know – budget and all that. But it was still lovely to see the setting and take it in from the outside. We then wandered down towards the main square and found some other stunning viewpoints. Walking is also the best way to grab some photo opportunities of the old trams in action! I wasn't so bothered about riding the tram as getting a photograph of it!! As you are walking around you can't help but find some amazing street art too.

Lunch – Alfama

For lunch we decided to find somewhere in the old town part of Lisbon – Alfama. Alfama is a gorgeous district as I mentioned, and is amazing for totally instagrammable streets and buildings! It's also buzzing in the evening for drinks or to find some live music. For lunch, we stopped in the tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant Tu Eu where we enjoyed gorgeous, freshly prepared in front of our eyes food. We went for a typical Mediterranean platter with seafood, cheese, meats and other tapas which was absolutely delicious. I'd really recommend this neighbourhood for food and drink.

 

Afternoon and evening – Central Lisbon and viewpoint again!

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the central part of Lisbon, the main square and the shops (and of course the ice cream parlour!) This area is obviously busy and full of tourism so it wasn't my favourite part. There are many attractions in the city centre such as the elevator which takes tourists up for a view of the city but to be honest I always find these things a bit overpriced. We prefer to just wander around see what we can see.  We also came across a street paved in pink, coined originally 'The Pink Street' which was cute! The town square is an attractive area with lots of restaurants but we decided to eat close to our hostel for a more authentic meal. By the time we made it back we were so exhausted after all the walking we had a light meal in a local café and then headed up to the same viewpoint again to see the city skyline at night! It was beautiful and there was even a jazz band busking so the atmosphere was wonderful.

 

Day Two – Belem and West of the City

 

Morning – Pasteis de Belem

Out of all the amazing things I had heard about Lisbon, this place was probably what got me the most excited! For those of you who have been to Portugal you may be familiar with the traditional pastel de nata, or egg custard tart, which is absolutely divine.  They are one of my favourite cakes in the world! Well, Pasteis de Belem is a 400 seat café in the West of Lisbon which claims to serve the best pastel de nata's in the whole of Portugal! We took a bus to Belem and it was easy to find the place – the queue was huge! Due to the sheer number of tables however we were seated quickly and served efficiently. The atmosphere was fantastic and the food was great. By the time we arrived it was nearly lunch time so we had sandwiches, coffee and of course two pastel de nata's. It was all delicious but I have to say, I can't speak for the whole of Portugal but they were definitely the best I've ever had! I'd love to get my hands on that secret recipe! An absolute must-visit.

 

Afternoon – River Walk

After lunch we headed for yet more walking along the river back towards the city. It's a long way, so we walked about an hour and then took the bus the rest of the way. The walk was so pretty and it was lovely to be on the water and see lots of sailing boats, which we adore. We also saw some lovely museums along the way and got some great pictures of the huge bridge – Golden Gate Bridge eat your heart out!

 

Dinner and drinks – Time Out Market

Another fabulous recommendation from friends, the Time Out Market is situated to the West of the city centre and is a huge covered market which sells food, produce, flowers and gifts from independent retailers. The market is amazing and has a fantastic vibe, as well as seriously stunning food! Foodies must come here! It's packed full of some of Portugal's best chefs who want to serve world food in a casual setting. We ate in the seafood restaurant Marisqueira Azul which was by far our best food of the trip. We ordered a selection of delicious seafood including their specials; crab, octopus salad and locally caught razor clams which was all seriously divine. After dinner we also enjoyed a couple of G&T's at the Time Out Bar in the market and soaked up the atmosphere. The food and drink here was on the pricier side but it was definitely worth it for the quality and atmosphere.

We had such a fabulous whirlwind two days in Lisbon and we absolutely loved it. The city lived up to it's expectations in every way! The architecture, food, drink, nightlife and history is all amazing, but the thing I love most about Lisbon is how beautiful it is. Even the residential streets which have essentially nothing to see are seriously beautiful and the houses are so pretty! It's the perfect city to grab a coffee and just city bag and people watch, the vibe is awesome there. I would recommend it for a city break without a doubt! I hope you find this useful if you are planning a trip to Lisbon.

Have you been to Lisbon before? Is it on your bucket list?

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It was a good few months ago now that we went on our sneaky Easter minibreak escape to Montenegro and I’m ashamed that I haven’t had a chance to publish a travel post about it yet! So, before we go on our summer holiday (2 weeks and counting!) I thought it only fair to give our trip a little write up and share our photographs seeing as it was so stunning.

The first question most people asked us when we mentioned where we were going was.. well.. why Montenegro? It’s a fair question. Up to this point we are the only people we know out of all of our friends and extended family that have ever been! Scores of people seem to flood to Croatia these days, so I find the lack of the same enthusiasm for it’s neighbour odd, as Montenegro shares a similar vibe, climate and even looks similar! Plus, it’s still a pretty undiscovered gem, so perfect for a quiet, secret escape!

Our holiday

As it was a quick ‘let’s get out of here’ last minute holiday affair, we decided to go inexpensive and simple. Out of season (early April) the climate in Montenegro looked good and we found a great value all inclusive deal at a five star hotel in the holiday beach resort of Budva. All inclusive is not usually something we would go for our main holiday because we like to cook for ourselves and eat out in different places, but for the type of super relaxing short break we wanted we decided to go for it.

The hotel was called the Iberostar Bellevue and it was absolutely stunning. I was blown away when we first got there. Mainly because I’ve never seen a beachfront hotel over looking the sea which is also surrounded by spectacular mountains on the other side! The landscape was just something that you would never see in your normal Spain/ Portugal holidays and I couldn’t get over it! I was super happy to take loads of gorgeous photos with the stunning backdrop. Our room was fine, perfectly comfortable and functional with a lovely big balcony and a sea view which we weren’t expecting and was a lovely surprise. We could actually hear the sound of the waves at night which was amazing.

The Iberostar Belleview hotel

The weather we had was mixed. A bit of rain on the first two days so we took the opportunity to explore the local historic town of Budva and the montain city of Kotor to get some culture and sightseeing in. Due to it being out of season, Budva was a bit dead with a lot of shops and restaurants closed, but Kotor was much more lively and seemed to have a lot of tourists visiting despite the weather. Budva would definitely be worth a day trip particularly the old town to see the historic architecture, and the harbour which had some pretty pricey looking sun seekers! There were also some nice craft shops and cute restaurants.

Budva harbour

Budva old town

The city of Kotor was about an hour bus ride away and it was a whole other level of beautiful! If I had visualised a perfect, quaint Eastern European town then this was it. You can climb up some mountains at the back towards a church and get a load of this crazy stunning view.

The holiday was perfect for what we wanted, a ‘do-nothing’, relaxing break with a bit of sunshine.

 

I would thoroughly recommend considering Montenegro for your next holiday. It’s got great summer weather, beautiful safe beaches and stunning landscapes. Kotor is a stunning historic city and well worth a visit, as it’s a pretty small country most of it is accessible with a short car or bus journey. Although it was a bit quiet when we were there, you could tell that they were gearing up for a busy summer season so there would be no shortage of things to do there.

Have you been to Montenegro? Would you consider it?

 

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Hey everyone.

Gosh, I can’t believe we’ve been back over 2 months and I’m only just publishing the last instalment of our Thailand Diaries! It was such a long and amazing trip packed full of adventure it has taken me many, many posts to get it all down! So let’s pick up where I left off and wrap up this journey..

So after spending a week and a half exploring the bustling cities of the north and sweating and swatting mozzies in the jungle we wanted a bit of horizontal beach time. Luckily, if you are looking for white sand, blue sea paradise, Thailand has a lot to choose from! We decided to stick to the west side this time, mainly because the East tends to have a lot of monsoons at that time of year and also because I have already been to the East side and fancied trying something different. We visited two beach resorts in all, staying four or five days in each; Railay Beach and Ko Lanta. Each was extremely beautiful in it’s own way and each had it’s relative merits and not-so-great things, which I’m going to talk you through now.

Railay Beach

Totally cut off from the mainland and only accessible by long tail boat, Railay beach is often hailed as one of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in the world. As if the golden sand and glittering ocean wasn’t enough; the beach is flanked by rugged cliffs which make it look like something out of a movie. There are no cars, no ferries and you certainly can’t fly there so actually getting there is a bit of a mission but certainly an experience. Once we arrived in Krabi we took a mini bus to Ao Nang and then took one of the many waiting long tail boats to Railay Beach. As we raced across the sea we couldn’t quite believe how beautiful it was.

First and foremost

I can’t stress this enough, you need to be sensible with your luggage. The long tail boats stop just shy of the shore and you will need to wade in water about up to your knees to get onto the beach. The guys who drove the boats will quite literally chuck your luggage onto the sand. Although it is all part of the experience, I would recommend leaving your Louis Vuitton suitcase set at home.

East vs West

For a small resort there are a lot of places to stay and they are divided between Railay West and Railay East. Although you may imagine that the opposite sides of the peninsula might be a long way apart, in reality it is a 10 minute walk between the two. The main beach is Railay West – so if one of the tip-top luxury hotels there are within your budget then knock yourself out! We decided to stay on the East side however, due to the hotels being more affordable and it having more of a ‘backpacker scene’. In reality, the resorts in Railay East actually have an amazing outlook because they look out onto the unspoilt ocean without any boats or interruptions (as most of the longtails come into the West side), but you need to be aware that there isn’t technically a beach on the East side. To break it down: for luxury resorts, classier restaurants and to be right on the beach – go West, for chilled beach bars, live music and rustic beach huts – East is a winner.

Pros and Cons

The pros are definitely the stunning beach and the lack of vehicles and ferries to spoil it. That’s not to say that the beach isn’t busy though – it seriously is. In fact you’d be hard pushed to find a beach in Thailand which is as yet ‘undiscovered’ by tourism. Other brilliant things about Railay: seeing crazy monkeys up close (don’t take food near them!), amazing rock climbing experiences for all levels and the best mango smoothie I’ve ever had. There are a few cons – the busyness I mentioned earlier: the longtails bring in a lot of day-trippers so the peak time on the beach is BUSY. We also tried a lot of restaurants there and didn’t find the food to be amazing compared to other places in Thailand – particularly in the beach front places.

Do Not Miss!

A snorkelling trip to see the bio-luminescent plankton (as seen in the movie The Beach)! We did a day-to-night boat trip where they took us to islands and snorkelling spots in the afternoon but to be honest we could have taken or left that bit, it wasn’t amazing. The night snorkel with the plankton though is an absolute must! As you move underwater the water around you literally lights up and glitters. Truly incredible.

Verdict

Other than the slightly disappointment of the food, Railay Beach is a beautiful place to visit and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Ko Lanta

After the busyness of Railay we headed over water to the nearby island of Ko Lanta for four nights. Lanta has a more family friendly reputation and is considered less of a ‘party’ place. It’s very built up and outside of the beaches it has every local amentity, shop, bar or restauarant you could want. There are a few main beaches, all of them are long, wide and safe for families. It’s also popular to rent a bike to explore the island as the roads are pretty bike friendly compared to the rest of Thailand! People flock to Lanta for relaxing beach holidays, swimming, snorkelling and authentic Thai food.

The Low-Down on the Beaches

For an island, Ko Lanta is actually quite big and it has several large beaches all with their own resrots ranging from luxury to budget. There are even some budget guest houses situated off the beaches on the main road that runs all the way through the island. Although you’re never far from a beach, I wouldn’t recommend staying in these. The main road is hideously busy, dusty and, in places, dirty. There are plenty of super cheap places to stay on the coast so stick with a beach front resort or guesthouse.  We stayed in the beachfront bungalow and very budget resort of Rann Chalet in Klong Dao beach. The resort comprised of tiny bungalows which were quite cute and served their purpose but not overly comfortable! We didn’t love our beach either; Klong Dao is one of the main beaches and it’s a bit dirty and rocky which makes it not great for swimming. Also, the choice of restaurants and bars was not that great. We visited the next beach down; Long Beach, and that was by far our favourite. It’s clean, much more beautiful and is lined with trendy beach bars and lovely Thai seafood restaurants. If we went again we would definitely choose Long Beach.

Must-Do’s

We really wanted to take a trip to Ko Rok island, a tiny island off Lanta famous for it’s crystal waters and amazing coral and snorkelling opportunities. We chose to go with a slightly more ‘luxury’ company (although still not expensive compared to the UK) – Opal Travel. I cannot recommend them highly enough! We had a wonderful day on their lovely boat exploring the island and doing some amazing snorkelling. You can check out a video I made of our snorkelling adventure here.

Verdict

We loved the vibe in Ko Lanta but we wouldn’t stay in Klong Dao or that particular resort again! For a luxury beach break it would be a beautiful and relaxing place to visit.

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I hope you enjoyed my Thailand Diaries or perhaps might find it helpful if you are planning a trip to Thailand! Have you been to either of these places before?

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It’s not everyday I get to review one of my favourites foods from an exciting new brand, so when I was contacted by Mr Lee’s Gourmet Oriental Noodles I jumped at the chance! Having travelled and lived in South East Asia I am a big fan of noodles of all shapes, sizes and flavours!

A bit about Mr Lee’s Noodles

‘..on a mission to help time-poor people eat better food!’ – a quote taken from Mr Lee himself (who is a real person by the way). I am certainly what you would describe as ‘time-poor’ so I really like this vision statement. Mr Lee are a UK producer of high quality, healthy, gluten free, ‘no nasties’ noodles in a cup.

What I thought

Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of other ‘noodles-in-a-cup’ brands on the market. I’ve never been a fan of Super Noodles or Pot Noodles, I find them stodgy and having been lucky enough to taste authentic Asian cuisine for real I just find those brand’s flavours all wrong. I was excited to try Mr Lee’s noodles to see if it was possible to get all the authentic Asian flavours into an instant noodle pot whilst still maintaining the healthy and low-fat elements.

I was pleasantly surprised and I really enjoyed all six flavours of Mr Lee’s range. The range includes Hong Kong Street Beef, Penang Chicken Curry Laksa, Tai Chi Chicken, Warrior Fighting Shrimp, Dragon Fire Mushroom and Shaolin Monk Vegetables. I did like them all – I must admit, the ‘3 chillies’, extra hot shrimp one was a little hot for me! Other than that I was a big fan of all of them. My favourite was the Tai Chi Chicken which is absolutely delicious! I really feel that this brand have managed to harness real Asian flavours into a dish which has all the ease of instant preparation – just add hot water! Something which I’m sure is not easy. I was impressed by the quality of the ingredients in all the variations, the vegetables were real veg and the noodles themselves (the key ingredient) were really tasty and good quality!

Mr Lee’s Gourmet noodles are perfect for a guilt free lunch-on-the-go or a delicious dinner when you can’t be bothered to cook from scratch. The fact that they are so healthy means you can get all the perks of a ‘ready-meal’ without feeling like you’ve fallen off the wagon eating wise! This is a biggie for me; I really do try with my diet but sometimes chopping up peppers is the last thing I want to do after a long day at work! I’m sure many of you feel the same!

I also believe Mr Lee’s noodles to be excellent value for money. They are available to buy in a pack of six for £17.94, which works out at just under £3 per pot. Yes, it puts them at the higher end of the market for this kind of product but I do think the quality is evident. For example, they are packed full of veg and the meat flavours have real meat in them rather than just flavourings. I also found when eating one of the pots for lunch it really filled me up for the rest of the day.

Hong Kong Beef

Chicken Laksa

So where can I get some?

Well, online seems to be the best place to get your hands on some of Mr Lee’s noodles! Click here to visit their shop where, like I said, you can purchase mixed or single flavour packs of six with free UK shipping! Hurrah! Something which I found extremely exciting is that soon, Mr Lee will be branching out into ‘noodle kiosks’ up and down the country – basically vending machines where you can buy their noodle pots! What a brilliant idea.

You can check out their website here.

What are your opinions of instant noodles?

**I was sent this product for reviewing purposes but, as always, the opinions are 100% my own**

I think most of us will agree that lazy Sunday mornings are literally the best thing ever. Now, I love a brunch date and although sometimes it is nice to pop to a café and have someone else make it for me, sometimes I really don’t want to get out of my pyjamas and leave the house! So lately we’ve been whipping up some delicious home-cooked brunches in our own kitchen.

Instagram friendly poached eggs on smoked salmon and smashed avocado

This is super easy and quick and is equally as scrumptious to eat as it is to look at on your insta feed. Simply spread some ripe avocado on some wholemeal toast and pop some smoked salmon on top. Next, poach a perfect runny egg (this part takes some practice and I usually get Paul to do it for me!) either in hot water or using a poacher. Top with black pepper and a sprinkling of chilli flakes to give it an extra kick. A super impressive brunch which takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.

Guilt free oat and cinnamon pancakes

And they seriously are guilt free! These pancakes contain no sugar, no butter and no milk.  Throw 25 grams of porridge oats in a blender (or Nutri Bullet) with an egg, a banana and a tea spoon of cinnamon. Then accessorise as you please! Blueberries, strawberries, yogurt, banana and honey are all delicious toppings – but we were really naughty once and put apple, bacon and maple syrup on them!

Spicy vegetarian omelette

This delicious and healthy omelette is perfect for even the most discerning of healthy eaters! It’s meat free, dairy free, gluten free – not quite vegan though, sorry! Roughly chop peppers, radishes, spring onions, chills or any of your chosen veg you’ve got at the back of the fridge along with some tofu. Whisk three eggs in a bowl and season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika for a kick. Lightly fry your filling until the tofu is turning brown, add the eggs and cook, flip, fold and make your omelette! Serve with mashed avocado on the side.

 

Greek inspired bruschetta 

These are a tasty savoury brunch idea which were inspired by our time in Greece last year and we absolutely love them. They are so easy to prepare too! Serve roughly chopped ripe plum tomatoes with basil leaves and feta cheese pieces on slices of toasted ciabatta bread. Also, while the ciabatta is still warm rub a cut garlic clove over it for that extra yummy kick. Drizzle olive oil over the whole lot before serving.


The Full Monty

You cannot beat a full English fry up and sometimes – it’s just what you need on a Sunday. Particularly if you’ve had a few wines the night before I find! Anyway, I love cooking up the full monty for us occasionally but we all know it’s not that great for you. There are a few small changes I make to keep it as healthy as humanly possible (but still not healthy!). Firstly, I always use a very, very small amount of coconut oil to cook the eggs and mushrooms, and I tend to scramble or poach the eggs rather than fry them. I also cook the sausages and bacon in the oven rather than in the pan. This reduces the oil and grease content slightly. The key to a good full English is timing and preparation! The final ‘flourish’ of cooking everything only takes about 5 minutes so you have to make sure everything is out, ready and raring to go before it all goes cold! I’ve got it down now even if I do say so myself!

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Wow, my mouth is seriously watering now! I think I better go and get me some brunch! I hope this might give you some ideas for some super easy but seriously delicious brunch ideas to cook in the comfort of your own kitchen. For more recipes and food ideas visit my Instagram page.

Have a wonderful Sunday.