Tuesday, 23 January 2018

New Orleans - The Big Easy


It’s been three months since we left New Orleans, and its essence and energy continues to play on my mind and make me want to return. When we first decided on our two week-three destination trip to America, New Orleans wasn’t on the list. 

In fact, it was Houston that was going to be our second location of choice. Deciding that the Houston Texans weren’t enough of a draw for three days, I chose New Orleans as another Southern spot to visit. Although I still very much would like to drop in on Houston, I’m really glad we picked NOLA as our second choice.

When we first arrived in New Orleans after our late flight, we were a bit overwhelmed - this party Mecca certainly lived up to its reputation. As soon as we saw the city in the daylight, our worries disappeared as we discovered as much as there is a party atmosphere, there is also a laid back chilled side to the city.

We spent our days exploring by foot, going up and down the French Quarter’s streets, taking in all of the fantastic colourful houses. We walked Bourbon Street and picked up some alcoholic drinks to walk with (its totally allowed here and felt extremely weird), saw St. Louis Cathedral taking pride of place in the Jackson Square and experienced some authentic jazz on Frenchman Street.


New Orleans is such a fun and vibrant place to visit, that I believe we just scratched the surface in what we managed to do. There were definitely some best bits of this part of our trip which include food, excursions and nightlife.

Beignets
You can’t come to New Orleans without trying a beignet, I mean are you insane? These are small parcels of pastry deep-fried like doughnuts. They’re then COVERED in icing sugar. They’re definitely one to try when you’re in NOLA, but I have to admit, they weren’t my favourite. P.S our guide told us that these are the same all over town, so you don’t have to squeeze into the seating at CafĂ© Du Monde, unless you want to.


This was a restaurant recommended to us by our tour guide, Bob, for our last night in to New Orleans. It was seriously the Bees Knees and we wished we could have told Bob how much we loved it. We visited the restaurant in the French Market which was colourful, quirky and full of delicious Mexican food. As New Orleans is known for its seafood we decided to share a portion of fish tacos and also get a portion of brisket tacos accompanied by nachos and tableside guacamole. It was all amazing and we couldn’t get enough. I washed mine down with various margaritas and it was the most delicious meal.


This is one that I’d seen on Helen Anderson’s vlog and that we decided would be a good brunch spot. It is very busy at Ruby Slipper but they are super-efficient with their table system. They sign you up at the door and offer you the drinks menu whilst you wait. Our table took no more than ten minutes and we were soon seated perusing the menu. They have a great variety of choices and our meals were really good.



New Orleans is famous for being on the Mississippi river, so we couldn't visit and not take a trip. We chose to go on New Orlean's only steamboat, Steamboat Natchez, for an evening excursion and a fancy meal. A Jazz band was already playing by the time we boarded, so we picked up a drink and had a wander around the decks. It is such a cool boat with various decks offering a restaurant, bar, shop and the opportunity to see the engine room. The dinner was served in a buffet format with lots of delicious options. It was so nice to sail down the river seeing the twinkly lights of New Orleans whilst hearing the rush of water from the paddlewheel and the sweet sound of jazz.


Super City Tour
Late into our stay in New Orleans, and after wandering the streets of the French Quarter, we decided it would be a good idea to join a tour and learn some more about this fantastic city. Swayed by our hotel, who I'm sure will get commission, we chose Grayline's Super City Tour. On this we were taken around the streets we'd already walked, learning more about the buildings and their history. We were also taken further out seeing some suburban houses and stopping at a cemetery and City Park. It was such a fascinating tour and our tour guide was a right laugh. We wished we'd gone on sooner!


This is such a quirky spot that I'm glad we spent some time in. When we reached Lafitte's we'd only had one drink, but their famous Hurricane pushed us over the edge in the high New Orleans heat. It was fantastic to sit in and enjoy the history of what is said to be one of the oldest bars in America.


Bourbon Street & Frenchman Street

When you hear about New Orleans, you are sure to hear of Bourbon Street, this is very loud, lairy and full of bars and places to dance the night away. "It's like Disneyland for drunks", is what a lot of locals would say. You definitely want to take some time to visit it as it is bucket list material. 

However if you find Bourbon is not your style and you want something more authentic and laid back, you have to go to Frenchman Street. Again this is something we only ventured out to later on in our trip and we wished we'd gone sooner. There are bars with live singers and bands blasting out all kinds of brilliant music. Not only this, when we walked down, there were performers on the street getting crowds of people dancing, stopping cars in the process. This is definitely what we imagined New Orleans to be like.


If there was anytime to visit New Orleans, it would be this year. They're celebrating their 300th birthday, I know, who knew it was so young! If you're looking for a hotel, I'd recommend the Wyndham New Orleans French Quarter as it was perfectly located with huge rooms and lots of storage.

Let me know if you're planning a trip as I'd love to live vicariously though you!
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Monday, 11 December 2017

72 hours in Basel, Switzerland

I don't know about you, but I'm obsessed with booking my next trip. You will find me on Skyscanner, looking for all the cheap flights, regardless of where they're heading. Last year I booked us a random trip away to Lithuania for the weekend, and that turned out to be really great.

This year, even though we had a big trip planned to America, I still had the itch to book a little European break. After deciding EasyJet's flight to Oslo, was in fact nowhere near Oslo, I stumbled across flights to Basel for £130 for two, early December with EasyJet. After a little search online, I was sold on a Christmas weekend away in Switzerland.

The flights gave us from Friday evening until Monday afternoon to wander around this land-locked city, eat all the Swiss chocolate and drink all the mulled wine. A month or so before we were booked to fly I decided I couldn't put off booking a hotel any longer. I chose the Motel One which turned out to be a fantastic hotel in a great local at a very reasonable price.

Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break

Basel is beautiful. It's buildings are all pastel colours with windows that are all stunning in their own right, topped with deep red and brown tiled roofs. Everywhere you look makes you feel like you're in a fairytale land, especially at Christmas time when they go big on the twinkly lights. We did a lot of walking around the city as there aren't many major attractions, but the the main sights we took in whilst we were there were:

  • The Basel Minster. Taking a very narrow trip nearly all the way to the top (we're chickens), the Minster offered fantastic views of the area and was a perfect introduction to this sleepy city.
  • The Gate of Spalen. One of the last remaining gates from the city walls. Although not a very time-consuming activity, it's definitely worth a wander to see.
  • Tinguely Fountain. Not the best thing to see when its cold out, but this fountain has a lot of moving parts to look at.
  • The City Hall. This is such a stunning building that is perfectly kept and seriously made me wish I lived there.
Other attractions that we didn't visit included taking a trip over the river Rhine and lots of museums and art galleries.

Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break

Of course being a food blogger, I couldn't go to Basel and not look for some nice places to eat. I was very excited when I arrived and realised that Switzerland was the home of Raclette, a cheese lovers dream. However over the weekend I didn't manage to try any. Although I was disappointed about this I did have some lovely meals and drank lots of Baileys hot chocolates. If you were going to Basel, I'd recommend these places for a meal:
  • Markthalle. This is a huge dome shaped building filled with lots of different street food stalls and plenty of seating to accompany it. Here you can literally travel the world without leaving the market, they have everything from Vietnamese, to Caribbean, Lebanese to Japanese. It may be the environmentalist inside me saying this but I love that here you can sit with a real plate and cutlery to enjoy your meal rather than disposables.
  • Latini. An fancy Italian restaurant a short walk from our hotel which served lovely pasta and risotto. 
  • El Mexicano. A lively Mexican restaurant set on a strip of shops and restaurants near the main Christmas market. Had some really nice food here on our first night which I'd recommend for a lazy tea.
  • Creperie Am Kohlenberg. This is a super cute little cafe that serves lots of different types of crepes. For a midday pick-me-up we both had a cup of tea and a Nutella crepe.
Of course whilst we were in Basel, the Christmas markets were on. They appear every year from 23rd November to the 23rd December. If you're going for the markets, you should definitely stay at Motel One as you literally step out of the hotel doors into the market. 

Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market
Basel Switzerland Travel Guide 72 Hours European City Break Christmas Market



There are two Christmas markets in Basel, one in near the hotel, the other is a five minute walk away near the Minister. Both are full of traditional nick-nacks, candles, Christmas decorations, clothing and of courses there are food and drink stalls. The most common treats you could indulge in were mulled wine (literally you could smell it everywhere), Raclette and German sausages. 

There was plenty of chocolate, meats and bread to eat around the market so you defintely won't go hungry. Just a note on the market near the Minister, there is a fantastic little area dedicated to young people where they can try different trades and crafts, and this is where there are fantastic fires to sit around with your hot drinks.

Our trip was very quaint and relaxing. Basel is definitely not a busy bustling city, so don't plan a trip here if that is what you're expecting. If you're happy to wander the streets, sit in cafes and drink lots of mulled wine, this is certainly somewhere you will enjoy.

Where is the best European city you've visited for Christmas?

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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

New York (Day 4) - Coney Island, Brooklyn

I think most people who know a thing or two about America are familiar with Coney Island. The reason it made it on to our list to visit was because of Matt's love of the film The Warriors. To be honest, you probably haven't seen it. I've been in the room whilst it has been on, and still haven't watched it. 

Basically its a 1970's cult film about a group of gangs caught up in a shooting with one group getting blamed for it, The Warriors. They try to make their way home to Coney Island whilst being met along the way by the other gangs trying to turn them in to the police (it's on Netflix if you're curious).

Now you're caught up... the film actually has nothing much to do with Coney Island, but if you go you'll see The Warriors merchandise in most shops. As I said, this is the reason we were heading there for a day of fun. To get there from Manhattan you've got to take the subway which took us about an hour on the express from Times Square.

When we arrived I was instantly excited to start exploring. From the subway station you can see Nathan's Delicatessen selling their world famous hot dogs, the tips of numerous colourful rides and smell the sweet smell of fair food.

Coney Island, Brooklyn Nathan's Hot Dogs Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Subway Station Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Nathan's Hot Dogs Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Luna Park Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Graffiti Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Deno's Wonder Wheel Park America Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Boardwalk America Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Boardwalk America Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Deno's Wonder Wheel Park America Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Deno's Wonder Wheel Park America Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Deno's Wonder Wheel Park America Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Nathan's Hot Dogs Travel Blog
Coney Island, Brooklyn Boardwalk America Travel Blog Food
Coney Island, Brooklyn Boardwalk America Travel Blog Funnel Cake

From the fantastic graffiti covering the walls, to the numerous rides all boasting different colours, everywhere you look in Coney Island is brightly coloured. Walking around the amusement parks and boardwalk is really exciting. There is a new and interesting thing to see or do around every corner. 

As it is one of, if not, the most famous landmarks in Coney Island, we had to take a ride on the Wonder Wheel. It's 150 feet tall and has 24 fully enclosed passenger cars with 16 of the cars able to slide and snake the wheel and another eight that are fixed. We of course chose the fixed as we're a little scared of heights. Once we were up there and saw what the swinging cars did, we were glad we picked the static. 

From up top you had an amazing panoramic view of not only the parks around you but further afield. In the distance you could even see the Manhattan skyline which was pretty special. After two goes round, it was time to get a famous Nathan's hot dog.

We walked the boardwalk, which made me feel super American, taking in the gorgeous beach and snapping up a funnel cake to try. As this one was already pre-cooked and just warmed for me, it wasn't that good. I'm not sure if eating it fresh would make it any better but it was just like a wiggly plain doughnut and I like more than that.

And just like that our time in Coney Island was up. We were really happy that we'd taken the time to visit this place and it makes you feel like you're getting a real American experience, or at least one you see on the movies.

Just wondering around Coney Island and its numerous parks will take a few hours, so the journey down on the subway is definitely worth it. Make sure you get an express train back as we made the mistake of getting a local and it took us another 30 minutes.

Next time you're in New York will you be taking the trip down?
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