Thursday, 1 December 2016

8 useful tips for visiting Vilnius, Lithuania

Last week we jetted off to Vilnius in Lithuania. Before going we didn't really know what to expect, what would be there or what we could do whilst we were there. All that we knew was that it would be stunning to look at and possibly quite cold.

If you've read my last post and decided that Vilnius is for you, then I'm here to help with a few tips that I'd wish I had known before visiting the Lithuanian capital.

8 useful tips for visiting Vilnius, Lithuania - Europe, Baltic Travel, Short Trip, City Break
8 useful tips for visiting Vilnius, Lithuania - Europe, Baltic Travel, Short Trip, City Break

- Wrap up. Depending what time of year you visit this will differ but if you are going in the Autumn or Winter months then make sure you pack some seriously warm clothes. If you're like us and want to walk all over then you'll be out in the cold for the majority of the day. Think long sleeved tops, a vest top underneath that, a thick coat, scarf, gloves and a hat.

- Stay in Old Town. We stayed about 10 minutes away from central old town by foot and we wish we'd picked a hotel a little closer. We of course didn't know where we would be in comparison to where everything was so picking the hotel we did was best for us. If we were to go again I would probably look to be closer to the Town Hall.

- Research food places. Like I said in last week's post there is a lot of choice for food but it happens to be quite spread out. Do your research on restaurants before you arrive on TripAdvisor and through Twitter. Also it its a great idea to ask the hotel staff when you're in the country for their recommendations.

8 useful tips for visiting Vilnius, Lithuania - Europe, Baltic Travel, Short Trip, City Break
8 useful tips for visiting Vilnius, Lithuania - Europe, Baltic Travel, Short Trip, City Break

- Walk but utilise taxis when needed. Okay this seems like an obvious one but what I mean by this is that Vilnius is so easy to access via foot that there is no need to look to public transport unless you really need it. We only used taxis at night when it was darker and the 10 minute walk seemed less appealing.

- Get up high. There are some great vantage points in Vilnius that you should be taking advantage of. The ones that we tried were the Gediminas Castle and Cathedral Bell Tower. The Gediminas Castle was the best for us as it was the easiest to climb for those afraid of heights. We only managed to get so far up the Bell Tower before our fear kicked in and we went back down!

- Visit over the river, but don't put too much emphasis on this. This may differ from person to person, and we may not have seen all there is to see, but we much preferred the Old Town to the other side of the river. There is so much more to see and do that over the river seemed a little quiet and stale. We did have a wander over there and went to a great Italian called Vapiano that I'd definitely recommend. Other than that, I can't say there is much there. (We only visited directly over from Old Town, we didn't venture as far as Žvėrynas).

8 useful tips for visiting Vilnius, Lithuania - Europe, Baltic Travel, Short Trip, City Break
8 useful tips for visiting Vilnius, Lithuania - Europe, Baltic Travel, Short Trip, City Break

- Don't get your hopes up for a good brew. Like the majority of Europe, in Vilnius you can not get a decent cup of tea. Even though we came prepared bringing our favourite Yorkshire Tea, the Europeans just can't grasp the concept of black tea with milk and for some reason give you warm milk, or just plain icky milk! Stick to coffee or fruit tea whilst you're out there as there is no good wasting a good tea bag.

- Lastly, the most helpful guide we picked up whilst over in Vilnius was 'Vilnius Guide by In Your Pocket'. With a website, an app and a paper guide, this contains all you'll need to know about the city including what to see, where to eat and lots of great facts.

Rounding up the tips I have for you about Vilnius, I just wanted to touch of two regrets I have about our recent trip. The first is that I didn't actually try Lithuanian cuisine. There are plenty of places we could have tried it but with food being such an important part of my holidays, I was worried I wouldn't like it!

Second regret was that we missed the Christmas Markets! When booking we didn't even research when these would be but a few days before we flew I decided to Google it and found it was the Saturday after our departure date on the Friday. Leaving so soon before they started was very gutting, so I'd definitely suggest Googling the dates for these before booking!

I hope these tips help you in booking your trip to Lithuania. If you need any questions answering, please feel to contact me on twitter (@Danniannie) and I'll help where I can.
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Saturday, 26 November 2016

10 reasons to visit Vilnius, Lithuania

Ten 10 Reasons to Visit Vilnius Lithuania - Europe Travel Lithuania

Ten 10 Reasons to Visit Vilnius Lithuania - Europe Travel Lithuania

Ten 10 Reasons to Visit Vilnius Lithuania - Europe Travel Lithuania

Although Lithuania is not somewhere I would have considered visiting before, we recently hopped on a flight to its capital Vilnius and had an amazing time. You may not think much of this Baltic state, but hopefully by the end of this post you'll be booking your travel to this gorgeous city.

In an effort to sell Lithuania's capital city to you, I've written a list of ten reasons why you should put Vilnius high up on your list of places to visit.

1. The most popular cities in Europe usually have you paying over odds for your food, drink and travel. Vilnius is a relatively cheap and affordable place to visit, even with the weak Euro/Pound situation at the moment. We visited restaurants and found the bill to be around the same or cheaper than it would be here in the North of the UK.

2. Vilnius offers something completely different from what I've experienced before. I've been to the usual Spanish, French and German destinations but sitting next to Russia within the Baltic states, Lithuania boasts different food, an unusual language and so much to explore.

3. When walking into the old town of Vilnius you'll see that the architecture in this city is beautiful. There is such a fantasy vibe to most of the town with its exquisite colourful buildings towering around you.

Ten 10 Reasons to Visit Vilnius Lithuania - Europe Travel Lithuania

Ten 10 Reasons to Visit Vilnius Lithuania - Europe Travel Lithuania

4. In Vilnius there are lots of places to eat and drink. Although it takes a little bit of research and a map to find what you're looking for, when you do you'll see the vast selection of cuisines and settings. Whilst there we ate Italian, American and Indian although we missed out on eating their local Lithuanian food which was readily available with many authentic restaurants dotted around the city.

5. Getting around Vilnius is really easy to do on foot. You'll have to take a really comfy pair of trainers as the terrain isn't always smooth, think lots of cobbles, but its easy enough to get around with a trusty map. We walked all throughout the day time, only taking taxis at night to get to restaurants for our dinner.

6. Another great thing about Vilnius is that there is no real language barrier. As it's a city, most places have a relatively good understanding of the English language. Although we did try to learn some words in Lithuanian, its a tricky language to master and we found that we could get by easily as lots of the menus, signs and plaques had English translations.

7. In our guide book it states that "it is not an exaggeration to say that Lithuania is one of the safest countries to visit in Europe". Although we continued to be vigilant and keep our belongings close whilst on our trip, we did feel better knowing this and the atmosphere in the town felt quite safe when we were out and about.

Ten 10 Reasons to Visit Vilnius Lithuania - Europe Travel Lithuania

Ten 10 Reasons to Visit Vilnius Lithuania - Europe Travel Lithuania

8. Whilst in Vilnius we felt that there was a very laid back atmosphere with none of the hustle and bustle you'd find in other cities. We did visit during the week, so it may be different on weekends, but after speaking to a girl who studies over there, she confirmed our thoughts and said it was very chilled out.

9. As with many other European cities, Vilnius has a lot of history to offer. When we climbed to Gediminas Castle on our first day, as well as learning about the castle itself, we also learnt about the Baltic Way which was extremely interesting and eye opening. Throughout our trip we learnt the history of the many buildings we came across.

10. Finally, before coming across flights to Vilnius on SkyScanner, we hadn't heard of the Lithuanian capital city and had never considered visiting. At only £80.00 for return flights for two and a hotel for three nights at £130, this was a very cheap trip that we couldn't pass up. Vilnius is a relatively 'new' destination for people to travel to which offers everything other European cities do, with the opportunity to discover a place not touched upon by many as of yet.

So what do you think? Is Vilnius now on your travel destination list? I hope it is, as it's honestly a lovely place to visit and we'd be back again in a heartbeat.

10 reasons to visit Vilnius, Lithuania - Europe, City Break, Short Break, Baltic
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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Spa life | Ramside Spa, Durham

I'd never visited a spa until I was kindly invited along to try Ramside Spa. Going to a spa had always been on my list to do, but with the cost and the time associated with it, I had just never got round to booking an experience.

When an email dropped into my mail box to go along with other local bloggers to try out the luxious Ramside Spa, I instantly responded saying YES please!

Ramside Spa Hall Review Durham Experience Teesside

Ramside Spa Hall Review Durham Experience Teesside

Opened last year, the spa was part of a £16M redevelopment of Ramside Hall bringing a whole host of added extras for guests and locals. The spa boasts five pools, one of which is a full size 25m swimming pool, a wellness spa, 14 treatment rooms with a long list of gorgeous treatments available and a number of thermal suites.

We were given a tour around the facility by membership co-ordinator, Jasmin, who showed us the extensive gym which has a number of fitness classes daily as well as the latest technology, gave us a tour around the spa with highlights of a gorgeous manicure/pedicure hub and dreamy treatment rooms then walked us back through the spa's on-site restaurant, Fusion, serving Pan Asian cuisine.

Ramside Spa Hall Review Durham Experience Teesside

Ramside Spa Hall Review Durham Experience Teesside

Ramside Spa Hall Review Durham Experience Teesside

Ramside Spa Hall Review Durham Experience Teesside

When the tour was complete we had a few nibbles, and then got our robes and flip flops to enjoy the spa. I think the spa is like a playground of adults, full of interesting parts which you want to try out as soon as possible, getting excited as to which one you will start with. Myself and Kirsty (Number Twenty Six) got into our swimsuits and started in one of the UK's largest hydrotherapy pools testing out the numerous massage jets. It was such a relaxing experience that we could have spent all night just in that pool alone, but we knew we had more to try out!

From the hydrotherapy pool, we ventured outside searching for the outside vitality pool which was lit up like a disco. It was cold outside but once emerged into the pool it was boiling! A lovely experience to be in a warm pool surrounded by a cold breeze, this was another great pool. Although the pool was lovely, it got a little too warm for our liking so we braved the cold to go back inside.

Now it was time to try out the different steam/sauna rooms of which there are 5! There is a Herbal Sauna, Himalayan Salt Steam, Aroma Steam, Tepidarium and a Sunken Amphitheatre Sauna. We experienced all of these different rooms apart from the Tepidarium as we couldn't get the door open.  To save our embarrassment, we passed on that. They were all brilliant but my favourite was the Aroma Steam. I think because it was similar to other steam rooms I'd been in before but much more modern in comparison.

Ramside Spa Hall Review Durham Experience Teesside

Ramside Spa Hall Review Durham Experience Teesside

Finally we topped off our visit with a fruit water and another dip in our favourite, the hydrotherapy pool. After some more chatting, we went to get showered and set back off to Middlesbrough. I must add that the locker room and showers are top notch. I could have stayed in the shower all night, and with the addition of ESPA products to use whilst in there, it was brilliant.

Overall I had an amazing first experience at a spa. It was so relaxing and turned into a really fun evening. I'd definitely visit another spa, and would definitely consider it being Ramside Spa. Although I don't have much to compare this against, Ramside Spa was super clean, very modern and offered all you would need for a relaxing time at the spa.
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