#JanuaryJoy: Plan a Trip

Todays #JanuaryJoy prompt is definitely one of my favourites and sure to become a Florence Finds tradition. For last years ‘Plan a trip’ I talked about safari and what became my epic trip to South Africa. I’m so glad I took some time over planning it and your advice. Today after hearing a few people talk about it (and having a long term ambition to visit myself,) I’m sharing Becky’s trip to Norway, Sweden and Denmark, in the hope that it inspires you to explore. Please do sure your travel plans for this year in the comments!

Oslo


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SLEEP
We enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Guldsmeden

EAT
We ate a fantastic Easter lunch at the Ekeberg restaurant. Ask for a table by the window or if you’re visiting in the Summer, the terrace would be my choice.


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SEE
A lot of our exploring was on foot. Walking to the top of the opera house roof was fun – A fantastic example of architecture and landscape rolled into one.
We took a boat trip to The Viking Ship museum and The Norsk Folk museum.
We also got the underground to the Holmenkollen ski jump and museum. The view from the top of the ski jump across the fjords is breathtaking and certainly made us want to return to do a fjords trip one summer.

Stockholm


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SLEEP
The Rival hotel is a converted cinema owned by Benny from Abba. It was great and the cocktail bar was buzzing every night as was the adjacent cafe every morning which does a good breakfast. The location was amazing for getting around too.


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EAT
As I was in the first trimester of pregnancy and feeling pretty ropey, dining out in fancy restaurants wasn’t a priority but we had a good meal at Riche restaurant and the bar had a great atmosphere too.

Under Kastanjen cafe was a nice stop for a coffee whilst walking the streets exploring Gamla Stan

SEE
The Vasa Museum
Skansen open air museum – A combination of a Zoo and folk museum. Probably best seen in late Spring and Summer.
Hallywyl Museum.
We also wandered around Gamla Stan – The Old Town and got around predominantly on the underground or walking.

Copenhagen


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SLEEP
We stayed in the Marriott as my husband had points from work so got a free night. Sure you can find something with a bit more character – We did walk past the ‘floatel‘ a few times and thought it looked interesting… as long as you don’t suffer with motion sickness!

EAT
We decided not to go to Noma due to the bump but if you fancy it, I expect you’ll need to book your table now for June.

We enjoyed a really good fish lunch at Kastellet, Nordre Toldbod 12-20… a warehouse style informal dining restaurant & foody supermarket next to the water. Expect it’s lovely on a sunny day

SEE
Again, we explored the city on foot unless we got a boat. A visit to Christiania was eye opening.
Nyehaven shouldn’t be missed and a good point to start a boat tour from. I found the most dreamy shop… Illums Bolighus, Amagertorv 1-11
See The Little Mermaid – the clue’s in her title….she’s little!
Rosenborg Castle
Tivoli gardens…. All in all a pretty naff amusement park. The lights make it look pretty at night!
Louisiana Museum of modern art is a pleasant train ride north of the city and on a clear day you can see over to Sweden from the galleries gardens.

So readers… have you ever been on a Scandanavian trip? It’s Stockholm that has always tempted me – all the islands are supposed to be beautiful in the summer.

Where are you headed in 2014?

Love,
Rebecca (& Becky)
xo

Girl About Town Gets Out of Town: Barcelona

This year the Mr and I have spent all of our annual leave on attending 10, yes, ten, weddings (two of which were/are aboard) and all the corresponding stag and hen weekends. As such we didn’t have much leave left for a “proper” holiday. Or, more importantly, any money with which to purchase one! This left us in a bit of a quandary as taking time out to go exploring around the world is kind of our thing. Also, with such busy lives (as we all have) often, a holiday is the only time you get to truly spend QT with each other… and catch up on your sleep debt! So what to do, what to do?

Well Mr G thought we could cope until 2014. I vehemently disagreed and set about finding a cheap and cheerful (but still up to Florence Findette standards!) mini-break that:

  1. Started and ended with convenient flights at civilised times from one of our closer airports (Stansted, City or Southend),
  2. Was close enough that we didn’t waste too long on the plane,
  3. Had enough to “do” to keep us out of mischief but also not so much that we felt guilty if we wanted to chill out and ignore all the culture and sights
  4. Would be achievable within Mr G’s set of rest days between shifts.

Tricky.

After a long process of elimination we finally settled on Barcelona when I found super-convenient flights with EasyJet from Southend, at the civilised time of 9.30am on a Monday morning.

I’d been before, and enjoyed it but I wasn’t as excited about it as everyone else seemed to be, so I’ve spent the last seven years wondering what I missed and wanting to return! Also, Mr G hadn’t had the pleasure so it was decided. Barcelona it was.

The Hotel

I found the Melia Sky hotel on Mr and Mrs Smith, did a quick search and found it at a lower rate on Expedia with the flights in a package so it actually came out as a bit of a bargain. Shop around people, shop around!

The hotel is cool, modern, clean, funky in style, full of nice quirky touches and, although I normally try to get out of the hotel when I’m away and discover new places, I found it actually quite a nice place to hang out.

NB: Be careful not to book the Melia Hotel! The Melia Sky is the one you want – it’s the one with the outdoor swimming pool. We made this mistake and had to hastily re-book. Be warned!

Highlights included the light and airy rooms with floor to ceiling windows looking out to sea, the swimming pool area on the 7th floor roof terrace, which had just enough of a “cool kids pool-party” vibe about it to keep it young and fun (but not so much that I couldn’t just chill out like a grown up and read my book*), the bespoke scent that was piped in to all the public areas (similar to Jo Malone wild fig and cassis I think) and a lobby/lounge/bar area with apothecary jars full of flumps, complete with flump tongs! You can take the girl out of Essex but…

It’s slightly out of the way from the busier parts of the city, in a residential area but it’s only a short walk from the Metro station so within ten minutes you can be in Port Olimpic or on Las Ramblas. My only criticism would be the price of breakfast (if not included in your package), but we took ourselves out wandering most mornings in search of food and so managed to save ourselves over €40 a day by eating in little cafes nearby.

Where to eat, drink and people watch…

On our first night we followed what felt like a thousand tour groups to Las Ramblas to look for something to eat. We thought it would be a bad idea, but we went with it anyway. After negotiating hordes and hordes of tourists fighting for jugs of cheap sangria, we eventually found somewhere to eat, just off the main strip in Placa Reial called Ocana we ordered waaaay too much tapas and some yummy pink mojitos (served in jam jars) and sat back to people-watch on the square. All of a sudden it dawned on me that was the exact place we’d spent our first night the last time I visited the city. I must have been drawn to it!

Thereafter we stayed out of the main city and ate at various places in Port Olimpic. Much like a book and it’s cover, you shouldn’t judge a bar or restaurant by its décor, but most of the time I’m drawn to the prettiest ones in the street. Along this strip you are spoilt for choice with gorgeous eateries and drinking establishments ranging from the super-modern full of white sofas, mirrored surfaces and candles to rustic al fresco parlours on wooden decking where you eat in amongst tubs of herbs and spices.

This strip is bustling with beautiful people, in beautiful bars, drinking beautiful cocktails along the beach-front promenade. I’d recommend Gallito and Bestial for food, and Opium for cocktails and lounging early on and then posing and dancing later in to the night. I also heard great things about Shoko and the rooftop bar of the W Hotel.

What we did…

Chilled! With a capital *chuh*.

We made a lame attempt at sightseeing by jumping on one of those open-topped tourist buses, briefly stopping by the Sagrada Familia and in Parc Guell, but we got sidetracked by the beach front bars full of squishy couches, extensive cocktail menus and the prospect of lazy sun-drenched people watching and gave up our tickets.

So that brings me to my next point: Who has some recommendations? Bars, restaurants, sights, getting away from the tourist traps… leave a comment and share your Catalonian secrets!

Victoria x

*ironically not a grown up book, but some awfully addictive YA fiction. Best we steer well clear of this topic eh Mahj and Becca? 😉

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

Style and the City: Paris

It’s turning into quite the travel Thursday but do not fear this is actually a (shhhh!) Fashion post. Read on for the full explanation!

This afternoon I’m hoping you can all help me to help a friend of Florence Finds out, Michelle from Pocketful of Dreams. Michelle is heading off to Paris very soon and recently asked the readers of her blog for tips on where to go, or what to see and do. Like all of us, she’s looking for those little known hideaways, cute shops, pretty patisseries and knock-out cool bars to sample a cocktail.


Moodboard by Pocketful of Dreams; Image credits: paris2london.tumblr.com, chictopia.com, thecherryblossomgirl.com

Of course, that’s exactly what we’re about here at Florence Finds so I said I’d help her out by posting her shout out and Michelle is going to return the favour by covering her fabulous travails on her return. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

In the meantime, I was inspired to help Michelle with her packing and (after you have left your comments!) please head on over to Pocketful of Dreams and have a look at the Parisian city break solutions I dreamed up for her…

Au revoir!

Rebecca
xo

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