Europe’s top 5 walking destinations #SeeingSwitzerland #Giveaway

I am very much a country girl at heart and although I do love exploring Europe’s bustling cities and staying in hotels or Airbnb apartments I still enjoy spending time in the great outdoors both at home at abroad.

Every year I go camping with my family in the UK giving me the chance to enjoy getting back to nature. When casting my eye further a field I have come across some really inspiring destinations in Europe where you can take in the sights of the countryside. Here are my top 5 European walking destinations, in collaboration with Inntravel.

Switzerland

My husband and I visited Switzerland as part of our European tour honeymoon and we spent a couple of days exploring Lucerne which sits amid snowcapped mountains around the beautiful lake and we were captivated by the stillness of the water and the majesty of the mountains.

Between the Eiger and the Matterhorn lies some stunning walking opportunities. Explore among towering, snow-capped Alps starting from the famous north face of the world’s most recognisable mountain to high-mountain passes on true alpine trails and deep into valleys via lakes, forest and classic mountain villages. Switzerland is well known for its culinary delights so be sure to sample local cheeses and chocolates along the way!

If you’re a first timer why not try a self-guided walking tour of Switzerland, like the Inntravel’s From the Eiger to the Matterhorn walk, which provides hotel-to-hotel walking, allowing you to explore classic routes and little-used trails shared by the tour company.

Montenegro

Last year I turned 30 and as my gift, my sister took us away for a week in Montenegro. I have to admit I didn’t really know anything about this country before going but we had a lot of fun travelling around the Bay of Kotor and visiting all the villages and towns en route.

Although Montenegro’s coast is popular with tourists for its stunning views across the Bay the interior is made up of exciting Balkan wilderness, refreshingly undeveloped and ready for anyone looking for an active holiday. The Durmitor National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, formed by glaciers and is traversed by rivers and underground streams with 23 mountain tops over 2300 meters of altitude.

The park boasts the deepest gorges in Europe, the Tara river canyon and you will find dense pine forests interspersed with clear lakes with a large range of endemic flora. Trails can be accessed from the well-serviced hub of Zabljak, on the edge of the park.

Ireland

I have always wanted to visit our neighbour island of Ireland with its spectacular natural beauty, rich history, unhurried pace of life and legendary hospitality. There are plenty of opportunities to connect with the Irish countryside with many fantastic walks to take in on a holiday.

The Kerry Way is a low-level circuit of the spectacular Iveragh Peninsula, a region of wild, natural beauty steeped in history and legend. Kerry’s hills are eerie and wet, but atmospheric with the range called MacGillycuddy’s Reeks being a fine example of Irish mountainscape and makes a superb centrepiece for a long weekend.

County Wicklow, often referred to as ‘the Garden of Ireland,’  is a picturesque landscape of serene lakes, glacial valleys, majestic mountains, forests and farmland. The Wicklow Way, one of the first waymarked trails to be established in Ireland, visits this unspoilt region and combines the culture-rich city of Dublin with remote mountain trails and secluded valleys. Keep an eye out for stunning Sika Deer and Red Squirrels as you walk near Powerscourt House near Enniskerry!

Crete

I have fond memories of exploring this Greek island which is said to have been the birthplace of Zeus, according to Greek mythology. Heraklion, the capital, is home to a renowned Archaeological Museum, housing Minoan artefacts and Knossos, a Bronze Age settlement of workrooms, living spaces and store rooms close to a central square decorated with high colour frescoes showing people, mythological creatures, real animals, rocks, vegetation, and marine life.

If you’re looking to discover some history along your walk then why not visit Crete? The island offers access to a variety of routes, taking in necropolises, deserted coastal paths and olive groves. Don’t miss the beautiful Sirikari Gorge with the Acropolis of Ancient Polyrrinia around a 30-minute hike from the Sirikari village.

The south-west is a flowery paradise in spring. Walk an early-day circuit from roadless Loutro up the mountain to Anopolis, returning down the Aradena Gorge. Loutro is a quaint seashore village, perched on craggy rocks and nestled in a cove, affords an opportunity to experience life in a less accessible part of the island. After your walk why not indulge in some delicious fresh seafood caught by local fishermen?

Austria

I have visited Austria a couple of times taking in the sights of the City, Vienna, as well as the stunning mountainous landscape of Innsbruck which is a perfect Christmas break destination.

Austria boasts a landscape dotted with mountains, valleys, lakes, and forests perfect for holidays with hiking and biking among the most popular activities. Trails here are available for all preferences and ability. Hallstatt is a perfect hub for exploring the Austrian lake district. From here you can travel between steepled villages on easy footpaths, indulging in the odd lake crossing.

If you’re a fan of Austrian food then the Bregenzerwald’s famous Cheese Trail is for you! Along the route, you can sample regional delicacies by farmers, alpine dairymen, cheesemakers and restaurants. The Cheese trail network is made up of Farmers, alpine dairymen, cheesemakers, restaurants, inns, museums, railways and tourist organisations dedicated to the cultivation and the maintenance of culinary delights and regional culture. Who can resist?

Win!

Are you planning a holiday in the great outdoors? If so, check out the giveaway below to get you started by winning a Mammut Xeron Element Rucksack perfect for storage while hiking. Good Luck!

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Europe's top walking destinations

3 Travel Destination Ideas for 2017

I have to admit that when it comes to booking holidays I can be pretty predictable, preferring places not too far away from home where I can get in some quality relaxation as well as exploring local culture and history. So far this year I have plans to visit Amsterdam for a long weekend and it is looking like a Scandinavian Christmas market is on the cards for December.

When looking into travel destinations for 2017 I came across a few amazing options which I would never have thought about and I really wanted to share them with you in the hopes of inspiring you to go somewhere a bit different this year.

For the culture buff – Málaga

I have visited a few different places in Spain but I have never visited Málaga which seems like an oversight as it is described as Andalusia’s museum-goer’s paradise. The city boasts a Picasso museum, the CAC (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo) as well as an outpost of Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum that houses Carmen Thyssen’s extensive private collection. Holidays in Spain always include sun-kissed beaches and fabulous local cuisine and Málaga is no different.

Try one of the city’s foodie tours where you can try specialities like Iberian ham, or visit one of the many tapas restaurants for some local flavour! There are 15 beaches within Malaga’s city limits, so plenty of sun and sand to enjoy.

For the nature lover – Madagascar

I would never have thought of visiting the island of Madagascar as a holiday destination but it is tipped to be popular this year. Madagascar is perfect for anyone who loves nature as the island is home to thousands of unique species with more than 90% of the flora and fauna being restricted to the island. Created in 1991 following the 1986 discovery of the golden bamboo lemur, the Ranomafana National Park is a must!

Don’t forget to visit the Avenue of the Baobabs, a row of about 20 – 25 imposing Baobab trees along some 260 meters. Antananarivo is the capital and largest city in Madagascar with rich historical, architectural and cultural sites to explore including beautiful cathedrals and the Queen’s palace.

For the flavour hunter – Cambodian Coast

If you’re looking to go further afield this year then consider a visit to the Cambodian Coast which boasts some of Southeast Asia’s most stunning islands. There are now direct flights into the coastal Sihanoukville airport via Ho Chi Minh City making for a smooth journey to the perfect island escape. Visit the capital of Phnom Penh for extraordinary historical architecture, modern malls, and an incredible food culture. Khmer red curry (coconut-milk-based), Nom banh chok (noodles) and Kdam chaa (fried crab) are some dishes which shouldn’t be missed.

Why not try your hand at bartering in one of the local markets? A good tip is to suggest 50% of the original price and then settle somewhere in between. If you’re looking for some relaxation why not indulge in a the Cambodian-inspired treatment at the wellness-minded Six Senses Spa on Krabey Island or visit the Alila eco-resort on Koh Russey to experience Khmer cuisine and community service.

planning holidays for 2017

Fight jet lag this summer

Nothing is quite as frustrating as arriving at your fabulous summer holiday destination and having to put up with sleep disruption, tiredness and even nausea brought on by jet lag. If you regularly travel long distances and cross several time zones you will know what I mean.

Jet lag is caused when the body struggles to adjust to the new time zone. We have an internal biological clock that regulates daily routine; the circadian rhythm. When we travel across multiple time zones (usually more than 3) it can be disrupted, leaving the circadian rhythm out of sync and ultimately making us feel pretty awful!

The degree of suffering will vary from person to person, but common Jet lag symptoms include:

  • Indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea
  • Headaches, nausea and loss of appetite
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Feelings of disorientation, lethargy and light-headedness
  • Feeling confused
  • Difficulty concentrating and clumsiness
  • Sweating

Funnily enough jet lag is more common when travelling east opposed to travelling west as travelling east means adjusting to a shorter day rather than having a longer day. The risk of developing jet lag can also be increased or exacerbated by:

  • Dehydration
  • Drinking alcohol or caffeine during a long flight
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Stress
  • Being over 60 years of age.

There are several things you can do which will help reduce the effects of jet lag including medicines to lifestyle techniques, all designed to help your body’s circadian rhythm adjust to the new time zone.

Medication includes melatonin (a hormone released by the body to let the brain know it’s time for sleep), and circadin which help adjusts the body’s circadian rhythm to that of the new time zone. Taking regular sleeping pills is not advisable as you can end up with a ‘handover’ in the morning, making you feel worse!

If you prefer to avoid medication then try to avoid napping on arrival to make sure you remain active until you reach the correct time for sleep in your new time zone. You can also spend some time outdoors where the exposure to natural light will help to reset your internal body clock and adjust to the new time zone. Finally, make sure you eat at the new time zone’s times to get your gut on track!

Do you have any great jet lag cures?

how to avoid jetlag plane wing

 

Exploring the UK: Birmingham

I am a big fan of staycations and having the chance to explore the UK, having spent a lot of time when I was younger travelling the country with my family and visiting local attractions. Birmingham is the largest and most populous British city outside London and has an array of exciting things to do and places to visit. Check out my suggestions here.

Where to stay

There are lots of options when looking for somewhere to stay in or around Birmingham, from well-known Hotel chains to Manor Houses such as Hampton Manor which is based around the city. When choosing somewhere to stay do your research and consider the things to want to do whilst staying in the UK’s second city.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

If you’re looking to discover some history and culture then nowhere beats the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which boasts a collection of international importance covering fine art, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, natural history, archaeology, ethnography, local history and industrial history.

The Art Gallery is known for its impressive collections of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Edward Burne-Jones paintings. If you prefer antiquities, I have to admit I do, then the Museum boasts a selection of coins ranging from ancient times through to the Middle Ages as well as fascinating artefacts from Ancient India and Central Asia, Ancient Cyprus and Ancient Egypt.

The BullRing

If you’re interested in retail therapy then head to the BullRing, the shopping hub of the city. Since the Middle Ages the site has seen many commercial uses, and today’s retail centre boasts more than 36 million visitors drawn in by over 160 stylish shops including Apple, Debenhams, Selfridges, Zara and Forever 21.

The Bullring and Spiceal Street offers a choice of stylish restaurants, cafés and places to grab a snack to replenish your energy between shops. The shopping centre is easily accessible and has solid transport links so it is easy to get to.

Jewellery Quarter

For more of a shopping buzz check out Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, Europe’s largest area of jewellery shops which produces 40% of all the jewellery made in the UK and historically the birthplace of many pioneering advancements in industrial technology. It also houses the world’s largest Assay Office which hallmarks and astonishing 12 million items every 12 months.

Nicknamed ‘Birmingham’s Gem’, the Jewellery Quarter has undergone a transformation into an attractive urban village home to a collective of creative businesses. Explore the area by taking the Findings Trail which was designed by maker Laura Potter of the School of Jewellery. The trail is made up of 30 pavement slabs with stainless steel plaques in the form of hallmark tags usually found on jewellery.

Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park

For animal lovers, a trip to the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park is a must. The zoo features mainly small mammals and is well known for its national red panda breeding program. Other animals include lemurs, reptiles, meerkats, otters, birds, wallabies and a large collection of monkeys. Don’t miss feeding times where you can see the Porcupines, Tamarins and Lynxes get their dinner!

Some species kept at the Conservation Park are endangered in the wild and the Park plays an important role their conservation. The Conservation Park is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria and of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and are part of a high profile European Endangered Species Programme.

Winterbourne House and Garden

I love visiting grand estates and houses, exploring architecture and getting a peek into life at a different time. Built for British industrialist and entrepreneur John Nettlefold, Winterbourne House and Garden is a grand Edwardian historic house set in beautiful gardens nestled in a leafy corner of Birmingham, complete with family-friendly interactive exhibits and a lovely terraced tearoom and gift shop.

The house was designed to make the best use of light with large windows, white painted panelling and south facing rooms. The Edwardian house’s restored rooms showcase furniture dating from the late Victorian era through to the 1920s as well as a selection of antiques. The Grade II listed gardens are a 7-acre oasis with over 6000 different plant species with features including a carnivorous glasshouse,  an original sandstone rock garden and a woodland walk through Gunnera leaves and Rhododendron.

Winterbourne House and Garden

Review: Lunch at Conte, Perast Montenegro

On our first full day in Montenegro, my sister and I decided that we would explore the town of Perast which sits opposite the Lavender Bay Appartments (where we were staying) on the Bay of Kotor. Perast is famous for its two little islands and their Churches;  Sveti Đorđe (St. George) and the other Gospa od Škrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks) and after our boat trip to and from the man-made island home to Our Lady of the Rocks we decided it was time for lunch.

Our lovely and helpful holiday rep had recommended a visit to the hotel-restaurant Conte which sits on the seafront looking out over the beautiful bay towards the two islands (most of Perast has this view!), telling us that it served great food so we decided to go ahead and give it a go. All of the establishments on the seafront have seating right on the water (a wrong step can lead you to a pre-lunch swim), and the main building just across the small coastal road from the seating. We discovered an elegant-looking seating area with beautifully laid tables and selected one right on the edge so we could look across the water and do a bit of fish spotting in the crystal clear water.

My sister had done a bit of research before coming to Montenegro and knew that the traditional starter was the local version of dry-cured ham- Njeguški pršut – so when she spotted it on the menu she didn’t hesitate to order it. Of course being vegetarian I had to look for something else and was pleased to be able to order the local cheese which is another well-known product of the region – Njeguški sir. My sister was very happy with her pršut which she described as being similar to Italian prosciutto with a salty, smoky flavour. My cheese was crumbly and delicious with a creamy yet tart flavour which was well balanced by the olive garnish. So far, so good!

Of course, the Bay of Kotor boasts some top quality seafood and for her main, my sister wanted to try fish. She ordered the Poširani filet “Conte” na podlozi od crne riže i u sosu od gambora, sa prilogom – the restaurant’s signature poached fish fillet in a sauce of prawns with black ink rice and poached eggs. I was very happy to see a vegetarian-friendly pasta dish on the menu and ordered the Taljatele sa tartufima i šampinjonima – tagliatelle served in a white sauce with truffles and mushrooms.

Although we weren’t sure what type of fish my sister had on her plate she was very happy with the flavours and the way it had been cooked, the accompanying black ink risotto was also well cooked with the poached eggs and salsa giving a wide mix of flavours and textures to the dish. My pasta dish was really lovely with perfectly cooked tagliatelle in a rich, creamy sauce with a generous helping of mushrooms and a solid kick of truffle. I feel like the only improvement which could have been made would have been a hearty sprinkle of cheese on the top but that might have been a little too indulgent!

We really enjoyed our meal at the Conte hotel-restaurant in Perast on the beautiful Bay of Kotor. The service was friendly and helpful (ignoring our horrific attempts at pronunciation), the food was plentiful, flavorful and well cooked and the overall atmosphere was relaxed and at the same time elegant with a stunning view across the Bay. We award Conte 5 out of 5 stars and certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a port in a storm whilst exploring this beautiful region.

Outside Restaurant and Hotel Conte

Restaurant and Hotel Conte

Traditional starter at restaurant Conte Perast

Traditional Montenegrin Cheese Starter Conte Perast

Black risotto seafood dish at restaurant Conte Perast

Veggie friendly pasta at restaurant Conte Perast

5stars

A Guide to Planning the Ultimate Hen Do

Most women only have one hen do to celebrate their last days as a single woman. I really enjoyed my own hen do which included a spa day, dinner and night out with my gal pals in London. I actually planned my own hen do (I’m a bit of a control freak) and made sure that everything was planned just so. 

It’s important that the whole event is planned well with consideration, thought and good intentions. We’re not all natural born planners and all too often we overlook certain factors until they present themselves at the last minute. If you’re a bridesmaid planning one of the most unforgettable nights of her best friend’s life, don’t let yourself get caught out!

Everything from the activities to the choice of outfit to the transport needs to be decided upon beforehand. If this all seems a bit intimidating, then I have had a think on your behalf and put together some key points below for you to keep in mind. Before you know it, you’ll have planned an incredible night to remember forever.

Take charge of every single element

If you’re throwing a hen do for your best friend take the responsibility of every single aspect of the big night. Don’t feel the need to be solely responsible; you can have a group of friends organising the event, but don’t get the bride-to-be involved!

Refrain from asking the bride her opinion on where you should go or what you should do. This is her special night and your opportunity to show her how much she means to you with well thought-out surprises. Daunting though it may be, welcome the challenge of having the final authority on everything, including where you are going, how you are getting there, what you are doing and how long the event will last. Above all, the best present you can give your friend is the luxury of not having to concern herself with the pressures of event organising.

Customise activities to the bride-to-be

Just as every woman is unique, so too should every hen do. If the bride-to-be is a party animal, she might like nothing more than a night filled with visits to the hottest nightclubs on offer. However, if she is more of an outdoorsy type, she might prefer to go hiking, followed by a round of laser tag or paintball. If she likes to be pampered, schedule in a manicure, massage or a facial – just as I had on my day. 

There may be a lot of people in attendance but the only one whose preferences should be taken into account is the bride’s. If she is a curry lover, then her best friends can deal with a delicious Indian meal for one night; don’t worry about satisfying the whole party, as it is usually impossible!

Invite the right people

Perhaps the trickiest question relating to hen do organisation is the issue of who to invite. You might be a good friend, but do you know all of her closest friends? Are you able to get in touch with them? Thankfully, social media has revolutionised the way we communicate and facilitated events such as this (think Facebook event) but remember to make a comprehensive list of people to invite and do this well before the day in question. 

A difficult decision to make will relate to whether or not you are inviting the bride’s family. Some would be mortified if you invited her mother (or worse, her mother-in-law), while others would feel disappointed if they were left out. The same can apply to sisters or cousins. Each bride is different, so you will have to make a judgement call based on your knowledge of the bride-to-be. I had my sister with me for my hen do but no other family! AIt might be running these questions by your friend beforehand to avoid disappointment.

Carefully select your hen do destination

If your friend is a mum who can’t feasibly take a few days away from home to celebrate, this will limit your choices to local attractions. The same will be true if the bride has other commitments, such as work. However, if possible, whisk your friend away for a fun few days somewhere far away from home.

Some decide to hop on a plane to Europe, while others opt for a special UK adventure. Popular choices include Blackpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool or Manchester. Each place has something unique and exciting to offer, so remember to do your research beforehand. Decide how long you want to travel for, how compelling the local destination is and whether or not the bride has ever expressed an interest to visit the place in question.

Hire a minibus hire with driver to facilitate travel

Getting a minibus hire with driver is just plain easier than doing all the driving yourself. You don’t have to worry about getting lost on unfamiliar roads; you will be completely comfortable and at ease; it is the more environmentally-friendly option and you will be looked after by experienced professionals. In fact, they might even be able to offer you the advantage of their own local experience. On top of all this, if a party divides up the cost of a coach hire, it’ll doubtlessly result in a financial saving.

The important thing to remember about hen do organising is that if you put effort into the big night, it will be clear to your friend and she will have the time of her life knowing that her friends have gone to such lengths to make her happy. So don’t get frustrated or upset if every single thing doesn’t go to plan. In fact, chances are some things will go wrong. Just remember to enjoy an amazing, eventful night with one of your best friends.

planning the best hen do

Travel Wish List: Luxury Holiday Destinations

For my birthday this year, the big 3-0, my sister really pushed the boat out and took me away for a week in gorgeous Montenegro where we spent many happy hours exploring the Bay of Kotor, sunbathing and relaxing. Most of my holidays are quick weekend jaunts to European cities so this holiday really made me start thinking about other luxury destinations I want to visit. Here are the ones at the top of my travel wishlist:

The Maldives

When I asked my sister where she might like to go for her reciprocal 30th birthday holiday she said The Maldives, an archipelago of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean with a rich culture, fascinating history and an extensive marine wildlife ecosystem. Once renowned for cowry shells, The Maldives boasts an impressive offering for tourists with stunning beaches, clear blue lagoons, whale and dolphin watching, water sports and exciting venues such as ‘Subsix’ which is astonishingly a restaurant submerged six feet under the Indian ocean with a good chance that parrotfish, moray eels and butterflyfish will swim past while you eat! Most visitors arrive by way of Malé International Airport, on Hulhulé Island, adjacent to the capital Malé but there are a number of cruises to the Maldives allowing passengers the chance to explore the inhabited and uninhabited islands.

Tuscany

Is there anything more luxurious than the promise of a holiday in a Tuscan villa, looking over beautiful rolling vineyards interspersed with cypress trees, whilst enjoying having delicious local wine, bread and cheese on tap? Known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its influence on high culture this central region of Italy has so much to offer from the sights of the area’s Capitol Florence to the famous Pisa Cathedral bell tower, great natural and architectural beauty in the Tuscan towns, beautiful beaches, mountain thermal bath towns like Montecatini Terme (which my husband and I were lucky enough to visit on our honeymoon along with Florence and Pisa), and of course astonishingly good Italian food! If you’re a real foodie then a Tuscan cooking class would be the perfect way to pick up some new skills and enjoy the produce of the region.

Istanbul

It might sound a bit pathetic but I actually fell in love with the idea of visiting Istanbul after reading a fictional book set in the City. The book was a bit like the Da Vinci Code with the two main characters running all over the city to find clues to solve a mystery and although the plot was really great I was more taken by the description of the places they visited with the Hagia Sophia being my favourite. Istanbul has such an extraordinary wealth of culture and history, albeit a lot of it having come from dark times, and I would love to explore the architecture and museums to learn more about this amazing place. As well as the Hagia Sophia I would love to visit the Basilica Cistern, the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar. Check out some other Istanbul sights here.

Morocco

When I think of Morocco I think of terracotta, spices and marketplaces. This North African country is characterised by a rugged mountainous interior, stunning coastlines and large portions of desert boasting both ancient Roman and Islamic sites which draw in large numbers of tourists every year. There is a huge wealth of culture due to the turbulent history of the country with influences from all over the globe due to the peoples who invaded: Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Jews and Arabs, Sub-Saharan Africans, Romans, Vandals, Andalusians and Moors. Marrakech is very popular with visitors enjoying excursions to the city to revel in the souks, mosques, hammams, museums and gardens. I don’t think I would get bored!

What luxury destinations do you want to visit?

footsteps in the sand

Review: Dinner at Ćatovića Mlini, Montenegro

Before departing for our recent trip to Montenegro to celebrate my 30th birthday my sister did some research on the area we would be staying in, Morinj and happily she discovered that Ćatovića Mlini, a family run seafood restaurant, was mere minutes away from where we were staying at the Lavender Bay Apartments.

Halfway between the better-known Herceg Novi and Kotar, Ćatovića Mlini is set in the beautiful Montenegrin countryside in the small fishing village of Morinj. The restaurant describes itself as a safe haven from the rush of life, a restaurant founded and run by the Catovic family who originally used the mills for over 200 years to make flour, however changing times saw a need to change.

Lazar Ćatović converted the mill and the family house into a successful restaurant set in serene gardens over a trickling river which makes it the perfect place for a romantic evening or relaxing dinner with friends and family. Lazar’s idea to preserve the harmony and union that the local people and the nature created together.

The menu at Ćatovića Mlini focuses on fish dishes with a number of shellfish specialities, seafood salads, homemade cheese, prosciutto served with homemade olive oil and served with sumptuous local wine. You might think ‘what is a vegetarian doing going to a seafood restaurant’? Luckily I was able to email the restaurant ahead of time and they reassured me that I would be ok.

I decided to go for a vegetable appetiser as my main dish  – baked zucchini (courgette), tomatoes and parmesan and I added sides of mixed green and potato salads. My main dish was presented beautifully like a lasagna with layers of  perfectly al dente courgette and tomato topped with a crispy layer of salty parmesan which gave it a great additional texture. I was given a generous portion which made it perfect as a main dish. The salads added a bit more to my meal with fresh greens and well cooked and sauced potatoes.

My sister ordered prawns rolled in zucchini with carrot sauce, which might sound odd but in fact she told me that the carrot sauce was surprisingly good match with it’s sweetness counterbalancing the fresh succulent prawns and the courgette rolls giving it some crunch. My sister certainly had a more dainty portion than I (I think they gave me a big portions because I didn’t have meat, a common thing to do in restaurants), and it was very nicely presented.

Now to the deserts. My sister had read about the traditional Montenegrin pudding, an apple strudel with nuts and raisins (Štrudla sa jabukama orasima i suvim grožđem) and she was very happy to see it on the menu at Ćatovića Mlini so she ordered it. I wanted something a bit different and went for the chocolate soufflé.

I have to admit I was disappointed when the soufflé arrived and turned out to be more like a fondant – chocolate cake with a molten centre, but nevertheless it was moist and delicious. The strudel however didn’t disappoint!

We had a really lovely evening at Ćatovića Mlini, we enjoyed quality food, good service and beautiful surroundings. Despite my pudding disappointment I would definitely recommend the restaurant to anyone visiting the Bay of Kotor and I award it 4 out of 5 stars.

Gardens at Ćatovića Mlini

Garden Path at Ćatovića Mlini

Stream at Ćatovića Mlini

Ćatovića Mlini outdoor seating

Bread and garlic oil

Potato Salad Ćatovića Mlini

Catovici Milni mixed salad

Baked courgette Catovici Milni

Prawns at Catovici Milni

Strudel Catovici Milni

souffle Catovici Milni

Review: Lavender Bay Apartments Montenegro

I recently turned 30 and for my birthday my sister gave me an amazing gift; a week holiday in Montenegro. In all honesty I had never heard of the place before she suggested it but I can’t recommend it enough! With a rich cultural history, fantastic sunny weather and friendly locals Montenegro is really up and coming as a destination.

We didn’t choose to stay at a hotel on this trip but instead went for self catered apartments in a small fishing village called Morinj on the Bay of Kotor. The Lavender Bay Apartment complex is a brand new resort made up of modern apartments which sleep between 2-4 people with 1 and 2 bedrooms.

The complex also boasts a cafe, spa with jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, as well as a gorgeous infinity pool and sun bathing terrace area with stunning views across the Bay. The Lavender Bay resort is also a short walk (albeit down a pretty steep road) away from the beach and a useful convenience shop. It is also a short distance from the Tramontana Beach Club which serves affordable good food on the beach and Catovici Milni, a restaurant regarded as the best in the country – review coming soon!

The complex is well situated in the Bay of Kotor and is around 30-60 mins drive from all the towns you might want to visit on your trip. We divided our time between lounging at the apartment and exploring the local towns of Perast, Kotor, Herceg Novi and Budva. We hired a car which made it easy to get around although driving on the left was interesting! Luckily the complex has parking on site, although parking and leaving is a bit tricky due to the limited width of the parking space.

The Lavender Bay apartments are beautiful; they are decorated in a simple, elegant and modern style which compliments the bright white walls. They are a generous size with lots of space particularly in the living/dining/kitchen open plan area which has a fully equipped cooking area with a ceramic hob with 4 rings, a dish washer, a fridge freezer, a kettle, a microwave and a built-in oven. Cutlery, crockery, utensils and basic cooking equipment.

The apartments also have air-conditioning, wi-fi and satellite TV for when you need a break from exploring the area or from the midday sun. The balcony is a great space for alfresco dining and comes with seating and a table for such use. I can also recommend using the balcony for hanging clothes for drying! Our apartment had a master bedroom with en-suite and a second twin bedroom next door to the main bathroom.  Both bathrooms have modern facilities with the main bathroom boasting an amazing shower and hand, bath and pool towels are provided.

Overall the Lavender Bay Apartments made for a fantastic home for our week in Montenegro boasting simple and practical facilities along with modern interior design and comfortable furniture. We spent many hours relaxing up by the pool with delicious cocktails and I even indulged in a massage at the spa. All of the staff were helpful and friendly and made us feel welcome and safe. Our only gripe was that the wi-fi didn’t work in our apartment, the only way we could get decent signal was to stand by the open front door!

I award the Lavender Bay Apartments 4 out of 5 stars. It would have been top marks had it not been for the wi-fi signal and the tricky parking. That being said I would definitely go back!

Twin room Lavender Bay Resort Montenegro

Lavender Bay Resort Montenegro Bathroom

Lavender Bay Resort Montenegro

Dining Area Lavender Bay Apartments

Kitchen Lavender Bay Apartments

Master Bed Lavender Bay Apartments

Lavender Bay Apartments Pool

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4stars

Visit to St Leonard’s Ossuary Hythe

On a recent camping staycation with my husband, parents and our combined three pooches to Folkestone Kent (about an hour’s drive from where I live) my Father was talking about how when he was a young boy with his parents he visited an amazing Church in Hythe which housed an astonishing collection of human bones. After a bit of Googling we discovered the Church was St Leonard’s (click for website) and we jumped in the car to go check it out.

Amazingly this little-known Church has the largest and best-preserved collection of ancient human bones and skulls in Britain consisting of 1,022 skulls on display in four shelved arches and a stack of long bones, pelvises and skulls measuring 7.5m in length, 1.8m in width and just over 1.8m in height.In total it is estimated that the collection represents around 2,000 people, however this is just an estimate as it is simply impossible to count them all.

First referenced in 1678 by Samuel Jeake, then Town Clerk of Rye who described St Leonard’s having ‘an orderly pile of dead men’s bones’ in the ‘charnel house’ on the north side of the church, this fascinating collection of remains has been studied over the years in order to determine where the bones came from, the ages and sexes of the remains as well exploring signs of diseases and injury visible on the bones.

I have to admit that I was worried about the ossuary being really spooky but my fears were unfounded. My father, husband and I were warmly welcomed in and given an introduction about the bones, the myths of where the bones came from as well as told a bit about the studies that have been undertaken. Some of the bones show fascinating signs of being damaged with re-growth visible which means that the person survived their ordeal and had started healing.

Of course my husband, the osteopath, really enjoyed examining the bones and looking for conditions he could recognise and name. On the other hand my father, the dentist, enjoyed looking at the display of jaws and teeth which were part of the collection. I found the collection of bones equally as interesting and found myself wondering who these people were and how they ended up in the Church.

If you’re looking for something a bit different to do and you’re in Kent then I really do recommend a visit to get a closer look at some of our ancestors and learn a bit of Kentish history at the same time. Of course you can also pop down to the beach, a short walk away, if you want to reflect on the wonders of sun shine and ice cream!

St Leonard's Church Hythe Kent

St Leonard's Church Crypt

Skulls at St Leonard's Church Crypt

Close up on skulls at St Leonard's Church Crypt

Femurs at St Leonard's Church Crypt

Femurs and skull at St Leonard's Church Crypt

Pelvis at St Leonard's Church Ossuary

Jaws at St Leonard's Church Ossuary