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Wednesday, 7 March 2018

A guide to Venice

How can I get to Venice?

By Plane
You can fly into Venice Marco Polo airport or you can also fly into Treviso airport if you are departing from another Italian or european city.
To reach Venice from the airport you can either get a water taxi which will take you directly into the centre on Venice or you can catch a bus which will take you to Venice's central bus terminal from here you can walk into the centre.

TOP TIP If you opt to take a water taxi it costs around 100euros from the airport to the centre. The cheapest option is not to pre-book but to catch one at the airport as they are competitive on pricing, the more people the cheaper it will be as you can split the costs. 

By Train
The rail network in Italy is fantastic, we travelled from Naples to Venice by train.  From the train station it was a ten minute walk to our hotel.

Where can I stay in Venice?
We stayed at the Antica Locanda Montin. It was located on a quiet side street next to the canal in a quiet residential area. It is only a 15 minute walk from the bus or train station to the hotel. What was great about the hotel was that it was family run and very traditionally decorated. 

Its costs around £70-£100 per night to stay at the Antica Locanda Montin so it is budget compared to the opulent hotels available in Venice. (Although they come with very opulent price tags)

The hotel is family run, the brothers are keen fishermen so most days the specials at the hotel restaurant will be what was caught on the day. Surprisingly (for a hotel restaurant) it had a lot of charm, reasonable prices and was very popular with the locals.

You can check availability and book online here 

How can I get around Venice?

By foot
There is no vehicle traffic as there are no roads in Venice which is quite refreshing. The best way to get around is by foot as there is so much to explore and each narrow alley is worth exploring.

The price of a Gondola ride in Venice varies depending on what time of day it is, who the driver is and where you have boarded the boat. Most Gondola rides are either 20 minutes or 40 minutes long.
TOP TIP - Board a gondola in one of the quieter parts of the city away from the canal grande and it will be much cheaper than catching one on the main drag.

I think this was a well timed photo... : )

Water Buses
You can also grab a water taxi if you fancy travelling on the water, there are also water buses and you will see the signs at the end of the little piers across the city.

What's good to do in Venice?

As silly and simple as it sounds walking around Venice is amazing in itself. The not knowing where you are but not feeling lost as you can follow the water is brilliant. Wander around the alleys, a few may take you to dead ends put that's all part of the fun.

See a show

Visit the basilica de San Marco 

St Marks Square

Enjoy the street entertainment


What's good to eat in Venice?
CANNOLI'S and seafood. I never even knew what a cannoli was until I visited Venice and it really was one of those moments where you think WOW how did I not know until now that these existed?!They are a small croissant like pastry filled with either white chocolate or nutella.

There are small delis and pizza shops dotted around Venice so you can pick up a snack along your travels.

As for dining out in the evening there is plenty of choice. We chose to stay local to our hotel most evenings as there was a fantastic selection of rustic cosy restaurants in the area such as La Bitta and Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti which I would recommend.

What's good to buy in Venice?

Paintings, leather handbags and beautiful hand painted Venitian masks. You can barter for everything so if you see something you like but the price is a bit high return later in the day and they may gave you a discount.


Thursday, 1 March 2018

A guide to Lisbon

Where is Lisbon?
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal which sits alongside the Atlantic coast.

It is a lively and bustling city that offers everything you could want from a holiday. - Beaches, arts, culture, great shopping, and vibrant bars. It isn't well known for it's food scene but if you are a foodie you will be pleasantly surprised with what's on offer.

How to get there?
Ryanair offer cheap flights to Lisbon from airports across the UK including Manchester, Edinburgh, London Stansted and Glasgow. The average flight time from the UK is 3 hours.

Lisbon airport has a great transport network you can reach the city centre in 15 minutes on the metro directly from the airport. To catch the metro from the airport exit the departure area to the right and head down towards the station the ticket machines will be on the left, tickets cost €3.50.

Alternatively there are taxis available too, from the airport to Lisbon city centre costs €20.00

Where to stay in Lisbon?
Accommodation prices are much lower than other popular European capitals such as Paris, Rome and Barcelona. If you are looking for something cheap and cheerful but in the middle of all the action I would recommend Lisbon city centre apartments . It cost £106 for us to stay for 3 nights. There was 3 bedrooms which accommodate up to 6 guests so this is a fantastic bargain! 
The apartment was spacious, clean and safely located in a residential building next to the famous Tram 28. (The Tram stop is outside the front door...can't ask for much better than that)

What to eat in Lisbon?
A Valenciana, Lisbon
This restaurant is an absolute must visit. It is busy from as soon as the doors open until they closed. The locals flock here for the fresh seafood dishes, peri peri chicken and other Portuguese classics. There is a fantastic atmosphere in the restaurant and it is a great chance to really dine like a local. Dishes start at €7.00.
It is situated outside of the city centre in a local neighbourhood and can be quite hard to find so if you are walking enter the address into your sat nav. 'Rua Marques da Fronteira 157, Lisbon 1070-294, Portugal'

Time Out Market

The Time Out Market in Lisbon is an upmarket food market which houses pop up restaurants from some of portugals best chefs. Here you can find many cuisines under one roof including Thai, Portuguese, Italian and many more cooked by Michelin star chefs at a fraction of the price you would pay in a restaurant.

Not the best food pic, apologies >

Campo de Ourique Market
The campo de ourique market Lisbon is situated near the old cathedral. It is much more informal than the Time Out market and is also much cheaper. The vendors sell a selection of cuisines from portuguese, japanese to Italian. It is a great place to go hungry and try a few small dishes from several  different stalls. There is entertainment here most evenings and it has a great atmosphere. The vendors here seemed to be very proud and passionate about of their produce and told us all about where it came from and their recommendations. - 
If you are in Lisbon on a Sunday night they do a great quiz here too.

Belem - Pasteis de Belem

You can hop on a train from Lisbon central station that will take you straight to Belem. There is a tower which is worth a look but the main attraction here is the world famous custard tarts from Pasteis de Belem. It is on the main street in the town centre and you can't really miss it as there will no doubt be a queue outside.
TOP TIP - Most of the people queuing up outside are waiting for a takeaway or table but if you pass the queue and walk through to the back of the restaurant there is a second post were you can queue - and it is much smaller! - See picture for ref : )

The tarts are freshly main on-site in their huge ovens and it is extremely difficult to replicate their unique croissant like light and crispy base with sweet and creamy filling baked to perfection.

1-2 tarts each would probably be enough but it is worth buying a few to take home (which you can order from your table) as you will no doubt be wishing you had more later that evening!


I didn't know anything about Sintra until I watched a Rick Stein programme, it really is a bit of a hidden gem. It has medieval lanes, beautiful gardens filled with history and colourful castles high up in the hills.

You can reach Sintra directly by train from Lisbon, its costs about £8-£10 for a return ticket. When you arrive in Sintra train station you can grab a taxi or tuk tuk up to the main town or castles however we walked up to the main town which I would recommend as there was some fantastic street artists and markets along the way.

In Sintra town centre you will find a hub of small bars and cafes, they are all quite touristy serving standard burgers, pizzas, pasta etc and not much to write home but it's worth stopping for a beer and watch the traffic go by to and from the castles. 

If you walk straight through sintra you will end up at the stunning 20th century residence Quinta da Regaleira Palace Gardens . This place is truly something to see, you can explore under waterfalls, caves,hidden tunnels and wells. - The best thing is it feels like there is no boundaries or restricted areas.

It is open between 10.00am - 8.00pm in the summer, average time spent here would be 2-3 hours.


Lisbon offers a vibrant nightlife and you will find a lot of hidden gems outside of the main centre. You will know you are about to enter the real party scene when you start walking on a pink pavement 'Rua Nova do Carvalho', this area is full of lively cheap bars and nightclubs that stay open until the wee hours.


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