After almost 9 months living in Vancouver, in July Dave and I finally took our first ferry over to Vancouver Island. Celebrating my (significant) birthday, we decided to drive to the far side of the island to spend a few days in the small but mighty town of Tofino. With less than 2000 residents during the year, the population swells in the summer, when visitors descend on the town to soak up its surfing culture and incredible landscapes. Not to forget the local wildlife, which can be spotted both on land and under the sea.

About a 3 to 3.5 hour drive west from Nanaimo ferry port, Tofino is a magical place brimming with creatives, surfers, adventurers and zen-seekers. Here are some of our highlights over four days.

Food and Drink

Breakfast

There are loads of places to choose from in Tofino, but some of the places we decided to check out were:

  • The Schooner

    Based on the main road, this cosy, family-run restaurant is a Tofino institution. Known for its impressive seafood menu (and the large ship built into the restaurant entrance!) , The Schooner also offers some excellent breakfast fare. The first time we went, we shared a big fat cinnamon roll, which was up there with the best. The second, I had a delicious Eggs Benedict, enjoyed under the sun on the restaurant’s patio.

  • 1909

    1909 is a part of the Tofino Marina Resort we stayed in, so it was a handy stone’s throw from our room, as well as the Adventure Centre where you can book local activities on Tofino like bear watching (more on that later), whale watching, the hot springs cove tour (this was still closed due to Covid-19 when we stayed in early-mid July), guided fishing and paddle boarding.

    But back to 1909 (or 1989, 1990, 1919 as it was also known…). We went here on my birthday breakfast before heading out surfing, and it was so lovely. The restaurant has circular windows for an added nautical vibe, and offers a great breakfast menu. I had Eggs Benny (an all time fave) and a blood orange mimosa, which was a fairly ideal morning scenario.
Breakfast at 1909
  • The Common Loaf

    I loved this little place! We only popped in for a quick couple of breakfast paninis before heading off bear watching (more on that later!). They were delicious though and the coffee was great. The inside looked really cosy, so I’ll definitely be back for a sit-in experience on our next visit to Tofino!

Lunch

  • Shed

    It was sunny, so we headed into this spot on the main strip for some lunch on their decking. It gets pretty busy and has space limitations due to Covid, so we put ourselves on the wait list and wandered around the nearby shops until we got a call about half an hour later.

    Since moving to Vancouver, I’ve developed what one could credibly describe as a slightly obsessive relationship with poke bowls. I’d never previously eaten one or actually even heard of them, so it’s been a bit of a zero to sixty experience. So of course, when I saw a poke bowl on the menu it was decision made, and this little poke stack was particularly delicious. Paired with a grapefruit ale, sunshine and an outward facing table for optimum people-watching, Shed delivered a gorgeous lunch experience.
  • Wolf In The Fog

    Wolf In The Fog is an extremely popular dinner spot in Tofino, so you need to be organised and book a few weeks in advance to get a reservation! Needless to say, we are not those people. Luckily for us, Wolf In The Fog does a daily happy hour of 3-5pm. We took advantage of their famous Cedar Sours cocktails and some pre-dinner gigantic (and very delicious) tater tots.
Cedar Sours at Wolf In The Fog
Several drinks deep at Wolf In The Fog
  • Shelter

    This great little spot can also be found on Tofino’s main road, similar to Shed with a big outdoor patio and lots of indoor seating. It was dry but a bit chilly when we went, however we were able to sit outside thanks to the restaurant’s really effective outdoor heaters. They serve up a great frozen berry daiquiri and impressively good calamari, for pre-dinner indulgence!

Dinner

  • The Pointe

    This was far and away the most beautiful restaurant I have visited in BC so far. We went a bit all out because it was my birthday, but this place was 100% worth the extra dollars. The service was incredible and the views across Chesterman Beach and the Pacific were, to cliche the hell out of it, absolutely breathtaking. We were boring and ordered the same lamb main, which was genuiely one of the best meals of my entire life.

    If we were visiting on our usual budget, it’s not a place we could normally justify going, but for a special occasion, or just a treat-yoself, it’s a complete must visit.
  • The Hatch

    We didn’t actually eat here, but it’s a gorgeous spot for pre or after-dinner drinks (which were, apparently, a major theme of our Tofino trip…). Perched on the marina front, this place has great views and serves up a frozen pineapple margarita, which I enjoyed many of…

Activities

  • Surfing

    …Because you can’t reasonably visit the surf capital of Canada and not do it! We booked with Tofino Surf School, who were great. Due to Covid, to get to the beach (about 10 mins drive), we had to follow the school’s van in our own vehicle rather than riding in the van itself. Most people drive to Tofino when visiting anyway, but it’s worth bearing in mind if booking at this strange time!

    It’s a 3 hour lesson, including getting into your wetsuit (no mean feat at the best of times) a quick demonstration on the beach and travel there and back. We definitely had plenty of time in the water and it wasn’t cold at all when in the wetsuit.
  • Beach walks

    In my head, Tofino’s beaches would all be within walking distance of ‘downtown’ Tofino, but they’re mostly a short drive away (10-15 minutes), so again, unless you’re camping beachside or staying at one of the pods on Chesterman Beach, it’s good to have your own car here.

    FUN FACT: Tofino was used as a filming location for The Twilight Saga: New Moon in March and April 2009. I don’t know exactly which part it was, but with the moody skies and expanse of shoreline, it’s definitely well suited. We saw a few groups roasting marshmallows and having beers round fires on the beach, which looked so lovely. The weather was slightly unpredictable when we were visiting, but I’d love to do this next time we go.
Chesterman Beach
  • Bear watching

    This was one of the absolute highlights of our time in Tofino, when we saw our first ever bears! Booked through the Adventure Centre, this was a three hour session in a boat around Tofino to check out the bears’ favourite hangouts. It sounds long, but with the amazing views, a guide who was really knowledgeable and obviously passionate about the species, AND six bear sightings, the time really flew by.

    I was surprised (and a bit amused) when we had to step into our strange, gigantic floatie suits before the tour, which need to be worn throughout the duration of the tour, but was really grateful of them when the rain and wind chill from the boat really hit!

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It’s now been just over a month since two pasty-faced, jetlagged Scots landed in Vancouver, blinking against the strip lights in Richmond Airport’s baggage carousel. After a brief struggle to the taxi rank with four big bags of both the luggage and under-eye variety, we were on our way to our Airbnb in West Vancouver, where we spent out first 3 weeks in the city.

Every time I’ve moved to a new country, I’ve found it difficult to know how to answer the slow drip of  messages from friends and family members, hungry for feedback on what my Brave New World looks like. I always tend to reply perfunctorily, outlining accommodation details or employment progress, neglecting the actually interesting stuff: observations, experiences, one-offs – i.e., the very reasons I moved continent to begin with. So let me now share some of the main things I’ve noticed since landing in this new, foreign land.

  1. Trucks. Are. Life.

    For months before we left Edinburgh, Dave used to regularly wax lyrical about his plans for a pick-up. About how we could chuck our skis in the back, throw on some snow tyres and head on up the winding road to Whistler. To be honest, he went on about it so much that by the end I was just as enthusiastic about getting one. However, I dare say there is a chasm of titanic proportions between our idea of a truck and Canada’s idea of a truck. Because thundering through Vancouver right now is a swarm of monsters masquerading as entirely sensible vehicles, with aggressive sounding names to match their bulk. The car parking spaces in the supermarket in West Van are about six feet wide, leaving a few marked for use of “Small Cars”. And yep, they’re still bigger than the standard car parking spaces back in Scotland!

    After studying the drivers of these (exquisitely polished) RAMs, TITANs and GMCs, we’ve started to think that there may be some overcompensation at play. If you know what I mean. 
    Personally, we’ve since settled on a 2007 Ford Edge SUV, sourced from a Facebook group (I’m nothing if not resourceful.) You can fold the seats down and comfortably get about 9 sets of skis plus a small hostage in the boot, so Dave’s satisfied. 

  2. Everything. Is. Big.

    I know this is a common observation from Brits who land in transatlantic territory, but having walked around for just a week I am very much joining the bandwagon. We’ve already touched on the cars, but it’s the streets, the food, the buildings, the malls, hell I swear even the sky is bigger here. Vancouver’s unique in that even in its big city buildings have big nature mountains towering over them, a combination which works together to get you feeling really, really small. And it’s pretty magnificent.

  3. People are thee best.

    It quickly became apparent that personal connections are paramount in Canada. On our connecting flight from Toronto to Vancouver, we were seated next to a lovely guy called John. Immediately he took an interest in us, our lives and our work. Long story short, a contact he set Dave up with has now landed him a job. How’s that for a first impression of Canadians??

    When we arrived at our Airbnb, our host Trina couldn’t have been more welcoming and helpful either, and has been speaking to her friends about us to see if there’s any way she might be able to help us get set up with jobs/an apartment.  In cafes, restaurants and bars, servers take an interest in our accents and ask what brought us to Canada. 

    There’s just a lovely sense of curiosity and helpfulness from people, which I’d heard about from others but was still a lovely boost to my already positive expectations. 

  4. Asian culture is huge. 

    It’s estimated that around 20% of the population in greater Vancouver comes from Chinese heritage, while places like Richmond, just south of Vancouver, counts more than half of its inhabitants as Chinese. This means that walking around the city and its suburbs, Chinese restaurants are ten a penny. I’m not a huge fan of Chinese food but I can imagine the city would be a gastronomical Aladdin’s cave for those who relish it!

    Saying that, we did go to a Chinese restauant called Dinesty in Downtown Vancouver a few weeks ago and oh my god I still have dreams about those dumplings. A must visit for anyone looking for gorgeous, authentic Chinese food.  

  5. They love a bridge

    Road, rail, suspension: you name it, Vancity’s got it. Because of the way the city is laid out, with “Downtown” being the epicentre of sky-skimming offices, banks, bars, restaurants and shopping, and everything else kind of satelliting off it, bridges connect the different areas. Travelling from West Van to Downtown you go over the glorious Lions Gate bridge (below), Second Narrows Bridge will take you to East Van and Burrard Street Bridge to reach West End from Downtown. It reminds me of a much more chilled out version of Manhattan. 

  6. It feels smaller than it looks (which is good)

    In fairness, it is massive but it’s largely spread out. The skyscrapers and high rise buildings you’ll see in a standard Google search are probably taken in Downtown Vancouver (sandwiched betweeen greater Vancouver and North/West Van.) 

  7. Groceries will bankrupt you

    I’m talking 2 CAD (£1.16) for a cucumber. And cheese is tragically, tragically expensive. We “treated” ourselves to a tiny block of cheddar the other day which cost us about £6. SOS. 
     
  8. It’s the greenest city I’ve ever been in 

    There are massive parks dotted around the city and half an hour from downtown Vancouver are major hikes and trails. The whole city is overlooked by three mountains (Grouse, Cypress and Seymour) which are a short bus ride from the city. 

  9. Craft breweries are everywhuuur (and I moved from Edinburgh.) 

    We’re not complaining. 

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It’s approaching six weeks since two pasty-faced, jet-lagged Scots landed in Vancouver, blinking against the strip lights in Richmond airport’s baggage carousel. After a brief struggle to the taxi rank with four big bags of both the luggage and under-eye variety, we were on our way to our Airbnb in West Vancouver, where we spent our first 3 weeks in the city.

Every time I’ve moved to a new country, I’ve found it difficult to know how to answer the slow drip of  messages from friends and family members, hungry for feedback on what my Brave New World looks like. I can get trapped in replying perfunctorily, outlining accommodation details or employment progress and neglecting the actually interesting stuff: observations, experiences, one-offs – i.e., the very reasons I moved continent to begin with.

So let me now share some of the main things I’ve noticed since landing in this new, foreign land.

1.Trucks. Are. Life.

For months before we left Edinburgh, Dave used to regularly wax lyrical about his plans for a pick-up. About how we could chuck our skis in the back, throw on some snow tyres and head on up the winding road to Whistler. To be honest, he went on about it so much that by the end I was just as enthusiastic about getting one.

However, I dare say there is a chasm of titanic proportions between our idea of a truck and Canada’s idea of a truck. Because thundering through Vancouver right now is a swarm of monsters masquerading as entirely sensible vehicles, with aggressive sounding names to match their bulk.

The car parking spaces in the supermarket in West Van are about six feet wide, leaving a few marked for use of "Small Cars". And yep, they're still bigger than the standard car parking spaces back in Scotland!

After studying the drivers of these (exquisitely polished, rarely mud-flecked) RAMs, TITANs and GMCs, we’ve started to think that there may be some overcompensation at play. If you know what I mean.

Personally, we've since settled on a 2007 Ford Edge SUV, sourced from a Facebook group (I'm nothing if not resourceful.) You can fold the seats down and comfortably get about 9 sets of skis plus a small hostage in the boot, so Dave's satisfied.

2. Everything. Is. Big.

I know this is a common observation from Brits who land in transatlantic territory, but having walked around for just a week I am very much joining the bandwagon. We’ve already touched on the cars, but it’s the streets, the food, the buildings, the malls, hell I swear even the sky is bigger here.

Vancouver’s unique in that even in its big city buildings have big nature mountains towering over them, a combination which works together to get you feeling really, really small. And it's pretty magnificent.

Case in point: an enormous block of cheese on sale in the local supermarket...

3. People are thee best.

It quickly became apparent that personal connections are paramount in Canada. On our connecting flight from Toronto to Vancouver, we were seated next to a lovely guy called John. Immediately he took an interest in us, our lives and our work. Long story short, a contact he set Dave up with has now landed him a job. How's that for a first impression of Canadians??

When we arrived at our Airbnb, our host Trina couldn't have been more welcoming and helpful either, and has been speaking to her friends about us to see if there's any way she might be able to help us get set up with jobs/an apartment.  She's now even invited us over to her place for Christmas Eve!

In cafes, restaurants and bars, servers take an interest in our accents and ask what brought us to Canada.  There's just a lovely sense of curiosity and helpfulness from people, which I'd heard about from others but was still a lovely boost to my already positive expectations. 

4. Asian culture is huge.

It's estimated that around 20% of the population in greater Vancouver comes from Chinese heritage, while places like Richmond, just south of Vancouver, counts more than half of its inhabitants as Chinese. This means that walking around the city and its suburbs, Chinese restaurants are ten a penny. I'm not a huge fan of Chinese food, but I can imagine the city would be a gastronomical Aladdin's cave for those who relish it!

Saying that, we did go to a Chinese restauant called Dinesty in Downtown Vancouver a few weeks ago, and oh my god I still have dreams about those dumplings. A must visit for anyone looking for gorgeous, authentic Chinese food.  

5. They love a bridge.

Road, rail, suspension: you name it, Vancity's got it. Because of the way the city is laid out, with "Downtown" being the epicentre of sky-skimming offices, banks, bars, restaurants and shopping, and everything else kind of satelliting off it, bridges connect the different areas. Travelling from West Van to Downtown you go over the glorious Lions Gate bridge (below), Second Narrows Bridge will take you to East Van and Burrard Street Bridge to reach West End from Downtown. It reminds me of a much more chilled out version of Manhattan. 

6. It feels smaller than it looks (which is good)

In fairness, it is massive but it's largely spread out. The skyscrapers and high rise buildings you'll see in a standard Google search are probably taken in Downtown Vancouver (sandwiched between greater Vancouver and North/West Van.) Downtown is where most of the 'city' is concentrated, but Greater Vancouver is a different story. There are huge parks and nature reserves, smaller communities and an overall quieter, more laidback feel to it.

7. Groceries will bankrupt you

I'm talking 2 CAD (£1.16) for a cucumber. And cheese is tragically, tragically expensive. We "treated" ourselves to a tiny block of cheddar the other day which cost us about £6. SOS.

8. As will your mobile phone

For some reason, most mobile phone providers here only offer about half the amount of data you could get back home, for twice as much money. The cheapest deal I could find was $50 CAD (around £33) for 10MB of data per month, whereas back home I paid £15 per month for 15MB. Oh, and don't leave the province as your provider will essentially stop providing. Weirddddd. 

8. It's the greenest city I've ever been in 

There are massive parks dotted around the city and half an hour from downtown Vancouver are major hikes and trails. The whole city is also overlooked by three mountains (Grouse, Cypress and Seymour) which are a short bus ride from the city.

9. Craft breweries are everywhuuur (and I moved from Edinburgh.)

We're not complaining.

It’s the ruggedly handsome island I’ve always daydreamed about. With a couple of days leave still left to take before Christmas, I decided to fulfil my romantic little reveries and book a long weekend over the sea to Skye.

I’m far from unique in my idealised vision of the island, which explains its brimming population every summer, when domestic and international visitors alike descend upon Skye to see its surrounding beau idéal for themselves.

High season runs from April to October, so our late November/early December trip was very off-peak – something people didn’t hesitate to warn me about before we went. Since my plans consisted of walks and seeing some iconic landscapes- while staying in a self-catered cottage – I wasn’t too bothered about this.

However, people were not over exaggerating when they said the island closes down over winter. Anywhere really outside of Portree or Uig (the main two towns) is completely dead – something we discovered on our last night when we thought we’d venture out for dinner, only to discover the only place open for miles (including back over the bridge to the mainland!) was ‘Taste of India’ in Kyleakin. It was lovely but didn’t necessarily fulfil my vision of a cosy, island restaurant experience!

Unfortunately for us our wee visit coincided with Storm Diana, so a lot of our outdoor adventures were accompanied by wind, rain and hail. To be fair, it’s Scotland in November so it’s to be expected, though obviously a visit during the dryer months might suit people who aren’t necessarily used to such meteorological factors. 

Here are some of the things we got up to during our two full days on Skye…

Fairy Pools

Through my incessant Instagram scrolling (no, you have a problem..) I’d seen so many amazing photographs of the Fairy Pools that I insisted they were the first thing we saw on Skye. Luckily the weather stayed clear enough for long enough that we were able to actually walk around them properly and enjoy them.

Even while experiencing the authentic Scottish weather of four seasons in one day (or rather, hour), these naturally-formed pools and waterfalls are so magical. In between the hail when the sun shone, the water was so clear and turquoise and I felt I could sit and watch them for hours. 

TOP TIP: if you’re visiting here in winter, do not be extremely optimistic like us – wear actual proper hiking boots or wellies. I had normal boots on while Dave had trainers, so we (yes, two man effort) had to squeeze his size 9 feet into my size 6 wellies I’d left stashed in the boot of the car. Prepare yo’ feet, readers. Also, the car park opposite was a fiver to get in to so remember cash!

                                                               The Quiraing

The weather was at its worst when we went to see The Quiraing on the north of the island, so even though we couldn’t do the walk (which is a loop of around 7km), it still looked pretty epic with the low hanging mist and cloud. 

The site is widely compared to Lord of the Rings scenery, and when we visited it definitely had a touch of Mordor. I’d love to come back in Spring/Summer and do the full loop. We only did the first kilometre maybe, but even then I was blown away by it  (metaphorically as well as almost physically.) 

                                                                Portree

We made a little pit stop here on our way back from The Quiraing. We only wandered around the centre a bit but we ate by the fire at The Antlers Bar and Grill (haggis bon bons: the best) we wandered down the main street (mostly gift shops!) and got some cake at Cafe Arriba which is a cute little upstairs cafe overlooking the sea. 

                                                      Eilean Donan castle

OK, so it’s not technically on Skye but it’s close enough…

As far as castles go, Eilean Donan in my (I suspect very mainstream) opinion is the king of them. Standing above the water about a 15 minute drive from the Skye bridge, it was lit up as we passed in the darkness and the sight gave me instant goosebumps. 

The castle itself is closed in the low season but you can still walk around it. I will certainly be back one summer to go inside!  

                                                                       Mhor 84

‘Cos you can’t have a North-West road trip without stopping here! My absolute favourite little spot just off the A84. This time we visited “Store 84” (the shop right next to the restaurant) for the first time, and it was filled with some amazing things so definitely worth popping your head in. 

                                         And finally, where we stayed… 

As an Air Bnb stalwart, we of course stayed in a little Air Bnb cottage. It was in Lower Breakish, which is about 15 minute drive from the bridge. It was right on the sea front and the space was just so gorgeous and secluded.

If you want to be closer to the ‘action’ (which is somewhat limited during winter on Skye but you get my drift) this was quite a long drive from most places (45 minutes to Portree and over an hour to The Quiraing on the north of the island.)

From what I hear from others who have visited, Uig and Portree seem to be the most popular places to stay, as you’re slightly more central/nearer to the big attractions. Since there wasn’t much going on while we were there anyway (and it was also mad weather) we were more than happy to make dinners in our wee cottage, drink mulled wine and sit by the fire! 

Skye, I’ll see you again soon! 

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Despite visiting this wonderful city already aged 18, my memories of it have become somewhat hazy over the years. So when my friend chose Madrid as the setting for her hen do, I was excited to get to explore it again and refresh my memories of a decade earlier.

So even though we were only in the city for one full day, I thought I’d do a little blog post on the highlights of our gals mini break – which both my head and stomach muscles are still recovering from.

Sipping sangria in a sunny square

This was about as much on point as my alliteration efforts. Honestly, I know it’s said often but sometimes the small, simple things really are just the best. Exploring and doing that walking thing is fine and everything but really, sometimes you just cannot beat cold sangria, awesome friends – old and new! – sunshine and people watching in the beautiful Plaza Mayor square.

Traditional tapas

It’s surprisingly difficult sometimes to secure that dreamy recipe of good food, good company and good surroundings. But our second night in Madrid impressively nailed all three. We feasted on tapas delights which included (from what I remember) battered and fried courgette, chorizo of an actual butter-like consistency (don’t ask me the name), ham croquettes, Spanish tortilla, calamari and many many many other dishes.

Despite neither party’s ability to speak the other’s language, the waiters were absolutely hilarious. The manager provided us with fizz and a variety of liqueurs on the house before conducting an impromptu lock-in until after midnight when we moved onto our next venue (see below!).

If you’re ever in Madrid and want great food, friendly staff, authentic Spanish surroundings and – importantly – very reasonable priced and tasty Shiraz, would highly recommend El Anciano Rey de los Vinos.

Rooftop terrace bar

Being from Scotland, rooftop terrace bars will never lose their novelty. Being able to drink outside at night and not shiver your tatas off? Yes please. We headed to El Viajero and drunk gin, talked nonsense, made videos for my friend’s fiance to drunkenly express our gratitude to him for buying us the first round of drinks and generally had an absolutely excellent time. 10/10, would recommend.

The converted convent

…i.e., our accommodation. Some people hold the view that Air Bnbs/city break accommodation in general isn’t that important but I am v. snobby when it comes to my Air Bnb choices. So you can imagine how relieved/impressed I was that the maid of honour absolutely nailed it with the accom. We stayed in a beautiful two-storey converted convent which was modernised but with traditional features (think sparkly white kitchen ft. original exposed brickwork and heavy ceiling beams.)

And finally… all the cheese.

Ok so this isn’t a PARTICULAR anomaly for me but I do feel that the quality of the Madrid manchego was bloody amazing – to the point that the various blocks of cheese we bought at the local mercado served 8 of us for pre-dinner snacks, after-club munchies and breakfast both days. And there was some left over when we left. Because everyone knows if you’re abroad, “clean eating” can actually gtf.

So even though we arrived Friday evening and left Sunday morning, I felt like even this brief re-encounter with this beautiful city, its beautiful food and all the beautiful girls I was with made it one of the best weekends I’ve had in a ridiculously long time. Gracias, Madrid!

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The stretch between December and March/April can seem fairly eternal. With the excitement of Christmas behind us, the next cause for celebration is the distant promise of leaves on trees, the long Easter weekend and the ability to gorge shamelessly on chocolate eggs.

SO, this is precisely why it’s the perfect time to book a getaway and give yourself a little sumpn sumpn to look forward to and ease those Q1 blues. It was in this spirit that KK and I embarked on our little road trip up north for a stay at the Riverbed Lodges in Glencoe.

Glencoe is one of those places you drive through and each time feel completely in awe of your surroundings. From Edinburgh it took us about 3 hours to get there, but the drive is often heralded as one of the most beautiful roads in the UK, making it about 50 times more enjoyable than your average 3 hour shlep.

You arrive up a little track road and see the lodges nestled among the trees, each with their own little set of steps and veranda. There are 8 of them in total, seven of them with a hot tub and one without. They’re 12 sqm so totally teeny, but so cute and cosy. The first thing we did was get into our comfies, take some photos and just chill out which was so nice and relaxing.

I’d be wholly behind getting a lodge with a hot tub because as far as I’m concerned there’s very little better than climbing into one on a cold day, armed with a bottle of chilled prosecco. It was pretty much an example of us living our best lives.

No it’s not a floating black bikini – if you look closely there is in fact a very translucent bod in it.

It got dark pretty quickly by the time we climbed in so we don’t have many photos of it from the first night, but rest assured that bad boy is just as great to relax in come morning with a cup of cawfee from the lodge’s nespresso machine (ugh can I just live there already).

We chose to spend our time there hanging around in either our pyjamas or in the hot tub, because quite frankly we were there to laze around, but if you wanted to actually branch out of your lodge there’s loads of stuff to do – including hill walking, skiing at the Glencoe range nearby, Segway tours, cycling, mountain biking and golfing. There are a few local restaurants you can check out too.

Included in the stay is breakfast, which includes granola, porridge, fresh milk, orange juice, croissants (with butter and pots of jam) and fruit. The bed frame folds into a little table you can eat it at or if it’s dry outside, you can have it out on the veranda – pre or post morning hot tub dip!

Whatever you choose to do there, you won’t be disappointed by the lodges and their surroundings. It was such a novelty staying right amongst the trees and mountains but in the safety of a warm little lodge haven. They’re a perfect weekend getaway for a group of pals or your other half.

If you’re thinking of booking a stay at the RiverBeds, make sure to use the code ‘kkland’ so you can enjoy prosecco, chocolates and bath robes included in your lodge.

 

Photos by KK Land

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Prague: a city known for its architecture, history, gastronomy and magnetism for British stag dos. The latter being, oddly, the reason I came to this city second time round (the first I was interrailing aged 20 with my best friend – enough said.)

No, I wasn’t on a stag do, the boy was – and since flights were insanely cheap he suggested I join him after the lads had returned (and his broken body remained in a state of beer-induced disrepair.)

So, in negligence of the fact we’re meant to be saving, my inner travelista remains a force to be reckoned with. And off to Praha I flew last Sunday.

I’m not so much of a rigid plan-maker when I go to new cities, I prefer to mostly just wander and see what I can find, though there were some particular sights and activities we were recommended. So I give you a list of highlights from 4 days in the Czech capital…

Charles Bridge

Yes it’s an obvious one, but missing this out on a trip to Prague would be pretty sacrilegious. The bridge itself provides a glimpse into medieval Prague (pre-cartoonists and postcard vendors, obv) and there’s nothing like a bit of history on your holidays to make you feel cultured.

It connects Prague’s old and new towns and is just a lovely space to wander around. Leading onto the Old Town’s gorgeous old cobbled  streets, which are lined with old beer houses, squares and medieval buildings, the piece de resistance is the multitude of bakeries selling Trdelniks – or ‘Chimney Cakes’.

Oh god the Chimney cakes.

Round pastries coated in butter, rolled with cinnamon sugar and almond and filled with nutella, jam, ice cream or fruit, trdelniks are everywhere in Prague and were the sweet lining to my hol.

 

Hemingway Bar

If you want to feel like Daisy Buchanan for the night, this is ya place. I’m a total sucker for anything novelty/vintage/retro – anything that reflects a different time period, basically.

So when I heard about this little speakeasy tucked among the cobbled streets of the Old Town near the river Vltava, I took little persuading to go in and sample a cocktail or two.

Entering through a thick, velvet curtain, you’re led into a small, candlelit bar. There’s classical music playing and the waiters wear bow ties. The cocktail list is immense, and the drinks are served in a variety of oddball container. I had the “Magic Moment” cocktail of Beefeater gin, mallow and nettle cordial.

“Part of the magic is made by you” the bartender told me (flirt), before presenting me with an odd looking little potion bottle with 2 different openings. You mix the gin and then the cordial and the drink changes colour, which provides a lot of excitement for a simple gal like me – especially after a couple of wines already. It also tasted pretty dang delicious. I could’ve inhaled any of the cocktails on their list – peruse it for yourself here.

Oh and just in case you require any further persuasion, Hemingway Bar has been listed as one of the top 50 best bars in the world. In short, you gots to go.

 

Cafe Imperial

We heard about this art deco place through my dear old dad as a jazzy little spot for lunch or dinner so we thought we’d check it out. With over a century’s history behind it as one of Prague’s best-loved restaurants, I knew we’d be in for a bit of a treat.

I didn’t get any photos of the inside (one food pic on my phone was already pushing the bf’s limits), but the ornate ceiling, golden intricacies of detail and bow-tied waiters (do I have an underlying fetish for this?) made for a very luxurious restaurant experience.

I had a “US Hanger” steak – nope, not entirely sure what it is either, but I can tell you it was unbelievable! Good house red wine too.

 

Lennon wall

Who knew the Czechs held such an affinity with the Beatles’ bespectacled lead singer?  On the other side of the Charles bridge, into the Old Town, there’s a whole graffitied wall which serves both as a shrine to JL and a canvas for the city’s enthusiastic spray-painters.

Random to us, yes, but apparently after his death, the music icon became a pacifist hero for oppressed young Czechs living under communist rule.

It’s a mish-mash of JL imagery and the words he stood for – peace, love… also now ‘beer’, which you can see emblazoned on his forehead – but the common theme that belies it all is one of inspiration and political freedom. It’s a pretty cool place to visit.

It’s also really close to the Trdelnik street I mentioned earlier.

Just saying.

Lokál Dlouhááá

Want to be where the [Czech] people are? Then this is ya boy.

A friend of ours who lived in Prague for 6 months told us about this place and it was just as she described – lively, full of young locals and with a gigantic list of different craft and local beers and wines, I felt like this one one of our more ‘authentic’ Prague experiences.

We got probably the most lethal “Grog” I’d ever tasted – as in, probably could’ve got drunk from the fumes alone – and a pint of raspberry beer which was (dangerously) tasty. There’s an array of local food as well, i.e., potato dumplings and sausages, but we were content with our novelty bevvies.

Great little spot for day or night drinking (I don’t discriminate), and probably your best bet to sample some of what the Prague locals eat and drink.

Beer spa

So it seems the Czechs love beer so much they bathe in it. After a heavy night but with a determined “when in…” attitude, we marched to the nearest available spa. Mainly for the lols, if I’m honest.

And lols it did bring.

We were led into our own private spa room with two deep, wooden baths at one end. These were filled with hot water and a mixture of malt and hops. In the corner there was a little fire and a “traditional hay bed” (no we didn’t really know what that was about either).

When our host eventually left and we had recovered from our laughing fits, climbing into a bubbly bath of beer with access to an unlimited beer tap next to you proved to be one hell of a way to spend an afternoon.

And yes we eyed each other cynically when the host started talking about the benefits of malt and hops on your skin, but I gotta say we were softer than a couple of peachy baby bums after that sesh. With the added benefit of finely sculpted abs from laughing for an hour straight….

 

It’s a city I’ve now experienced in both summer and winter and both times it’s been equally as beautiful – and very good fun. If you visit, there’s no other way for me than an air bnb – we got this beauty for £23 a night. Praha, I’ll be back again some day.

 

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After holidays like last week’s, the return to real life joins wrinkles, alarm clocks and hangovers in the realm of the violently unwelcome inevitables.

Skiing has always been one of my absolute favourite things to do, and after working two ski seasons (one Courchevel, the other St Anton), it’s become an even more important part of my life. Because how can anyone feel sad when they’re hurtling down a powdery run under a bluebird sky – with hot wine and carbs waiting  like a loyal friend at every stop? View Post

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