Thursday, 26 March 2015

A charming B&B with creative flair at One Holyrood

Before my stay at One Holyrood, I couldn't have said that I had stayed in a B&B that also happened to host an art studio. Yet, over the course of the weekend spent there, this was just one of the pleasant surprises discovered at One Holyrood.

Located in Newport, one of the Isle of Wight's most central towns, One Holyrood was easy to find - even for newbies to the island like us.

In terms of first impressions, it couldn't have gone any better. I walked into the reception area and thought, 'I wish my house could look like this'.

Doubling up as a cafe in the daytime, with sweet treats lining the counter and plenty of comfortable sofas and armchairs, One Holyrood exudes an atmosphere of cosiness and charm. Spotting the guitar standing in the corner of the room, I knew that I would absolutely love it here.

The perfect first impression: Cosy armchairs, artwork and a guitar.

We were taken up to our room and the infatuation only continued.

One Holyrood is set within a three-floored Grade II-listed building, meaning that all of the quirks associated with historical homes are present and accounted for. Our room featured a sloped ceiling, which, for me, just added to the character of our surroundings. 

And 'character' seems like the operative word when it comes to One Holyrood. Each room is individually designed; ours was kitted out in fresh green shades and I was half tempted to steal our mini sofa (Chris totally was too).

Chris checks out the logistics of taking said sofa with us.

Our room had a double bed, TV, tea- and coffee-making facilities as well as a bathroom with all-modern finishings. It would have been all too easy to stay there all day, especially on the one particularly rainy morning we had during our weekend stay.

The pretty wallpaper.

Another view of our gorgeous room.

A day in Guernica

We were only in Guernica for a single day, and, even within the first 30 minutes of being there, I knew that it wouldn't be close to being enough time. 

Admittedly, I knew very little about Guernica before we got there. In fact, the little that I did know was of a sombre nature. Having studied history in university, I had read of the World War Two bombing of this town, where most of Guernica was destroyed.

But, there is so much more to this place, which is one of the two biggest hubs within the Urdaibai region (the other being Bermeo). Over the next few hours, we would go on to discover some of the many facets of Guernica - its architecture, the long history, its food and drink scene as well as a traditional sport.

If, like us, you find yourself in Guernica for only one day, here are the things you should not miss out on while in the town.

Marvel at the stained glass ceiling of Guernica's Assembly Hall

While you may have heard of stained glass windows before, Guernica's Assembly Hall takes this art form to an entirely new level.

Situated on a small hilltop, it's said that this has been a meeting point for the people from this region since the 14th Century. Boasting the title of Europe's oldest parliament, the Assembly Hall grounds are also home to the Tree of Guernica.

Assembly Hall, Guernica
The Assembly Hall of Guernica.

Assembly Hall, Guernica
Exploring the grounds of the Assembly Hall... with this building rather resembling a tiny Roman temple!

The tree symbolises the freedom of the Basque people and, although numerous trees have actually stood here over time, all of these have descended from the original oak tree planted in the 14th Century.

Arboreal matters aside, we moved inside the building, which is free to enter, after taking in the photogenic grounds. 

It's here that you'll find some stunning rooms, including a circular chamber almost entirely covered with wood. The main hall will be the room that grabs your full attention, though.

The star attraction is a ceiling made entirely of stained glass, featuring the very same tree I've just mentioned.

Assembly Hall, Guernica
And the stained glass ceiling in question.

The Assembly Hall, with its long history of this region's political happenings, is the perfect introduction to Guernica.

Go for a wander

One of my favourite ways to get acquainted with a new destination has to be exploring it on foot. I'm happy to report that we did just that, unperturbed by the rain that accompanied us.

Guernica sightseeing
A clock in the park!

Town Hall, Guernica
Guernica's Town Hall on a rainy day.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Making the most of your Dublin layover

It's officially the last few days of the Aer Lingus #ThrutheQ travel competition and I'm doing everything I can to keep those votes coming in. A big thank you to everyone that's voted already!

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a quick recap:

I've been selected as one of the potential travel bloggers who will go on to become Aer Lingus' official correspondent for New York City. The winner is decided by public vote, and I'm currently sitting at number three (of 19). I would be very grateful if you could swing a vote my way! And, just by voting, you stand a chance of winning two flights to NYC, plus £1,000 in spending money - not too bad!

Here's how to get involved:

1. Vote for Lines of Escape here 
2. In step 1 (multiple-choice question), choose to fly me via Dublin Airport (any other option is a non-vote)
3. Fill in your details and tweet
4. You can vote once a day to increase your (our!) chances of winning

I've already spoken about what I would do if I got the chance to visit New York City, but what about this opportunity to fly via Dublin Airport? 

As we know, the biggest benefit of flying this route with Aer Lingus is the US Customs Border Protection pre-clearance, but I also happen to know that I wouldn't be able to pass up the chance to explore Dublin while en route to the States.

I've been to Ireland before, but Dublin has thus far evaded me. As luck would have it, though, this place has been on my travel radar for a long time. Without further ado, here's how I would make the most of my Dublin layover.


Grab a pint at the Guinness Storehouse

The castle of BEER. Image from here.

Don't judge me for the fact that this is the first item on my list; we're in the home of Guinness beer after all!

The Guinness Storehouse celebrates everything connected to this world-renowned dark beer - even the fermentation tank has been remodelled to look like a gigantic pint of the stuff. 

Guinness beer has been made here since 1759 and, while a visit is meant to be educational, the complimentary pint at the adjoining bar certainly doesn't hurt.

Travel bloggers have all raved about this spot and it's no wonder - the Guinness Storehouse has been voted Ireland's top visitor attraction for three years in a row now.

Hunt down the city's street art

Colourful street art in Dublin. Image from here.

I love finding street art in the cities I visit, and Dublin's public art scene has been making the news in recent years.

While graffiti is normally discouraged all over the world, this isn't the case in many parts of Dublin. In fact, in certain areas like Camden Street, street art is even encouraged and supported by the city council.

The result has been high-quality artworks dotted all around the city, to the point where numerous tours are available to take you to the very best of these. This would definitely be a priority item on my itinerary.

Taking advantage of Dublin's free attractions

For someone who might be on a budget (*ahem* me, always), you may be relieved to hear that many of Dublin's major museums are completely free to visit.

These include the National Museum, the Natural History Museum, as well as the National Gallery and Irish Museum of Modern Art. The city's parks, including the photogenic St Stephen's Green, are likewise free for you to explore.

Go on a foodie tour

Layovers mean that you're tight for time, which presents a bit of a problem for someone like me. While I love exploring a destination's historical attractions, getting acquainted with the place's food scene is just as important.

Since I probably won't have time to explore Dublin's cafes and restaurants at my leisure, I've found the perfect solution: a food tour!

I even have a particular tour in mind after hearing only good things about it: the Dublin Tasting Trail with Fab Food Trails. A 2.5 hour walking tour of the city's best markets, food shops and restaurants? Count me in.

Marvel at the architecture of Trinity College

The stunning Trinity College. Photo from here.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The best of both worlds at Hide & Seed, Putney

Whenever I decide to explore more of London's food scene, my dining excursions normally tend to take me straight into the heart of the city. 

So, a few weekends ago, I saw it as a refreshing break in the pattern when Zomato offered the opportunity to sample some of my side of London's culinary offerings.

And what an offering it turned out to be!

Wrapping up in our coats and scarves, we headed out into a chilly evening to catch the Underground to Putney. A short walk away from East Putney station, the Hide & Seed restaurant is located within the swanky Lodge Hotel. 

I'll be honest: I'm always nervous about going to hotel restaurants, as many of the ones I've visited in the past tended to lack atmosphere.

At first glance, where many of Hide & Seed's tables looked unoccupied, I was scared that these nerves were warranted.

It didn't take long before these disappeared, though. As we made our way through the dining area of Hide & Seed, which is decked out in fresh tones of mint, green and beige, we entered the room where we would be sitting.

Quite frankly, it's a bookworm's dream.

The dining room at Hide & Seed.

And the cosy library section.

And the enticing chandeliers in question.

With vintage photographs and paintings on one side and a full wall of books on the other, we couldn't fault the simple, yet old-school glamour of the decor. Plus, ever one to be distracted by all things shiny, I wanted to claim one of those beautiful chandeliers for my own home.

Tearing our attention away from the surroundings, we began to focus on the menus in front of us. With the help of some lovely South African chardonnay, we made our orders and eagerly awaited what would soon arrive from the kitchen.

As the name suggests, Hide & Seed doesn't shy away from its ever-changing, meat-heavy menu, although there are some fantastic vegetarian options too. The restaurant places a strong emphasis on sourcing the best ingredients, with many coming from Hide & Seed's own farm. There is also a Robata grill on-site, which hinted at the promise of perfectly grilled meat on the way.

Before long, our starters appeared.

Hide & Seed originally opened with Portuguese head chef Ricardo Soares at the helm. Some of these influences can still be felt, especially when it came to these two dishes.

Hide & Seed's homemade croquettes.

And the delectable chorizo bites.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

London Lately #5

It's time for another London Lately and, I warn you beforehand, it's been a hectic month!

For anyone who has been reading this blog for a while, you may have seen some regular posts called 'In the past seven days', which summarised some of the recent happenings in my life. To coincide with the launch of A London Life, from now on, I'll be writing these: London Lately.

The London Lately posts will be about just that: the recent places and events I visit/attend in the city, as well as London-related developments that I'm excited about.

Here goes!

The opportunity of a lifetime: #ThruTheQ

Over the weekend, I wrote a post about the fact that I've been included as one of the potential bloggers who could become Aer Lingus' travel correspondent for New York City.

It's the biggest writing opportunity that's come my way so far, but I'll need your help to secure that prize. Since you also stand the chance to win your own flights, plus £1,000 in spending money, just by voting, I reckon it's a win-win for all involved!

Here's a reminder of how it works:

1. Vote for Lines of Escape on #ThruTheQ
2. In step one (multiple-choice question), choose to fly me via Dublin Airport (any other option is a non-vote)
3. Fill in your details and tweet
4. Increase your (our!) chances of winning by voting every day

If you still need some persuading, here are the reasons why I think you should send me to write about New York City.

Adventures in the UK

It's March, money is tight, we were restless, so there was only one thing for it: short-haul.

Chris and I went on two trips this month, and both were relatively close by.

For the first, we went for a weekend away to the Isle of Wight. We did some sightseeing, caught some shows for the Acoustic Isle festival and I spotted my first red squirrel (and subsequently embarrassed myself by overreacting to the cuteness of said squirrel). I'll be writing a few posts about this special destination soon.

A sneak peek at my upcoming Isle of Wight content: Finding The Needles. 

The second trip was thoroughly spontaneous; Chris had some annual leave and I make use of any excuse to travel... so, a trip to Belfast it was! We went there mid-week and felt like we had the city to ourselves. There'll be posts on Belfast on the way too, so expect to see something on *that* infamous crisp sandwich cafe, a road trip to the Giant's Causeway, the Titanic Exhibition and more.

Belfast's Titanic Exhibition - one of the best museums I've ever visited.

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