6 Days in Berlin (Days 1-3)

For our latest trip, we decided to visit Berlin, I’d never been to Germany before so was really excited! I’m sure like me, you have heard good things about Berlin, so we booked our flights back in February and two days before flying we picked a hotel. Flying from Edinburgh went smoothly as usual and we took around two hours to fly into the German capital.

Day 1

Once we reached the terminal in Berlin, we realised this airport was much busier and warmer than in the UK. Thankfully we managed to find our way to the bus stop and an English speaking member of staff helped us use the ticket machine. We boarded the airport bus like sardines, packed in even though the bus arrived every 6 minutes. On the hot bus I wasn’t in the best mood, but the sun was shining and I couldn’t be annoyed for long!

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We walked a few minutes to our hotel and were pleasantly surprised to find our hotel in a small courtyard near lots of restaurants. We stayed at CALMA Berlin Mitte which was a modern, minimalist, lovely place to stay. When we arrived we hadn’t eaten so we found a local shop and picked up a few essentials (by that I mean some german meats, cheeses and soft pretzels) to snack on before we went for Asian food that night. On our way home we decided to stop off for our first taste of German beer, we bought a Berliner each and enjoyed the sun for a while.

That evening, we walked to a nearby restaurant which I had pre booked for our first night in the city. We walked to Nordbahnhof Two Buddha’s which exceeded our expectations entirely! We had prawns, fish, vegetables and a little bit of sushi. I loved the decor and there was a huge wine menu which made it the perfect place in my mind!

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Even though we were in Berlin, after eating we managed to stumble across a Brewdog bar. We decided to spend the evening here, sitting on wooden boxes, dog spotting and looking at which attractions we wanted to visit during our stay.

Day 2

Our first full day in Germany was filled with sightseeing and visiting attractions. We started out at the South of the city and visited the German Museum of Technology. We had to visit at least one place where Jamie could see aeroplanes and helicopters so we chose here. We had a fab time! There was so much to see, from planes and trains to computers and telephones. If it’s electronic it probably makes an appearance in this museum.

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The best part was reaching the top floor which showcased lots of aeroplanes, including some from WW2. We could walk out onto the top of the building and see a huge aeroplane set over the edge of the museum.

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One aspect of the museum we hadn’t expected was walking through the trains and finding a carriage from the Holocaust. We were able to walk into the old wooden cart and see where so many innocent people walked to their deaths. It was such a profound, unexpected experience that even though it was empty I felt a little claustrophobic!

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Once we left the museum, we walked along the river and decided to visit some more popular attractions like the Topography of Terror. Much busier than the museum, but thankfully due to the time of year, it wasn’t too busy. We were able to see everything we wanted. We spent around 2 hours walking through the exhibit which displays a huge amount of information about the Nazi’s reign of terror across Europe. Starting with the beginnings of intimidating opposition, we followed the journey of persecution and murder through to the end of the war. This attraction isn’t for the faint hearted, some pictures were distressing and individual stories were heartbreaking. The attraction is super informative though and we learnt so much about the realities of the war. Although heavy and sometimes upsetting, I can’t recommend this place enough. The information covers all groups who were persecuted (not just Jewish groups) and really describes how day-to-day life was impacted by the war.

Outside the building we also got to see our first glimpse of the Berlin Wall, although not particularly artistic (it wasn’t the East Side Gallery after all) it was interesting to see and we were able to read some basic information about the wall.

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Only a few minutes walk away, we visited the infamous Checkpoint Charlie. Now I don’t know what I expected, but it definitely wasn’t a small shack in the middle of a busy road! I was a tad disappointed, but I guess I had set my expectations too high! None the less, it was interesting to stop by on our way to the underground station.

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After a day of walking, we headed back to our hotel to change before dinner. I had booked a restaurant called Clarchens Ballhaus which I had read about online. Internet reviews described the place as fun and one of Berlin’s best kept secrets, so I couldn’t wait to visit! When we arrived I was so happy we had booked, outside tables were filled with food, fairy lights hung overhead and you could hear the music from inside. We had booked a table inside the old ballroom and walked in to see a ballroom dancing lesson in action on the dance floor!

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We were taken to our table and still able to watch the lesson, the place was packed, people of all ages were eating, drinking and dancing. The place had an amazing atmosphere and we were completely drawn in. The menu at the Ballhaus was traditional German food, I managed to take a photo of our starters but when the main arrived we had already drunk a few too many glasses of wine and I forgot!

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Our food was delicious, I chose slow roasted beef which was amazing. I do need to mention now that if you plan to visit here, you should set aside the whole night for the experience. There was a significant amount of time between courses, but it made the night more social and the food felt freshly prepared. When we were eating our mains, the dance teacher encouraged people from the tables to join his lesson and taught more people to dance. Unfortunately we were eating so didn’t take up his offer!

Once we had eaten, a DJ was setting up and people of all ages were dancing. We were people watching and drinking for a while before we decided to join in. Being so full of food, we thought we would be dancing for about 10 minutes… but 3 hours later we were still dancing and a live band was setting up! By around 10pm, all younger people had left and it was only Adults, there was still a huge range of people and ages which made the night even more fun!

After 10pm the Ballhaus charges people to enter like a club, but if you are there earlier no charges apply. So thankfully we spent all night there for free. After midnight, as I said, a band set up and we danced for another hour or two before deciding our feet hurt too much to carry on. According to my fitbit we had walked nearly 30,000 steps so that was a sign it was time to head home and take off our shoes! When we stepped outside we realised that we had been shouting and singing so much we could barely talk and we were partially deaf from the music. I can’t recommend this venue enough, the Ballhaus was one of the highlights of the trip, me and Jamie had the best night. We had planned to only stay for a few hours and were there until the early hours of the morning. If we hadn’t been so active in the day we would have stayed even longer. If I go back to Berlin this will be one of the first things I prebook!

Day 3

After some much needed sleep, we woke up a little worse for wear (I blame the wine) but thankfully because we had breakfast included in our booking, that motivated us to still get up early and head down for some food. Ok I say that but after eating lots for breakfast we got back up to the room and I ended up having a nap instead of getting ready for the day!

After a well deserved nap (at least thats what I tell myself) we ventured to Museum Island to see the Cathedral and visit the Neues Museum. We took our first trip on a tram and learnt the hard way that you need to use coins to pay. We only had enough money to pay for 1 ticket but thankfully no one checked! We were dropped off at the end of the line and walked over the bridges to the beautiful Island.

The first thing you notice is how amazing the architecture is. We arrived at the south of the island so were immediately able to see the beautiful Cathedral. The sun was shining, people were singing, playing guitars and blowing bubbles. I felt like we were living in the 1980’s and I was loving it!

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We walked over to the water fountain and around all of the nearby buildings to see how impressive they were up close. I also wanted to walk around in the sun to tan more, but thats another story.  We walked through a huge pillared walkway and eventually found ourselves at the Neues Museum. The majority of this museum includes collections from Ancient Egypt (something I find particularly interesting) which is why we chose to visit, but there are so many to choose from, you can find one which piques your own interests.

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Thankfully we didn’t need to queue for tickets due to the time of year. But if you visit in the summer, I would recommend pre-booking because it can become crazy busy. We had a great time at this museum, again the architecture and building interior were stunning. It included the best collections I had ever seen. From original papyrus to golden sarcophagi, we saw so many well preserved pieces and learnt lots of new facts. I think the highlight of the museum for me was the Queen Nefertiti bust which is world famous. We weren’t able to take photos in that exhibition but if you google it, you will know which statue I mean!

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We managed to make our way around all of the museum despite the time I lost napping earlier that day. When we left at 5, the sun was still shining so we decided to walk along the river and visit the north side of the Island to see the beautiful Bode museum. There was a busker outside the museum so we sat with the crowds on the walls of the bridge and soaked up the sun. It was a beautiful place to relax and I was sat next to a one-eyed dog so I couldn’t have been happier!

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Once it reached around 7pm we decided to walk back towards the hotel and stopped off for sushi along the way. We had a lovely time at Kuchi Mitte which served us lots of good sushi. It’s useful to know that the staff are happy to speak English too if you’re worried about ordering sushi in German!

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We spent the rest of the evening having a few drinks and relaxing, it was so nice to be out in the sun until the late evening. I hope you enjoyed reading about the first part of our action-packed trip. I will post next week about the second half of our Berlin adventure which was even busier than the first!

A weekend at Loch Ness

To celebrate my 25th birthday Jamie treated me to a long weekend at Loch Ness! Having never been to this area of Scotland before I couldn’t wait to visit. We were booked in to The Lovat hotel in Fort Augustus which is South of Loch Ness, turns out this is a great location if you are planning to visit!

 

Friday

Travelling to Loch Ness takes around 3 hours from Aberdeen, we took the country roads to reach the west of the Loch and then took the loch side road to the hotel. The journey was so beautiful, especially along the shores of the Loch, we saw the castle we would visit the next day, lots of small villages and boat tours out on the water.

We arrived at around 4 and had dinner booked for 7.30 so we went to the room to get settled. Jamie had surprised me by getting the hotel to set up balloons and a birthday card. After a while the staff arrived with my second surprise, a beautiful bouquet of flowers!

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We went down to the restaurant in the hotel for dinner and had high hopes after reading reviews online. Thankfully we weren’t disappointed! To start I had a smoked salmon dish which was amazing.

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We were given free homemade bread and the staff were friendly and helpful. All of this was followed by a lamb dish which I chose for my main. The food was so good that we didn’t even have room for dessert!

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Instead of more food, we had a glass of wine and visited some of the other rooms in the hotel. We loved that there were lots of public areas, one room was filled with bookshelves and knick-knacks. There were even some games like chess to play later in the evening. We settled in the front room which had a piano and fireplace, the perfect end to a lovely day!

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Saturday

Our first full day started early, with a hotel breakfast included, we were ready to go and explore Loch Ness. Firstly, we drove to Urquhart Castle which is an ancient castle on the backs of the Loch. We parked in the carpark which is way above the castle, thankfully you buy tickets at this level and can take easy stairs/a lift down to the castle instead of having to scramble down a steep hill!

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We were shown a short introductory video which briefly described how the site became a castle and was besieged multiple times throughout history. Unfortunately the last inhabitants blew up the gateway to prevent invaders using the castle, but there are still plenty of things to see on the site. We walked down past the castle and visited the Loch first (since that’s what the trip was all about!) We sat for a while to appreciate the beautiful views.

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Once you enter the castle you can climb down to where ships would arrive and sit on the shore to see more views. We were lucky to get really sunny weather too so we were happy to sit and relax by the water.

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Once we had the opportunity to take in the natural beauty, we climbed through the castle and visited all of the areas. It took us around an hour to explore everything and there were lots of ruins to climb through.

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We were lucky to visit at this time of year, there were no queues or crowds of people. We didn’t need to wait to climb the towers and we could easily watch the actors who told us about medieval weapons. The castle was one of the most beautiful I have ever visited, I think it’s safe to say it had the most picturesque views too!

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Once we had finished at the castle, we decided to visit the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. Now when we first arrived and went inside, we weren’t sure what to expect. The decor was outdated and because we visited before the summer we were the only people in the entrance hall. We decided to go ahead and visit anyway since it was around £7 to enter and we actually didn’t know anything about the history of Loch Ness. If you’re the same, and don’t know much about the Loch, I would recommend the attraction, we walked through different rooms and watched videos which described how the legend of Nessie began and how the Loch Ness Monster was researched by scientists. I don’t want to spoil anything, but we learnt lots. I have to say though, I think Nessie is more imaginary than real!

After stopping off for a snack which we got around the corner from the Exhibition, we decided to stop off at a harbour we passed on the way to our hotel the day before. Although lots of people do visit Loch Ness, there are a few abandoned boats which can be seen if you walk along the shores. We also walked to a small island which is located just off the shores of the Loch.

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Since it was such a sunny day, we still hadn’t had enough of exploring. We travelled back to Fort Augustus where our hotel was and walked along the canals which separate Loch Ness from the other Loch’s in the area. We walked for around half an hour until I saw a trail through the woods which could take us down to the parallel river.

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Sounds like a good idea right? Walking through the woods to a beautiful river. We even found a bench when we got there, which made us think that the path must have been followed quite often…. But we were wrong! We walked along the river until the grass ran into the river, walked through the trees trying to find a path and spent the following half hour walking through the woods and ended up in running between lodges in a private park!

Although we hadn’t planned the detour, we found some abandoned campsites and spied a few small waterfalls between the trees, so I guess it had been worth it! We decided to walk back along the canal and stop off in a beer garden to end our evening after lots and lots of walking!

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Sunday

For our last full day at the Loch, we decided to visit the east coast and stopped in a small village called Foyers. This area is well known because of the Falls of Foyers which is a tall waterfall and large river which meets Loch Ness. We started to climb down, reached the waterfall relatively easily and felt like we could easily follow the river along to where it meets the Loch.

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We started out following a clearly marked path and took in the beautiful views, we could easily follow the river until we reached a road which blocked our views of the river.

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What then ensued was a four mile detour in which we couldn’t rejoin our original path! We made a wrong turn and walked into a caravan park, walked back and thankfully somehow managed to walk through a forest to reach the banks of Loch Ness. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip, we still hadn’t found our path, but had found a make shift camp site with tree stump seats, a rope swing and burnt out fires. We had the place all to ourselves and it was one of the most peaceful places in the world (until we decided to try out the rope swing!)

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We shamefully ended up using google maps to find our way back to the car after a few miles of walking in the wrong direction! We had to climb up tiny steep paths with overgrown plants. At one point I thought I may die out there in the wilderness (kidding) but we made it back and were looking forward to visiting a tea room we had spotted on our way there.

When we arrived at the tea rooms I immediately fell in love, highland cows, deer, ducks and geese were all living in the surrounding area. A deer with a limp was being nursed to health and we got to see them up close!

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Once we had some soup to warm us up again after the weather took a rainy turn when we were walking, we walked out to find these guys waiting for us too!

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After being lucky enough to see all of these animals, we took the country roads back to our hotel. We stopped at the top of a hill and were lucky enough to have stopped just as a rainbow had formed.

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Although it can’t really be seen in this photo, we we could actually see both ends of the rainbow! Sadly there was no pot of gold but we got to share the most beautiful view together! Just when you think that Loch Ness couldn’t get any prettier, I guess a rainbow has to appear to prove you wrong.

Once back at our hotel, we wanted to take a much needed break from hiking up and down hills. We decided to take a look around Fort Augustus and we found a viewing point at the end of the village harbour.

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This was one of my favourite views, the most southern point of Loch Ness, we were able to look between the hills and see miles of the Loch. A duck even decided to photobomb my photo and make it even better too! The village had a few small pubs and cafes, our hotel was on the next road to two of the main pubs. We stopped by there for dinner before heading back to out hotel. I snapped a photo outside before we went back inside for a night cap.

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Each night we had been greeted by bunnies on the lawn outside the hotel too, so if you were unsure about staying there, the fact that you can see bunnies every night must sway your opinion!

After a wonderful stay, Jamie had paid for a late check out so we could sleep in on Monday. We were even given cookies for our journey home by the hotel manager. Everything from the hotel to the walks and views were amazing on this trip. I have to say that Loch Ness surpassed all of my expectations, both the loch itself and the surrounding land is the most beautiful I have ever seen. I can’t wait to go back and see more of the countryside, waterfalls and to sunbathe on the shores of the loch again!

 

3 Scottish Castles You Should Visit

Scotland is home to some of the most beautiful castles in the world.

I’ve picked out three beautiful castles from my travels around Scotland which need to be visited by you!

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle would easily fit into the title sequence of Game of Thrones. Located on a clifftop off the North East coast of Scotland, the castle appears to be built on it’s own island. Thankfully no boat trips are necessary, looking down from the edge of the cliffs you can see the steps which descend down one cliff and up again to the castle.

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You may need to take a break during the climb to the castle, but thankfully when you reach the bottom you can take a break on the beach before taking the next set of stairs up to the castle.

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A word of warning, the remains of the castle are just that, ruins. There are lots of stone steps with no hand rails, so watch your step! We saw someone take a small fall when we visited (she was ok though!).

Once you make it to the castle, you can visit all of the ruins and are given a map to navigate. The history of Dunnottar started around the 3rd century, meaning that the castle is filled with history and legends you will learn about on your visit.

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Dunnottar is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, so definitely worth a visit!

Edinburgh Castle 

My second choice is one of the most well known in Scotland – Edinburgh Castle. Set in the centre of the city, this castle is even more unique because it is still active with a military presence. Every day at 1 in the afternoon a cannon is fired to keep time across the city, this is fun to watch so make sure you arrive before 1!

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Edinburgh Castle is filled with lots of different exhibitions, when we visited we spent hours visiting all of the buildings and checking out the beautiful views of the city.

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There are cannons, prisons, museums and ruins all in the same place here, you you’re guaranteed to have a fun time! Another great thing about this castle is that over 10 of the city’s attractions are on the road leading up to the castle so you will have plenty to do if you visit!

Craigievar Castle

My final choice is one of my favourite castles in the world. Craigievar Castle is said to have inspired Walt Disney when he designed Cinderella’s castle. With a pink exterior, this castle is completely unique and so picturesque!

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You can visit the grounds and have a guided tour of the castle. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and friendly. During our visit we even decided to invest in a National Trust membership so that we could visit more castles like this on the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail.

One thing we particularly liked outside of the castle was the surrounding wildlife walks. We walked through fields along streams and in forests after our tour, which was lovely thanks to the sunny weather!

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Craigievar Castle is located out in the beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside so if you visit you can expect lots of winding country roads and fields along the way. Inside the castle is filled with possessions from the previous owners which are interesting to see and the tour guides will tell you when the castle was built and the inhabitants throughout history.

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We had a great day out at Craigievar Castle which is why it had to be featured on this list!

Visiting a Harry Potter Bar

The Pop Up Geeks opened Perilous Potions in February, their fourth themed pop-up bar. Previous themes included Game of Thrones and Stranger Things, I had been wanting to visit but hadn’t had the opportunity. Each bar runs for around 3 months before the theme changes, so I’d missed a few before finally making plans to visit.

As soon as we saw the promotions on social media myself and some friends from work booked a two hour slot to experience the Harry Potter inspired bar. After the move to Aberdeen, I booked a weekend back in Edinburgh to catch up with friends and of course visit the bar!

I walked along The Arches until I spotted the bar, a small building with less than 10 tables. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first since the building was so small, but the inside was transformed into a bar filled with Harry Potter decorations!

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Maybe my Hogwarts Letter ended up here

We sat below the Hogwarts acceptance letters and took some time to appreciate the broomsticks hanging from the ceiling, the candles perched on the walls and cauldrons on the shelves. I was amazed when we were given drinks menus inspired by class books, it seemed like the creators had thought of everything!

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Drink Menu’s

I used the book of Advanced Spells to pick a drink. I knew I wanted to buy one of the Conjure It Yourself cocktails which you created at the table. Each cocktail had a ‘difficulty level’ depending upon how long it took to create the drink. I chose the Gravitas Transverso drink which was based upon a bellini by combining ‘wine of the merpeople’, ‘liquified pixie eggs’ and ‘petrification potion’. The bar tender took our drinks order, dressed in a wizards cape and we waited for our cocktail ingredients to be prepared.

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Time to create my own cocktail

The ingredients and equipment arrived along with instructions so that we could create all of our own drinks.

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How to create Gravitas Transverso

The instructions were written with the harry potter theme in mind to completely immerse us in the experience, which I absolutely loved! To create my drink I had to pipette liquid into a strainer to create small red ‘pixie eggs’. I then scooped the eggs into a champagne flute where the eggs reacted with the fizzy prosecco and floated through the drink. A bonus was that the drink was really nice, I’d created strawberry eggs so the drink tasted like a strawberry bellini as I’d hoped. The eggs added to the drink because they remained solid until I popped them in my mouth to release the strawberry flavour!

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Our first round of drinks

While we finished our first drinks we had more time to appreciate the decor and got the chance to watch other tables create drinks we hadn’t ordered. The bar was fun to watch too since there were lots of drinks being prepared in test tubes and beakers!

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Drinks in prep

We decided to get another create your own cocktail since we had so much fun the first time. Both me and Elaine decided to order the Draught of Delirium drink since we worked together on Delirium research at the hospital!

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Draught of Delirium ingredients

We weren’t disappointed when we received our drinks! Again complete with instructions we were able to mix up our own cocktails. The Delirium drink included a few unusual ingredients including Unicorn Mane and Basilisk Venom. I loved that this drink came with candy floss too!

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How to create Draught of Delirium

We hadn’t realised before we mixed the drinks, but they contained an ingredient which made every glass become a different colour! Mine was red and Elaine’s turned silver. They also had a metallic tint to them, which made it look more magical!

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We found making the cocktails so much fun that we didn’t even get a chance to try out the drinks mixed up by the bartender. The menu had lots of different choices, each with a different spirit or type of alcohol to choose from. You could even buy a bottle of butterbeer which came in it’s own butterbeer bottle!

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Bar Proclamations

One of the last things I managed to take a photo of was the proclamations displayed on the walls.  It felt like The Pop Up Geeks had thought of everything when it came to designing the bar, from the drinks to the decor everything was Potter related!

I wish I could visit all over again, I loved the experience so much! I would definitely recommend a trip to anyone that enjoys Harry Potter, I wish we had booked more time since we were limited to two hours.

If anyone isn’t so crazy about Harry Potter, from the end of April the theme will change to Rick and Morty and later Lord of the Rings. I think there is something for everyone over the next few months!

 

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A Weekend in Glasgow

Although Glasgow is one of the largest cities in Scotland, it isn’t one that I frequent often. I suggested a visit for the weekend to see what we could get up to, so we booked a few nights and travelled the 3 hours to Glasgow!

We arrived at the Citizen M hotel in Glasgow which is a hotel we always enjoy staying at. We arrived late so quickly ate some food and headed up to the room. The room is controlled by an iPad where you can control the lights, television and blinds. You can even choose ‘moods’ for the room such as ‘relax’ or ‘romance’, these change the mood lighting and the TV provides music and videos that are associated with the mood. You can also choose any colour you want from a colour spectrum and Jamie spent a while changing colours and checking out the movies. Each room is provided with a full set of movies to choose from, from Dunkirk to the newest Beauty and the Beast movie, there were choices for everyone and they were pretty recent releases too. Each time we stay at the Citizen M we always feel like we know what we will get (which we like) and it’s fun to play with the lights every time!

Day 1

Since we arrived late the night before, we decided to wake around 10 to make sure we had enough energy for the day ahead. If you set an alarm using the iPad at Citizen M, you are woken by the lights gradually turning on, the tv quietly making sounds and eventually pictures on the screen. It’s a nice way to wake up since you can choose how gradual and noisy the alarm system is. So we chose a gentle wake up since it was the weekend!

Once we were ready to leave, we walked to the The butterfly and Pig Tea Rooms which I’d found online to get brunch. When we walked inside I wasn’t disappointed, the tea rooms had a vintage feel with china plates on the walls and mismatched cups on the tables.

Entrance Hallway

The people around us had ordered what looked like an amazing afternoon tea, but there was no way we could eat that much as our first meal of the day! I chose to get the french toast and Jamie ordered a full Scottish breakfast. The tea was served in a vintage teapot with china cups. I wanted to just take everything home with me!

Brunch

The customers who sat next to us had ordered afternoon tea for 3, sadly I didn’t take a photo but their tea was served in a cat shaped teapot! Despite us not being given a cat teapot I loved our experience and the food was lovely. If you’re in the city I would recommend this place for brunch!

Ground Floor Dining Room

With full tummies we took a taxi (to save time) to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, I hadn’t realised but the admission here was free which was an added bonus! We walked around the park and decided to visit Kibble Palace first.

Eve in Kibble Palace

The huge glasshouse was opened all the way back in 1873 and was filled with tropical plants and ferns. The room was hot and humid which was nice considering how cold it was outside. We felt like we were in the rainforest when we reached the centre of the building!

Tropical Flowers

Above is one of my favourite plants, the leaves were covered in a silver tint. It looked as though the leaves had been covered with silver paint! I haven’t seen this plant before even though i’ve visited lots of botanical gardens.

Once we’d finished we visited the remaining glasshouses which were separated into different rooms. From orchid gardens to desert plants, there were over 10 gardens which showcased a huge range of plants. I loved seeing all of the beautiful flowers and it was fun moving from one glass house to the other. You could feel the extreme changes in environment by going from hot humid rooms to arid desert like rooms!

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Since we were on the right side of town, we decided our next stop would be the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. That was until we reached the museum and realised we were opposite a perfectly placed Brewdog bar.

View from Brewdog

Jamie loves Brewdog beer which is why we decided to stop off (even though I don’t usually drink beer!). The staff were great and let me try as many beers as I wanted before I picked one. They even offered me wine incase there was nothing I liked too!

After a brief break we headed over the road to the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. When you walk into the museum you immediately notice the organ in the entrance hall. We had missed it, but each day there is a short concert with the organ at 1pm (so make sure you head there earlier if you want to see it). The architecture in the Kelvingrove was beautiful and the decor made the building feel even grander.

Kelvingrove Organ

Inside the galleries on one side of the museum were hundreds of animals. We really enjoyed this aspect of the museum which was focused on nature. There were a few interactive exhibits and a section on Ancient Egypt which I found really interesting.

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On the opposite side of the museum were art and culture based exhibits including some Macintosh work. This side was interesting, but not as fun as the other!

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Once the museum closed, we had an hour to kill before we went for dinner. Naturally we went to find a bar and stumbled upon the Kelvingrove Cafe. Since it was after 5pm it was busy, we only just managed to get a table. We enjoyed our drinks but felt like the place was too cramped. We paid our bill at the bar and left, when unexpectedly the manager ran after us and asked us to pay.. which we already had! I think that showed how busy the bar was!

Before we arrived in Glasgow, I decided to search TripAdvisor to find somewhere nice for dinner. One of the most highly rated places was Number 16. Described as a small restaurant with great food, I couldn’t resist booking a table.

When we arrived we were greeted by friendly staff and taken to a small upstairs area where we could pick our own table. We were given menus and the highly knowledgable staff were able to recommend food and wine based on our tastes. We chose a bottle of white wine (Reisling) and I picked Smoked Salmon to start.

Number 16 Starters

The Salmon was mixed with orange flavours which i’d never had before, but I loved it! For main I had a venison dish which was paired with parsnip and potato. My dinner was so good that Jamie admitted (first time ever) that he had food envy and wished he had ordered the same main!

Number 16 Mains

Despite the food envy, all of our dishes were amazing. I really hope that we can go back to Number 16 again and try another menu. The choices are seasonal (including the wine menu) so in a few months there will be a new list of foods!

 

Day 2

We decided to head out for brunch again, our hotel offered a continental style breakfast but it was £14 per person. We figured we could go out and get hot food for a similar price! I found Hutchesons Grill  using google maps and was able to book a table online that morning. It took us about 20 minutes to walk there and we got to see George Square along the way.

The restaurant offers a Prosecco brunch option where you can get a bottle of prosecco with orange juice, croissants and two hot breakfast options which was a great deal. We chose to opt for a Peach Bellini and Bloody Mary with breakfast instead since we had eaten a huge meal the night before.

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I really enjoyed the pancakes, but I did prefer The Butterfly and Pig. I think I may have been easily swayed by the cute decor and cakes though!

After another good brunch, we walked to Glasgow Cathedral to see the beautiful architecture.

View from the Necropolis

After a walk around the Necropolis we visited the cathedral and I was surprised by how beautiful it was inside. The gothic exterior meant that I hadn’t noticed the amazing stained glass windows which lined the building.

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Stained Glass at Glasgow Cathedral

The cathedral is huge, with us spending about an hour walking around the ground floor and underground crypts. From the tiles on the floors to the arches and windows, there was something to see at every angle. I was really glad that we walked to this side of town and finally got to see the inside of the cathedral!

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Inside Glasgow Cathedral

Although the weather wasn’t kind to us, we decided to walk around the city and admire some the street art in the rain. Walking around Glasgow you can’t help but notice the huge murals and art on the sides of buildings. I’ve included a few photos of some of my favourites below.

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We also saw a huge nature based piece which may have been my favourite.

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After our small walking tour we went shopping before heading to the hotel and getting ready for dinner. Within a 5 minute walk from the hotel we arrived at the Mussel Inn for some seafood. We were taken upstairs where a few tables were filled. I have to say that the food here was amazing but the service was awful! I had a pasta based dish and Jamie had a seafood platter which was amazing. I think we would give the place another chance since we enjoyed the food, but the service was unbelievably slow. When we were ready to order the waitress asked us to wait because the kitchen was busy. Our drinks took a long time to arrive and the staff were constantly rushing around us. I feel like the restaurant mustn’t normally be this chaotic, since there were good reviews online. Next time we may have to visit the Edinburgh restaurant instead!

To finish off the night we went back to our hotel and visited the bar. The bar had a new cocktail menu with Glasgow themed cocktails and we were able to relax after a day filled with walking!

Citizen M Decor

 

We had a great time in Glasgow even if it was a packed two days! If you have the chance, even spending one day lets you see a few of the big sights. Which other attractions are great in Glasgow?

I’m now waiting for my next Scottish mini-break to Edinburgh in a few weeks!

My Last Week in Edinburgh

Over the past 3 years I have moved 6 times, now i’m heading to flat number 7.

In that time i’ve lived in Leeds, Cheshire, Edinburgh and as of this week Aberdeen.

With only a few days left in my favourite city, I decided to try and experience some of Edinburgh’s highlights. We tried to visit new restaurants and a few attractions alongside our packing to make the most of our time.

5 days until moving

Although our first day was filled with packing, we decided to head out for lunch and walked into Leith. Just a 10 minute walk from our flat, we reached The Shore and walked along the Waters of Leith.

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Waters of Leith

We knew that before we left Edinburgh, we needed to visit our favourite cafe. So we decided to have a spontaneous afternoon tea at Mimi’s Bakehouse! If anyone is in the area, this is a cute, homely cafe with homemade cakes and food. This is were I always took my family when they visited and it was our favourite brunch spot.

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Afternoon Tea at Mimi’s Bakehouse

As you can see we had sandwiches, rolls, scones and lots of different cakes. There was no way we could finish all of this! So we got a small box of cakes to take home. After our afternoon out, we went home to pack up as much as we could. Thankfully with our cakes to give us some extra energy!

 

4 days to go

After an evening of packing the night before, we only had two rooms left to sort through. We chose to head out for the day, so walked to the Fountainbridge area of the city to visit Loudons. This is a popular cafe, which when we arrived was already full of tourists. The cafe is spacious and a great place to work if you’re a student. We hadn’t visited since I lived at my previous flat 1.5 years ago which was just around the corner.

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Breakfast at Loudons

I had a very sugary french toast with bacon and Jamie had a full English breakfast. Once we had finished, we were full of energy and decided to walk to the nearby Grassmarket area. My favourite bookshop in Edinburgh was along the way, so we had to make a pitstop! Armchair books is filled to the brim with every possible kind of book. From modern literature to hardback poetry and bibles from the 1700’s there is genuinely something for everyone. All books are second hand, so cheaper than usual and as soon as you walk into the shop you see that every inch of the walls are covered with books.

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Armchair Books

I think we must have spent over an hour in the small store, looking at all of the titles and peeking into some of the really old books! The shop is just next to Grassmarket where we could admire the castle and got the chance to see some of the cats from Maison de Moggy peeking out of the cafe windows.

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Grassmarket

We finished our walk by heading up Victoria Street (one of the most photographed places in Edinburgh) where there are lots of antique and independent shops to look in. Turns out being a tourist in Edinburgh is really fun, especially without the hoards of Fringe tourists from summer. Walking through all of these beautiful places made me even sadder about leaving the city!

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Victoria Street

3 days to go

With only a few days to go, today was mostly filled with packing. We did however manage to leave the house to see the day light and walk along Princes Street. At this time of year, some of the flowers have been replanted with the gardens undergoing their spring transformation. Princes Street Gardens are crazy busy in the summer, I love walking through at this time of year when it is much quieter.

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Princes Street Gardens

For dinner, we wanted to head to Lian Pu which is an asian restaurant split into two buildings. On the ground floor an express restaurant serves bento boxes and noodle dishes. But the best food is found in the basement – a Korean barbecue and hotpot restaurant allows you to cook your own food.

We chose to use the hotpot to cook our noodles, vegetables, tofu and pork using a half chicken, half hot and spicy broth. We had so much fun spending the evening cooking and for £16 you can eat as much food as you want!

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Hotpot at Lian Pu

2 days to go

Today was one of my favourite days in Edinburgh. Mainly because I finally got to visit Edinburgh Chihuahua Cafe! This is officially my favourite place in the city!

Sadly since we are renting our flat, we have to get our dog fix from the Chihuahua Cafe instead of at home. When we arrived we were greeted by super friendly staff who introduced us to the cafe and the rules (there aren’t many). After taking off coats and bags we could choose where to sit whilst the dogs tried to get our attention. We were super lucky, only our party of 3 were in the cafe, so we had freedom to choose where we sat and all of the dogs to ourselves!

There are 8 Chihuahua’s in total, each one completely adorable and a lover of cuddles.We sat on the sofas and the dogs kindly separated themselves equally so that we each had two dogs on our laps. (This was completely by chance!)

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Ama and Duchess

The puppies were chilled out when we arrived and were happy to sit, getting attention without us needing to run around and play!

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Sleepy Duchess

The staff were really friendly and supervised us whilst making us feel comfortable. I spent the whole time talking about wanting a dog and discussing whether I could get a secret pet without my landlord knowing (If my landlord is to read this, I have NOT got a dog, I promise!). My favourite puppy changed every time a new dog looked at me, but I decided that the two that chose me had to be my favourites.

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Faery looking Thoughtful

We had a total of 50 minutes with the dogs, during our time only two of the dogs were in their beds (you’re asked not to bother the Chihuahua’s if they are in bed so that they can have some privacy). This meant that 6 puppies were happy to spend time with us throughout our visit.

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5 out of 8 puppies

I had the best time visiting the Chihuahua Cafe and have already booked in for another visit next month! The staff, the puppies and the experience were all amazing! If you love dogs, then you need to visit. I promise you will have a fantastic time!

Since we were near George Street, we booked in for dinner in the Grill Room at The Dome.

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The Dome Bar

Before dinner, we wanted to sit in the bar to admire the main room. If you take a trip to Edinburgh, a visit to The Dome (at least for a drink) is a must! Outside the architecture is lovely and inside the decor is beautiful.

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After our drink, we were seated in the Grill Room which is just behind the bar. The service was wonderful and we really enjoyed our experience, the meal wasn’t cheap but it was worth the expense!

Moving tomorrow

The day before our move we needed to leave the house for an end of tenancy clean. We decided to head to Edinburgh’s highest rated afternoon tea (according to TripAdvisor) to give it a try before leaving. We walked along the Royal Mile and stopped by St. Giles Cathedral before heading for lunch.

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St Giles Cathedral

Arriving at the Signet Library, I was struck by the beauty of the building. The entrance room was decorated with paintings and grand staircases, where we were greeted by the maître d’. We were quickly shown to our table in the library which was beautiful!

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The Signet Library

We were given a menu and opted for the Fizz afternoon tea which included a glass of Cava alongside the preselected afternoon tea menu. The staff were extremely polite and the guests were smartly dressed. Being here felt like a special occasion!

The amuse-bouche was a thai sweet potato soup which was perfect considering we had just walked through a snow covered Edinburgh. As we warmed up we could see outside the old fashioned windows as the snow got heavier. It was so picturesque and made the experience even more perfect!

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Our cava was followed by coffee (or tea) and I wanted to try a Bellini too! We spent time between courses trying to read which books were on the shelves. Many of them were from the 19th century and somehow in perfect condition.

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With our (unlimited) tea and coffee we were given our savoury tray which included mini pork and apple sausage rolls, ox cheek pies, fish cakes and some finger sandwiches. Everything tasted amazing, with the tiny sauces and toppings adding lots of flavours to the dishes. We were starting to feel full once we had finished our savoury dishes but thankfully we were given a break before our sweets were served.

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Savoury Selection

Our selection of sweets looked fantastic! I may be biased considering pink is my favourite colour, but I loved them!

Scones were on the bottom tier, with blood orange jelly, honeycomb mousse and raspberry macarons higher up. We struggled to finish the desserts but weren’t rushed by staff and spent over 2 hours there!

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Sweet treats

After all of this food, we were given a small lemon sorbet to finish. I don’t know how but we both managed to eat everything we were given!

I have to say that the Signet Library has created the best afternoon tea I have ever tried! From the amuse-bouche to the finishing sorbet, we were provided with a crazy amount of food and loved everything.

Moving day

Waking up to the beast from the east wasn’t ideal. We packed up the cars as quickly as possible but my phone alerted us to the red weather warning we needed to face to reach Aberdeen. The snow was heavy and the temperature was below freezing, but we had to leave the flat.

After witnessing 3 near crashes and trucks stranded along the side of the road, after 4 hours of driving we thankfully made it to our new flat in one piece.

Edinburgh will always be a special place for me. It was where I became an adult, got my first ‘real’ job and met some of my best friends. I would love to live there again one day, but for now it’s time to make the most of Aberdeenshire!

 

6 Days in Amsterdam (Days 4-6)

Half way through the trip, I was loving Amsterdam and wished we had longer to explore! When we arrived I made a list of places we really wanted to visit, but there was no way we had time to complete it.  We tried to prioritise since we didn’t want to spend our days rushing across the city.

This far into the trip, we wondered how we had managed to avoid a cycling related accident. We hadn’t actually rented a bike, but we didn’t understand the rules of the road! Cyclists were joined by motorbikes and tiny cars on the pavements. People could travel in any direction and even though we tried, we were never sure which way traffic was travelling. I had taken to running across roads (particularly since motorcyclists seemed to ignore red lights) and when it was raining/snowing I would put up my hood and trust Jamie’s judgement.

Thankfully, we took out travel insurance so we didn’t have too much to worry about..

Day 4

On our fourth day we decided to visit a new area, we took the tram and arrived at ARTIS Royal Zoo. Along the way we had the opportunity to see the more residential areas of Amsterdam. If anyone wants to travel outside of the city, I would recommend the tram, it’s clean, fast and you get to view the scenery (unlike the metro which is mostly underground).

We made it to the Zoo and were immediately greeted by camels and llamas. No glass or mesh separated us from the animals, just a small moat of water. This meant nothing obscured our view making us feel closer to the animals. Our first stop was the Forest House where uncaged animals climbed trees around us, I was amazed! Small monkeys, lizards, bats and birds were loose. Over our heads tiny monkeys were climbing, the temptation to touch them was crazy especially since they were so cute!

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Spot the Lizard

As we walked further into the Forest House, it became the Aviary and we reached the tropical bird sections. Desert owls were sitting on cacti and one bird took a particular dislike to us and patrolled his ‘area’ any time we got close to him. I couldn’t believe how close we were to these animals and the best was yet to come!

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You can see on the ground where he had been patrolling 

The layout of the zoo doesn’t make for easy navigation but we used the map to make sure we didn’t miss anything. We visited various monkeys (my favourite), lemurs and deers all living on islands surrounded by water. Then we reached Lemur Land, as you can see from the photo below we got to sit with the Red Ruffled Lemurs! Each of them were jumping around and seemed quite comfortable among the humans. We loved being so close to such a cute animal and the staff were happy to tell us more about them. My favourite was a grumpy Lemur who sat alone and refused to look at cameras!

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My Spirit Animal

Towards the back of the park we visited the wallaby walkway. We hadn’t expected it, but we could walk inside the enclosure to see the wallabies eating and relaxing up close! This was next to the butterfly pavilion where as you might have guessed a building was filled with butterflies free to fly past us.

From elephants to penguins, we saw all animals I could think of. There were so many interactive and up-close encounters at the zoo, we left loving our experience! I still can’t believe how close we were allowed. At the time we commented that the staff seemed to trust visitors not to get too close (something which doesn’t happen in the UK) which made us enjoy the visit even more. I would love to go back since we didn’t get time to visit the aquarium. The zoo grounds were huge and there was even a planetarium show included in the entry price. We could have easily spent the whole day here!

Once the zoo closed we walked next door to Micropia, this was one of my favourite places to visit. We were transported upstairs and greeted by bubbling flasks, electron-microscopes and cultures of microbes. Micropia cultures its own microbes and bacteria to showcase to the public, if you love science, you will love this place. From Fungi to viruses, we were able to use microscopes and view live cultures.

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Each microbe had its own station were we could view cultures, use microscopes and collect a stamp which would be useful later. There are even more interactive exhibits once you’ve seen the cultures and the lab where they are grown. There was a machine which reads how many microbes are on your skin (not sure how accurate that is!) and if you visit with someone else, you can kiss and see how much bacteria is transmitted (not sure how this is worked out either, maybe the amount of time you spent kissing?).

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Apparently 167 Trillion Microbes Live on Me!

After seeing how much bacteria was living on me, I felt like I definitely needed a shower. This wasn’t helped by an exhibit which swabbed everyday items such as toothbrushes, bus hand rails and pet paws. The microbes from loads of everyday objects were collected and you can see just how dirty everything around us really is. We were amazed/disgusted by how many microbes there were – even on washed hands!

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Cultures from Everyday Objects

Downstairs we were able to see how microbes are used in industry and how dangerous diseases are spread. There was also an exhibit where food was allowed to decay in jars (I know this sounds weird). Foods from over a year ago had been sealed so we could see how they broke down over time. Turns out a pineapple from last February is now a yellow blob whereas McDonalds fries from a year ago look just like ones I could buy today. Think that says a lot about the quality of some food!

Before we left we used a machine to see how many stamps we had managed to collect on our visit. We did pretty well (24/30) so if you go, see if you can find more! We left Micropia just as it was closing, going in the early evening meant there was never a queue for the microscopes or interactive exhibits which was great. We could have done with an extra half hour to read everything though!

For dinner, we chose to visit Moeders to try out some traditional dutch food. Moeders is dedicated to Mothers, with every inch of the wall covered with photographs of mum’s! When you visit you can even take a photo of your own mum to add to the collection!

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Moeders Restaurant

We loved the decor (which needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated) and had a great visit. From the mismatched plates (which were brought to the restaurant by the first guests) to the tin of biscuits you are given with your coffee, Moderes feels like home.

We ordered the Dutch Ricedish (20 euros per person) which was a combination of different dishes to try and share. Stews, mashed potato, cabbage and apple sauce were all included and we were surprised by how much we enjoyed the traditional foods. I loved how unique the restaurant was and the staff were really friendly. We will definitely be back again!

Day 5

Since this was our last full day to explore, we travelled to Amsterdam Centraal and chose where to visit once in the city. Turns out this was also the first day of half term which we realised once we arrived at the NEMO Science Museum. We walked up to the first floor where all of the exhibits were interactive and decided to go get a coffee in the cafe instead – the place was unexpectedly filled with children on holiday.

On the top floor we found the main cafe and were able to go outside to a viewing point. Outside it was peaceful and the views of Amsterdam were amazing. We happily had a break here before inside where there were too many children running around.

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View from NEMO Science Museum

Although busy, we had lots of fun at the Science Museum, from strange exhibits about puberty to getting to surround ourselves with bubbles. I think the museum lets you unleash your inner child while you actually do learn some new scientific facts. We spent about 3 hours at the museum before we decided to head for our boat tour.

Included with our trusty IAmsterdam city card (promise I don’t work for them) was a free boat tour. There were a couple of companies you could choose from and we chose Lovers Canal Cruises since we had seen them around the city over the past couple of days.

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Our Boat Nemo

We walked down to the dock and waited for Nemo to arrive. The tour even included an audio guide which told us about lots of different attractions along the cruise. Our guide was funny and made the experience more enjoyable, so this seemed like a good company to choose. We cruised for over an hour along the canals and saw some beautiful places we had missed when walking. I’m still surprised the boat didn’t get stuck in some of the small canals!

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On the Canals

We were booked in for dinner back at our lovely hotel, so just had time to grab some stroopwafels before we headed back. These pretty ones were from Van Wonderen (be warned if you are looking for this place it is only small so you may walk past it a few times like us!)

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Day 6

I was sad to leave so soon and was already planning where I would visit on my return trip! We took advantage of our last hotel breakfast and filled up before packing away our room. I said goodbye to the resident cat (who can just be seen on the chair in the photo below) while Jamie checked out of the hotel. From Amstel Station we took the Metro and Train to Schipol before boarding our flight. We loved staying at our hotel and would recommend it to anyone who is happy to be slightly outside of the city. I loved the decor so had to share a photo!

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Hotel Lobby

We realised once we made it through airport security that we had not tried McDonalds whilst in Amsterdam (cue us rushing up the escalator to see if there was anything new or weird on the menu). Aside from 3 different beef burgers we didn’t see anything different, but were excited to try an unknown dipping sauce with chicken nuggets. Somehow chicken nuggets taste better in Amsterdam, i’m not sure if it’s a different recipe or just the excitement of trying food in a different country? I like to think the McDonalds bridged us back to British culture slowly, from days of fresh Dutch cuisine to the lazy fast food we would want after flying back home.

We relaxed in the airport loungers and watched the planes as we waited. When I boarded the plane I had mixed feelings, sad to be leaving but happy about the amazing experiences we had. I hope these two posts sum up our trip to Amsterdam well, we had the best time and I can’t wait to visit again!