Lake Como’s Villa Carlotta & Varenna

After a couple of hot days in Venice and Verona, we were ready to cool off with some time by the water in Lake Como.

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We drove around Milan arriving at the most perfect boutique hotel on the lake, Villa Vittoria. Located on the south side of the lake about half way up one the west ‘leg’ of Lake Como, it was perfect place to base our stay.

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We couldn’t have been more well looked after at this charming pastel pink hotel. The staff were outstanding, food amazing (we ate here all three nights of our stay), and the ambience was so relaxing.

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The hotel only a few rooms, so the place never felt over crowded, but it also had enough of an atmosphere in the evenings and mealtimes.

A couple of the nights we wandered into the town in the  late afternoon for an ice cream.

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The hotel was located in Laglio, famous for being the home to George Clooney’s villa, Villa Oleandra, so we made sure to check and see if George and Amal were home…

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We spent the three days we had in Lake Como exploring the different towns and villas and spending our late afternoon and evenings back at the hotel.

On our first full day in Lake Como we ventured to the Villa Carlotta, a villa and botanical garden in Tremezzo (a short drive from our hotel).

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We made sure to have quite a bit of time to explore, the grounds are immense, covering 20 acres of land. The gardens are broken into of several different sections.

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There is the Italian garden with cut hedges and pergolas with orange and camellia trees.

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The rhododendron and 150 varieties of azalea spread up the slope. Sadly, we arrived after their full bloom.

The property is also home to a variety of roses, cedars, palms, plane trees and other exotic plants.

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Make sure you find time to explore the villa as well. Filled with beautiful art, lovely interiors and beautiful views of Bellagio and the mountains.

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We jumped on a ferry and headed to Varenna for a late lunch after smelling all the roses at Villa Carlotta.

Ferries are a great way to explore the area. Driving from one side of the Lake to another could take hours, but with the ferry it only takes a few minutes.

Plus the views, you get are amazing!

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Varenna, is a very charming village on the eastern shore of Lake Como close to Bellagio. Varenna’s picturesque lanes and old fishermen’s houses are unpretentious, and we preferred the village to some of its grander neighbours.

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Not sick of gardens or villas yet, after lunch, we decided to spend the afternoon at Villa Monastero.

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This villa has a thin long garden that stretches out next to the lake, offering the most beautiful views of Mennaggio.

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The garden’s small passageways and stairways integrate themselves perfectly with the surroundings and with Lake Como in the background.

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After a full day in Lake Como we were excited for more adventures to come, we slept well ready for the next full day ahead!

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More adventures to come on Lake Como in my next post!

Steph xo


Fair Verona

In fair Verona where we lay our scene…

The next stop on our Italian road trip was the charming city of Verona. A suitable place to stop in between Venice and Lake Como (more to come on Lake Como in the next post!), which ended up making the perfect place to sit back, relax and properly get into holiday mode.

After picking up our car from the Venice Airport, we arrived in the historical centre of Verona in time for a late lunch.

As we didn’t want to waste any time in this beautiful city with a long lunch, we popped into a grocery store and picked up some picnic supplies to take with us to Palazzo Giardino Giusti.

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Located in the East part of Verona, a short walk from the city centre, the palace and gardens offers an oasis of calm.

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The palace was built in the 16th century and the gardens are considered some of the most beautiful Renaissance gardens in Europe!

The villa has been recommended to me by a friend, and I am so glad we made the trip!

The grounds are made up of a series of beautiful terraced gardens filled with impressive cypress trees, beautiful flowers and native herbs. There is even a maze!

As you reach the top garden there is also an amazing view of the city.

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The city was glowing in the afternoon sun.

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The gardens also offer lots of quiet benches to take a pew and escape the Italian heat. This was the hottest day of the trip, so we took our tour around the gardens slowly.

After our exploration of the Palazzo Giardino Giusti, we took a turn around much of the old parts of Verona, spiralling in towards Juliette’s House.

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Sadly, we were not the only people with this idea. There were about 200 other tourists crammed in the little space. So, we took a quick snap for the memory books and continued exploring the beautiful city and its Roman architecture.

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Next stop, was the Arena di Verona, an impressive Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra, it is hard to miss with its imposing walls! The amphitheatre was built in the first century and it still in use for the Opera. Next time, I come to Verona, I am planning my trip around the Opera!

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Before dinner we got a drink at  Osteria Ponte Pietra Restorante that looks out over the Adige, with a perfect view of watching the sunset over the Ponte Pietra Bridge.

Remember to go early to snag a table outside, the view is so worth it!

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The Ponte Pietra Bridge is over 2000 years old (completed in 100 BC!) and provides a beautiful backdrop for a predinner cocktail.

We had dinner at Osteria da Ugo, a recommendation from our waiter on our Bath trip. And it ended up being the favourite of the whole trip! Nothing over the top, just a lovely family run restaurant with outstanding food.

Before leaving Verona the next morning, we drove up to Castel San Pietro’s. This is the spot you’ll want to go to for to view Verona in all its glory!

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Sad to leave this beautiful city, we took one last look, before heading off to the Italian Lakes!

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Steph xo

Arriving in Venice

Mike and I started off this summer with an Italian road trip. It was a trip we had been planning for quite some time, so when the day came to set off we were giddy with excitement!

We started our Italian adventure in Venice, a place Mike had never been to before and I had not visited since I was very young, so we were excited to discover the place together.

We arrived in style taking a water taxi through the Grand Canal and eventually to our lovely Airbnb in San Marco.

I forgot how beautiful Venice was! The city was glowing! And we loved being able to see the place by boat.

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On our first full day in Venice it was raining cats and dogs, luckily the only rainy day of the whole trip, so we decide to escape the bad weather by sticking to the museums.

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Our Airbnb was in the perfect location for exploring all the sites.  It was just a few steps away to many of the galleries, and we got to pass by a few sites on our way, including the beautiful Rialto bridge.

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First stop was Gallerie dell’Accademia, followed by The Peggy Guggenheim. The Peggy Guggenheim was by far my favourite of the two museums. I loved all the modern beautiful curated pieces and the unique setting.

It also provided a nice view of Ponte dell’Accademia.

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We ended our day at the museums with an Aperol Spritz, a Bellini, both great Italian cocktails, and some wine watching the sunset over the canals.

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On our second day in Venice we were greeted warm weather and beautiful sunshine, so we decided to head to Burano for the morning. Burano is an island in the Venetian Lagoon known for its lace work.

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There are frequent ferries to many of the islands around Venice and we had chosen Burano as our destination of choice because we had been told by a local that Burano tends to get less busy than Murano, unfortunately when we arrived the place was heaving with people!

We escaped the crowds by avoiding the central canals, staying off the beaten path.

As you might know I have a thing for pastel coloured homes, so it was hard not to take a million pictures of this charming island.

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Although, we had a lovely morning and lunch in Burano, next time, I would try head somewhere a bit more off the beaten track to avoid all of the tourists.

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After lunch, we took the ferry back to the Venice for a quick change of clothes. We grabbed a gelato (when in Italy!) before dinner and went for a wander in the afternoon in the Dorsoduro area.

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Crossing over the Grand Canal on our way and making sure to stop and take in the amazing view of the sun setting over this golden city.

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On the last day in Venice, we woke up extra early to see Piazza San Marco.

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We had been to the square on the first day of our trip, but it was so busy with tourists (and quite rainy!), so we wanted to get in another look before heading off.

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The early start was so worth it! It was so nice to have the place to ourselves and just a few others- our own private tour of Venice. You can watch as the city slowly comes into life.

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Basilica di San Marco looks amazing as the sun floods it with golden light.

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And you get uninterrupted views of the beautiful Dodge’s Palace.

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We sadly couldn’t stay too long, next stop on our journey was Verona!

Steph xo

Cambridge College Touring

Over the early May bank holiday, Mike and I decided we wanted a day out of London to do a bit of an explore.

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After a bit of debate (Mike is an Oxford man), we landed on Cambridge as our destination of choice, as it is an easy hour train ride from London, with enough going on to keep us entertained for the day. We were also thinking about going to the coast, but with the English weather playing up, as usual, we thought we would play it safe and save the coast for a sunny day. Stay tuned!

Cambridge is a very charming small city, quite a bit smaller than Oxford, so not much of an itinerary is needed for a trip. In a day, you will have easily walked around the centre and most of the colleges. It would be very hard to miss anything out!

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Cambridge, like Oxford, has some stunning colleges, and most are open to the public to have a look around, so we spent most of the day doing just that!

Our favourites included:

St John’s College, probably the grandest College of them all. You get a lovely view of from the meadow behind the College.

Jesus College, which was lovely and quiet being set a bit further out than some of the others.

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Sidney Sussex College, which had the lost amazing wisterias on display. Sorry, still can’t get over these beauties!

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The River Cam runs through the heart of Cambridge and you are bound to come across punters. It is possible to hire a boat for an hour to see the city and get an upfront look at Cambridge College ‘Backs’.

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The city is also lovely to walk around, although a bit on the small side, it is very picturesque! We had a lovely late lunch at Trinity, before heading back to London.

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Steph xo

Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo

There is a great art gallery, just over the border from Canada, in Buffalo, called the Albright Knox. It makes the perfect excuse for a day trip from Toronto, being just a couple hours drive away and close to both Niagara Falls and the outlet malls.

Although it was a very rainy day, Mum and I decided to make the journey over the border to visit this lovely modern and contemporary art gallery, as they had a very interesting exhibition on, Menagerie: Animals on View. Mum and I are both massive animal lovers and we didn’t want to miss out!

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This furry friend exhibition was assembled from Albright-Knox’s expansive collection, bringing together more than 50 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and videos.

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It features creatures as agents of storytelling, humorous personifications, and echoes of the human spirit.

After touring the exhibition, we made sure to check out the permanent collection, which we have seen many times, but is always worth another visit. The permanent collection features work by well known artists such as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol.

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My favourite piece is a massive mural made of scribbles by Sol LeWitt! Wall Drawing # 1268: Scribbles: Staircase, holds the distinction of being the artist’s last and largest scribble drawing.

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The mural was made by 16 artists scribbling directly onto the gallery’s walls for seven hours a day, over 54 days, using a total of 1,717 graphite pencils. The end result is pretty spectacular! It doesn’t look like scribbles at all!

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Outside the gallery, there is nearly 20 different sculptures to explore as well.

But, we could only stay and play a little while, as the rain started up again!

Looking forward to another visit to the Alright Knox Gallery soon!

Steph xo

Blooming Beautiful Bath

In celebration of Mike’s Birthday I decided to book a night for the two of us in Bath. Mike had not been to the city since he was very young and it has been a fair few years since I had been myself, so it felt like the perfect get-away from London.

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I am so glad we made the trip because I had completely forgotten what an absolutely beautiful city Bath is! No wonder the whole city is a listed world heritage site. Everywhere you go is just drop dead gorgeous.

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The whole setting was made even nicer by some lovely warm weather and all the spring blossoms that had came out in time for our arrival!

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We took an early train from London on Saturday morning and arrived by midday in Bath. We walked to our lovely hotel, Villa at Henrietta Park, and checked in.

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This small boutique hotel was perfect for our stay in Bath. It is located in the centre of Bath, just around the corner from the iconic Pulteney Bridge, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle that you are able to relax.

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The rooms are very nicely decorated and the beds are huge. You can’t wait to dive in!

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After checking in and dropping off our coats – it was so warm outside we didn’t need them – we headed to an Italian restaurant, Sotto Sotto, for lunch.

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When looking for places to eat in Bath, Sotto Sotto consistently came out as a top recommendation, so I knew it was a place we could not miss out on.

Luckily it didn’t disappoint! Delicious, simple Italian food as good as they make in Italy. They even had gluten free pasta for me!

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The staff were so accommodating, we even got a few recommendations for our trip to Italy in the Spring!

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If you are ever in Bath, make sure to put Sotto Sotto on your list, just be sure to book in advance, they generally get booked up quite quickly!

After finishing our meal we headed out into the sunshine to check out the sites. We popped in and out of the shops.

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Bath has some great vintage shops and boutiques.

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We made our way to the Royal Crescent, a row of thirty terraced houses laid out in an arch.

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It is famous for being one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the UK.

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Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of these as your home?

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We then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Bath’s beautiful parks, including Green Park and Sydney gardens.

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As well as stopping into Sally Lunn’s for a Bath bun in the late afternoon.
It felt almost rude to consider going to Bath without a visiting to Sally Lunn’s, which is a bit of a Bath institution. Although it is a little bit of a tourist trap, it is still worth a trip to get your delicious bun to take away.

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After resting our tired feet back at the hotel watching an episode of The Replacement (I would strongly recommend this BBC mini series if you have not watched it before!), we wandered into town for some pre-dinner drinks at Opium Bar. Tucked away under a bridge, this intimate and quirky bar serves up some mean cocktails.

For dinner, we went to a Spanish restaurant next door to Sotto Sotto, La Perla (not to be mistaken with the lingerie brand!).

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Set underground, like Sotto Sotto, the setting was lovely and intimate and the food was tasty. We particularly liked the scallops and squid!

Although both restaurants were lovely, if we had to choose a winner between the two, it would be without a doubt Sotto Sotto.

The next morning, we woke up to another beautiful sunny day in Bath.

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We had heard good things about a hipster brunch joint, Hunter & Sons, so decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and head back into the city centre.

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We were greeted with delicious coffee and perfectly cooked eggs, what more could you ask for?

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As it was a Sunday morning and the city was still relatively quiet, after brunch Mike and I took a climb up one of the many hills surrounding the city centre to Lansdown Crescent and Hedgemead Park to get a view of city below.

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The streets were just as charming outside of the city centre as they were inside of it.

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Before catching our train back to London, we made sure to take back some sweets as souvenirs. Stopping in at Maison Georges Larnicol for some chocolates. A French chocolatier in the middle of Bath.

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The chocolates are sold by weight, so you get to pick and choose from numerous types and flavours of chocolates. They were delicious and reminded me of the amazing chocolatier we went to in Amboise twelve months earlier.

They also have an amazing selection of Easter eggs to choose from.

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A perfect weekend trip from London. We had such a lovely stay in this beautiful city, and I can’t wait to go back again soon!

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Steph xo

Girls Weekend in Amsterdam

A couple of weekends ago, Maria and I went to Amsterdam to visit our university friend, Carolyn, who moved to the Netherlands from London last summer.

We had a wonderful weekend, albeit a rainy one, wandering around the beautiful Amsterdam canals and catching up over long meals!

We arrived late on Friday night, so caught up over a cup of tea before hitting the hay, ready to wake up and take on Amsterdam the next morning.

Saturday was a rainy morning, but that wasn’t going to stop us from exploring! After a quick breakfast at home, where we tested out the local breakfast Hagelslag, basically chocolate sprinkles on toast (delicious!), we headed into the centre to the Van Gogh Museum.

Van Gog Museum Amsterdam

Although the museum is a bit busy, being very popular among tourists and locals alike, it is a must see spot for any visitor to the city. Just make sure to book in advance so you can skip the queue!

The museum is home to over 200 paintings and 500 drawings of Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh Museum Art

The whole place is a feast for the eyes. It is amazing how many pieces of work van Gogh  completed in his short life, which ended in tragic circumstances in 1890  at the age of just 37.

After touring the museum, we headed to lunch close by at a place called Blushing.

Blushing Amsterdam

A great cafe for a light meal if you are near the Museum Quarter. The restaurant is full of nutritious juices, salads and sandwiches.

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Blushing Amsterdam Green Juice

The place is bustling and the staff are very friendly.

After lunch we walked to Van Stapele Koekmakerij for our dessert. Carolyn had been raving about this place, so we were glad it did not disappoint.

Amsterdam Famous Cookies

Van Stapele Koekmakerij is a famous and historic cookie shop  that has been based in Amsterdam for many years. It’s famous for making only one type of cookie, according to a recipe developed by Vera van Stapele and her team while attempting to create the ‘perfect cookie’.

Amsterdam Cookie

The end result is outstanding-  a double chocolate cookie with a creamy white chocolate gooey surprise at the centre. Yummy!

We couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

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Amsterdam cookies

Passing by the Amsterdam flower market (Bloemenmark), where you will find tulips and in every colour, we headed into the centre.

Amsterdam Tulip

The rest of the afternoon was spent dashing in and out of beautiful cafes, boutiques and vintage shops in the De 9 Straatjes (The 9 Streets).

Rainy Canal in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Shopping

Our favourite shops were Scotch & Soda, Marc O’Polo and Cinq Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Flowers

Amsterdam Boutique

This quaint area is one of the most beautiful in Amsterdam, running along Amsterdam’s grandest canals, including the Pinsengracht, Keizersgracht and the Herengracht.

Amsterdam Jorddan

In the sixteenth century, the Dutch government levied property taxes based on the width of each house, and the results were tall, skinny houses that line the city centre, giving Amsterdam its iconic look. The narrowest home is rumoured to be only around 80 cm wide!

Amsterdam Canal

Carolyn and Steph Amsterdam

There are also great food shops. Amsterdam is famous for its cheese!

Amsterdam Cheese Shop

For dinner, we went to a traditional French restaurant, Le Petit Latin. A simple menu, with only six starters and six mains that were read out to us by a lovely French maître d’.

The food was tasty and the wine was delicious!

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French food

We ended our evening with another walk around the city centre. The canals are just as beautiful at night!

Canals at Night Amsterdam

The next day we slept in and went for lunch near Carolyn’s home at Dignita, definitely my favourite restaurant of the trip.

This hipster cafe, served up all the classics: poached eggs, avocado on toast, coconut yogurt and granola with great coffee to boot. There are plenty of gluten free options too!

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Coconut Dignita

With just a few hours left before we had to catch our flight back to London the girls headed to the Anne Frank Museum, while I decided to walk around the Jordaan.

Amsterdam Rainy Canal

The Jordaan was originally a working-class neighbourhood, a base for local craftsmen and artists, but it has become one of the most desirable areas in the Netherlands in more recent times. I can see why – the area is very charming!

Amsterdam Jorddan Canal wandering

It is home to many art galleries and markets, and is also dotted with speciality shops and restaurants.

Dutch Tulip Museum Amsterdam

Tulip Seeds

And just like that our Amsterdam weekend came to an end.

A lovely couple days in a beautiful city with some of my favourite people!

Steph xo