I left my Heart in Switzerland: 10 Things to Do in this Beautiful Land

I’ve now been to Switzerland twice, and seen a fair amount of the countryside and towns. I have to say, I absolutely love it! It’s somewhere you can get some real relaxation, or check out vibrant city-life, or just pause while you take in the breath-taking views.

There are so many reasons to visit Switzerland that aren’t on here, because I’m just one girl and I’m not the authority on Switzerland but, here are a few things I’d recommend!

The Importance of R’n’R: Letting Yourself Breathe

Very recently I’ve been cycling round and round between over-stressed and uber-motivated. Although I love my busy lifestyle and get bored without it, I tend to let myself get burnt out. I am pretty sure there are tons of you out there like me!

So this weekend, when my fiance and I went on a mini-break to Switzerland, I knew I had to let myself relax. I planned beforehand to take a load of blog photos and while we did get some great shots, I didn’t let it govern the holiday’s activities. I think sometimes, it’s important to enjoy the little things and not see life from behind a phone or camera.

Driving Home for Christmas… Visiting Harry Potter Studios for a Magical Christmas Evening!

Harry Potter Studios is one of the most magical places on earth. I REALLY don’t want to spoil anything for you and I’d encourage everyone who likes HP to go, so please look away now if you don’t want to see the details…

Are you still here? Okay, good.

It’s the most Magical Time of the Year!

I revisited the Harry Potter Studios this week, for an exclusive evening tour which included a meal, Butterbeer and a Guidebook (plus entry til midnight!) The drive there was great as I brought along Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit and absolutely smashed the competition – as any Ravenclaw would.

MDWAP Live SouthBank Centre

Going Solo to MDWAP Live: The Podcast Everyone loves but No-one talks about.

“My Dad Wrote a Porno” was my gateway into podcasts. It’s a podcast that no-one has spoken to me about, other than the person who shared it with me or the people I shared it with, and I didn’t realise it was so worldly renowned. However, when I mentioned the other night on Facebook that I went to see My Dad Wrote a Porno Live (MDWAP Live), so many fans came out of the woodwork!

For those who aren’t familiar with this podcast – it’s the best! 3 friends getting together to discuss one of their dad’s (lovingly rubbish) smutty self-published novels, “Belinda Blinked.”

A Good Vintage: A Quick Guide to Goodwood Revival

Goodwood Revival has always been my home from home. As some of you may know, I adore 1940’s and 50’s attire, so once a year I get to dress in the most beautiful vintage dresses and head off into a festival entirely set in the past. This year was no exception and Goodwood was just as enjoyable as ever. I would say the weather definitely put a dampener on it but you can’t help that!

Vintage Zaftig Girl

Goodwood Revival has changed so much over the years I’ve been there. It seems to have gained popularity with casual festival-goers and in turn, they’re popping up more VIP areas… Coincidence? Perhaps not.

However, there are the same vibes flowing through those crowds as there always has been! Everyone is encouraged to dress up and get involved and they keep introducing new things all the time. If you don’t wear period style dress to the event I am basically disowning you now, sorry not sorry.

So what’s involved?

Bathophobia

Beating Bathophobia: How do you beat fears of the deep?

If you aren’t scared of anything, are you even human? I have a few irrational fears, the kind that few people share and aren’t based on real explanations (like heights, drowning etc.) I am so disturbed by one of these fears, that I can’t mention it in case friends decide it would be funny to send me pictures of said creatures, my other is bathophobia.

Bathophobia; is a fear of unknown depths. (Not a fear of baths.) Places of utter blackness deep beneath the world, and my particular phobia relates to water too. I often get bad dreams about the vastness of the sea and rivers that defy gravity and surround me. I’d promised myself I’d address this fear and so this week when going on a trip to the Peak District I decided to face my fear!

Major Adulting: Salome at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Part of my 30 goals to complete over the next two years involves going to see a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I chose Salome by Oscar Wilde as he is one of my favourite writers. So here’s my write up – a chance for me to exercise my long-lost analytical skills and offer a mini-review of the play. The play is described as “a tragedy in one act”. For a plot write up you can click here but otherwise, let’s carry on!

Gender Bending, Done Right

Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Click for more production photos by the RSC

Alternative Amsterdam Canal Boat

Alternative Amsterdam Trip – A Photo Story

Time for the most photo-heavy post ever as I’ve just returned from Amsterdam! We had a brilliant time trying to get a good alternative Amsterdam experience that isn’t just getting high or visiting the tourist traps. Here are just a few main points on the things I found the best (and the worst) from the little cross-section we got.

As always all my own opinion – unsponsored and completely biased.

Arrival Day

From checking into our hotel we got stuck straight into the shopping District to the west. “The 9 Streets” were a great start with beautiful boutiques and quiet lanes to stroll down. We accidentally walked straight into the touristy area and jeez, could we tell the difference!
We quickly dashed into the tulip museum which sold certified tulip bulbs (so you can take them abroad). It smelled so beautiful… Aaaand then we headed to the cheese museum a few doors down. It was so strong I almost walked straight back out, despite enjoying cheese!
Amsterdam Dutch Cheese Museum
One thing I learned from the initial day was that pretty much everyone speaks English and also they say bikes are very common here but that is an understatement! You’d not be in Amsterdam if you didn’t see a bike in every direction you look or nearly get run over by one at least twice…

Room Mate Aitana

We didn’t end up going out that evening; the hotel was so lush! We initially thought we would head down to the restaurant but then realised we were exhausted. We ended up ordering room service instead and enjoying the perfect views from the windows from the luxury of the queen size bed. Definitely the right choice!
Room Mate Aitana Amsterdam Business Hotel
Room Mate Aitana Standard Room Business Hotel Amsterdam

Alternative Amsterdam Museum Day

On the first morning (and every morning after…) we ate at Bagel and Beans opposite our hotel on the river IJ. It had a beautiful view and a lovely atmosphere with awesome veggie and vegan options. A great way to start the day!
Bagel and Beans River IJ Amsterdam
So we planned to give the smaller museums of Amsterdam a chance rather than the larger (tourist trap) museums, we headed out early hoping to beat the crowds. All these museums were situated in and around the Red Light District which was very quiet due to the time but we wanted to see it in contrast with the evening.
Red Light District Picture Amsterdam

The Red Light District looks quite calm in the day time…

 By midday we had already visited the Erotic Museum, Torture museum and Red Light Secrets (Museum of Prostitution) – of course, the only way to spend a morning in Amsterdam! The Erotic museum was very seedy (as expected) and the torture museum was very small for the price and mostly made me suck air in through my teeth a lot! Eesh.
Erotic Museum Amsterdam Novelty Condoms

Novelty Condoms in the Erotic Museum

The best museum I would say not to miss is Red Light Secrets. This one gives a real insight into what it’s like making a living from the ‘oldest profession’. It kind of takes any romantic feeling out of it portrayed in the movies and it hits home what these women (and men) do on a daily basis and how dangerous it is.
Red Light Secrets Amsterdam Confessions

They encouraged people to make their own confessions in secret which would then get put on the wall!

Shamelessly drunk in the daytime…

Before heading off for lunch we went to the Ice Bar which is basically like sitting in a freezer while you drink. The whole thing had a pirate theme and was quite bizarre… but definitely a novelty for stag dos! The ice bears were pretty impressive though!
Ice Sculpture Polar Bear Ice Bar Amsterdam
I wanted to compare the experience with the Ice Bar in Soho and I wasn’t as impressed. Although, unlike the frankly overpriced London IceBar, we did have three shots included in the price of the entrance… before lunch. So I wandered around woozily to a square where we had Mexican food. Not before a little AmsterDAB.
Amsterdam Amsterdabbing Amsterdab
I’m sorry…
Moving on, we walked back up through the Red Light District in the early evening and the atmosphere had changed dramatically. The pubs were overflowing, smoke filled the air, the lights were glaring and the ladies were out in force (it wasn’t even 6-pm). Of course, there were no pictures allowed but I have to say it should be on everyone’s travel bucket list!

Frugal Day

River IJ Eye Museum Amsterdam

By this point we realised just how much money we were spending… 15 euros here… 30 euros there… It had been pretty damn expensive thus far! So the aim of Day 3 was to do as much free stuff as possible, ending up near our pre-booked Canal Cruise in the evening.
We began with a ferry trip to the Eye Museum which was advertised on “Top 10” sites everywhere. It’s free to enter the permanent exhibition if you buy a ticket to the seasonal one… boo. But it is a beautiful building so we sat there for a while!
River IJ Eye Museum Amsterdam

The view from our hotel room!

We also went on the other free ferry to NDSM which is a converted dockyard turned artisan quarter. When it’s not in season, it’s just a docks (although there is a hell of a lot of cool graffiti). Off to a bad start activity wise but at least we were enjoying the views!

Killing Time Highlights

We saw the outdoor chess board in tribute to the famous Dutch Chess Player Max Euwe with a little group playing chess in the sun.

Chess Max Euwe MaxEuwesplein

We stopped by a little fast food place called Febo where you can get croquettes. They were served from vending machines and they were super tasty. Kinda like pie filling in breadcrumbs. Mmmm.
Febo Croquettes Amsterdam

We visited the IAmsterdam sign and the Modern Art Gallery gift shop which was full of amazing art and design literature. It made me realise we need a bigger library…

Alternative Amsterdam Museum District Bubbles
Alternative Amsterdam Wonky Houses
Alternative Amsterdam Vintage Style
The moral of today is that you can’t really do a lot around Amsterdam without money… but of course, you can just soak in the atmosphere.
Canal Cruise Blue Boat Company Amsterdam
A canal cruise was definitely worth doing but it’s very commercial. My tip for you is head to the south and get one of the cruises near the Max Euwesplein. The cruises are not really romantic, but it’s not a bad way to see the city for sure. You hear an interesting audio tour of the city and get seated on tables of 6 so it’s good for meeting other people!

Science Day

Alternative Amsterdam Trip NEMO Science Museum

Today we met our Dutch friend who travelled to see us in the capital. We ended up wandering around the east side of the city. Unfortunately, we spent so long in the science museum we didn’t get time to visit the zoo!
The science museum was spectacular and I loved it! It’s aimed at kids and parents but the exhibitions were loads better than any UK science museum I have been to. There were whole interactive exhibitions on mental health, psychology, sex ed, motion, ecosystems, *takes a breath*, electricity, astronomy, materials AND a full chemistry lab and workshop for families!

 
 Alternative Amsterdam Trip NEMO Science Museum
It seemed really well funded and directly addressed some real core issues which I admired. There is too much stigma in the UK when it comes to discussing things like mental health, hormones, alcohol effects etc directly with children. I feel it’s best to just be honest with them to help them understand how it may affect their later lives.
Overall it was great to spend a few days in Amsterdam but now I am thoroughly exhausted! Even when we had no plans for the day we were exploring and crowds just take it out of you.
Perhaps next time I will try a brownie…
Alternative Amsterdam Things to Do Tulip Season Amsterdam
Visiting Brighton Beach

Shops and Pop Socks: A Geek’s Guide to Visiting Brighton

As I spent last weekend visiting Brighton, I decided to do a quick review of what I’ve learnt about it over my many trips there! Brighton is like my home from home – I feel like I really belong there and if I could, I’d happily live there. I have visited at all times of the year, doing “the tourist thing” and also exploring with friends that live nearby, which helps when you’re trying to find out the places where the locals go!

So here is a very brief guide to visiting Brighton – where to go, what to see and sometimes where to give a miss (despite the hype). Every time I visit I am exploring more and more, so I am sure there will be updates as I go! As always, my completely biased and unsponsored opinion -please feel free to completely disagree!

Sights to See

Street art

Street artists in Brighton are extremely talented. You won’t find just scribbled tags here – every alleyway (and sometimes the frontages) are covered with artwork. Every time I visit the walls have changed and new artwork has appeared. It just makes everything just that little more interesting and vibrant.

Visiting Brighton Street Art

Colour overload!

The South Lanes (at night and in the day)

The reason I’ve put the lanes in the sights category is that they can be very busy – too busy to even get a look-in at the shops! If you’re going there in the day I’d recommend a weekday, and I’d also say, bring lots of money… It’s home to the famous ChoccyWoccyDooDah and other awesome establishments.
In the evening, it’s really atmospheric – walking through on a warm Saturday night I came across glowing little restaurants, iconic pubs and bars and really talented buskers setting the scene for us.

Snooper’s Paradise

Another place I’ve put in the sights category rather than the “buy” – it’s great if you are out to buy some awesome curiosities but, I never have enough money to spend! I think one reason for the pricing is its commercialism, but it is the ultimate bric-a-brac store. It’s a treasure trove of quirky stuff! If you’re there for the unusual then definitely worth a purchase, but if not then do shop around first!

The Seafront

I will forego the cliché pictures of the burned down pier… But seriously there are some cool things to see on the sea-front. The pier, the permanent carousel, the pub that looks like a ship, the kissing picture, the big… doughnut thing? Awesome.

Visiting Brighton SeaFront Brighton Doughnut

Places to Buy All the Things

Churchill Square (and the surrounding area) 

The main shopping centre for Brighton, which has all of the core shops you’d expect on the high street – plus some extras! The Lego Store, Pylones and Scribbler (to name but a few they don’t have in my city)… I even enjoy high-street shopping more when visiting Brighton than at home!

North Laine

Coming from a city deprived of any real ‘alternative’ shops, when I visit the North Laine I tend to spend ALL of my money! Everything is so colourful and different to anywhere else I’ve seen! Camden eat your heart out! There are no cheap crappy remakes and big chains here – each shop is unique and wonderful. Another place to visit on a weekday.

This is Not a Butchers (etc.)

The name, the weird and funny stuff to buy – just a great little shop filled with quirky gifts. I told myself I wouldn’t name any specific shop to go and buy things in but, this one is just really cool. To make it a bit fairer, I will also mention I love to shop in Tuff Tarts, LUST! and Pussy too. (Yes, they’re the actual names.)

Eateries and Drinking Establishments

Burgers and Cocktails

I find it difficult to put the label “the best burger I’ve ever had” onto any burger, but Burgers and Cocktails has to be one of the most memorably awesome burger joint experiences EVER. Their nachos are to die for, their fries – sublime, and don’t get me started on the cocktails. They were half price for happy hour so my friend and I tried four as a matter of course. No regrets!

Visiting Brighton Burgers and Cocktails

The Mesmerist

This place is just the best! It’s got an amazing atmosphere, and even more amazing mixologists. They play old school jazz, rock and roll and blues music. I am yet to go when they’re hosting an event / live band but it’s on the list! I didn’t take any pictures here because I was too busy dancing my pop socks off!

La Choza

As soon as you hit the Lanes coming from the train station, you come across La Choza. The amazing smell of burritos hit you as soon as you pass it and on more than one occasion it’s drawn me in! I’ve heard there’s also a La Choza kitchen at the Hare and Hound pub should the restaurant itself be too busy.

 Visiting Brighton La Choza Mexican Restaurant Brighton
 La Choza Brighton Mexican Restaurant Visiting Brighton

The North/South Lanes

I cannot name these few places above without giving a bit of a catch-all header for all the other amazing independent restaurants and cafes. There is such a vast choice available that I couldn’t write down all the places I’ve been to/have yet to go to! My advice to you is; get off the high-street, go to the lanes and just follow your nose!

Places to do Nothing at all

Das ist OK fur mich Brighton Pier

Brighton Pavillion

The gardens surrounding the Pavillion are great to visit in the summer – just to chill and not do a lot. I’ve not been inside yet, but the outside is just stunning! There are always (super talented) buskers playing soft/jazzy music as you relax in the sun – Bliss!

The Beach

Rent a deck-chair, have some fish and chips and do absolutely nothing at all! Visiting Brighton’s stony beach means no sand between your toes (yuck); you can just enjoy the sea. Coming from a landlocked city I definitely appreciate it!

Visiting Brighton…

…is a new experience every time. Over the last 4 years, I’ve been countless times and loved every moment. I never felt like I was doing the same old thing or felt out of place!

I could continue but I feel like you need to explore for yourselves if you haven’t been already!
If you have been I’d love to know your thoughts and recommendations on some good places to visit!

Until next time,

Amy