A Florentine Holiday

Italy has sat at the top of my travel wish list for as long as I can remember, so goodness knows why it’s taken me so long to visit! My long-awaited summer holiday this year was to Florence, and the beautiful city lived up to all of my romantic expectations. With many referring to Tuscany as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, its capital is oozing with cultural delights.

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite finds from the trip but please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do/places to see. If I could go back and stay for a year I would – and I’m sure I’d still run out of time to fully appreciate everything that there is to do and see (and eat) in Florence.

My boyfriend and I stayed to the west of Florence, a short bus ride from the city centre, surrounded by Tuscan countryside and close to the river Arno. Taking a walk up through the surrounding hills and villages, we stumbled across olive groves aplenty and a church at almost every turn!

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Whilst exploring we found an old mill that had been converted into a beautiful hotel
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For a panoramic view of the city, a climb up through the Boboli gardens to the Basilica di San Miniato to the south of the city centre is perfect and offers a little breather from the busy cobbled streets. Maybe avoid doing the walk in the midday heat though – we made that mistake and it made for a rather sweaty time.

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The tier of palaces, villas and gardens of Boboli
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A must-do when you are visiting Florence has to be climbing the Duomo, the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Situated in the historic criss-cross streets in the heart of Florence, and what feels like the tourist hub, the dome is one of the city’s most iconic sights. Not recommended for anyone suffering with vertigo or claustrophobia, the 463-step climb up the steep interior steps culminate in a spectacular 360-degree view of the city. (You need to pre-book a time-slot to climb the Duomo.)

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The fresco’s on the interior of the duomo depicting The Last Judgement
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For a little bit of retail therapy, Boutique Nadine in the Santa Croce neighbourhood is a slightly pricey but beautifully curated boutique. It’s worth taking a wander through the streets of Santa Croce which can feel like a haven from the tourists. Soul Kitchen Bar, which is just next door to Boutique Nadine on Via de’ Benci, is a perfect low-key spot for cocktails and people watching in the early evening.

 

The food was undeniably the best part of the trip – the pizza, the cheeses, the pasta…

The top markets that I would recommend wandering round are the Mercato Centrale (Florence’s central market) and the Sant’Ambrugio Market. Both offer an attack on the senses as you peruse the various local delicacies as well as fruits and vegetables, and fish and meat counters.

 

My final recommendation from the trip would be to visit Touch for dinner. Offering modern dishes made with traditional Tuscan ingredients, you can choose between a tasting menu or order à la carte. It was the most expensive meal of our whole trip (pizzas usually cost around 7€) with the tasting menu costing 40€ without wine. However, the flavours were astounding, and with wonderfully accommodating staff who were more than happy to recommend dishes or wine to compliment the meal, it was definitely our favourite meal of the trip.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about a few of our favourite spots – I’m already trying to work out when I can go back!

A weekend trip to the coast

I did it! I made it through what has felt like the most difficult revision and exam period so far. To celebrate finishing, my boyfriend and I escaped down to the Kent Coast with friends for a weekend. We stayed in Westgate-on-Sea, a stone’s throw away from Margate. I know what you’re all thinking – Margate for a weekend escape? But give it a go. There are some beautiful shops, cafes and restaurants to try, and let’s not forget the huge sandy beaches – and the fact that it’s only an hour and a half from London!

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@annagregson

We were extremely lucky with the weather and had such a beautiful weekend that I wanted to share some our finds.

 

Margate

I highly recommend taking a stroll around the cobbled streets of Margate Old Town, home to some lovely little homeware and vintage shops, galleries and coffee shops.

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Margate Harbour: @dane_rock

 

Buoy and Oyster, 44 High Street, CT9 1DS

Looking out over Margate harbour, Buoy and Oyster offers stunning views, whether it’s a sunny summer’s day or stormy winter weather. This gorgeous restaurant serves seasonal fish and seafood with a modern British slant, as well as offering delightful-looking cocktails. The four of us ordered oysters (most of us trying them for the first time), a bottle of white wine and a main meal each, coming to a total of £29 per person, including service. Being used to London restaurant prices we practically skipped out of the restaurant, having enjoyed such a delightful lunch! I highly recommend the halibut on their current menu.

 

The Cupcake Café, 4-5 Market Place, CT9 1EN

Situated in a little courtyard, this café serves cakes, coffees and snacks all day. If you’re lucky you might be able to bag a table outside in the sun and people watch to your heart’s content! Next door is The Greedy Cow café, which we didn’t get to try, but about which I’ve heard very good things!

 

The Light Keeper, 8 Broad Street, CT9 1EW

A beautiful lighting emporium tucked away in Margate Old Town, this is definitely worth checking out even if you don’t need to buy a light fitting. The unique designs are fascinating and constantly updated.

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The Light Keeper: @dane_rock

 

Qing Interiors, 3 Lombard Street, CT9 1EN

Unique and bespoke designs sit next to exquisite vintage oriental home furnishings. I highly recommend a visit to Qing Interiors – it couldn’t feel further away from what you’d expect in an English coastal town.

 

Etcetera Interiors Ltd, 35 Hawley Street, CT9 1QA

One of many beautiful homeware shops in Margate, they sell minimalist designs. I had to keep reminding myself that I live in a small flat and that I definitely don’t need any more cushions/throws/plants…

 

Turner Contemporary, The Rendezvous, CT9 1HG

This art gallery is situated on the edge of the harbour and runs various exhibitions throughout the year, most of them free of charge. With a lovely coffee shop as well, it can provide some entertainment or a couple of hours.

 

Whitstable

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Whitstable wall art: @dane_rock

Whitstable is an old fishing village, famous for its oysters in particular. Down by the harbour there are some fishing huts selling local crafts and sweet treats. If you walk further along through the harbour you come to the fish markets which, even if you’re not keen on eating fish, are well worth a wander round as they’re selling a huge range of produce. Many of the fishmongers may also be happy to let you try local delicacies such as oysters or cockles if you’ve never had them before.

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Whitstable Harbour: @dane_rock

 

The Forge, 1 Sea Wall, CT5 1BX

I’m going out on a limb here to suggest that this was the best fish and chips I’ve ever eaten! The Forge looks like a converted beach hut but don’t be fooled. It serves the crispiest, fluffiest chips I think I have ever eaten with the usual selection of fish. The real secret of this place, however, is that it sells deliciously fresh oysters and lobster as well. The half lobster and chips with salad for £13.50 was such a treat! Eating it on the beach in 23 degree heat felt as though we were truly on holiday!

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Lobster on the beach: @dane_rock

 

I also recommend taking a wander round Whitstable village and having a look in the shops or admiring the beautiful cottages. And if pretty cottages and the beach won’t suffice, Whitstable Castle and Gardens are well worth a visit.

 

In case you hadn’t noticed, we tended to veer towards homeware shops on this trip – early twenties going on middle-aged, clearly! This is by no means an extensive list of what’s available to see and do in Margate, and this post is not sponsored – just a selection of our favourite finds from last weekend.

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Our beautiful holiday apartment

I hope you have a great weekend and enjoy the sun – let’s hope it lasts!

 

Main photo: @edenmorse21

Keeping my head during revision

This one’s coming from my dining table as I look out at the beautiful weather wishing I could be outside instead of revising. In the past, I’ve tended to be a bit all or nothing with my revision – either go crazy and work myself into the ground, or do nothing at all and pretend I don’t have any to do. I’m trying to keep more of a routine with my work this time, but sometimes we need a little help to get through it!

Here is a list of my favourite things that are helping me stay on more of an even keel.

 

Breakfast

I make sure I have breakfast every morning as it fuels me up for the day. Some breakfast inspiration from an earlier blog post can be found here.

Herbal tea

I love coffee and breakfast tea but the thing I seem to drink excessively during revision and exam time is green tea and herbal teas. I have a plethora of different flavours in my cupboard – mainly to alleviate the boredom and monotony of revision, rather than anything else. I also take a few into uni with me if I’m studying in the library as hot water is free.

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

Having a novel to read before bed that is completely unrelated to uni work helps me switch off in the evening. I don’t get through books very quickly, probably only reading a few pages each evening, but I find it helps. This book is such a favourite – this is the second time I’ve read it. It’s like holidaying in the south of France so provides some lovely bedtime escapism.

Running (aka jogging)

I can’t say that I’m a very fast runner or that I run very far – I think I actually go at more of a jogging pace, but it’s the getting out there and doing it that counts. Listening to music is a must for me and at the moment I love Say It Again by KINGDM. I’ve got it on repeat so I’ll probably be sick of it by the end of next week!

Snacks

Another good idea to keep you fuelled up whilst revising, another post from the archives!

Enough sleep

I now know that I function best when I have 7-8 hours’ sleep each night. How much you need will be personal to you but getting enough makes it much easier to function during exam time.

Colouring book

I guess this trend is a little bit old but I haven’t given up on my colouring book just yet!

Treating myself to flowers

My local Lidl have tulips for £1.50 a bunch at the moment so I’m treating myself. They brighten up my flat and cost less than a coffee at uni!

 

Good luck to everyone revising, taking exams and getting coursework done. It’ll be over soon!