The Travel Post #21: 5 of the best 48 hour breaks

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One of the most common questions I get asked is how I keep up writing a lifestyle and travel blog when I work full time. With only 20 something days holiday at my disposal every year it can sometimes be tough to fit in all the places on my list and the biggest thing I have learned is to really make the most of weekends.  Although there are some cities that it would just be impossible to pack in to two days, here are my top five picks of places you can go without taking days out of the office. 

1. Gothenburg
Flights from £35 return*

If you are looking for a city break that isn’t too intense, then Sweden’s second city is an ideal choice. Be sure to take a ride on the padden boat to get a view of the city from the river and join the locals for Fika in Haga – a Swedish tradition of coffee and cake! If the weather is good, take advantage of the bikes dotted around the city that are available to hire and explore one of the many parks that make Gothenburg one of the greenest cities in Europe.  

2. Budapest
Flights from £75 return

If being boozy is more your thing then Budapest is a great and cheap weekend away. Spend the evenings checking out the world famous ruin bars (Szimpla Kert is the biggest and most famous!) and spend a day exploring both the historical Buda and the lively Pest sides of the city. For an uber trendy place to stay check out my review of Brody House here.

3. Edinburgh
Flights from £45 return

With flights from many UK airports taking an hour or less, the Scottish capital is the perfect spot for a quick getaway. Spend Saturday having a stroll down the royal mile from the Castle to Scottish Parliament but get back in time to see the sunset from Calton Hill. Wake up on Sunday with a brunch from Hamilton's and if the British weather isn’t on your side, Camera Obscura is a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon.

4. Copenhagen
Flights from £25 return

If you are looking for somewhere for a quick break to get you into the Christmas spirit, you would struggle to find better than Copenhagen. From November onwards their Tivoli Gardens become a sparkling display of festive lights and the driverless metro runs all hours meaning you can get anywhere at anytime with ease. If you are a foodie fanatic, why not try one of the renowned Michelin star restaurants, but if you want to book the most famous Noma, be warned you will have to book a few months in advance!

5. The Cotswolds

Although it’s nice to travel overseas, weekends are a great chance to explore some of the best parts of Britain and you don’t get much better than the cotswolds. Check yourself into one of the many boutique hotels and spend a couple of days exploring the quaint cobbled lanes with plenty of pub pitstops built in! A great choice is The Painswick near Stroud, which offers 16 snug rooms in the pretty Cotswold village after which it was named.

Have you ever visited any of these places? Where are your favourite spots for a mini break?

Charlotte x

*All flights were for a Friday to Sunday evening, prices found on Skyscanner in October 2016 for January 2017

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The Travel Post #20: Spotlight on Grünerløkka

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A couple of months ago, I spent the bank holiday weekend visiting my first ever part of Scandinavia. Oslo is often thought of as the least cosmopolitan of the Scandi capitals, but found just outside the centre, Grünerløkka (Oslo’s answer to London’s Shoreditch) is the epitome of hipster cool. Hip bars and vintage markets make this trendy suburb a must visit on any trip to the Norwegian city. 

Must dos

The arts have a massive influence in this area so be sure to take an afternoon to check out one of the museums or galleries such as TM51 or Kunstplass 5.
For any lover of independents, this is also a great place for a spot of shopping. If fashion’s your thing check out Dapper or Mitt Lille Hjem and for interior lovers be sure to stop by Futura Classics. If you are staying over the weekend the Birkelunden fleamarket is also a great way to spend a Sunday and don’t forget to take advantage of the beautiful outdoor space in the area by cycling along the Akerselva river or having a picnic in the leafy parks of Torshov.

©Mathallen Food Hall
What to eat

If you are a foodie, Grünerløkka is sure to impress, with plenty of options to choose from. Your first port of call should be the Mathallen Food Hall, an indoor food market, which offers a deliciously varied selection of Norwegian and foreign treats from over 30 local suppliers. If you are looking for a great burger head to Dognvill just opposite and arguably the best tapas in Norway can be found at Delicatessen on Søndre gate. If you need to refuel, artisan coffee and pastries galore will never be far away, one of our favourite stops for breakfast was Godt Brød, which is a café come bakery that makes everything fresh on site.

©Mathallen Food Hall
©Susanne A. Finnes/VisitOSLO 
©Godt Brød
Where to sleep

Air BnB offers some stylish and great value options for this part of town.  If there are less than four of you travelling, you would be hard pressed to find a better choice than this place. This modern, contemporary and spacious apartment, found right in the heart of Grünerløkka has a super cool interior and two balconies where you can enjoy a glass of red and enjoy the pulse of the busy streets below. The flat also comes with every amenity you could want and the host Sasja is a dream, on hand for anything and everything you need and offering a world of hints and tips for the best things to see and do in the neighbourhood.

When to go

Most people would expect Oslo to be a great place for a winter getaway, but in actual fact many believe that spring is the most beautiful time of year, when the weather starts to warm and visitors can enjoy the beautiful outdoors without freezing their buts off. If you are a beer lover pay a visit in August, when the Grünerløkka Bryghaus is home to the Grünerløkka Mikrobryggfestival – a 3 day beer festival which brings together brewers from all over Europe.

©VisitOSLO/Sabine Zoller   
On the map

Grünerløkka is found just to the east of central Oslo and is easily walkable from the main tourist attractions in around 20 minutes. The tram service is also super slick with the #11 (marked Kjelsas), #12 (marked Disen) or #13 (marked Grefsen stasjon) all stopping at the suburb’s central stop called Nybrua.

Have you ever visited Grunerlokka? What were your highlights?

Charlotte x
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The Lifestyle Post #30: Indulgent Indian at Ithiaas

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If there is one thing the Birmingham food scene is renowned for, it’s Indian cuisine, with big players like Lasan and the world famous Balti Triangle coming together to make The Midlands the place to be for any Indian fan. One venue, I have never paid a visit to however is Itihaas and a few weeks ago I was invited down to try out their new menu.

Like the more high-end venues such as Lassan and Pushkas, Itihaas offers a taste of India in a more contemporary, sophisticated setting than your average curry house. The most recent menu demonstrates how the attitude of curry lovers has changed. Raj Rana, Head Chef Exec at Itihaas explained how when they first arrived in the city, customers would come in asking for a vindaloo or a madras, but now things are different. Customers are longing for authenticity and dishes they have never tried or heard of, which has allowed the Itihaas team to present their most extravagant and experimental menu to date.

The décor:
No expense has been spared in this 2 million pound restaurant, where slate finished walls and plated glass create a sophisticated interior that is sure to impress. This is complimented however by the inclusion of 18th and 19th century Indian artifacts, such as carved stone elephants and 300 year old doors, which give the place an ambience that doesn’t sacrifice tradition for style.

What’s cooking:
Inspired by the Mughal era, the food at Itihaas is unapologetically indulgent, taken largely from the North of India, with influences from Kenya and Mumbai. Their latest menu sees newly created dishes such as the scallop and prawn masala and banana leaf salmon join much loved favourites like the butter chicken served in a smoky tomato sauce to create a sizzling collection of rich and tasty dishes which capture the decadence of indian fine dining. 

What’s not to miss:
The lobster Panchporan, which is simmered with five spices in a creamed mustard paste is definitely the stand out dish, as fresh and you like and packed full with flavour, proving why seafood dishes are a specialty here. At £29.00, although not one of the cheapest dishes it is also one of the better value options on the menu.
Although I’m not usually a huge lamb fan, the Nalli Ghost served off the bone was also one of my favourites. The tender meat is stewed in a thick and spicy masala gravy to offer a rich and decadent flavour.
When it comes to dessert, no indian dish has ever seriously impressed and Itihaas was no exception. Best of the bunch was the Chai Masala Mousse. Light and fluffy it is a fairly non-offensive way to satisfy any sweet cravings after your main but if I were you I would skip saving room for anything sweet and go for that extra half a naan bread!

The booze:
During the evening we also got to sample some of Itihaas’ specialty Torunska cocktails. Known as Poland’s best kept secret, Torunska has a velvety clean taste that would make any vodka aficionado fall in love. After discovering the brand on a Polish business trip, Itihaas have used it to create their own selection of signature cocktails, including ‘beautiful moment’ which pairs it with german elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, sugar syrup and hibiscus essence, which was far too drinkable for a school night!

The verdict:  
In a city that is accustomed to madras or masala, it is difficult to offer something to make you stand out from the crowd, but Itihaas does just that. The variety of exotic dishes and flavours combine with décor that is dripping with luxury to give you the feeling of dining in an Indian palace on the streets of Birmingham. The menu doesn’t come cheap but for a special occasion, this should be at the top of any Indian lovers list.
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The Lifestyle Post #29: Scandi cooking with Västerbottensost

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Two of my favourite things in the world are cheese and getaways, so when Swedish cheese company Västerbottensost got in touch to see if I wanted to try out some of their summertime recipes I couldn't diss-a-brie (that's the only pun I's also not technically a brie).
I am actually heading to Sweden for the first time in a couple of months on a city break to Gothenburg, so this was the perfect excuse to get in the kitchen and try out some of the local grub!

Västerbotten, known as the king of Swedish cheeses is similar to mature, sharp tasting cheddar and Västerbottensost have teamed up with Swedish celebrity chef Filip Fasten to create a series of recipes which allow you to create a scandi summer spread at home. With everything from a cheesy potato gratin to a crisp herring flatbread, there are a range of dishes to choose from. After a trip to Oslo earlier in the year, I fell in love with Scandianavian pastry, so I decided to try out the cheese pie.

Västerbottensost cheese pie with fried onions

For the pastry:

125 grams of butter
300g of flour 
2 tablespoons of water 

Heat the oven to 200°c. 
Mix together the butter, flour and water and roll it out to a thin dough. Put it in a pie dish with a detachable bottom, then let it cool in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Notch it with a fork and pre-bake it for 10 minutes. Let it cool off. While it cools, fry off your onions until soft. 

For the filling:

4oog of grated Västerbottensost cheese
200ml of cream
100ml milk 
200ml of fried onions
A grating of nutmeg
Pinch of salt

Put the onions on the bottom of the pie. Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour it in the pie dish. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25-30 minutes until firm. Top it off with some wild herbs if you fancy and enjoy!

Wild herbs that could be used:
Wood sorrel

I have to admit I cheated and used ready made pastry, but other than that the pie was super easy to make, taking roughly an hour on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a glass of red on the go. The tangy taste of the cheese worked like a dream with the nutmeg and it was delicious served up warm and equally as tasty for my lunch the next day. I side stepped the herbs and instead teamed it with a generous helping of my favourite chutney.

Have you ever tried any Scandi cooking? What's your favourite Swedish treat?

Charlotte x

*I was sent Västerbottensost for review purposes, however all opinions are my own.
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