THE SIMI EDIT YOUTUBE CHANNEL IS LIVE - CHECK IT OUT AND SUBSCRIBE

So! For years I capture footage from my many travels and never got around to doing anything manfully with them. One of my blog goals this year was to dig up the footage and make something of it. Hence, the youtube channel to complement the blog posts . There is no schedule for posting yet, but my goal will be to have at least two videos loaded per month (maybe more depending on my volume of travel in any given period).

I just posted a short video from our Easter holiday in Prague. We had an excellent time and hoped you see why in this video. I will appreciate it if you will check out the video; give it a like and subscribe. Also, share with a friend and tell them to subscribe here. If you need more Prague inspiration - click here for my guide to Prague.

THE LONDON GUIDE - THIRTY-FIVE FREE THINGS TO DO IN LONDON

I have avoided sharing a London guide for the last year and a half because there is just so much to do/see/ eat and pulling a post together was a tad daunting. I decided to break up the blog posts between the attractions; the food; markets; festivals, etc. and that way it seemed significantly less daunting. Kicking off the London series with a list we can all get on board with - FREE. Thirty-five things you can see and do in the city without spending a penny

London
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1. See Big Ben. If you are visiting before summer 2020, you will likely find this icon covered in scaffolding for long overdue renovations; but that does not make it any less of an iconic site in the city. Stop by to visit and explore the area around Big Ben; stroll along Westminister bridge including an incredible view of the London eye (riding the London eye will cost you money, but you can see it for free).

2. Visit the Tate Modern. Perhaps one of my favorite museums in London (and the World). I love this museum for so many reasons including the view of the St Paul’s from the 6th-floor cafe - very few views of St. Paul’s Cathedral as amazing as this one. The permanent exhibitions are free to see; a temporary exhibition carries a price tag.

3. Visit Regent's Park. Visit Queen Mary's garden to see the most extensive collection of Roses in London; pack a picnic and have a lazy afternoon exploring the grounds. If you are feeling to a trek/light workout, then make your way across the park to Primrose Hill.

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4. Hike Primrose Hill. The hill is located on the northern side of Regent's park and on a clear day you get a clear view of central London; Belsize Park and Hampstead.

5. Visit platform 9 3/4. London is home to several Harry Potter specific sights; you can catch the play or take a Harry Potter tour of London and while all of those will cost you. Visiting Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross (outside the Harry Potter shop) is free. The queue can be long, but it is always orderly.

6. Visit the sky garden. Spectacular view of the city from the Sky Garden; if you are in search of greenery in the cold months or just want a fantastic city view - head over to the Sky garden. While it is free, you have to reserve a spot on their website here and make sure to arrive early. There are restaurants and bars you can dine at with a reservation which also gets you access to the garden. However, if you just want access to the garden - reserve your spot and prepare to be awed.

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7. (Window) Shop on Oxford Street. Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping street in the world and while I try to avoid it as much as possible - if you are visiting here; I think it is a spot to visit at list once. Stop by Selfridges for the ultimate window shopping.

8. Visit the National Gallery. Located on Trafalgar Square, the national gallery is a personal favorite in the city; it is home to over 2,000 paintings some of which date back to the 13th century.

9. Explore Kensington Gardens. Access to Kensington palace requires a ticket (paid ticket); However, exploring the gardens is entirely free home to one of the city's most ornate monuments - the Albert memorial. It is also home to the statue of Queen Victoria and Peter Pan. You can also visit the Italian garden or wander the allotment.

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10. Watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This generally occurs on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sundays at Buckingham Palace. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m., but you are advised to get there early - I recommend taking your spot no later than 10:15 a.m. The celebration lasts about forty-five minutes. Before visiting, you can confirm the dates and times of the event here.

11. Visit Holland Park and the Japanese Garden. One of the lesser know parks for those who do not live in London; but a very favorite destination for residents. There is quite a bit to see/explore here, but my favorite spot is the Japanese garden. Watch the majestic peacocks and if you visit at the right time in spring - you can photograph the most beautiful cherry blossoms.

12. Explore Portobello Market and Notting Hill. While it was the backdrop for the famous 90's RomCom featuring Julia R and Hugh G; the market is famous all by its self. It is the most notable street markets in Europe where you can shop for antiques; second-hand clothes; food; and enjoy street performances. - then you already know about Portobello road and the market which was featured in the movie Notting Hill.

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Portobello Market
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13. Flower shopping at Columbia Street Flower Market. This Sunday market is one of my favorite things to do on Sundays. Come rain or shine, the market is open till 1 p.m., and you can pick up the lushest floral arrangements. The area around the market has also got some fantastic bakeries; restaurants and coffee shops so you can make a day of exploring this part of London.

14. The Mayfield Lavender Farm. This is not free, but for 1 pound admission fee it might as well be. While Provence will always hold the price for sighting lavender; a very (close) second best is the Mayfield Lavender farm.

15. Recreate the Album Cover on Abbey Road. Warning - do this at you peril. This is a bustling road; but if you are patient and plan accordingly, you can recreate the iconic Beatles album cover on Abbey Road, just outside the studio where some of their hits were recorded.

16. Explore Borough Market. This is possibly the most known street food market in Europe; obviously, you have to pay to eat here (and I highly recommend it and have shared a post here to help you with the dining options); but you can also just walk through the market taking in the sights and scents and characters of the market.

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17. Visit Barbican Conservatory. I cannot think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Keep in mind the conservatory is only open certain Sundays and bank holidays during the year; it is the second largest conservatory in the city, and it is entirely free to visit. For a fee, you can also have afternoon tea in the conservatory; afternoon tea requires reservations on the conservatory website.

18. Visit Somerset House. Somerset house is known for its winter skating rink; During the summer months, the water fountains are a perfect destination to cool off from the summer temperatures. The house also hosts several exhibitions during the year; most of which are free including free guided tours three days a week.

19. Photo op at Trafalgar Square. The iconic Trafalgar square is one of the most known public squares in Europe and if you are heading to the National gallery; then you are already there; get your picture in the iconic square with the fountains as a backdrop; if you are visiting London at Christmas, don't miss the annual Norwegian tree.

20. Spend an afternoon at Neal’s Yard. Hidden down a tiny/narrow street in the seven dials; this is one of the prettiest streets in the city and while it covers a small area; you can spend hours here. It is a destination for locals and visitors alike with a variety of shops, spas; coffee bars, and restaurants.

Neal's Yard
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21. Explore Covent Garden. If you are visiting Neal's yard; then you should make a stop to Covent Garden for a shopping and food experience that is uniquely London; you will also find the transport museum here (paid), and you can take in a variety of street performances.

22. Explore the colorful streets of Hampstead. Hampstead does not come up on a lot of London guides, but you will be doing yourself a disservice if you don't explore this part of London. It is like a village within the city. My favorite way to explore is on foot starting from the high street; then on to the Holly Bush; Hampstead Heath; Flask wall and others.

23. Explore the Natural History Museum. This is one of my favorite destinations to escape to in London; entry is free, but you may have to pay to visit a special exhibition. It is located in South Kensington and if you are already here; you should plan to stop by the Victoria and Albert Museum

24. Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum. While the museum is free; a donation is requested (if you can) and why not. The museum is the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design including Michaelangelo's David. When you are done exploring, you can retire to one of the three cafes on the grounds for nourishment; treat yourself to afternoon tea in the historic Morris room (Fridays only) - reservations required. There is also a kid-friendly courtyard for your little ones to run around.

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London

25. Walk along Tower Bridge. It will cost you to visit the tower bridge exhibition aka the glass floor above the bridge; however, the trek across the bridge is free, and you can plan your itinerary to coincide with the lifting of the drawbridge. You can find the lift schedule here. The closest train station to access the bridge is Tower-hill.

26. Stroll along the Thames. The Thames path is about 23 miles long starting at Hampton court to the Albert Bridge with lots of beautiful scenery along the way, so I don't propose you trek it all; pick a start and stop point and stick to that. Save the rest for a different trip.

27. Explore Street Art in Shoreditch. You can pay a tour guide to take you around the area to see all the street art, or you can save your coins and wander Shoreditch on your own. You will have the best luck spotting street arts on these streets - Shoreditch high street; Fashion Street; Brick lane and Toynbee Street.

28. Explore Tate Britain. Not to be confused with the Tate Modern; The Tate Britain is a must visit - it holds the most extensive collection of British art after the National Gallery. The art collection, which includes the works of Turner; Reynolds and Hogarth is exceptional

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29. Complete the South Bank Walk. The South Bank walk itself begins at Westminster bridge and ends at St. Pauls. However, my favorite bit is abridged. I start at Borough market and trek along the bank toward Tate Modern; passing Shakespeare globe along the way; I like to make a stop in at the Tate Modern to take in the latest exhibition before making my way across Millenium footbridge to get to St. Paul. For the best view of the Cathedral, head over to the rooftop terrace at One New Change.

30. Explore the British Museum. It reportedly is home of a permanent collection of over eight million works of art sourced during the era of the British empire.

31. Visit the House of Parliament. Watch British democracy unfold at the house of Commons or House of Lords. To observe the proceedings, it is recommended you reserve well in advance.

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British Museum

32. Visit St James Park. At watching the changing of the guides; take time to explore St. James Park. The park is in proximity to Buckingham Palace and other landmarks and includes the mall and horse guard parade.

33. Explore Camden Market. Another favorite market - we have got a load of those here; I love Camden market because it still seems like a secret place for locals and it has got vintage shops; food and artisans - everything my heart craves.

34. Stop by Picadilly Circus. This round open space is one stop I recommend you make at night - it is so much more magical at night. It located in London's West End and connected Piccadilly to Regent-street.

35.Watch Deers at Richmond Park. Charles, I created the park in the 17th century as a deer park, and you can see these beauties on a trek across the park. A trip to Richmond park can take up to an hour and a half depending on your base in the city so plan accordingly.

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Camden market
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THE ULTIMATE NEW YORK FOOD GUIDE : 35 OF MY FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT IN NYC

This year marks year seven years of spending time in New York in the summer. I have spent as little as three days and as long as two weeks exploring and eating my way through the city. I have dined at a lot of restaurants - some really good ones and others not so much. With all that food knowledge, now seemed the perfect time to share my guide to eating in the city. This list has been curated based on years of research and if it made the list then you can trust it is a good one. These are from the city and surroundings - Brooklyn and Williamsburg. If you are in need of more NYC food recommendations or food recommendations in general - I share food recommendations from my travel around the world - here

COOKSHOP

Let’s start with the markets. If you are traveling with a large group with different tastes, a market is a great place to head for nourishment because you can satisfy everyone’s culinary tastes with one stop.

THE MARKETS

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  1. Chelsea Market. Located close to the highline; this could your reward for walking the highline. This indoor market has got cafes; florists; artisans. There are several food options from seafood to burgers; noddles and pizza. There are also a few dessert spot here. The market gets crowded so keep that in mind.

  2. Eataly. The Italian grocery store located by the flatiron is one of my favorite food destinations in the city. Their food court has a variety of food options. Some quick and others are more traditional. My favorite spot is the nutella bar. The waffle with a scoop of ice cream drizzled with nutella is delicious.

  3. Smorgasburg. This is a weekend food market that runs seasonally. There is also an indoor food market; there are over 75 vendors serving a variety of cusines. I love walking around a trying a little bit of everything. Make sure to have cash on hand; some vendors only take cash.

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BREAKFAST AND BRUNCH

  1. Jack's Wife Freda. This is one of my favorite brunch destinations in the city. I am never disappointed. The madame Freda is a favorite and if cantaloupe juice is on the menu - get it !

  2. Sara Beth. There are multiple locations including one close to Time Square serving American style brunch. Order the french toast and let your life be forever changed. The cookies are also very highly recommended.

  3. Bubby's. Multiple locations. Love the one in Chelsea. You can walk off all the delicious food by strolling the Highline after brunch. I recommend pancakes and apple pie.

  4. Sylvia. This spot is known for both its history and the food and has hosted some greats including former presidents. The brunch lines on weekends requires resilience, but if you can brave it, you will be rewarded with amazing soul food. I recommend the chicken and waffles and the cornbread.

  5. Two Hands. This Australian brunch location with multiple locations, including one in Soho has been a favorite brunch destination for years. The menu is not complicated but the dishes are seriously delish. I always recommend the acai bowl but the avocado toast has triggered a lot of food envy on my part.

  6. Bluestone Cafe. Another Australian import with several locations around the city. I love the vibe of the collective cafe in Greenwich. There is a lot of talk about the avocado smash but I go back often for the green baked eggs. They also make an excellent cold brew.

  7. Cookshop. This is a new favorite discovered on my last trip and I can’t believe I have just discovered it. Located by the higline and serving really good food. The biscuits are amazing.

  8. Pie n’ Thighs. I discovered this Brooklyn brunch destination a few years ago; but did not get a chance to dine here until my last trip to the city. They serve brunch all day - always the chicken and waffles; their doughnuts are excellent.

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SWEETS AND COFFEE

Some of my favorite brunch spots also serve excellent coffee including two Aussie imports that have staked a legitimate claim on the NY coffee scene. Two hands and Blue stone cafe. Did I mention the cold brew from Blue stone already ?

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Sweet moments cafe
  1. Toby's Estate: There are multiple locations around the city serving great Coffee. If coffee is not your thing, the Chai tea latte is excellent.

  2. Devocion: If you are in Williamsburg then you should stop by; it checks all the right boxes - coffee and ambiance. This is a great spot to get coffee and also get work done.

  3. Maman Coffee: I went for the ambiance and stayed for the coffee and the adorable floral coffee cups. Don't be distracted by the instagrammable exterior, they know how to make a great cup of coffee

  4. Birch Coffee: Multiple locations | The very best chai tea latte. The rest of the menu is excellent.

  5. Sweet Moment: The coffee shop is known for their cold brew with incredible latte art. If you are looking for perfection in a cup then you should give a cup of their cold brew a try.

  6. Bibble and Sip. The mid-town location is always packed for good reason. The matcha lavender latte is one of the best things I have ever tasted.

  7. Dough : Multiple locations | Donuts the size of your face. I recommend the Tres des leche and the regular sugar donut.

  8. Four and Twenty Blackbird: Worth a trip to Brooklyn and they know a lot about how to make an incredible pie. The menu changes daily. Get the black bottom oat if it's on the menu.

  9. Doughnut Plant : Multiple locations | Order a carrot cake donut; then send me a thank you note (donut attached, of course !).

  10. Levains : Delicious cookies the size of your face. Ok, maybe not the size of your face, but quite large portions. Locations in Harlem and on 72nd street. Expect long lines especially at the 72nd street location but the chocolate, chocolate chip cookie is worth the wait and/or trip to Harlem.

  11. Egg Loo: China town has one of the best-kept secrets for sweets. The hong kong style waffles with mounds of ice cream and toppings is a must have a treat.

  12. Dylan's Candy Store: Midtown location has a sit-down area on the second floor. Order yourself a sundae. Make sure you have a friend with you to share and prepare for a sugar high.

  13. Momofuku milk bar : Multiple locations serving cereal milk soft serve every time. It tastes like the milk at the bottom of cornflakes.

  14. Magnolia Bakery : Fans of Sex in the City will be familiar with this one. The cupcakes are awesome. The red velvet cheesecake checks all the right boxes. Light and fluffy.

  15. Taiyaki: The Japanese phenomena that ruined me for good. Fish shaped waffled stuffed with airy light Japanese ice-cream drizzled with topping of your choice. Give me a moment while I find my happy place

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LUNCH AND DINNER

  1. Marta. I have been dining at Marta for as long as I have been visiting NYC. It is a very popular destination for lunch meetings so you may have to wait for a table if you don’t want to sit at the bar. (Located in Midtown East).

  2. Blue Ribbon Sushi. If you are lucky and they feature the soba noodle ball with duck meatballs on the menu. Order it immediately. You are welcome.

  3. Shake Shack. While Shake Shack is expanding across America; I still love stopping by the one by the flat iron building to order a chicken burger and a milk shake.

  4. Totto Ramen. This was one of my first food destinations in New York. I stumbled on it on a cold / rainy day in 2014 and I have been returning for their ramen offerings since then. You may have to wait to get in but there are three locations to choose from Midtown West ; Midtown East and Hell’s kitchen.

  5. Grimaldi's. This cash only Pizza spot in Brooklyn is a favorite of mine. I have read mixed review but I quite enjoy their Pizza offering. The queue to get in can be ridiculous at time so keep that in mind.

  6. The Butcher's daughter. This plant based restaurant is the only spot I will visit when I am craving delicious and healthy. I have often said if other restaurants did healthy like TBD; I will never have a problem eating healthy. They serve a variety of vegan; vegetarian and gluten free options.

  7. Ippudo. This is another favorite go to Ramen spot. Their specialty is tonkotsu ramen, and that is what I always get because it is amazing. There are a few locations around the city.

  8. Baek Jeong NYC. I am a lover of Korean food and any time I have a craving for Korean food in NYC; this is where I go to satisfy that craving.

  9. Fred’s at Barney’s. For a real treat yo self experience; it is always Fred’s. The Nicoise salad is a personal favorite but the menu if packed with a variety of delicious offerings

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WHAT TO DO WITH 24 HOURS IN VERONA, ITALY

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Verona, Italy

We were in Milan for a few days and had planned to spend a day in  Lake Como and Bellagio. It had always been on the bucket list and this trip to Italy was going to be the one we got to tick this off the bucket list. Mother nature had other ideas though - we woke up to rain and thunderstorms in Milan and surrounding areas and Lake Como was a no-go. We explored multiple options including Bergamo; Venice; and Verona. Venice was at the top of the list but I had been there the weekend before and other members of my party were saving Venice. Our hotel concierge recommended Verona over Bergamo so after a lazy morning we set out for Verona via train from Milano Centrale.  The train ride took about an hour and a half plus a twenty minutes bus ride to the city and we were ready to start off our day in Verona. If you can, I think the city deserves a weekend to fully enjoy it, but if like us, you don't have the luxury of a weekend, I think a day gives you a glimpse to the heart of this artist hub also known as the city of love. Here is what we got up.

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Verona, Italy
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Arena de verona. The arena is right in the heart if the city in Piazza Bra.  In the summer months, you can catch a show here and when our hosts in Milan heard we were heading to Verona. He could not stop gushing about the shows hosted at the arena (which looks something like the Roman coliseum. The elaborate set design available for public viewing in the piazza held promise of soemthing spectacular behind the arena walls. Unfortunately we were out of luck getting tickets.

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Verona, Italy

Via Mazzini. If you looking to do some shopping, then Via Mazzini is where you want to spend your time. It is very busy street  lined with both high street brands and big designer shops. If you have more than twenty four hours in the city then you have head to the designed outlets in Lake Garda. It was highly recommened and may just be a reason to plan a return trip to Verona. Don't limit yourself to the main avenue, take a detour to side streets for hidden archictecture gems.

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Piazza delle Erbe. At the end of Via Mazzini to the left, we stumbled on Piazza delle Erbe. The Piazza seemed to be heart of the city housing both history and present. The square is lined with quaint architecture; restaurants; cafes and bars with a day market operating in the center of the square. The square is also home to Torre del Gardello and Fontana del Madonna.

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Palazzo Maffei. Located in Piazza della Erbe. The baroque facade of the Palace cannot be missed. The top of the facade facing the Piazza has six statues of greek divinities - Hercules ; Jupiter; Venus; Mercury; Appollo and Minerva. If you have time to explore the interipr. It is home to a helicodia stone staircase that makes for spectacular photographs.

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Verona, Italy

Piazza dei Signori. From Piazza Delle Erbe, walk through the Costa Arch to arrive in Piazza del Signori. The square is less busy than Piazza delle Erbe but dont let that put you off. The Piazza is the perfect place to view the facade of the domus nova; renaissance loggia del consiglio and the monument of Dante. Just off the Piazza is small arch leading to Mercato Veccho (Old Market) with the Scala della Ragione (Stairs of Reason); home to the Modern art gallery of Verona and Torre dei Lamberti (aka tower of love) which offers incredible views of the city from the bell tower. 

Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy

Scaliger Tombs. Because Verona was a sponteneous trip, I did not have the luxury of planning. I left the rest of my party at Via Mazzini to wander off  on my own. I stumbled on Scaliger tombs in the process. The tombs is located outside church of Santa Maria Antica. It is a gothic style monument to celebrate the Scaliger family who ruled Verona in the 14th century. As an architecture fan, I can tell you I have never seen anything quite like it and it ranks high up there in my book. Also, pictures don't do it justice.

Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy
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Casa de Romeo. Just down the road from the tombs, I stumbled on Casa de Romeo. Yep ! that Romeo - the one from Romeo and Juliet. I heard some tour guide say they are no 100% sure it is his house but given the information available - it is most likely than not it is his house. Take that as you will. 

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Casa de Guillitte. Not too far from Casa de Romeo was Juliet's house. Compared to Casa de Romeo, there is no doubt this place was "Juliet's home". There is a museum in her honor and you can go up to the balcony for a photo op and re-live moment from the fmaous Shakespeare tragedy. In the courtyard, there is a statue of her which you can touch in hopes of finding love in your life.

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Ponte Pietra. Wandering through narrow roads, I found myself at Ponte Pietra which is the oldest bridge in Verona and offers an incredible view of Castel San Pietro and a panaromic view of the city. I am told the bridge has a history like the city and if you are a fan of architecture, the history is one to look up. If you are not, it is still a great spot to visit in Verona. 

Verona, Italy

Castel San Pietro. Before planning out sponteneous trip to Verona, I knew exactly two things baout the city Castel San Pietro and Lake Gardi. Unfortunately, I could not see the latter due to the short visit and the rain which eventually caught up with us in Verona. The rain also ruined plans to hike up to Castel San Pietro, instead, I admired it from the banks of Ponte Pietra. It is quite impressive.

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I think we could have done and seen a lot more than we did but we spent about two hours of our time there in Zara hiding from the rain. I found my new favorite summer shoe in the process so I am not complaining. Don't leave Verona without having a meal. One of the best meals I have had in Italy was in Verona at a spot called Ristorante Greppia - the Caprese salad was divine.

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Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy
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Verona, Italy
Verona, Italy

EDINBURGH CITY GUIDE - A WEEKEND GUIDE TO EXPLORING SCOTLAND'S CAPITAL

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This hilly capital city of Scotland is a must-visit. I have been visiting the United Kingdom since I was 17 and never got around to visiting the other Countries in the Kingdom which includes Wales; Northern Ireland and Scotland. I have spent all of my visits in England and I have only just realised how much of a disservice I have done to myself by doing that - one of my travel goals this year is to visit all the Countries in the United Kingdom. If you are already in London this should be an easy fete to accomplish. I got to spend my last birthday in Edinburgh with my Mom and we had an incredible time in the city.

TIME OFF WORK. I took a week off work while my Mom was visiting. We were on the first flight out of Luton airport to Edinburgh on a Tuesday morning and returned to London on a late evening flight on Thursday. However, this is a trip (and itinerary) that is perfect for a weekend getaway with no need to use up your vacation days. Arrive Friday evening and leave Sunday evening (or Monday morning).

Edinburgh

GETTING AROUND. There is a bus service that runs from the airport into the city center with multiple stops along the way. Once in the city, the transport system is very reliable; we were not staying in the city center; so we relied heavily on the buses to get around. We were lucky to have a stop right outside our Hotel. Make sure to have cash on you to pay for fare on the bus. It cost us about 20 pounds for two people over our threes days/two nights in the city.

WHERE TO STAY. We stayed at the The Dunstane Houses which was not in the city centre but we did not find that to be an issue. We absolutely loved our accommodation and I recommend it to anyone heading to Edinburgh. It was very homely and customer service was top notch. It felt less like a hotel and more like staying at a (very) lush room at a friend’s place. Struggling to describe it - simply put - we enjoyed our stay and will stay here again if ever in Edinburgh.

Dunstane Houses
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WHERE TO EAT. Our culinary adventures in Edinburgh began at Urban Angel - a highly recommended brunch spot in the city center. I thoroughly enjoyed my french toast and bacon dish. Other brunch spots we loved Cafe MIlk and Word of Mouth cafe. Word of mouth cafe was good but it was a bit out of the city centre. If you don’t have the time to make a trip out - a few other options are Brochan; Century General Store; Hyde and Son or Soderbergh Bakery. Surprisingly we only had lunch once during our visit; we typically had a late breakfast and that carried us through the day. If you want something quick and delicious, I recommend the pulled pork sandwiches at Oink. Several of the brunch spots also serve lunch; these spots were also highly recommended Groats pop up cafe ; the hideout cafe and Gannet Guga.

Oink
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For dinner, we treated ourselves, it was my birthday trip and the first time I was traveling with my mom as an adult so we stretched our budget for dinner. I cannot say enough good things about the food at Yamato - a Japanese restaurant just off one of the main streets. I had to stop myself from eating my way through the menu. We also dined at Baba - a Mediterranean restaurant - this was one of the best meals I had in 2018. The hummus was amazing. There is also a fish and chick pea dish I thoroughly enjoyed. These spots were highly recommended Saiko Kitchen; and Bistro at Hotel du Vin. I could not leave the city without trying some authentic shortbread - we stumbled on a spot in Old town that has become one of my most recommended spots in Edinburgh - Pinnies and Poppyseed. They make fantastic shortbread in a variety of flavors. While we could not visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse , we had a lovely snack and hot chocolate at the cafe at the palace.

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Yamamoto
Word of Mouth Cafe
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WHERE TO EXPLORE. Our first stop was Dean’s village; I think we could have spent the entire day here. It was such a lovely place. I recommend planning about three hours here to explore all of the narrow roads; there is so much beauty in Dean’s village to be discovered by leisurely wandering. Keep in mind there are parts that are not flat so appropriate footwear is recommended. You can access Dean’s village from Prince Street - the main street in the city centre. It is about a five minute walk from Prince Street. Follow the walkaway along the Water of Leith. While in Dean’s village, do not miss Dean Bridge or the temple of St. Bernard well . Don’t miss Well’s court which is possibly the most striking building in Dean’s Village so keep an eye out for it. From here you are also in close proximity to two museum - the Gallery of Modern art and Dean gallery.

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Dean's Village
Temple of St. Bernard well
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Dean's Village

We stopped by the Jenners building; the Scott monument which has some great views of Old town and the Prince Street garden. While there is an option to climb up to the top for even better views - we chose to pass on the hike. The Prince Street garden is incredibly beautiful; we were visiting in early spring and were rewarded with gorgeous blooms. We made a stop at the National Gallery of Scotland and loved see the paintings that capture the history of the Country. Then it was uphill to explore Old Town. There is so much hidden gem in Old town you should not miss; thankfully I found Shawna’s Exploring Edinburgh instagram page just before our trip and it was a excellent reference for the spots that will not pop up on any guide unless you are a local - Ramsay garden ; the heart shape Ivy adorning an entry way just off the Royal mile; and Victoria street just to name a few.

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National Gallery of Scotland
Prince Street Gardens
Edinburgh
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Prince street gardens

The Royal mile is a long stretch that runs from Edinburgh castle to Palace of Holyroodhouse. We enjoyed our time at both - the views from Edinburgh castle are spectacular. A note of caution when heading to Palace of Holyrioodhouse - confirm openings on the website before visiting; we could not get access to the palace as it was the week a prominent person was visiting and staying at the castle so most of it was closed; we rested and had scones and tea at the cafe. While in Old town and Royal Mile, we visited St. Giles Cathedral; University of Edinburgh school of divinity (aka New college on the mound) and The Scotch Whisky Experience. Other recommended stops on the mile - Camera Obscura; Mary King’s close; and John Knox house.

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John Knox's House
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Edinburgh castle
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Day II adventures started at the Edinburgh castle - we got rained out on day one and really wanted to see the view with clear skies. It was worth the trek up hill with the most amazing view of the city. Our second day was very relaxed because I was planning to hike to the highest point in the city. We spent some time not he Royal mile docking in on various alley ways like World’s end close. Then we went in search of Greyfriars Bobby. I will not ruin the legend for you but know that it is worth a visit. Please do not rub his nose - that is a specific plea by locals so abide by it.

If you have been around this corner of the internet for a while - this next bit will not surprise you. I spent the afternoon hiking up to Authur’s seat. This is the main peak of hills in the city; the starting point is the Holyrood Park and while it is the most challenging hike I have completed to date - it also ranks as one of the most rewarding hikes. The views of Edinburgh from the top is breathtaking. After the hike, we sat in on a session at the Scottish Parliament. That was a different kind of tourism but very informative. We wrapped up the day exploring New Town and Prince Street. One activity I did not get to do and still have major FOMO about - hiking to the top of Cannon Hill - I hear the view of the city is just as incredible as the view from Arthur’s seat.

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I cannot recommend Shawna’s instagram page enough - we found some amazing spots for our various photo shoots; these will not pop up on any guide and I have not shared those here because I think it will be doing you a disservice; but stop by her page and let her photographs be your guide to this city.