As soon as our term ended at the University of Exeter Alex and I headed for Bath to finally get into the festive spirit! The market is truly the best one I have been to in the UK, a great balance of food, gifts and all with a local, ethical focus.
I bought some lovely Pomegranate White Tea from Tea People and Alex bought some local ale as a present.
Coffee at the The Bridge Coffee Shop overlooking the river. Very small cafe, but if you get a seat its amazing!
Wandering around the Southbank looking at all the sights – Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, Big Ben and the River Thames.
There was a massive queue for the Natural History Museum, so we skipped museums and had more time to wander… Oxford Street, Covent Garden, South Kensington, you name it!
We got a travel card from Surrey for £9, allowing unlimited use of the tubes so we certainly made the most of our tickets!
Dinner with a view at Dim T, London Bridge. Great prices, great views, great food. This is my third time to this branch and I have also been to the Charlotte Street branch twice and I cannot rate this London Dim-sum chain enough.
When we finished our Spring Term at the University of Exeter, Alex’s parents picked us up and we spent a few days at his home in the Cotswolds and went to Oxford for the day. Then we drove to my home in Surrey to spend a few days here before our holiday in Rome. I live near Gatwick and Heathrow Airports so it’s very convenient to go from my house.
Seeing it was Alex’s first time in my county I had to show it off. The previous afternoon we had stopped off at Box Hill, Dorking. Alex is mad keen on cycling so it was pretty cool for him to see the Olympic cycle route in the flesh.
Then for our busy day..
We started off in Guildford, the town where I went to school and go to frequently in uni holidays. I meant to take us to a cafe that I loved (called Glutton and Glee) but to my horror it had changed hands and names to The Kalm Kitchen Cafe. Regardless we went in and had a coffee, but it really wasn’t as good as it previously was.
We went up and down the high street, with me pointing out certain things and sharing memories I had from some of the places we past. Guildford Castle was our next stop and it looked great at this time of year, and the views of Guildford were a treat! We then went to the bottom of the high street to the river which was pretty in the sun.
We drove through Shalford and some of the pretty villages surrounding Guildford before reaching Shere. We stopped there, had a wander around the church and stream and had a lovely lunch at The Dabbling Duck. I had never been there myself but I will be returning. We had a panini each and a yummy easter themed rock road. The places was busy because it was Easter Monday, but the staff were lovely and got us seated and served really quickly. It had such a homey atmosphere with mottos, pictures and bunting all over the place.
In this visit to Gloucestershire, Alex took me to several places, one of them being Painswick, a small town in the Cotswolds. It is best know for the Yew Trees in the church which we wandered through. It looked beautiful with the shadows being cast by the trees. The houses were beautiful and we stumbled across a cute cat just waiting to be stroked.
It was Easter Sunday and Alex bought me a personalised egg.
I also had my first experience on a road bike. It was a bit high for me as it was his mum’s bike, but after a little getting used to I was off and loving the countryside air!
I had never been to Oxford before but seeing as I was visiting Alex in Gloucestershire it was a good opportunity to go for the day. We took the park and ride and it took hardly any time at all. The weather was disgusting – driving rain and bitterly cold winds, but we tried to make the most of it nonetheless.
University of Oxford Museum of Natural History
To avoid the rain we went into a couple of museums. To be perfectly honest the Ashmolean Museum was not really my scene. I prefer to see ancient artefacts in a natural setting or their country of origin so it was a little weird to see pieces of clothing, musical instruments, weapons and more from all over the world in glass boxes in a museum in Oxford. However, it was warm, dry, free and there was plenty to look at so I can’t complain too much.
Next we went to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, which was great. It’s in a lovely building in a beautiful part of the city and I love biology and the natural sciences so this was right up my alley. Living just over 20 miles from London (40 minutes on the train), I had been to the London Natural History Museum countless times so this one didn’t quite live up to the larger London equivalent. I would recommend the London one over the Oxford one because there is more on display and there is the butterfly greenhouse and other exhibitions, but overall it is one of the best museums I have been to.
The best bit of the trip was going to Blackwell’s. I had never seen so many books in my life and as a complete bookworm I was in heaven. We spent a couple of hours browsing and writing down the names of books we like the look of before heading to lunch at the Cafe Nero in the bookstore.
We also went to the covered markets for a browse and to have Ben’s Cookies – Alex thought these were unique to Oxford but since our trip we have seen them all over the place.
We went out to 12oz for breakfast – I had an iced mocha and a chocolate twist. We then packed up the apartment, ready to leave for 12pm.
We then did a bit of last minute shopping on Via Torino before having a wander around Duomo square and inside the Galleria.
We then had lunch at Ristorante Papa Francesco in the Galleria. I had an AMAZING pesto pasta with pistachios on top. We then wandered around the food halls and more department-store type shops before having a gelato at Amorino. I had chocolate and hazelnut flavours.
We then repeated out outbound journey in reverse and headed back to England.
My friends were all really hungover and I felt fine so I got up at 9am and went for a solo adventure. I went for a coffee at 12 oz, opposite our apartment on Via Torino and then had a wander down some nice, picturesque side streets until the shops opened at 10am. Then I did a bit of shopping before going to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall.
My friends are not into photography so it was a great opportunity for me to take some time on my shots and get creative.
They finally woke up and I met them at the apartment at 1.45 and we headed out for lunch at Panini Durini.
The plan was to go and see the Last Supper, but it was booked for two weeks in advance so that was a no. I would really suggest investigating this as soon as you book your trip to Milan if you are interested in going.
We then went into Pinacoteca di Brera to get our art fix.
We then strolled around the Botanical Gardens (Orto Botanico di Brera), which were really peaceful and relaxing. The gardens are right below the Osservatorio Astronomico (a gallery with a collection of telescopes and measuring equipment). The gardens were not as good as some of the other city gardens that I have been too, but nonetheless its good to tick it off the list.
It was 30 degrees so we decided to walk to the Giardini Pubblici (Public Gardens) to have a break and do some people/dog watching.
We then headed out to dinner – to a place I had found online and intended on buying wine from before I realised that we were taking only hand luggage so liquids were not allowed. Signorvino is right opposite the Duomo, and the fantastic views meant that we had to wait about 20-25 minutes for a table but it was SO SO worth it.
They try and incorporate their wine into the dishes, and I was so surprised at the reasonable prices. I had a wonderful glass of their Rosé for only €3.50, and a wonderful Sicilia pasta – ‘Matt Felicetti’ shells ‘alla Norma’ in a tomato based sauce, aubergines and mozzarella cheese for €9. Mehak and I also shared an amazing deconstructed Tiramisu because we had to have a dessert in Italy. Best meal of the trip, a welcome break from Pizza, and on my top 10 restaurants I’ve ever been to.