Birthday in Barcelona

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Back from our short but sweet trip to Barcelona! Ahmed surprised me with a birthday trip to Barcelona to celebrate my 30th. I really couldn’t have wished for a better way to spend my birthday ☀️

Here are some of our highlights

First things first. Food. We found the hugely popular Milk Bar & Bistro on a bit of a whim whilst strolling around El Gotic. I tend to avoid overly touristy places but since we weren’t that ravenous we waited for a table. The Mediterranean avocado and eggs dish was incredible! So much so this place shamefully became a repeat offender for us. I rarely ever visit the same place twice on a trip so whilst it was a bit of a cardinal sin it speaks volumes. I’d go back in an instant!

The views from the funicular at MontJuic. The funicular runs from MontJuic Castle to Barceloneta beach and in my opinion one of the best ways to see the entire skyline of the city.

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We’ve both had such a hectic few months so it was a nice chance to just unwind, and since we’ve both been to Barcelona a number of times before we didn’t feel the need to do any of the main sights. In lieu of sights we naturally filled our time with good food and coffee ☺️.

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Top: Primark,  Trousers: designed by me and made by mum 🙂

More relaxing, mooching around and spending time at the W Hotel.

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Jumpsuit: Forever 21.

Good food and good times <3. The day of my actual birthday was spent eating a ton of seafood at Restaurante Marisqueria, and when I say a ton I mean way too much help me I can’t move I need a cab home  ton. Definitely couldn’t finish it. Which says a lot for Ahmed!

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More good food and finally branching away from my usual avocado and eggs in favour of a more sweet start; acai, granola and fruits.

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Getting dressed up and feeling super glam. I absolutely love this ASOS dress I bought on a whim and chucked in my case without trying it on. Anyone else do that? Wasn’t sure if I’d get the chance to wear it because we’re usually quite casual. Happy happy.

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IMG_2860A few sights thrown in for good measure 🙂

Loved this trip and was incredibly grateful to Ahmed booking it all for me. Everything was super thoughtful.

x

 

20 life lessons I learned in my 20s

There’s something about the departure of your twenties that instills a sense of apprehension that now’s the time to pull your socks up and enter a more mature phase of life. Whilst growing up it’s continuously reinforced to thoroughly enjoy being young (”you never get the time back”) but don’t for a second let go of that crippling expectation to have it all together. And by together I mean things such as houses, marriage, babies… it’s as though you hit 30 and as your youth is expelled those responsibilities prevail. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and I know many others that share these woes, so it just sort of sucks when older people make patronising comparisons to back when they were your age.

Today we are in a much different place than a generation ago, with opportunities vast and within easier reach. Whilst this is especially amazing for women the pressure is unfortunately amplified because we’re now expected to have all of the above in addition to striving for a career. For most, our twenties are spent working out who the hell we are, an exciting journey nonetheless but sadly one that isn’t detached from making mistakes, suffering from a hell of a lot of knock backs and conjuring anxiety whilst trying to climb jump on the career ladder, save for our futures and just generally establish ourselves in life.

As I reminisce on my twenties- which passed by far too quickly –  it seemed a perfect time to reflect on 20 things I’ve learned and would tell my younger self. I see these as being  fundamental building blocks to successful self development.

1. Look after yourself

It’s fundamental to look after yourself. Since I grew up an athlete I fortunately need no prompting to look after my physical health, but I sometimes have to remind myself that the pillars of well-being impinge upon having a healthy mind too. Which is about reaching your full potential and constantly developing as well as knowing your own limits, learning to say no and asking for help when you damn well need it. One aspect of self-care I am still grappling with is overload; I’m constantly straddling that fine line between being very busy and overloaded. Over time I’ve become much wiser at understanding and prioritising myself and have learned to spot the creeping signs of exhaustion before it takes toll. It’s so incredibly important to understand your own limits and take care of yourself before you can even start to be of any benefit to anybody else. Love yourself first. Prioritising your needs and putting yourself first is sadly sometimes perceived as being selfish; but it’s quite the opposite. It’s about fitting your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. 

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself

I’ve always been a perfectionist and on reflection wasted too much energy being needlessly hard on myself. Negative thoughts about myself paved their way into a lot of self-doubt. Wouldn’t it be great if we could discard all of our maladaptive thoughts, feelings and emotions? Unfortunately the mind does not distinguish between good and the bad. I wont get into the science, but our brains do anything to preserve energy and  continuously create shortcuts. Which is why habits and/or repeated thoughts become automatic – essentially it’s true that what you think you become.

Since it took a lot of energy to override my destructive thoughts, I now aim to be more considered in the way I talk about myself and pay close attention to my thoughts and feelings. The power of the mind is incredible – having positive thoughts and using positive language really makes you feel that way.

3. Nip self-doubt in the knackers

A gentle reminder to nip my self-doubt in the knackers because it’s detrimental to success. Believe you can and you’re half way there.

It’s fundamental to trust your instincts. Most of the times when I ask people for their advice it pretty much serves the purpose of validating my own thoughts with my gut instinct proving right the majority of  time.  The flip side is true to, if something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.

4. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do


A reminder that this too shall pass. Whatever a situation, an emotion or frame of time, it will pass and you’ll feel differently tomorrow, which applies just as much to the overly good times as well as the bad. I wouldn’t go as far as being grateful for having some incredibly tough times to deal with, but I am proud that I fought some demons head on and came out the other side as a much, much stronger and insightful person. Challenges are inevitable in life but what is more defining is how we respond to them; because tough times will not last but tough people will. Each time I’ve been knocked down, I’ve risen that little bit higher. It teaches you that you can overcome obstacles in life and each one gets that little bit easier.

5. Quit comparing to others

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At times I’ve felt behind my peers, but I’ve learned that it’s completely fine because I’m on my own journey and will do things in my own time. The mindset that  ”I should be here by this age…” conjures unnecessary pressure and anxiety regarding milestones. Everybody is on their own ladder in life and it’s much better to be half way up your own than at the top of another. Some of my friends are single, some are married and some have children, but none of this correlates to their happiness.

It’s a different ball game now with social media platforms because they accentuate peer comparisons to a colossal scale. Luckily my teenage years were devoid of social media, but even as a relatively secure adult I can be swept in to comparing myself, so I have to stop and remind myself that the majority of content on those platforms is edited. It’s important to reiterate this.

6. Get comfortable with your own company

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I’ve always been fortunate to depend on others, so it was only upon being single at 27 (for the first time of my entire adult life might I add) that I went to living alone. Despite my trepidation it taught me an incredibly important lesson of how to rely on myself. It ignited a fierce independence inside of me and shortly after I  travelled Japan solo after a work trip in Korea, something previous me would have definitely turned down. However, after going anyway despite my apprehension I realised that I’d needlessly turned things down out of fear of doing them alone.

I truly believe that everybody should get comfortable with their own company, perhaps by living or travelling alone at some point in their lives. As humans we are conditioned to fear the unknown so I remind myself that my emotion is normal and natural. What is defining is doing those things anyway. Embrace the fear.

7. Reflect, but don’t live in the past

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It’s important to take stock, but only in the sense of reflecting on bygones to help you move forward through life. An element of nostalgia is healthy, but too much and you’re at risk of being stuck living in the past, which only conjures up feelings of resent, loss, or guilt. We all have an interesting backstory, but don’t ruminate, hold grudges or live with regret. Don’t get trapped there. Move forward and choose to not be defined by your past.

8. Live for the now

On the flip side, being too future focused is also unhealthy. I think a lot of people live with a mindset of thinking ‘I’ll be happy when …’ which is completely redundant. As cliche as it sounds if you were to die tomorrow and never reached that goal, went on that future trip, or lost that weight, would you live your life differently today? I bet you would. I found that by expressing gratitude and incorporating mindfulness, meditation and yoga has helped me tremendously to appreciate the present day, live in the now and embrace the little things in life. It’s the mindset of enjoying the weekdays rather than waiting for the weekend.

Yes, I have PLENTY of goals, desires, plans and dreams but I definitely enjoy moments of today. Read my tips for living in the now.

9. Embrace change

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Change brings upheaval and ignites fear but is inevitable. What is worse is being complacent and never developing through seeking security and clinging on to the comfortable things in life. This is a reason why people stay in terrible jobs or toxic relationships, because they’re comfortable. It’s far easier to stay stuck in a rut and complain than it is to do something about it and make a change. I suffered on both of these accounts and sadly wasted too much time fearing the unknown, but trust me, life is way too long to be devoid of happiness.

10. Slow down

I used to be so busy that when I eventually did have a bit of time free I’d either not know what to do with myself or become incredibly bored. It was only last year when I realised I was doing way too much and consequently not enjoying anything because my mind would be in a constant flux of whatever was next. Slowing down made me re-connect with my inner self and re-discover what the hell I like doing. I reconnected with people, started writing and discovering the joy in having hobbies and free time. Read about my experience here.

11. Cut out the toxicity

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Being empathetic and naturally absorbing the energy of the people around me is both a blessing and curse. Spending time with upbeat and positive people I flourish, whereas expending too much time around toxic people really drains me. It was a long process of cutting out those that were simply toxic and negative from my life (read my post here).

12. Surround yourself with good people

Quality over quantity every time. A reminder that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most of your time with.

13. Saying yes opens new doors

In all aspects. Say yes to things you wouldn’t normally do. Be it a new sport, meeting new people, trying new food or music. Be open to a multitude of careers. Opportunities don’t tend to simply turn up; you have to search, craft or build your own, and this is often achieved through saying yes to the seemingly small things. I misunderstood the importance of this and used to turn opportunities down if they didn’t seem grand enough. I missed out on a lot simply for being ignorant. Now if it’s even in the vicinity of being within my radar I will sniff it out and latch on to it. Self development 2.0

14. You can make your own luck

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Dreams, goals or desires definitely do not manifest on their own accord. You never see the behind the scenes of a person’s achievements; so whilst it might appear that a lot of luck and good fortunate has come their way, you won’t have seen the blood sweat and tears it has taken for them to get to that point. You really do make your own luck, and by luck I mean a lot of hard work. Which is great because if you want it you can go out there and grab it.

15. Don’t worry about what other people think of you

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Worrying about judgements from other people is exhausting and debilitating. If you’re judged or thought badly of, remember that it speaks more about their character than yours. They’re entitled to an opinion just as you are. But does your opinion hold other people back? I very much doubt so. There’s a really nice quote to sum up my sentiments about this: those who mind don’t matter, and those that matter do not mind.

Being overly self-conscious about the things you say or do will only prevent you to take action.  There have been so many times when I’ve probably made a fool of myself, and I couldn’t really care less. What’s worse is letting that the fear of others stop you in your tracks.

16. Widen your friendship circle

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My friendship circles are so varied now compared to a decade ago. Whilst I used to spend time with those predominately in my own demographic I now mix with people from a mixture of backgrounds. Your world is crafted merely within the context of your surroundings and growing up for me this was a place predominately dominated by one race and one religion, so I wrongly assumed the rest of the world shared my views, values and perspective. Completely naive and since meeting people from different parts of the world I have developed perspective and awareness for different backgrounds, religions and views. I absolutely love the diversity, culture and mixture of people I call my friends.

17. Gain perspective 

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Hearing the views of others, especially when they differ or contrast with my own completely opens my eyes to seeing things in a new light. If you’re open to listening to other people, with a view to understanding rather than imposing your own views, you gain perspective. I  like to consult a variety of people for their opinions, especially those who I know would probably disagree with me. It helps me to understand, consolidate and challenge my perception.

18. Asking for help is not weak

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I was completely misguided to ever think that asking for help was a sign of weakness. It’s not. It’s wise, powerful and demonstrates a huge sense of personal awareness. It’s foolish to think one person can know and do everything.

19. Your education should never end

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It’s only when we stop learning that we become stagnate, complacent and bored. Life is about learning and this is not limited to formal education.

20. Travel and explore

I’m lucky to have travelled across continents to a plethora of countries across the globe. I immerse myself in the way of the local people and it completely opens my eyes to different ways of life. Travelling is one of my favourite, albeit expensive hobbies. I absolutely love learning about culture, people and food so travelling for me is heaven.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Bienvenue a Montreal

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Sunglasses: similar here

In all honesty, and for no specific reason, Montreal has really never been on my travel radar before. So when I got asked to attend (and present at) a conference in Montreal, I thought about whether I really wanted to travel transatlantic for the second time in two months given my hectic work schedule of late…  Hmm… Who am I kidding?! I gave it about 5 seconds and jumped at the chance because I am not one for turning a travel opportunity down and even though it’s not necessarily a place I would have taken myself I was looking forward to exploring a part of the world I had yet to visit. I’ve been to Canada before but never to Quebec.

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A mini Europe in Canada?

I read a review before arriving that likened Montreal to that of a cross between Brooklyn and Paris. Now call me bias but I absolutely love Paris, I mean who doesn’t. Brooklyn is also another recent love of mine, after visiting New York for the first time in Feb (read about my time here).

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This for me was the crux of Montreal’s offering for me, a Parisian, European vibe, in the heart of the Canadian city. Montreal adequately captured the spirit of both of these contrasting yet complimentary cultures, offering a charming  combination.

The arts and Culture

I explored a number of art galleries in the hugely popular Vieux Montreal. About 8 galleries are ideally located within close proximity of each other on the main street of Rue Saint-Paul. This road runs throughout the old town and easily accessible from the Old Town.

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I absolutely adore this type of abstract, vibrant and colourful art ❤ These pictures are so powerful.

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The architecture, especially in the old town, definitely made me feel as though I was in France.

Mont Royal

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A recent habit of mine is searching for the highest point in a city. Anybody else do this?!  I really enjoyed the mini hike up to the top of the Mont Royal observation deck and the views over the city were impressive. I also seemed to have brought the hot weather over the Atlantic with me! Given that the week before was -6, to be walking around in temperatures exceeding 15 degrees was pretty amazing. I totally packed for the wrong climate though!

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Jumper: H&M, Jeans: Asos, Trainers: New Look, Scarf: Zara, old 😦

If you’re only in Montreal for a short amount of time this is possibly the activity I would recommend, although I preface this with the fact that I love walking and I love views..  if you like neither then it’s perhaps not for you. Even though it’s a very short walk to the observation deck, it’s pretty steep, so bare this in mind for choice of footwear.

Now lets get on to one of my favourite parts of travel… FOOD.

Largely inspired by French patisseries but adding in a dose of Canadian maple syrup, a lot of the food was pretty sweet. Think pastries loaded with more sugar. I typically do not tend to eat of lot of pastries, but if there’s one place I do it’s in France. I was expecting this, but what impressed me more was the quality of the fresh fruit and vegetables. As a consequence I opted for a lot of amazing vegan food! I loved the chain Copper Branch. Shiitake Teriyaki, say no more.

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All in all I had a short but very sweet trip to Montreal. It has also made me think about considering parts of the world that I’ve brushed over in the past.

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Thanks for reading,

Au revoir x

 

Brunching in Budapest

As much as I like to arrive at a place armed with a list of recommended eateries to try (yes, I am that person who will happily stalk local cafes and restaurants on Instagram for weeks prior to a trip), I am actually very pretty good at finding those hidden gems too. I like to try both highly rated places as well as less lesser known options, and I find it fun to hunt down the best food as I love nothing more than feeling inspired by local cuisine.  I spend a lot of time eating out (whether it be in my hometown of Manchester or whilst away on business or pleasure) so I have a good source of comparison.

Myself and Ahmed turned up to Budapest armed with a full list of eateries. Some quirky, some independent and some highly rated, so we were anticipating that our taste buds were going to be taken care of! Sadly we didn’t get to try a couple of places on the list as they were just too busy. It can sometimes pan out that way when cafes explode in popularity, especially where Instagram is concerned. But with hungry stomaches to fill, we moved on from the overhyped options and went off-piste. I have to say one thing Budapest isn’t lacking on is breakfast (or any food for that matter) options!

We stumbled across beautifully decorated cafes, hipster looking joints and other great eateries and as a result came across a few gems that I would really recommend.

The New York Cafe

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Firstly, my absolute favourite place was the New York Cafe. This place is highly rated and hugely popular (not uncommon to see people popping inside just to take a photo of the decor), but rightly so. I read that at some point it had been voted as the World’s most beautiful cafe, and it’s easy to see why. The building is grand and opulent, graded from the 1920s (side note, perhaps I’m bias as I have a penchant for 1920’s era) and the decor is even more charming. Grand yet delicate, obvious yet intricate, but an all round experience reminiscent of a glamorous bygone era. The service was superb, and despite only ordering coffees and a small treat, we never felt rushed out of the door. The live pianist and quartet added that little touch.

The downside was the quality of the coffee. I’ve certainly had better and I LOVE my coffee so a bit of a minus point for me. However, the New York chocolate cake was arguably one of the best I’ve ever tasted. And trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate cake.

GO for… the experience

Mazel Tov

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Green shirt: Zara

Mazel Tov was another of my favourites. We ate here in lieu of one of the busy options. Feeling too hungry to wait we headed here on a whim, going on nothing other than name. Mazel Tov was pretty perfect. Live acoustic music, a beautifully decorated garden theme interior and tasty Israeli food to match. We had Shakshuka with aubergine and Falafel with sweet potato fries. Good coffee too.

GO for… an all round winner

Szimple

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We tried Szimple for brunch on our first day, and despite its namesake and interior (it houses 6 tables and definitely sporting the minimalist vibe), the food was certainly anything but. Whether it was a language barrier or misunderstanding on our part, what we thought was going to be a sort of potato hash/pancake dish with eggs ended up being the most decadent cheesy/creamy potato fondue. topped with poached and quail eggs, nuts and seeds. I still don’t know what the fondue was and whilst it was decadent, rich and (I do admit) tasty, it was just a tad too rich as a breakfast option. Maybe that was just me but I think finishing this would have been enough to send me over the edge!

I wish I’d opted for one of the other options, they looked absolutely delicious and I had complete food envy. I was tempted to order again but that sort of seemed a bit frivalous. But if I was to go again I would definitely have the smashed avocado ❤

GO for… trying something a little different to your standard breakfast affair

AND.. Not necessarily brunch but a couple of noteworthy places…

Dionynos Tavern

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Jumper: Asos, dungarees: Liquor and Poker

This greek restaurant was gorgeous and as good as any local Cypriot restaurant I’d visited in Cyrpus). The food was amazing, the decor was very traditional (or perhaps traditional in the typical touristy Greek way) and the service was superb. We had squid, and greek salad to start and grilled skewers and baked Aubergine for mains. The aubergine was honestly was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I forgot to take photos of the actual food (maybe because I was hungry but I believe it was because it was just too good!) The portions were pretty huge too.

GO for… another good all-rounder for taste and service

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I’d recommend this place purely to admire the interior. It’s a Copenhagen inspired spot which essentially means the decor is fresh, quirky and funky that the Danish designers excel at. It expands into a lighting shop next door which I guess is probably good if you’re a local. In terms of food, the eggs were pretty standard but this place excelled on the coffee. Probably my favourite of the trip. We had a pretty weird take on french toast that consisted of a cheese infused eggy bread. With a lot of cheese. The Hungarian’s do love their cheese! I have to say I prefer a traditional french toast.

Go for… a good cup of coffee

Any other recommendations for Budapest? Please leave your suggestions below! 🙂

Lianne

Hello Hungary

Finally home again, after the most relaxing week in Budapest. We went Tuesday –  Saturday and rocked up with a pretty loose itinerary of sightseeing spots and cafes/restaurants, but I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t planned to involve some form of daily massage or spa trip… Hard life ey 😉

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Keeping a keen eye on the weather (March in Eastern Europe isn’t renowned for being the most pleasant!) our agenda was pretty spontaneous day-to-day knowing that the cold/sun/snow/rain would somewhat dictate our order of play.

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I know a lot of people like to have each day planned to a tee but since I’ve tried to pay more attention to being present I value living in the moment and savouring time and spontaneity. I’ve learned to completely enjoy losing track of time rather than constantly thinking ‘’what’s next, what are we doing tonight/tomorrow/Saturday?’’ Sounds as though it should be a simple concept, yet it can become strangely difficult to implement! Read my top tips for living in the now by truly embracing the present.

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The Jewish Quarter was probably my favourite area. A vibrant cafe culture full of hipster brunch spots, coffee a plenty and bars offering live local music. I love nothing more than finding great food and coffee, plus i’m a sucker for street art and this area was abundant with it. I’m going to do a separate post for food spots, because why not… 🙂

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We strolled across the Danube River up to the Buda castle to take in the views of the Pest side of Budapest. The walk was a nice gentle stroll, full with impressive scenery and the whole area surrounding the castle was full of medieval architecture, spectacular views and buildings reminiscent of Disney castles. I finally found my princess castle! ❤

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One of my highlights was The thermal baths. We went to Szechenyi, which, from what I believe, are the most popular and famous. Crowds aside, it was well worth it. The fresh crisp chilly air really enhanced the heat of the water. Total relaxation. I would also recommend getting a massage. We got a few from Lian mainly because of my namesake 🙂, but since they were delightful, cheap, and very close to our hotel it seemed reasonable to return a few times. For reference we stayed in The Continental Budapest, a grand hotel that would have cost considerably more if it was based in the UK. Given that Budapest on the whole is considerably cheaper than the UK for pretty much everything,  it seemed more than reasonable to book a swanky hotel (and hence treat ourselves to daily spa and sauna trips!).

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The shoes on the Danube & tribute to the war 😥

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On our last full day we took a trip to Zugliget Libego and got a chairlift to the top of the highest peak in the city. Probably not for the faint hearted or those with a fear of heights! For reference it was around 45 minutes cab/bus ride outside of Budapest. We wanted to go all week but the weather was pretty overcast so chanced waiting until the skies were brighter and clear. It certainly paid off, just look at those spectacular 360 panoramic views! Plus snow, in Spring! 🙂 Crazy weather! I would definitely recommend a trip here if you have time.

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Thanks for reading,

Lianne