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Whitstable, Part II

The sky may look blue, but it sure is cold and windy on the seafront! After our lunch on the Harbour we had a look around Whistable Harbour Village - a collection of hut shops which sell arts, crafts and food. I had been told by friends that I would love the independent shops that Whistable has to offer but, I have to confess, both the Harbour Village and the shops on Harbour Street really underwhelmed me. Maybe it was just the stock they had in but, unusually, I came away from Whitstable without something to remind of the place. I couldn't even find a thimble, something I always buy whenever I visit a new place. 



Still, at least the scenery is pretty. After walking up and down the seafront we headed to Whitstable Castle for afternoon tea. It's not a touristy castle - you can't just turn up and expect to look around. You need to book in advance if you would like a guided tour of the interior. You can of course go for afternoon tea or enjoy the gardens without booking so do visit, even if you don't get the full tour.




In the evening after watching another fine sunset, we headed to The Pearson's Arms by Richard Phillips for my birthday dinner. This was by far the best meal we had in Whitstable - you definitely do need to book in advance for this place! If you can, book a table around sunset time and ask for a window table - we thought of this *after* we'd watched the sunset freezing on the beach and then headed inside for dinner. Doh!

For £110 (with service), we both enjoyed three courses and another bottle of Kentish wine. Richard Phillips started off his career at Le Gavroche and has won various accolades so we knew we were going to be in for something special. To start I had the asparagus with a duck fried egg and garlic butter sauce; Olly had the crab salad. My main was a mouth-watering wild boar dish whilst Olly opted for their rib eye steak; for dessert he went for their cheesecake whilst I had a chocolate, hazelnut and After Eight terrine with honeycomb ice cream and caramel sauce. Divine!


I don't think we'll return to Whitstable any time soon but we did have an enjoyable weekend there celebrating my birthday. Have you been? What's your favourite seaside town? x

Whitstable, Part I

This weekend we headed off to Whitstable to celebrate my twenty-something birthday. (OK, my twenty-eighth.) It's been a weekend full of glorious sunsets and food, lots of food. Whitstable may be tiny but it has plenty of restaurants that can hold their own!



After checking into our home for the weekend - the gorgeous little Polly's Attic on Harbour Street, which is where you'll find all the independent shops - we went for a quick explore and promptly got rained on. Uh-oh! The weather thankfully picked up though and we got to see a gorgeous sunset, before heading to the Crab and Winkle for dinner.

I honestly can't speak for any other time of year, but we didn't need to book a table. I suspect when the weather gets a bit warmer though that bookings are a must. For about £90 (with service) we enjoyed two fresh fish dishes each and some local Chapel Down wine - all delicious, though I always forget that if you order a whole fish that you get a whole fish, head and all! I went for scallops, followed by sea bass; Olly picked their immense tiger prawns, followed by haddock.

Below the restaurant is the fish market, which is where we found ourselves the next day for lunch: fresh cod and chips, washed down with a cup of tea. They were yummy, but I have to admit that they don't compare to the fish and chips from near where my family live in Yorkshire. Other than Anstruther fish and chips, which come in second, no other chippy in the country has ever claimed my fish and chip top spot, FYI. At £5.95 a portion it's good to see that Whitstable hasn't capitalised on its popularity and that the prices are more than reasonable.

If you are ever in Whitstable, you should probably sample some oysters - let's face it, it's what Whistable is famous for. Get them fresh from the harbour area for 60p each. We didn't - I'm not a fan of raw stuff - but I know they are worth it if you can stomach them. More on the rest of our Whitstable trip later! x


Kept by Elle Field

So, here it is! Kept is available from today on Kindle! You can find it worldwide on Amazon by searching for "Elle Field Kept" on your local Amazon website.

I should hopefully be releasing it in paperback by June 2013 for those who don't have a Kindle or prefer to read an actual real copy! 

If you think Kept sounds like you cup of tea, please buy it and tell your friends and family about it if you think they will also like it!

Once you've read it and have fallen in love with it - I really hope that's the case - please tweet about it, write a review on your blog, Amazon, Goodreads etc, and get spreading the word! I'd really appreciate it. {^_^} xx

The View from The Shard

It's the tallest building in Western Europe (308m), and last night we went to see what exactly The View from The Shard looks like.


Our arrival time was booked for 19.30, which meant that we got to see The View when it was still light, at sunset, and then in the dark - three very different views of London! Although it had been a clear and sunny day earlier on, the sunset wasn't as blazing as we had hoped it would be. Still, what an incredible view.


Just a note about the tickets: if you pre-book it's £5 cheaper (£24.95 for an adult) and you are fast-tracked through so you don't have to queue. You can get tickets on the door too, if they are available, but be prepared to queue and you will have to pay £5 more.

One plus side about turning up and paying the extra money is that you know what the weather is like on that day - that's one way to ensure you have the best viewing conditions rather than if you book a date based on what the weatherman predicts!

The View is accessible by two lifts (you have to change lifts) which whizz up in about 25 seconds (each). Floor 69 is where you'll find the interactive telescopes where you can zoom down on London - those are handy if you need help identifying the various landmarks. Floor 72 is higher with a better view, obviously, but it can get quite chilly up there as that floor is open to the elements.

From The Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe), Strata, St Paul's, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the London Eye, to the Houses of Parliament, Wembley Stadium, Canary Wharf and the OXO Tower, there are many impressive landmarks to spot (and far more than I've just mentioned). London from this height looks almost like a toy town. The Shard seems to loom over London Bridge Station and the trains on the track below look like they are a Hornby railway set!

[Click on the images for larger photos]







What do you think of the views? Pretty amazing, huh? It took a while but we (Olly) finally got the hang of taking photos without capturing all the reflections and shadows that you normally get when you take photos through glass.

On a clear day you can see up to forty miles away - it's certainly one way to see all of London very quickly! We spent about 90 minutes at the top, looking at all the landmarks in the shifting light, but once you are up there you can stay as long as you want. Would you go and see The View from The Shard? x




Handbags.

I want a new handbag after spotting some lovely ones in Milan last month. If I could justify spending £1,290 on a handbag, one of these from Prada would definitely be hanging off my arm this summer:

  

I'm a fan of both the chalk and black version and the focai version. Can I have both? With moving house and having holidays to pay for though, my budget is going to have to be *slightly* smaller than the cost of these beauties. I like the look of this doctors bag from ASOS and also their white tote bag. What do you think? x

Hopeful.

It may be a business term, but I'm happy to say that we're in Q2 following a pretty bad Q1. January was freezing and miserable outside, plus we had a steady influx of engineers and what not visiting the house as everything decided to pack up at once. Still, putting a positive on it, I now know how to grill landlords and estate agents to ensure that when we move house in a few months time that our new home will be tip top and fully functioning!

February was horrific. I never want to experience that ever again. It was tough. Actually, tough doesn't cover it but, as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'd like to think I'm stronger but sometimes there's that thought that pops in your head - that you can't control and stop - and things become bleak. Those thoughts are rarities now, thank goodness, and I have hope that things will be just fine. Hope is a darn good thing.

Which brings me to March. My body decided to fail in March. I started off with a sore throat and cough which morphed into flu - not to mention this coincided with the house breaking once again and us having no heating or hot water for two weeks - and then I just couldn't get better. I was constantly exhausted, craving sleep but burning up with fever, and was a physical wreck. I recovered, headed off to Milan with a slight cold and sniffles, only to return to the UK and be ill all over again. It wasn't fun.


But, that's all over with now and we're in April. April has been perfectly jolly so far - it looks like Spring may finally be here - and it has helped that there are lots of lovely things happening this month. There's my book, for a start. Due to the before mentioned reasons, I couldn't get it ready to be published last month but it will be out within the next week or two which is pretty exciting! (Understatement. And more soon!)

We'll be going up The Shard this weekend and next weekend we have a pretty cool Shoreditch Sunday planned, as well as a 90th birthday to celebrate. A visit to Whitstable is also happening to celebrate my twenty-eighth birthday, before ending the month celebrating again with friends over burgers, ribs, pulled pork and beers. Yes, I do like the sound of April. How has your 2013 been so far? x

Lake Lugano and Lake Como

After two days in Milan we decided on a change of scenery and took a road trip with my best friend out of the city. Milan is really close to the Switzerland so we headed over the border to the town of Lugano to grab some lunch. It's ridiculously pretty with the combination of the lake, the architecture and the mountains in the background.
After stuffing ourselves full of pizza at one of the restaurants at Piazza Riforma and having a mooch around the town, we headed back into Italy to visit Como - home of George Clooney - and another ridiculously pretty place. In summer both Lugano and Como are packed full of tourists but it's a bit calmer (and colder) in March.


One thing that is worth doing is getting a boat around Lake Como - you can get on and off and visit the various towns dotted around the lake or just stay on and enjoy the views.






You can just tell in summer that it would be truly breath-taking - we'll have to brave the crowds and return there one summer. After spending time on the Lake, we headed off for dinner. If you've had enough of Italian food, in-between Como and Milan there's a Mexican restaurant that's worth going to. Called Papo's, it made a welcome change to pasta and pizza! x

Milan: San Siro and restaurants

Ah, the reason we went to Milan in the first place: a visit to the San Siro, or the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza as it's more formally known. This was my first ever football match and, so I was told, the San Siro is one of the most famous stadiums in the world. It certainly is massive!

The match we were there to see was the second leg of Tottenham Hotspur vs. Internazionale Milano. Spurs had won the previous week at home, 3-0, the reason why the stadium was only 25% full - the Inter fans had little confidence they could turn things around.

First things first, football stadiums are cold places so wrap up warm. Secondly, sitting in your rival teams section of the stadium is quite daunting, especially when they are Inter Milan fans! They were stamping, screaming, lighting flares, hanging over the edge to wave their giant flags... It was quite scary at times, but we got such a great view sitting in the rival end (and tickets are hard to get if you want to sit in the right end) so it was worth the drama. 

Now, I don't know that much about football, I have to confess. I used to follow the England matches quite closely when I was at sixth form - any excuse to go to the pub - but then I moved to Scotland when I was 18 and that put an end to that. But, even I could tell that Spurs did not play their best that night.


The match was a bit of a shambles and they lost 4-1 (after going into extra time) but they still got through to the next round as they won on aggregate. I'm not sure it was deserved based on that match but Olly was obviously thrilled!


After the match we headed over to Ristorante Ribot for a late dinner. Dinner cost us €140 (for two) which makes it on the pricier side but it's worth treating yourself - their steaks are epic, though if you don't specify how well you want it cooking then it will arrive very rare and bloody!

After our dinner we just made the last tube back to our hotel - one thing worth bearing in mind is that the Metro in Milan isn't that frequent. If you time it wrong you can be waiting up to 20 minutes for one which is slightly unsettling when you're used to a Tube showing up every few minutes.

Hotels in Milan can be savagely expensive but the 4* Atahotel De Angeli hotel where we stayed was very reasonable. It's about a ten minute tube ride from the Duomo area and we had a suite (bedroom, separate walk-in wardrobe, bathroom, sitting room and kitchenette) for €80 per night. One thing bearing in mind is that you will have to pay tax when you check out. It's €1 per person per night, which is then multiplied by the amount of stars the hotel has.

The next evening we went for dinner with my best friend and she took us to local hotspot Il Giardino dei Segreti. Grab a cab there as it's not near a Metro station (if you're in the centre of Milan it should cost you no more than €10) and make sure you look up when you're stood outside - you'll see trees growing through the restaurant roof! Dinner cost €130 for the three of us - much cheaper than Ribot and more my sort of food - but it gets insanely busy so book a table or get there when they first open. We had an absolute feast that evening, and I can highly recommend the swordfish! x

Milan: Castello Sforzesco and Parco Sempione area

Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle) used to be one of the biggest citadels in Europe; now it's home to museums and art. Situated by Parco Sempione, it's worth having a walk through the park, which is the biggest in the city. Either get the Metro to Cairoli Castello or Cadorna (both on the M1, the red line), or if you're in the Duomo area, it's only a 10 minute walk from there.

It's easy to walk around the centre of Milan as it's fairly small so unless you need to go further afield there's not really any need to hop on the Metro, especially since trains can be quite infrequent and you could be waiting up to 20 minutes for one. It's often quicker to walk it!




At the other end of the park you'll find the rather grand Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace). Also in the park there's the free Aquarium, plus Branca Tower which you can go to the top of to get another view of Milan from on high.



Definitely check out this area if you're visiting Milan! x

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