Travel

A Lazy Jaunt to Madrid 2017

When I think about the beautiful country of Spain I imagine four things: the sun, sea food, sangria and the sea. However, for once, I decided to swap my idea of a perfect, lazy holiday – which always includes lounging on the beach with a mojito resting in my palm and downing buckets of sangria on a harbour front – for something a little bit… different.  I and Matty, my boyfriend, decided to travel to the inland Spanish capital of Madrid during a convenient June heat wave and my, my, my; I was falling head-over-heels in love with the sublime city of Madrid from the moment I stepped foot in it.

Madrid hasn’t ever really been a place on my dream travel list (which includes the likes of Budapest, Prague and Santorini) but with flights and accommodation on the cheap and mine and Matty’s anniversary popping its head out of the sand, I thought it was the perfect place for a mid-year getaway.  Spanish sun on a budget: let’s go Madrid, baby!

Unfortunately, Manchester airport doesn’t fly out to Madrid (or it does and I was looking in the sky) so I copped two return tickets from Liverpool John Lennon airport.  However, in no time at all, we were smooching around at dusk, in the stunning city of Madrid, picking up keys from our host to our own little slice of heaven.

The Airbnb I booked in Madrid was centred in the lively area of La Latina.  Literally around the corner from The Royal Palace Of Madrid and slap-bang in the middle of shops, restaurants, cafes, food markets and a wicked underground system which could get you anywhere you needed to be. We really could not have picked a better area to have our first – and definitely not our last – experience of Madrid.  If you are thinking of a holiday to Madrid, this place is your first port-of-call for digs.

I physically get sad every time I see photographs of our little home-away-from-home now, it was that phenomenal.  Everything was immaculate and white (or at least it was before we wreaked havoc) with an extensive amount of room to breathe.  The flat featured two floors in case I and Matty needed a time-out from each other too, or if we just didn’t want to share a bathroom for awhile. If I could live in it forever I would. (Not the toilet, I mean the flat.)

I love the concept of Airbnb.  I think it is a lot more personal than staying in a hotel and way more special – you do not have to wake up at a certain time and hike yourself down to breakfast with bleary eyes and awful hair, nor do you have to bide your time at the front desk for forty minutes while an angry man shouts at the lovely receptionist, while you try to catch her eye and smile sympathetically.

Your own home, your own rules and nobody is going to disturb you or come in your room awkwardly and unexpectedly. I just absolutely love the freedom.

While in Madrid, we managed to get ourselves into a morning routine – when we weren’t being lazy/hungover of course.

Head to Lidl (even in Madrid it was the most affordable supermarket) for fruits of the forest, ham & cheese and then hop on over to the most amazing bakery/café called Panishop. Woweeee: I died and had gone to pastry heaven.  A gigantic selection of bread adorned the walls behind the counter, pretzels and sweet pasty mountains decorated cabinets and I just couldn’t get my mitts off those Pain au chocolat.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them now!

After a scrumptious breakfast, we headed out into the world of Madrid.  As I previously mentioned there was a heat wave.  Not just any heat wave, apparently the hottest one in forty years I was told by a passing Spanish man.  Forty-five degree days in the sun, spent with a beer and my boyfriend? It is like this city was made for a sun and booze worshipper like me!

One of the more exciting foody joints we visited was the Mercado de San Miguel.  Situated just outside of Plaza Mayor (a square similar to that of Barcelona’s La Ramblas yet not as fancy, schmancy) the indoor market left you with eyes the size of dinner plates and opened the pit of your stomach to counter-serviced tapas, glasses of bubbly, gigantic pans brimming with black paella and fresh fruit smoothies which could give the markets of Barcelona a serious run for their money.  Hello food baby, how you doin’?

While in Madrid, we only dined at two actual restaurants worthy of a mention: TOGA and Cappuccino Grand Café Madrid.

The latter is a Spanish chain of elegant restaurants, specialising in coffee (you would never have guessed from its name) and cocktails while boasting some of the friendliest and most helpful staff I came across in Madrid.  Situated close to the Retiro underground tube stop, the outside area is shaded, warm and far enough away from bustling pedestrians – allowing the perfect setting to sip on an Aperol Spritz, munch on a club sandwich and watch the world go by.  I seriously could not recommend this place enough to anybody thinking about a lunchtime jaunt in the capital of Spain.

For more information or to just check out that killer cocktail menu, click here.

Now, moving on to the star event, let’s have a chat about TOGA. Pause your reading, grab a cuppa.  Got one?  Good, now let us begin.

Once upon a time, I and Matty had a sneaky-peek on Tripadvisor and this place called TOGA popped up in the top ten restaurants in the whole of Madrid.  To make it even more lustful, it happened to be a five-minute ramble up the road from our pretty home.  Winner, winner, I didn’t really care where I was going; I was just ready for a pint.  Little did I know, however, I was about to have the best dining experience of probably my whole entire life.  Yes, I’m being dramatic.  No, I am not going to apologise.

Hidden away in a back alley of La Latina, from the outside looking in you wouldn’t believe this tiny taverna-looking restaurant was anything special. White washed walls, more gin stacked behind the bar then you could dream of, concrete floors and a handful of tables made TOGA look inviting, but it didn’t immediately have that ‘wow’ factor.

In retrospect, the minimalistic look of TOGA is probably why I was so blown away by my experience there.  You’re greeted with friendly expectations at the door and you believe TOGA to be… nice.  However, nice doesn’t really cut it, try the phrase sublimely divine. The idea you have formed of TOGA from the onset is blown out of the water by eager waiting staff, which were quick to recommend beers and dishes which would be complemented by affordable wines, as well as the food itself.

For starters, I opted for a fresh goat’s cheese and spinach brochette which was succulently creamy with the melt-in-the-mouth texture one can only dream of. Can you really describe the taste of goat’s cheese to be anything other than ‘goaty’.  If you can, let me know because this wordsmith is struggling.  For the main cour, e I opted for a baby squid risotto.  I have no words of description leaping to my fingertips at this moment in time but seriously, it was the best thing I have ever eaten.  Hands down, MY GOD what a meal!  We were treated like kings and queens.  Seriously TOGA, you have my heart forever, thank you.  Squid will never be the same again!

So… Can you tell this trip was totally food based?  You went for cocktails too, Ella?  To a place that didn’t serve food? Well, why didn’t you say?

Situated in the Justicia ward of Madrid – named after the Ministry of Justice – is a hidden cocktail bar called Del Diego, which comes alive in the night-time.  A pamphlet listing over one hundred cocktails was humbly placed before us before we dived into some mai-tai’s and some kooky names of drinks we had never even heard of before.  If you are looking for a classy, late night place to get your drunk on – then Del Diego is where your heart is guiding you.

When we weren’t eating and weren’t drinking (which was pretty much never) we spent most of our time mooching around the gigantic Retiro Park.  Since Madrid is inland, this was my version of the beach. As you can see from the photographs below the park had the most amazing lake, which allowed you to hire rowing boats for 45 minutes. Easily one of the more fun things we did in Madrid.

On Matty’s behalf, we also decided to jump on the tube and head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium – the home of Real Madrid. The real-deal for any football fan, the grandeur of the stadium was unmatched by anything I have ever seen before.  You cannot go to the stadium without mentioning the sheer amount of silver sitting in that trophy room too. If you get the chance to go, it was slightly pricey but well-worth the time spent.

Like all good things, Madrid came to an end.  Not before I bagged my now-prized possession from Berksha though!  How beautiful is this bright yellow biker jacket?  How long will it be until everybody on the bloody planet has the same jacket? Stay tuned.

Ella Scott
@ellalascott

LIFE RAMBLE · Travel

A stylish stay with Ibis: Liverpool

If you know me then you know I’m all about last minute plans, usually because I always leave things to the very possible last second to organise. So, on Sunday morning when I realised I needed somewhere to live temporarily post-Liverpool Sound City, I quickly jumped on the internet and luckily discovered a twin room in the beautiful Ibis Styles Hotel on Dale Street, Liverpool.  If like me, you’re one for simple quirkiness and aren’t afraid of swapping a traditional English breakfast for granola, brie and more croissants than you could shake a stick at – then look no further!


The Ibis Styles Hotel is located in the commercial district of Liverpool, near the courts and roughly a ten-minute walk to infamous Albert Dock and Beatles Story.  Branded as ‘the hotel that sings’, every room is ‘musically themed’, meaning it has the essence of The Beatles plastered all over it.  Whether it’s from the subtle psychedelic carpets, spiralling song lyrics or simply a pop of colour splattered across the room – the music of the legendary band is seriously alive in this hotel.

Walking into the hotel is different.  You are greeted by a colourful chill-out area and a bar.  It is 2 pm and there is no bartender… Where is the front desk?  The Styles hotel has decided to drop the formalities, the pay-at-the-desk and the awkward reception check-out conversation.  This is the internet era and when booking your hotel, an automatic check-in is applied (if you want of course.)  You just need to find a lovely staff member who swipes your paying card for security reasons, gives you your room key and sends you on your way.

The lifts are card-automated – so if you’re not staying at the hotel you’re not using the lift to get up to the rooms.  This idea allows you to feel fully secured and extremely safe, especially when you are staying at the hotel alone like I was.


I was designated Room 501, and it was so refreshingly lovely!  The room in all consisted of two extremely soft twin beds, with unbleached sheets; a desk area for working if you are on business or have some rambling thoughts you need to write down; a wall mounted TV; a wardrobe filled with complimentary coffee, tea and a hairdryer; a gorgeously clean bathroom fitted with two towels and shampoo/body wash and two MASSIVE mirrors, perfect for selfies.


Adorning the bathroom door was a swirl of the word ‘road’ in various different languages such as Spanish and German, as well as along the back wall next to the beds in a wavy fashion.  See pictures for a clearer understanding.

The room was immaculately clean, safe, tidy and friendly.  The greyscale theme with a pop of pink and blue carpeting was seriously inviting as well as extremely calming.  There were no garish colours nor was there anything causing an eye-sore.  I loved the room so much that I rank it highly as one of the best rooms I’ve stayed in for a   l o n g time.


On my way into the hotel after the festival, I was kindly reminded that breakfast was being served from six am until half 11, due to it being a bank holiday weekend. HELLO LIE IN.  At about half nine I made my way downstairs to the bar area, where a continental feast was put on.


In kooky glass, jugs were every juice option under the sun: apple, pineapple, orange and cranberry just to name a few, shots of what looked like tomato juice? (I was far too scared to try) and alongside these the largest bowl of bananas I’ve ever seen.  Moving across there was rows of soft granola and natural greek yoghurt in v. cute jars, a selection of vegetables (cucumbers and tomatoes sliced two ways), ham and pastrami and the largest cheeseboard in the world.


I am trying slowly and surely to be dairy free, but in situations like this, where there are thirty slices of soft, creamy brie piled high on a wooden board – it would be rude to say no, right?  I died and went to cheese heaven.  Future Ella, please don’t be disappointed in me.

A selection of slices of bread and a basket of croissants was also on offer.  I lost count of how many croissants I managed to dunk into my three (!!) lattes and scoff into my mouth.  As the saying goes, when in Liverpool…Right?


After I had doubled my weight in the food I edged my way back up to my hotel room, packed up my belongings and headed downstairs for check out.  Simple and effective, I again found one of the staff members and handed her my room key.  A couple hours later I received a confirmation text saying I had been successfully checked out. I liked this very much as it felt as if I was personally being thanked by the company for staying.  So here I am, returning that thanks.

Fast service, friendly and affordable for a hotel of such fantastic description – if you ever need somewhere to stay in Liverpool I would highly recommend the Ibis Styles Hotel on Dale Street.  I’m now itching to get travelling and find out what the rest of the Ibis Styles Hotels are like across Europe?  Please give me recommendations for any that you’ve stayed in!

See you soon, world,

Ella Scott
@ellalascott

Travel

First Youtube Video / Berlin Blues

So, if you follow me on any/all of my social medias (links are below!) you’ll be bored of my constant bombardment of your newsfeeds with piccys of my trip to Berlin.

Coming up on the blog soon will be a variety of different posts such as:

  • Where to eat in Berlin (obviously the first thing I thought about was food… woops)
  • My AirBnb experience 
  • What I got up to in Berlin in general (there was a LOT of walking around supermarkets and being impressed about being able to buy McDonald’s Ketchup and Mayo)

However, for now, feast your eyes on my first Youtube video.  The short clip features some AMAZING bacon and maple syrup pancakes, a severed finger and my pretty boyfriend who had to put up with me for six days.

I hope you enjoy and if you have any feedback please let me know!

E x

 

Twitter – @ellalascott
Instagram – @ellalascott
Youtube – click here

LIFE RAMBLE · Travel

Lifestyle | 48 Hours In Edinburgh

There’s nothing better than an impromptu adventure to relight the spark in your eyes, open your arms to embrace the different and entice you into tasting the exotic.  In this case, the ‘exotic’ may of consisted of fried potato cakes and Blue Moon for breakfast, and the ‘different’ may have been gallivanting up Prince’s Street opposed to circling The Arndale but still, an adventure. 48 hours in Edinburgh: GO!

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Although my home is in Eglingham (a little village off of Alnwick, Northumberland, where Harry Potter was filmed) – which is about an hour’s train ride from Edinburgh – I’d never travelled to the Scottish capital before. So I accompanied by my boyfriend, Matty, hitched a ride with Virgin Express to Waverly Station, Edinburgh on Wednesday 29th June, 2016.

The thing that I and Matty have most in common is our inexplicable adoration of food and drink. We make a good match. An example of this love for food and drink is the fact that we’d been in Edinburgh for all of ten minutes before hiking up to the Royal Mile for a pint at Burgers and Beers Grillhouse.  The Grillhouse inside itself was beautiful, but we opted for an intake of Scottish air instead. Celebration, we got here!

Throughout the couple of days we spent basking in the ferocious wind and battling with the rain; we ate and drank in various places, including: Ryan’s Bar (Hope St), Café Centro (George Street), Filling Station (High Street) Dirty Dicks (Rose Street), eteaket (Fredrick Street) and Burger (Shandwick Place).  Of all the places we dined and drank, my favourite was definitely the quirky, Dirty Dicks, on Rose Street. A nymph-cavern, dimly lit by melting candles in old whiskey bottles and adorned with fairy lights, Dirty Dicks offered fabulous service entwined with out-of-this-world food. A definite yes from me!

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Did we do anything other than eat good food and drink good beer? Surprisingly, yes.  It wouldn’t be a trip to Edinburgh if I hadn’t been to the zoo.  Although my morals are torn on zoo culture and Edinburgh Zoo itself, and I felt my heart bleeding for the chimps who were being peered down upon by screaming school children, I all-in-all had a fantastic day.  The highlight of the zoo trip however was definitely being able to see a real-life Giant Panda.

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(All animal pictures by: MG Photography)

 The zoo itself boasts that it is the ‘only UK zoo to hold Giant Pandas’. Edinburgh Zoo has two Giant Pandas in fact – a female named Tian Tian or ‘Sweetie’ and a male named Yang Guang or ‘Sunshine’.  We were only allowed to view Yang Guang, who was sleeping, but what a mesmerising creature he was!  I honestly felt honoured to be in his presence. Both I and Matty viewed all the animals in the zoo in approximately 2 hours, making time for lunchtime pints, oioi!

Our trip’s accommodation came in an accidental two parts.  By two parts I mean we managed to miss the last train home to Alnmouth and ended up staying an extra night… I wasn’t complaining.

Our first night’s stay was at Edinburgh’s Capital Hotel.  Roughly about 1.5 miles from the zoo and fifteen minutes from the centre of town, the Capital Hotel was b-e-a utiful!  We had a triple room to ourselves, which came with a large en-suite bathroom and ridiculously massive bed, as well as full freeview on a flat screen. The hotel also had a leisure centre, consisting of a 17m pool and gym (which we didn’t use because someone forgot their swimming trunks and someone needed a nap.)  Staff were lovely and breakfast in the morning (£10 each extra) was even more amazing.  A full buffet catering to all our English (and Scottish needs) – I tried a potato cake, which was SO GOOD.

Our second (accidental) sleep in Edinburgh was conducted at 4* Parliament House Hotel.  The building itself was breath-taking – a mesh of Jacobean and Georgian – nestled on a cobbled back alley.  The rooms were also wonderful, although slightly on the small side, it catered to all of our needs and even offered a mini fridge full of alcohol. Who could say no to ice-cold beers?

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Coat / Buberry Top / Missguided / Skirt & Bag / Topshop Shoes / New Balance 

All-in-all my Edinburgh trip was fantastic.  I embraced Scottish culture, ate some fantastic food in wonderful company and can put a new pin on my ‘places experienced’ list.  The only question that remains is: where too next?

Ell xx