A Minimoon at The Pig in the Forest, Brockenhurst

We really dithered about where to go on our minimoon after the wedding: we got engaged in Cornwall and while it would have been lovely to go back down to reminisce by the sea, over six hours of driving didn’t really scream relaxing break to either of us.

What we did want was to be somewhere beautiful, with great food, and to be totally looked after, which is how we ended up at The Pig. I always always going to be keen on their emphasis on food sourced from within 25 miles of the hotel, and it looked like a totally blissful place to relax in (those sofas and fires everywhere!). I was a little nervous after reading some of the tripadvisor reviews as it does seem like their service can be a little off at times, and it definitely hurts to be charged another £15 per head for breakfast when the room rate is over £200 per night, but all in all it was the perfect spot to celebrate – and recover from – the wedding.

We got the train down on the Monday afternoon and were delighted to discover that booking ourselves into one of their hideaways had been well worth the spluge – we had our own wood burning stove in the room, the comfiest bed, and a huge rolltop bath…. plus J’s parents had ordered us a bottle of champagne which was the nicest way to kick off our two nights away.

Champagne at the Pig in Brockenhurst

We ate in the main restaurant both nights and the food was great- beautifully cooked and presented, although unfortunately we had to wait so long on the first night for someone to take our dessert ordered that in the end we just abandoned it in the end in favour of a cocktail in front of the fire. The food was spot on though: beautifully presented piggy bits, fresh bread, perfectly cooked fish and the most incredible cheese board to finish our second evening.

You can book spa treatments while you’re down there but we opted to take advantages of the bikes for hire on site and cycle up to Lyndhurst for lunch. It might sound energetic but it really wasn’t. The ride is about half an hour each way if you don’t get lost or distracted by pony selfies, and it means the pub lunch half way round is marginally more justified.

minimoon9

Overall we couldn’t have picked a better spot for our minimoon. It was definitely a splurge but we both came back feeling so well rested (and well fed) that it was worth every penny.

Best of the speciality coffee in Paris

Our trip to Paris was nearly over two months ago, and it’s only now the wedding is over that I’ve actually sat down long enough to look back on it. We snuck away for three nights, getting the Eurostar one evening after work, and had a blissful couple of days, doing not a lot other than either drinking coffee (by day) or wine (by night). I’ve never really been much of a fan of French coffee – way too bitter for me normally – but the French coffee scene is clearly benefiting from English and Australian influences, and we found some great speciality coffee in Paris while we were there.

Telescope: this tiny little (and beautifully minimalist) coffee shop is tucked away on Rue Villedo and is a great spot to go and warm up if you’ve been walking around the Jardin de Tuileries. The barista suggested we each tried a different blend (Kenyan for me, Ehtiopian for J), and I have rarely seen someone take such cafe in blending together an aeropress. Loved it.

Ten Belles: just behind the Canal Saint Martin, this felt as though we easily could have been in Shoreditch on a Saturday afternoon. Surrounded by a mix of English and French voices, and with coffee, sandwiches & cakes constantly flying past, it really did feel like a London coffee spot.

Best of the speciality coffee spots in Paris, feat. 10 Belles, Cafe Lomi, Fondation Cafe & Telescope

Fondation Cafe: this was just around the corner from our airbnb, and while it’s pretty bare bones, it was a great morning stop off for a cafe allonge. I think they had just changed ownership shortly before we visited, but as of September ’16, still great.

Holybelly: the current brunch spot du jour of Paris and it does live up to the hype. Two hour waits apparently aren’t unheard of at the weekend, but we got there 20 minutes after opening on a Friday and had no issues getting a table. Great Australian style coffee and by far the friendliest place I’ve ever been in Paris in terms of service.

Cafe Lomi: the area north of the Gare du Nord has never really had much to recommend it, but having discovered Cafe Lomi I could be prepared to make an exception to return. With beautifully chic black frontage and signage, and a no laptop policy at weekends, this was our last visit before catching our train home – and even at gone 5pm on a Sunday, it was packed full. They roast and blend their own coffee on site, plus you can take away bags of beans with you too, for a drinkable holiday souvenir.

Lisbon and Porto Photo Diary

Oh you guys…. can I go back to Lisbon and Porto now? Going back through my pictures has given me a severe case of post holiday blues.

Tiled houses in Lisbon, Portugal

View through the streets in Lisbon, Portugal

A view over Lisbon's famous bridge

Lisbon is filled with beautiful tiled houses, narrow streets on steep hillsides, and weirdly familiar vistas where you confuse yourself but you could be in Rio or San Francisco. The beaches outside are great (we loved Carcavelos, thirty minutes away by train) and my big regret of the trip is that we didn’t make it out to Sintra and Europe’s most Western point.

Porto's Torre de Sao Jorge

The Douro river as it flows through the centre of Porto

Alongside the river in Porto

Three hours away by train, Porto gets even hillier. Steep hills run down to the wide Douro river, there’s any number of hidden away food and drink spots tucked away in the streets, and one side of the river face is covered in trees hanging off the side. It felt bit like a set from Game of Thrones, and I didn’t want to leave.

Porto's Mercado do Bolhao