Bristol vs the world

A travel (and sometimes fashion) blog about exploring Bristol and the rest of the world, one post at a time.

A poor absence apology, and a resolution

I wonder what sort of spike WordPress sees in new blog posts in January, as all us lazy people who posted haphazardly or – if you’re like me – stopped for six months altogether – make resolutions to write more, and aim to do more to write about.

In my defense, life has been pretty hectic since I last saw you in 2014. August saw me play a part in my own mini-film, with two weddings and two funerals, the latter due to the death of both my grandfathers. (I wasn’t sure whether to specify the latter on here, but I also learnt that tiptoeing around things by saying ‘family stuff’ or other euphemisms a) raise more questions and b) don’t explain why sometimes you might just be upset over tiny little things, or talking about 24 Hours in A&E, – or, sometimes – for what might seem to others like for reason at all.)

Yet September was the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I got a promotion at work, which also involved being made permanent in my team (and thus dream job).

As part of said dream job, I get to visit some pretty amazing places – from the expansive grounds of Gibside to the intimate Westwood Manor – and September was no exception, with a two-day trip to Brownsea Island.


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Oh and this little thing happened.

Book Proposal

(Yes, John did make that himself.)

Let’s just say we probably kept un-branded tissue manufactures in business for those six weeks last year!

Which brings me to why I didn’t blog much for the rest of the year. Weddings are wonderfully exciting and happy occasions, but it also turns out that wedding planning is quite time-consuming (especially when you do it in nine months). You know how everything says plan your budget, and then add ‘x%’? Well the same applies to planning – however long you think something might take, add time to it! And we were quite decisive – and lucky – and didn’t need to spend much time looking round venues, or meeting different photographers to find the right ones. I even fell in love with a dress in the first – and therefore only – shop I visited.

I’m not complaining – I’m so excited that John will be my husband and I can’t wait to celebrate that with our friends and family. However it didn’t leave much time to do a huge amount else for a few months. And once you’ve spent evenings looking at email chains and spreadsheets after a day at the office, it’s all too easy to zone out in front of Orange is the New Black (or Don’t Tell the Bride. Or Say Yes to the Dress), rather than trying to construct a coherent blogpost.

But I do enjoy writing. I just need to stop giving myself excuses not to write. For example, if I haven’t done anything travelling that immediately seems interesting, that just makes it more of a challenge of come up with fun ideas. And sometimes those can be the most fun kind of posts.

Plus we’ve run out of new Orange episodes for now…

Bring it on, 2015.

Where to stay Wednesday: Casa dos Lóios, Porto

 

Things have been a bit quiet around here as of late – for which I apologies. Again. This time I blame the sun, making me want to be outside and get out and about and stuff. Anyway, I’m here now and that’s what matters!

Casa dos Loios

Casa dos Loios

I’ve stayed in – probably – more than my fair share of hotels for a 26-year-old. I’ve been lucky enough to sleep in beds wider than my 6″1 boyfriend is long. A wooden-floored duplex under canvas. Ones themed on chocolate, or the Wild West, or New Mexico – the latter coming complete with crash-landed alien spaceships and half buried, rusting cars. Old and new, big and small, grand and understated.

But none of these buildings were as immediately, incredibly breathtaking as Casa dos Loios.

It’s a good thing one of team members was carrying my suitcase, because I’m pretty sure I would have dropped it in shock. Which probably wouldn’t have been great for either the suitcase, or their beautiful, wooden floors.

Casa dos Loios

Formerly home to the Ferraz Mello family, Casa dos Loios occupies a 16th/17th-century townhouse in central Porto, resplendent with wide, high-ceilinged staircases, large windows with decorative frames and beautiful plasterwork on the ceilings. (Actually, it slightly resembled (a smaller version of) some of the Trust properties I’ve visited (/worked on the Guidebooks for and seen pictures of)). Complementary furniture, such as an old wireless, is found throughout the two floors – named ‘Ruby’ and ‘Tawny’ after the two red types of the drink for which this city is famous. (Did you know you can get white (‘Branco’) Port? Very nice it is, too.)

Although our room wasn’t quite as amazing, this was because we booked the smallest possible option on a special deal through booking.com – the rack rate of just over £60 wasn’t even advertised on the list in our room, as I think there’s only two of these rooms in the whole hotel. And for the price we paid, it was perfectly adequate, just a touch on the small side and without any of the building features you might find in some of the more expensive rooms. You still get all the other benefits of staying here though, from complimentary toiletries to the amazing breakfast (more on that below). 

For example, if you fancy shelling out a bit more (a not-that-expensive-really £120 a night, especially as it sleeps four) then you could stay in this:

Casa dos Loios

For those looking for something in the middle, here’s a typical double:

Casa dos Loios

 

Sometimes I find hotels that look so fancy a little intimidating, like the staff and other guests are looking at your like ‘why are you here exactly’? Casa dos Loios is the exact opposite of this. Other guests included a young family, a young group of friends and couples young and old – and all of us were given service as exceptional as the building (and just as impressive too – we heard one person switch languages, seemingly effortlessly, about four times in the course of us eating our breakfast). Casa dos Loios is part of the small ‘Shiado’ chain of guesthouses, and the first one outside of Lisbon. (I like discovering new places, but we were so impressed with Casa do Bairro when we last went to Lisbon in 2011 that we decided to stay there again, and also felt that their Porto venture should be a safe bet.) The ethos is to provide a comfortable, homely place to relax with friendly customer service – and Casa dos Loios definitely achieves that. In fact, I’d even argue that the staff here were even better than those in Casa do Bairro – high praise indeed.

We were sat down, offered a drink and then our host went over the map of Lisbon, recommending places to see, eat and drink based on the amount of time we had and – seemingly – our age (one recommendation – a bar – was prefixed with ‘because you’re young’). They included key tourist sites, but also harder to find miradouros (viewpoints) and some of his personal favourites. In case that’s not enough to keep you occupied, the hotel information binder in the bedrooms also includes tips on places to eat, and a cork board in the dining room features cards brought back from previous guests from places they’d recommend. Both restaurants we went to during our stay were recommended, and neither disappointed (more on those in a Food Friday soon).

Casa dos Loios

The friendly nature of the staff continued throughout our stay – if you popped into the kitchen to grab a tea/coffee/cake (all complimentary) they would chat to you about your day, your plans – but never to the point of being intrusive. There’s also plenty of places to relax outside of your hotel room, either in the dining room or outside in the sun-soaked patio area. There’s no bar, but there is an ‘honesty fridge’ from which you can take wine, beer or soft drinks (though (shh) you’d be better off popping to the supermarket next door).

And then there’s the breakfast. I get the impression that the Portuguese have something of a sweet tooth, because breakfast foods here seem to consist of a lot of home-made cakes and donut-type things. A perfect start to the day in my books. If you’re not into starting your day on a sugar high (why on earth not?!), you could choose from a selection of continental savoury items, fruit or cereal. But I highly recommend going for the cake. Especially the donuts. And then have them again later in the day as an afternoon snack.

Casa dos Loios

The location is excellent too. It’s right on the Rua das Flores, which is full of lovely little cafes, restaurants and specialist boutiques (we particularly liked the one selling products made of cork). You can walk to pretty much all the main tourist attractions in Porto within 25 minutes, and most are much closer – practically on your doorstep. (Though, admittedly, Porto isn’t particularly huge.)

The only minor negative of the hotel might be that the walls didn’t seem particularly thick, and we could hear people in the corridor. However we weren’t kept awake or woken up at any point, so while very light sleepers may have a problem, I have no complaints.

Another thing that didn’t affect us, but might others, is that the entire guesthouse is situated up a – quite long – flight of stairs. I don’t know if there was a lift, so this is something worth enquiring about if you have mobility issues.

If you don’t mind missing a few components of bigger hotels – a bar, restaurant, paid-for movies, nothing I wished we had access to, especially considering you’re in the heart of Porto – then you can’t go wrong with Casa dos Loios. A friendly and relaxing retreat, set in a stunning period building, this is the perfect base for exploring Porto.

Casa dos Loios

Food Friday: Lisbon eats part II (3 years later)

We visited Lisbon three years ago, and, as I wrote about our visit then (well, on another blog and I kind of just brought the post over here), another city-overview post might be a bit of overkill. But I can assure you that we weren’t disappointed with our decision to spend a few days revisiting the city at the beginning of our recent Portugal adventure.

We did have a few new discoveries on our trip though: firstly nearby Sintra, and also lots of lovely restaurants. More on the former soon, but as it’s Friday today, I make it Food Friday! So here’s Lisbon Eats: Part 2!

Fumeiro de Santa Catarina Fumeiro This little restaurant is tucked away on the corner of two quiet streets in the Santa Catarina area (near Bairro Alto); we were staying five minutes away, yet if it wasn’t for Tripadvisor’s ‘best nearby’ feature, I doubt we’d have discovered it.

Each dish at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina is contains a smoked element (smoking meat is an Iberian tradition – but it might not be the meat that gets smoked here). It’s not quite tapas, but plates are small – our waitress recommended we ordered three between the two of us, which was enough, but we probably could have fit more in if we wanted to gorge – or couldn’t make up our minds (which looked to be the case for some of our fellow diners).

We went for the roasted vegetables with mozerella, broad beans with ham, and octopus in a barbeque vinegarette. They were all delicious; the smokeyness really added something to all the dishes (I particularly enjoyed the flavour it gave to the aubergine), without being overpowering. However the octopus was definitely the star of the show.

Mozerella and vegetables Fumeiro Santa CatarinaOctopus at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina, LisbonBroad beans fumeiro

Service was friendly and prices were good; two (small) alcoholic drinks, three mains and olives came to under €30. (As with many European restaurants, the extras they place on the table aren’t free, but the olives were worth it. We resisted the very nice looking cheeses, so I’m not sure how much they would have cost, but the olives were just €1 so don’t worry too much about tucking into them.) Even on a Wednesday night, the restaurant was full by 8:30/8:45ish (still on English-eating time, we turned up at 7:30 when it was just us and one other couple – the Portuguese eat much later than us Brits). So it’s probably worth a reservation if you want to guarantee yourself a spot past 8. Also worth noting is that they can’t take overseas bank cards and the nearest cash machine is just under ten minutes away, so make sure you’re stocked up on Euros before visiting.

Great food and an interesting experience in a relaxed atmosphere, Fumeiro de Santa Catarina is a must-visit if you’re in the Bairro Alto or Santa Catarina area – and well worth making a trip for even if you’re not.

The Details

Fumeiro de Santa Catarina
Travessa do alcaide, 4C
Open Tuesday – Saturday, 19:00 – 00:30
Telephone: 92 640 9775 – 213471002
Website: https://www.facebook.com/fumeirosantacatarina/info

Mercado-da-Ribeira_Time-Out

Mercada da Ribeiro
The one change we did notice about Lisbon was that the area we were staying in – particularly Rua Boavista – seemed to be at the beginning of a process of gentification. Among the old ginja bars and pastelerias was a furniture store full of ‘hip’ furniture, an electric car shop and a shabby-chic style bar complete with table football which seemed to attract a younger crowd than the surrounding places. The older, more traditional outlets still far outnumber the ‘cool’ ones, but I couldn’t help wondering if this was the next ‘cool’ Lisbon neighbourhood (if it’s not already).

The nearby Mercado da Ribeira development has certainly helped add kudos to the surrounding area. The 19th-century building itself isn’t new; it has been home to the traditional market for many years. But the new Time Out development in another part of the building only opened a few months ago and it’s clearly already a popular hangout. The Mercado is like a massive, upmarket food court, hosting a number of stalls from well-known Portuguese restaurants, and five with food by their top chefs. You grab your food and sit down on a stool at one of the communal benches – although it looked pretty busy both times we visited (3pm for lunch, and 9pm for dinner. Yes, on the same day), we managed to grab two seats together both times – though it was much easier at lunch.

I say grab your food, but there’s a bit more waiting involved than in your typical food stand. It’s made fresh to order in front of you, leaving your mouth watering. But if there’s likely to be a long wait (in the evening, our meals took 20/25 minutes or so) they’ll hand out a buzzer that’ll go off when the food is ready, so you can relax in your seat and take in the atmosphere instead of hanging around at the stand.

Most of the stands also serve drinks, but there’s also a bar in the centre of the room – with ‘self-service’ beer!

Cozinha de Felicidade

At lunchtime, we sampled Cozinha da Felicidade. I had the scrambled eggs on bread with sausage, which was amazing. The sausage was really meaty and gamey and the bread was gorgeous. John’s meal trumped it though – a meaty ‘pie’, but with mashed potato instead of pastry – very fuzzy photo above (apologies). (Though the Portuguese menu I’ve found describes it as a ‘Rosti de batata’ – potato rosti – which is probably a more accurate description.). My food was great, but I still had food envy. In the evening we went for Cafe de Sao Bento, the outpost of a well-known restaurant in the city once voted the best steak in Lisbon. John went for the steak sandwich, whereas I decided I had to sample the ‘steak sao bento’, which came in a creamy sauce that was almost like a less-rich bearnaise. (I plumped for the rib eye as it was by far the cheapest cut on the menu, but other options were available). We both thought our meals were on the well done side of medium, so if you prefer more pink to your meat then do ask for it medium-rare or rare. Otherwise both dishes were excellent; I definitely wasn’t trying to spoon the remainder of my sauce into my mouth at the end (and by spoon, I mean try and get a substantial amount onto a fork)…

Cafe Sao Bento Mercado RibeiraCafe Sao Bento Mercado Ribeira

If you fancy a more traditional restaurant experience, there’s a couple of outlets on the outside with terraces and tables. There’s also a gelataria and pastelaria for dessert and a cocktail bar if you don’t fancy the self-service beer.

On a Thursday night, the room seemed full of a huge mix of people from families to young and old groups of friends catching up, to couples to tourists. It was lively, loud and a great way to sample some of the local restaurants and chefs in an informal atmosphere – and ideal if you and your party are at odds about what you fancy for dinner that evening.

The details
Mercado da Ribeira
Avenida 24 de Julho, Cais do Sodré

Opening Hours
Sun-Weds: 10am-12midnight
Thurs-Sat: 10am-2am

View from Ibo, Lisbon

Ibo
We ummed and ahed about Ibo. It had good reviews and plenty of very positive blogposts about it. We love curries. It overlooked the water. But it was expensive, especially for Portugal. Eventually we decided to spoil ourselves. This turned out to be the best food-related decision of the holiday.

Sat in a former warehouse on the waterfront behind Cais do Sodre station, Ibo’s menu is inspired by Mozambican and Portuguese dishes: think seafood curries, fish dishes and steaks. I had the prawn curry, which came with rice and two condiments (some of the best chutney and lime pickle I have ever tasted). John went for the octopus fillet with beans and coriander rice. Both dishes were amazing – fresh and full of flavour, and mine had a hint of spice without it being overpowering.

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And then there were the desserts. I tried the caramelized banana with cream ice-cream and sesame seed brittle, while John plumped for wild berry cheesecake. There aren’t enough adjectives to do justice to these meals so let’s just say that they tasted even better than they looked.

Ibo dessert

Ibo dessert

Coming in at around €60 for poppadoms, two mains, two desserts and a glass of wine (they ask you what you like, whether you’re happy with house white or more, bring out a suggestion and check whether you like it), Ibo’s not exactly a budget option. But considering the quality of the food and the location (we watched the sun begin to set over the river as we ate, the area relatively quiet save for the occasional passing cyclist, runner or walker), I certainly wouldn’t say it’s overpriced. The perfect place if you’re a curry and/or seafood fan after a slightly more ‘special’ meal in Lisbon.

Ibo

The details
Ibo
Cais do Sodre (behind the train station)
Website: http://www.ibo-restaurante.pt/
Opening Hours:
Tues-Thurs: 12:30pm-15:30pm; 19.30pm-11pm
Fri-Sat: 12:30pm-17:30pm; 19:30pm-01:00am
Sunday: 12.30pm-15.30pm
Closed Sunday evenings, Mondays

Park bar Lisbon

Where to drink
We loved Park, situated on top of a multistory carpark in the area where Santa Catarina meets Bairro Alto. We initially went to watch Portugal’s last world cup group game, but the television was in a covered area and we couldn’t resist the lure of the terrace overlooking the streets below and the river and 25th of April bridge beyond. Complemented by table service and a soothing soundtrack, Park is the perfect place for a relaxed couple of drinks after a day’s sightseeing.

The Details
Park
Calçada do Combro 58
Open every day, 13:00-02:00

Image Credits
Fumeiro de Santa Catarina interior: Fumeiro de Santa Catarina’s Facebook page, by Beatriz Tomáz
Mercado de Ribeira Portuguese Independent News
All other images my own, please credit if using.

(If you want to see where we ate last time, I wrote about them too. However this was three years ago, so I can’t still vouch for their quality.)

Read all about it: The Times Newseum, the Paintworks

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I’m just back from ten days in beautiful Portugal (much more on that later – so many blog in my head!). There’s nothing like a holiday to make you realise how much you overlook at home. I’ve said it before, but, despite constantly being on the lookout for new bars, restaurants and shops in Bristol, there’s plenty I think about doing and just simply don’t get round to. When you’re on holiday, you want to cram in everything that sounds of interest, because who knows when you’ll be back. Why don’t we apply the same principle at home, especially to temporary exhibitions? So our new resolution is to act more like tourists our my own city. Whether it’s stopping for a rest on a bench by the harbourside to watch the world go by, treating ourselves to a spontaneous drink ‘just because’, going on road trips to nearby towns and countryside, or making sure we actually go to the things we say sound interesting (well, money permitting that is!).

So a day after getting back and still in holiday/resolution mode, we popped down the road to visit Read All About It, The Times‘ ‘Newseum’ exhibition currently in the Paintworks’ event space.

The exhibition explores The Times’ archives and the delivery of news from 1785 to the present. It has displays on key events such as war, photographing Everest and the expedition to climb it, and JFK’s assassination, and features artifacts such as original copy submitted, typewriters, Dictaphones and notebooks. There’s information on codes used for some stories and five animations that compliment the displays. And the photography on display is incredible, too.

In the centre, there’s also a display of smartphones constantly updating with news from outlets such as Reuters and ATP. When seen next to the rest of the exhibition, it really is amazing how immediately we can get information now – and how much of it there is out there.

Bristol Culture Newseum

You can also print off the front page of The Times from a day of your choosing – we went for our birthdays (though realised later that we should have gone for the day after to get the news from our actual birthdays. Oops!). Though if you choose a date before 1965 (I think? Some time about then), the front page will just show notices and advertisements – imagine that selling a paper today!

Although very interesting (and free!), the exhibition is quite small, taking 30-45 minutes or so to get around. It’s also, as you’d expect, Times-centric, concentrating on how they delivered the news and big stories for them and so it’s certainly not a comprehensive discussion on the evolution of news delivery. For example, I don’t think I saw a single mention of blogging or Tweeting, even though there are probably some comparisons to be made (for example, one correspondent in the ’80s got travellers to deliver censored information – I suppose travellers blogging and tweeting about countries they go to, things they’ve seen from places where news, and certainly uncensored news, isn’t so forthcoming might be today’s equivalent?).

As such, although interesting, the exhibition’s probably not worth a special trip from too far away unless you’ve got an interest in journalism, or the history of the news. That said, that does kind of contradict my new ‘go and see something if you think it sounds interesting’ mentality, so if you like the sound of it ignore me and go! And it’s absolutely worth popping into if you’re in the area. Alternatively, you could make it into a bit of a day trip and combine the exhibition with a drink in Bocabar upstairs, a wander round Arnos Vale or a visit to some of the many other lovely places in nearby Totterdown/Knowle.

Overall, if you overlook the Times-promoting-y/probable data gathering-ness, this is an interesting exhibition. A few gaps as you’d expect but worth your time if in the area or you’re interested in the subject area.

Details
Read all about it! The secrets behind the news, The Times Newseum
Website: http://www.paintworksevents.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-item/view/heroes-and-villains-exhibition/
Entry free
Open 10-6, until 9 July
The Paintworks Event Space, Bristol, BS4 3EH

Photo Credits
Middle and bottom: Bristol Culture
Top: My own, please credit if using

Times-newseum-Paintworks-Bristol

 

 

Food Friday: The Gallimaufry, Gloucester Road, Bristol

The Gallimaufry, Bristol

Home to a host of independent shops and restaurants, and some really excellent charity shops, Gloucester Road is a favourite haunt of many Bristolians. Yet in 18 months of living in the city, I had never explored the area. I had even, once, made it as far as Enso Martial Arts on Cheltenham Road (which eventually becomes Gloucester Road), but for 6 Nations/pub-related reasons, didn’t venture any further.

So a few weeks ago, on a sunny Saturday, John and I decided to be Bristol tourists and venture into this, to us unknown, area of North Bristol.

It was soon clear why we don’t really come here. Stokes Croft to Cheltenham Road to Gloucester Road isn’t a short walk, especially after running errands in town. So by the time we made it to Gloucester Road, we were already thinking about our stomachs! Having heard and read many positive things about the Gallimaufry (or ‘Galli’), we made an uncharacteristically quick decision to settle down there for lunch.

origami

I could immediately see why this pub/restaurant is so popular. We walked into a wooden-floored, wooden-tabled bar, with mis-matched sofas and soft chairs at one end and origami animals hanging from the ceiling. Simple and charming, without feeling try-hard/fake chabby-chic/twee.

(There’s also seating outside if you can nab it (we couldn’t), or a ‘proper’ restaurant upstairs.)

Another great thing about the Galli is their local connections. They encourage local artists, and musicians can participate in open mic nights. All ingredients are ethically sourced, and mostly from Bristol-based companies. All ingredients are ethically sourced, and mostly from Bristol-based companies.

And I can vouch that the food is not only ethical, but tasty too. Eating from the ‘brunch’ menu, John and I both went for the shredded pork sandwich (£7) with triple cooked chips (£3). The sandwich came served on doorstop-style bread slices and was perfectly cooked with very little fat. Regular readers might know that I’m fussy about my chips but these were amazing. Just the right amount and combination of crunch on the outside and fluffiness on the in. You know food’s good when you’re absolutely stuffed but you just don’t want to stop eating!

The Galli also has a decent selection of beers on offer too, including a couple from Bristol Beer Factory. The cider selection was less extensive but still decent.

Excellent food, friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere; despite it being far from home (in central-ish-Bristol terms), I’ll definitely be paying the Galli a repeat visit.

The Details
The Gallimaufry
26-28 The Promenade, Gloucester Road, Bristol, BS7 8AL
Website: http://thegallimaufry.co.uk/

Image Credits
Header image, origami image: The Gallimaufry’s website
Sofas/tables interior image: Food with Mustard
Bar interior image: Courtesy of Tripadvisor

The Gallimaufry, Bristol

The Gallimaufry, Bristol