My 5 Favourite Travel Apps

I can’t believe we are into July already! Where has the year gone?! Although that means that we are into Summer or the less cold months as we call it in Scotland! In all fairness the weather has been over 20 degrees which is pretty amazing for Scotland….

This blog post is going to focus on the 5 travel apps on my phone that I don’t board the plane without. 

1. Google Maps

I honestly don’t think I would be able to get around if I didn’t have this app downloaded, as I’m terrible at reading maps and have zero sense of direction! Not good traits for a traveller I admit but with this app it doesn’t matter about my lack of skills…

Google Maps is great for estimating the time that it takes from A to B and I particularly love the fact that it can detect where you are (especially in winding alleyway) before you know yourself.

I also use this app while travelling to detect good places to eat and drink if I make an unplanned stop. As the app can detect where you are it also gives you the option to look at restaurants close by.

2. Like A Local

This app is perfect for discovering all the cool spots during your city-breaks!

For those of you who haven’t heard about Like A Local  before it’s an app created for travellers (not tourists) who want to discover some of the best LOCAL hangouts…hence the name. It’s very easy to use and it can detect what location you are in, similar to Google Maps.

Don’t know where to go to have the best night out in Barcelona? Don’t worry, this app has got you covered with multiple party destinations handpicked by locals.

In addition, this app can let you become the expert you are by offering advice about YOUR CITY to other travellers. You can even get PAID for showing someone your favourite places, sound fun?

3. TripAdvisor

Now this is a tricky one…I’m not saying that I use this all the time for restaurant recommendations while travelling as the best places are often stumbled upon by chance.

However, if you don’t want to be wondering the streets for ages on an empty stomach getting grumpy (I can’t be the only one like this) then TripAdvisor is the way to go! It has hundreds of reviews for places all over the world which makes it easy to find somewhere nice to dine.

I also love this app because you can filter down the recommendations according on what cuisine and type of meal you are after.

When booking accommodation now that’s not on Airbnb I always look at the TripAdvisor reviews first. I have almost been caught out before by using Booking.com because obviously they show more of the good reviews!

4. Airline Apps

What an amazing invention airline apps are! I really don’t know why every airline doesn’t have these created. They save time, paper and most of all STRESS. 

In the past I have been super paranoid about losing my boarding passes that I have been the person to take multiple copies…just in case.

Should I put it in the security tray?

Should I keep holding it?

Where is the safe place I stored it?

Download the app for free…..insert your account details…. BAM it’s saved on the most precious item you posses, your smartphone.

5. Uber

This may seem like a strange one to include but it has been my saviour more times I’ll care to admit.

Uber….the black cab killer or your safest and often cheapest way to get back to your accommodation.

When you have had one too many vodka and cokes is it really a good idea to try and work out the London Underground , that has 11 lines and 270 different stations? No, no it’s not the best idea. With this app you can order a car with no cash needed and your location will be automatically detected (which is insanely helpful in an unknown city).

Weekend in London – Day 3

My last day in London was a bit of a whirlwind and unfortunately I spent a lot of time in transit as I had to be at the airport for 5pm.

However I did manage to eat and drink my way though Camden Market before my departure…

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Camden Market is such a cool place to visit, it’s situated in Camden Town which is easy to reach by tube if you get off at Chalk Farm station.

It is London’s largest and most varied market that really has everything on offer. If you fancy some tasty street food, freshly squeezed fruit drinks, boutique clothing stores and vintage vinyl records hit up Camden Market! If I was a Londoner I would make this my Sunday lunch spot, you would never get bored….

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WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS….

We spent a couple of hours indulging in the markets offerings before wondering down Regent’s Canal towards Primrose Hill.

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Regent’s Canal

Primrose Hill is another beautiful green space in London with one of the best views of the city’s skyline. This calm space is the perfect spot to spend to a sunny afternoon with a picnic, away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

On my journey back to Edinburgh, I spent some time planning what I would do the next time I visit (which will be a lot sooner this time)! A weekend in London is certainly not enough time to do even half of the things you would want to do, but it was a great flavour of the city that left me wanting more. I am genuinely surprised about how much I enjoyed roaming London. Maybe it was the company and the good weather, but I have a feeling that is was because it was full of life! At every turn there was something different to see. Whether that was a historical site, a street-performer or newly invented version of the ice cream cone (Milk Train)…..London has it all.

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Weekend in London – Day 2

I hope you all enjoyed reading my Day 1 post about London but if not click here!

We started off our second day in London by flying high on the Emirates Air Line  which gives you a unique view of the River Thames and the skyline. It’s a cable car experience that only opened in 2012 around the time of the London Olympic Games. The ride only costs £4.30 and can be paid for via the contactless machine (just like the underground stations) or you can purchase them from the attraction’s ticket office.  It definitely felt like the first class experience  minus the champagne unfortunately. However, they did make up for the lack of fizz by offering us a free souvenir photo at the end of the trip. You can pop into the photo booth, pick your destination (eg Maldives) and magically your photo looked like you were enjoying your holiday at the other side of the world!

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After our long flight to the Maldives we decided that we needed some brunch to recover from the jetlag. Sophia knew of this gorgeous garden cafe that sits inside Regent’s Park, Regent’s Bar & Kitchen. I can honestly say this was my favourite place we went for food in London, it was perfect! Just watch out what time you go because we wondered in at 11:30am and apparently breakfast was no longer being served and their lunch menu didn’t begin until 12pm! We said that was fine and enjoyed a muffin and an iced coffee in the garden while we waited patiently….

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Al Fresco Lunch in Regent’s Park
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Regent’s Bar & Kitchen
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Regent’s Park

Our next stop was the Rose Garden within the park and it did not disappoint! This area was beautiful and had quirky names for all the types of roses….ice cream was my favourite….

Like I said we came to London in a heatwave, so it was ideal weather just to lie amongst the roses for a couple of hours!

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Rose Garden ft SandCloud Wanderlust Towel

If you love the look of my towel use my personal code CatrionaKe15 for 15% off all orders at the checkout! A percentage of all Sandcloud’s profits go into saving marine life by supporting conservation charities. #savethefishes

After enjoying the rays at Regent’s park we headed towards the crowds in Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. Piccadilly Circus reminded me of what I imagined a mini Times Square to be like….hectic, touristy and full of large screens!

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Piccadilly Circus 

We didn’t spend much time in Piccadilly before moving onto Chinatown! This is such a cool area of London, especially the decorated gateways. If we were’t so full from the pizza we would have grabbed something from one of the takeouts, everything smelled AMAZING! 

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Chinatown

After walking through Leicester Square we went to a quirky courtyard area that Sophia knew about called Neal’s Yard. I would have quite happily stayed all evening discovering the independent eateries and bars in this little garden space. Not far from Covent Garden and just off Monmouth Street you will find this secret little alleyway full of colourful buildings and places that you wouldn’t want to miss!

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Nearby Neal’s Yard we found a pretty little bar called Boki

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We found seats at the botanic-styled cocktail bar and chatted to the bartenders as they created our recommended concoctions….

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We spent the night partying at a rooftop club called Queen of Hoxton, which was in the up-incoming Shoreditch area of London.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my second day in London, stay updated for my final instalment!

Weekend in London – Day 1

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” (Samuel Johnson, 1777)

As you may of noticed from my Instagrams you will have seen that I spent my weekend in London. I’m sorry for the spam pics but London is soooo INSTAWORTHY, especially Covent Garden! I had been to London once before when I was younger so I had done the major attractions but not the “real London”. It was amazing this time to explore the city with my best friend because she could show me hidden gems, as she has lived in London previously.

Somehow all my salary ends up in EasyJet’s pocket…..this time it was to fly from Edinburgh to London Luton. I knew that all the airports were outside London centre anyway so it didn’t really matter which one I flew to and Luton was the best price. I started off my day with a croissant and chia latte from Cafe Nero (pre-flight ritual) and was in London before I knew it (1 hour flight). From the airport I had already pre-booked my bus transfer to get me towards my Airbnb in Canning Town through EasyBus. The bus was £10 per journey and took my to Baker Street station (40 minutes) where I could get a direct tube to Canning Town.

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By reading this you may think I was clued up on London transport prior to my arrival…that would be incorrect. I had already asked for transport advice from my lovely Airbnb hosts and they were more than happy to help! That is one of the aspects of Airbnb that I love most, the hosts local knowledge. This is my 5th Airbnb I have stayed in so far and I have been blown away by the friendliness of each one of the hosts! For my trip to London I booked myself into Amir and Helena’s home which was only 20 minutes from the centre and had everything I needed. Fresh towels were laid out upon arrival and I was able to have a flexible check in as there was a key safe – very convenient when arriving early!

Click here for £25 off your first stay! 

After unpacking I headed to the Temple area to start my Hidden London Tour with Fun London Tours. Danielle the tour guide was excellent, especially when she sang  the Oranges and Lemons nursery rhyme at St Clements Danes Church! I thought this tour was particularly cool because it showed you areas of the city that the average tourist wouldn’t pay attention to.

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Gringotts Bank in Harry Potter
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St Bride’s Church – Inspiration for the tiered wedding cake!
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Printing Press Mural – Magpie Alley

After walking around the Temple area I walked 15 minutes to Covent Garden to soak up the atmosphere with a cocktail in hand…

 

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Royal Blush at Tuttons

To be honest, London is NEVER EVER going to be cheap but it really wasn’t anymore expensive than Edinburgh. Obviously it depends where you go, but a cocktail in the centre of Covent Gardens ranged from £8-£13 which is pretty standard.

 

Covent Gardens is such a beautiful area in the Summer. It’s buzzing with street performers and dressed with gorgeous flower displays. I went a little Insta-mad here but it would just be rude not to make use of all the perfect picture opportunities….?!

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By late afternoon I thought it was time to visit all the touristy places that I knew Sophia wouldn’t want to spend time seeing! I walked along the Hungerford Bridge enjoying the London Skyline featuring the London Eye and Big Ben.  After taking a few different wannabe photographer angles of the London Eye I ventured over to take in the view across the River Thames.

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Hungerford Bridge
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London Eye
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View from the Hungerford Bridge

After spending some time chilling in my Airbnb (recovering from my 22,000 step day) Sophia and I took the tube to Canary Warf. Unlike the rest of London that is continuously hectic we headed to the business hub for a more relaxing evening. As Canary Warf is the home of glittery office skyscrapers it’s a lot more chilled after office hours end!

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It was just after 10pm and the Crossrail Place Roof Garden  caught our eye. Unfortunately the garden closed at 10pm and they were just locking up…after a little persuasion we were allowed in to explore by ourselves!

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Crossrail Place Roof Garden At Night

After our private garden experience we headed towards the Giant Robot, which is a rooftop bar filled with lots of cool street food stalls. I would definitely encourage you to check out out this cool place! Rooftop, DJ and burritos….what’s not to like?!

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I hope you have enjoyed reading about my first day in London…stay tuned for day 2!

 

 

 

HOW TO EAT AND DRINK YOUR WAY AROUND EDINBURGH

In this post I will let you in on my favourite spots to eat and drink in Edinburgh! I know I’ve written a post about my beautiful capital before…however this one is based on only my OWN recommendations!  Besides…my last post was a mix of sights to see, walks, bars and restaurants…now I am focusing on the priority. 

My Top 3 Restaurants

1. Howies

This restaurant is perfect for any occasion! I would say that the restaurant on Waterloo place is a more unusual building and better for larger groups, but the restaurant on Victoria Street is ideal for a more romantic atmosphere.

The menu here is excellent, it is extremely varied and it’s based on seasonal and local produce! If you haven’t already booked a table here this might make you confirm a booking….there is a lunch menu that will serve 2 courses for £11.95 and 3 for only £14.95….

I do like to change it up every time I go….but some things are just too good to change! Order the Cullin Skink Soup and the Hot Fudge Sundae for dessert…I’ll let you pick your main course…maybe.

2. Angels Share

I LOVE this restaurant! It is situated at the West End of Princes St on the ground floor of The Angels Share 4* Hotel. The decor is so glamorous I could definitely get some interior design tips walking through these doors  (hinting at the 5 chandeliers and mirrored walls)…..  30176418_1832686253418492_1375613239_o

It serves heartier than expected but still beautifully presented dishes with a Scottish twist.  I have only been here once (on St Valentine’s Day) but I still have dreams about the Red Velvet Cake…..Untitled design (2).jpg

 

3. Pizzeria 1926

Naples or Edinburgh?!

Step into your pizza eating dreams and immerse yourself in the BEST PIZZERIA IN EDINBURGH for a truly authentic experience! I am lucky enough to live with 3 Italian’s who insisted I check this place out….they know what a GOOD pizza should taste like!

This small restaurant is always packed so make sure you book a table! I would say this is the best pizza I’ve eaten outside of Italy and it’s so cheap!!!

*Top Fact* The name of the restaurant emerged from the love for the Naples Football team that was established in 1926 that the family support. 

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Top 3 Bars

1. 99 Hanover Street 

This is my favourite bar in Edinburgh! It is a great place for girls night or date night with the comfy seating, cool music and chilled atmosphere. I have been into this bar a fair few times and it has never been too busy to not get served quickly. The quick service definitely adds bonus points seeing as time standing around the bar (usually in heels) is not my ideal night!

Order the Elder-flower Edinburgh Gin! 

2. Badger & Co

This is a cosy bar located on Castle Street (just above Princes Street). There are so many reasons to visit this place! The Wind in the Willows decor runs through this bar and also appears in the cocktail menu adding to the whimsical experience.

In the Summer they usually open The Outdoor River Area (downstairs section) which is decked  out floor to ceiling, matching the theme of the whole bar! This area is covered enough that you wouldn’t get wet if it rained (happens once or twice in Scotland) but is still open if you want to catch a glimpse of the stars. If it’s not a warm Summer evening don’t worry you can still enjoy the outdoor area next to a flame heater!

In the Winter months the drink pictured below is a must try!

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Signature Whisky Hot Chocolate

3. Hoot The Redeemer

This bar is insane! It is owned by a company called Panda and Sons that are known to have the most unique bars dotted around the city. Even the entrance is unusual, it’s hidden behind an old looking door tucked away, next to Costa on Hanover Street.

As soon as you find the door and walk down the stairs it becomes a bar like no other…greeting you with “Hoot The Redeemer” himself. The bar is decorated to reflect a 1950’s New Orleans style carnival complete with an alcoholic ice cream machine (seriously thinking about buying one for the flat..)

In addition you can pick your cocktail flavours from the infamous claw machine so you can live out your childhood memories of wasting all your parents money. Only joking it will be your friends money….also if you don’t manage to grab anything just grab a bartender (they have a knack)…

THIS BAR GETS EXTREMELY BUSY SO GO EARLY ON WEEKENDS OR VISIT ON WEEKDAYS!

Top 3 Cafes

1. Procaffeination

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This cafe is a gem! It is situated just on the corner of the Royal Mile and is perfect for a healthy lunch stop. Take a seat in this tiny cafe and pick from a range of homemade organic foods and juices. The smoothies are my motivation for climbing up Arthur’s Seat!

2. Cafe Noir

This charming cafe is situated in a leafy area of Edinburgh, not far from Haymarket Station. It has so much on offer, the menu is crazy! Who knew there was such a thing as Pink Latte and Lavender and Vanilla Hot Chocolate but it’s definitely a thing here. This cafe is perfect for a chilled Sunday morning or if you want to bring your laptop and use the free wifi to study ( password = wedrinkitnoir).

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3. Hotel Chocolat

Hidden at the back of the Hotel Chocolat shop on Fredrick Street you will find a luxurious little cafe. Most people are not aware that this chocolatier actually has a cafe inside and they are totally missing out!

The menu highlights that they include a chocolate twist in everything they sell. All their products are made by various cocoa roasting techniques especially designed for the cafe. People pick the drink they would like such as a latte and decide if they would like it “adapted“. All the chocolatey additions are actually made from more cocoa and no syrups. This means less sugar = major win!

These are just a few of my favourite places in Edinburgh to indulge and enjoy! If I mentioned all the places I liked to eat/drink the blog post would turn into a novel so you are lucky I narrowed it down for you all….

I would love some recommendations for other cities to so feel free to leave them in the comments!!!