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It’s Sunday morning and I bet a few of you are thinking about brunch right about now? London offers you all the brunch spots under the sun, my home county Surrey doesn’t do too badly but I’m happiest when I’m in Brighton. They just seem to nail my favourite meal of the day every single time. It must be a combination of the vegetarian culture, the acceptance to serve brunch right into the afternoon and the commitment to quirkiness. All I know is if you’re visiting, make sure you make time for it and start the day right. Here are my top two spots to get your eggs benedict/avo on toast/bacon sarnie fix, and they’re at the opposite end of the scales…

Silo, Brighton: 

When to go: when you fancy a laid back brunch with a friend/boyfriend, perhaps with a Sunday paper or two.

I mentioned this in my Sunny Summary because I went last weekend for the third time. Silo is just fab. And it’s committed to a zero waste policy so you feel like you’re doing the world some good while you’re there too. You walk in and immediately get the industrial vibe. They mill their own flour for their bread, have a compost machine and ferment bread. Everything is silver, upcycled and simply designed. The atmosphere is buzzy and chilled, just what you want for a Sunday morning. I elected for a cappuccino served in the cutest little clay cup and then the veggie breakfast. It was so different to what is usually offered – the homemade baked beans being my favourite, they were so tangy. I wasn’t that keen on the seaweed but it was easily taken off and everything else from the homemade bread to the mushrooms was just scrumptious. Give it a go.

The Breakfast Club:

When to go: when you need to feel energized or your hungover and with a group of people with varying tastes.

Okay so not unique to Brighton, but one opened in the city just last year and I often like to drop in. It serves breakfast right through the day which is ideal if you’ve had a big night out ending up on the beach the night before. It’s pretty much the opposite of Silo, much more commercial, bright and childlike. But it’s got a great buzz, a brunch to share with friends. I always order a mug of Builder’s tea and then vary between pancakes and an eggy breakfast. There are so many good veggie options and the menu is surprisingly inventive. The staff in the Brighton restaurant are also my fave, quirky and lovely. But be warned, you may have to queue.

Split

This post is a long time in the making, I actually went to Split last October but was on a bit of a blogging break back then and never got round to writing this up. My trip to Split was part of a 10 day adventure across Croatia – taking in Hvar and Dubrovnik too. I have posts about both of those to come! But the whole trip completely left me falling in love with Croatia and although I usually tell myself I should always try somewhere new for my next holiday – I really want to go back. We spent only two nights in Split but I would say it’s the perfect place to begin your Croatian tour – its more of a city than a beachy place so you can tire yourself out squeezing in lots and lots knowing you’ve got the relaxing bit to come. 

Where we stayed…

I know I always rave about Airbnb (believe it or not I only stayed in my first one last year), but honestly this place is worth shouting about. We decided to start off our holiday in a little apartment knowing it would be more of a base in Split and then splashed out on hotels for the remainder of the trip where we thought we might want pools and spas and breakfast! But we struck gold with this particular Airbnb. It was only small, just a bedroom and a little kitchen but it was a short walk from both the port (meaning we didn’t have to lug cases far or fork out on a taxi) and from the town. The owners were so lovely and gave us tons of recommendations and they made checking in and out super easy too. I would say this was my best airbnb experience yet.

What we ate…

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Cheese and wine

I think we ate better here than we did on the rest of the trip (definitely better than in Dubrovnik but that’s for another post…) We stumbled across Bepa! for the first night and huddled under blankets in a beautiful square. I had a great veggie burger. Other food highlights have to include the most amazing mojito ice cream I’ve ever tasted from Luka (I would say even better than Italian ice cream!) It’s a little tricky to find but persist because you will be rewarded. I also can’t recommend enough getting cheese and wine from Paradox. The waiters seriously know their stuff and Croatian cheese with jams and bread was the stuff of dreams. 

What we did…

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We really crammed it in from the moment we arrived. On the first evening we climbed the Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius – we did get scared about half way up but the views were just beautiful especially during the sunset. After dinner we sat on the steps in the square below with a drink listening to the live music. The atmosphere was amazing and we ended up doing this the next night too because we loved it so much. Kids danced to classics like John Lennon’s Imagine, the crowd joined in with every chorus. It was honestly magical and one of my fondest memories of the trip – and you didn’t even have to buy a drink to sit on some of the steps so it’s free too. 

The next morning we woke up bright and early – attempted to make breakfast ourselves and burnt it! But after that slight disaster, we explored the Diocletian’s Palace in the sunshine. It was great for my history buff boyfriend but I have to admit that I did get a little bored by the 15th Roman stone room! In the afternoon we hired bikes and rode round the whole of the Park Šuma Marjan. At first we had planned to cycle to the top of the hill (the views are supposedly beautiful) but after seeing how steep they are we decided to go round instead. Nowhere really makes it clear how long it will take so at times we thought it might never end but the cycle is definitely manageable and takes about an hour and a half. We stopped a few times on the way to lie on beaches (though they weren’t brilliant) and explore the forests. 

Then the evening was spent drinking wine and cheese, eating pizza and returning to the square. We had a bright and early start the next morning to head to Hvar so that ended the trip to Split. But I really loved starting the holiday here, it was jam packed but peaceful at the same time and we really felt we got a proper feel of the city in only two days. Definitely visit if you get the chance.

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I’ve never visited Germany before and what better time to tick Deutschland off my list than at Christmas. Did you know it was the Germans who invented the Christmas tree and Prince Albert was the one to bring it over to England? They also invented those wonderful Christmas markets that have now flooded English cities, so I couldn’t wait to get into the festive spirit in the home of the festivities. 

Where we stayed…

It was my third experience with Air BnB this year and once again I wasn’t disappointed. We got to the main street in Baden Baden and found we were at the flat! It was right above one of the shops so we were truly in the heart of the action. And the flat was beautiful too, the bathroom in particular!  I would so recommend Air BnB, it’s so much cheaper than a hotel and it’s true that you do feel more like a local in the city you’re visiting.

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What we ate…

We ate at possibly the most Christmassy restaurant I have ever seen in my life, it looked like Christmas had thrown up all over it and I loved it. There was more lights than your eyes could absorb and even fake snow! The food wasn’t brilliant to be honest, but then I didn’t massively expect Germany to be great for Vegetarians. I did however drink the best Gluhwein (mulled wine) ever and I drank way too much of it too!

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What we did…

When we arrived on Saturday, we headed straight down to the Christmas markets. It was the best Christmas market I’ve been to, full of stalls with souvenirs, Christmas decorations (of which I took a few too many home), and amazing food. We ate a giant doughnut type thing filled with nutella, it was delicious.

Sunday was our main day in Baden Baden, so we started early and packed it full. After a wander around the cute town – and after discovering most things are closed on a Sunday – we had breakfast and headed into the Black Forest. Hearing it was voted one of the most beautiful forests in the world, we boarded the Merkur Funicular Railway into the trees. It was rather foggy so we missed out on the spectacular views but it did feel quite mystical and magical not being able to see the hand in front of your face. We even climbed the lonely viewing tower at the top to see very little and freaked ourselves out hearing noises as we climbed back down. After a walk back to the town through the trees, it was time for another trip to the market to buy some more souvenirs and then onto the spa. The spa was a definite highlight. There are two – Caracalla Therme and Friedrichsbad. They’re both rated amazingly but the second is nudist! So we went for the first and for €14 we got two hours there. There were two warm outdoor pools, jacuzzis, whirlpools, steam rooms, everything you could wish for and I felt truly relaxed when I came out. I’ll definitely remember sitting in that outdoor jacuzzi looking over the town filled with Christmas trees.

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We headed home on Sunday but I wish we’d had a little longer. Baden Baden is the perfect place for a wintery Christmas break and really got me in the festive spirit.

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I love London at Christmas time. Most of the year London feels like the place I work in only. It’s the crowds and the fast pace and the queues. I’m either too impatient or my little legs can’t keep up! But at Christmas the smiles come out and everyone is a bit more jolly – you even find people apologising when they bash into you on the Underground stairs. That’s got to be a Christmas miracle. Having dedicated the last few festive seasons to exploring a lot of what London has to offer, here are my recommendations.

1.Go ice skating

Over the years I’ve tried Hampton Court, Somerset House, the Natural History Museum and Winter Wonderland. I couldn’t pick a favourite, with the fairy lights, cold air, giant Christmas trees and mulled wine for afterwards, they can’t fail to put you in a good mood and into the Christmas spirit. This year I want to give Canary Wharf’s a try. 

2. Go shopping in the big department stores

I never visit the giant department stores in the year and then Christmas swings around and I can’t get enough. Okay, so I can’t actually afford to buy anything in them but I always go to Liberty’s, Harrods and Selfridges just to see their Christmas lights and displays. And sometimes I even buy myself a chocolate bar! 

3. Christmas Markets

Although I must confess I don’t think you can beat my uni city Birmingham’s Christmas market, but maybe that’s just because it’s the first one I went to. London has a million and they’re all unique but so cute. I would in particular recommend the South Bank’s because it’s so alive and there’s just so much amazing food. And of course the King of Christmas markets, Winter Wonderland. If you catch it when it’s not too busy it’s the best Christmassy night out with friends. Random thought: Are Christmas markets a new thing? I don’t remember them being around when I was little. 

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4. Visit a pop-up 

Every Christmas amazing festive pop ups appear all over London and I think they’re perfect for a Christmas meal or night out with friends. I love Forest on the Roof on top of Selfridges, it looks like an Alpine Forest. Also try the Lodge in Clapham which is designed like a Swiss Ski Lodge and has cheese fondue. And I’m desperate to try Coppa Club Igloos by the Tower of London. Giant PVC igloos with an incredible view and sheepskin blankets, what more could you want?

What are your favourite things to do in London at Christmas? 

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It’s becoming a little tradition for me and my little sister – every year for the past three we’ve gone to our local pick your own farm and chosen our own pumpkins for Halloween. The one closest to us is called Garson’s Farm, and i’ve been going there since i was quite little. There are all sorts of things you can pick, apples, plums, spinach, squash, broccoli, corn, strawberries, and many more. It’s just round the corner from a little village which surrounds a pond and green space. Me and my best friend used to talk about owning cottages next-door to each other there when we grew up, feeding the ducks together with our kids and making soup from our purchases from the pick your own farm. It’s funny to remember what seemed like a perfect life when you were a child.

But anyway back to pumpkin picking. We drove round the little fields, stopping at what takes our fancy. We were quite focussed this time, going straight for the pumpkins. But then we must have spent at least an hour in the pumpkin field trying to spot the most perfect, round, cute little pumpkin that my sister had in mind. I began to feel quite sad for all those rejected pumpkins still lying in the mud.

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But once we’d picked our favourites we took them back to the car and went to explore the corn field. We love that field the most because the corn plants grow up high and it’s like a little maze. After much mucking around – we got some dirty looks because we decided to have a race through the corn! – we got back in the car and made our final stop at the raspberry field. When it gets towards the middle of autumn and so much of the fruit has been picked you have to go right to the end of the field to find some juicy plump raspberries. We did just that and filled an entire pun net that I can’t wait to stir into my porridge this week – it’s the little things that make the weekdays so much better.

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After paying up we were thinking about heading to the cafe for a hot chocolate but it was closed so we came home via the shop to pick up some squirty cream and marshmallows to make our own! I love our little pumpkin picking tradition, now it’s just time to carve and save the inside for some pumpkin soup. Do you have any Halloween traditions?