Travel

San Francisco to Los Angeles: Roadtrip

San Francisco to Los Angeles is such a classic road trip; completely incredible scenery along the coast, the cutest seaside towns to explore and, of course, delicious food to eat.

The road trip: Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, LA

We flew into San Francisco on a Friday afternoon, and jumped straight in our hire car.

I’d spent a long time researching and trying to find out the best places to stop off on this trip. So our first was Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is a very cute seaside town, with an incredible boardwalk. We arrived at the beginning of October, so a bit out of season and on a Friday evening everything was very quiet and a lot of places weren’t open.

However, Saturday morning the boardwalk was teeming with families and people enjoying themselves on all the rides and arcade games.

After a bit of fun in the arcades we got back in the car and drove about an hour or so along the road to Monterey.

Monterey is possibly even cuter than Santa Cruz. It’s more of a fishing town, with hundreds of boats in the harbour. We did a whistle stop tour of the main Monterey sites: Fishermans Wharf, Cannery Row (of the Steinbeck novel), Pacific House and Custom House, and we even managed to see some sea lions sunning themselves.

We continued along Highway one for another half hour before turning off to drive through Carmel by the sea. Part of me wishes we had stopped off at Carmel instead, it’s idyllic Main Street is lined with shops down to a stunning beach.

After Carmel we carried on down the coast for another couple of hours, through Big Sur. The scenery is breathtaking along this way, big endless cliffs and miles of ocean before driving through the greenery of Big Sur.

Just after it got dark we arrived in San Luis Obispo for the night. Originally we had intended on driving all the way down to Santa Barbara that first night, but we definitely started off too late and there was too much to explore on the way.

San Luis Obispo seemed to be a fairly quiet town, a good stopping place for the night.

Sunday morning we got up, went for an amazing breakfast and headed off again.

It took us just over two hours to get to Santa Barbara, driving past Pismo Beach and then away from the coast through Lompoc. The landscape was very different for this part, lots of farm land, green and mountains.

Santa Barbara is definitely somewhere worth stopping. We parked up in the Funk Zone, just off of State Street. This area is full of bars, places to eat and some cool shops.

Along State Street you can find your way to the pier, and then up towards lots more shops and restaurants.

We spent a good couple of hours in Santa Barbara, though we thought we would just stop off for half an hour! From Santa Barbara to Los Angeles the route is fairly simple, we went along the 101 instead of the 1, they’re fairly similar but we wanted to save some time.

We eventually found our way to our AirBnB in Los Angeles’s arts district at about 8pm.

San Francisco to Los Angeles Road trip tips

  • Driving along Highway 1 is definitely the way to go, but it does go along some high, twisty cliffs and some narrow bridges. It’s completely safe, but a little nerve wracking if you’re not a fan of heights, plus you can’t really do it in a hurry.
  • Book places to stay in advance, especially if you’re travelling in the summer. Places will book up and get expensive.
  • That being said, you probably won’t drive as far as you think you would each day – don’t stretch yourself by booking a motel further away.
  • Also, there are some great stops, but it doesn’t really matter where you sleep – you’ll probably be pretty tired anyway and can just get up and drive to the next interesting place. I spent way too much time trying to figure out the best places to spend our nights, and we were really just there to crash for a few hours.
  • Most of the towns will have signposts for the landmarks/ sites you want to see right from the highway. It’s very easy to find them.
  • Also parking centrally was simple in all of these places – Santa Cruz you can park along the seafront on meters, and there’s a car park next to the harbour in Monterey. Just make sure you have some dollar coins (there was a change machine in Santa Cruz so we changed $20).
  • Big Sur looked like it would have been an amazing place to spend the night. There were lots of cabins and camp grounds. We didn’t realise as we’d mainly used Airbnb and booking.com etc to search for accommodation. At the very least, leave a couple of hours to get out and explore Big Sur.
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Food, Travel

No Sign Wine Bar and Casa Mexicana

Earlier this month I turned 28 and Tom planned out a surprise activity. Although I really hate surprises, it actually brought back all the excitement of waiting to find out what you’ve got for your birthday.

So, after an early start (7am, no birthday lie in!), all was revealed – surfing lessons in the Gower!

Surfing on the Gower

The lesson was at Llangenith beach, about an hour and half away from Cardiff. Llangenith is a beautiful wide bay with plenty of waves for the pro surfers and complete beginners to do their thing.

Surfing is something I’ve always wanted to try, but have been a bit apprehensive about actually doing it.

We did a three hour beginners lesson, in a group of nine, which included wetsuits, surfboards and lots of great instruction. Our instructor was great, he went through the basics of safety, the board, and how to stand up with enough information to put me at ease, but without a lot of standing around.

I discovered that surfing is very handwork; I have a lot of bruises, swallowed a lot of seawater and didn’t manage to stand up on the board. It’s definitely not my hidden talent, but I enjoyed myself and am eager to give it another go soon!

No Sign Wine Bar, Swansea

After peeling ourselves out of the wetsuits, drying off and getting back to the car, we headed to Swansea for some lunch.

I graduated from Swansea University in 2013, and except for a brief visit for a  Manic Street Preachers gig at Liberty Stadium, I haven’t been back since. We parked up at the bottom of Wind Street, and walked up to No Sign Wine Bar. It was almost surreal seeing the places that had completely changed, and some places (Revs, Walkabout!) that were exactly the same as they were.

No Sign Wine Bar is one of my favourite places in Swansea, it has a real cosy feel as you walk in, but it’s deceptively huge. I went for a mozzarella and tomato panini, while Tom had the biggest portion of fish and chips.

Casa Mexicana, Zetland Road

To wrap up the birthday celebrations, I’d organised a meal with a few close friends at Casa Mexicana on Zetland Road.

Casa Mexicana hands down do the best nachos I’ve had in Bristol. It’s a very generous heap of tortilla chips, with mixed cheese, refried beans, salsa, guacamole and sour cream piled up on top. The regular nachos are £5.50, and you can add jalapeños and chorizo or spicy beef for just 45p more.

Bristol’s best nachos - Casa Mexicana, Zetland Road

If you only order one thing at Casa Mexican, order the nachos (but also order everything else because it’s all incredible).

I then had the enchiladas (£12.95) – corn tortillas rolled up and stuffed with tender shredded beef (you can also choose chicken or vegetable), in a dark bitter nut molé sauce and served with rice and beans.

Enchiladas from Casa Mexicana on Zetland Road Bristol

All round, everyone enjoyed their food, and it’s a great relaxed and friendly place for a group meal.

Casa Mexicana, 29 – 31 Zetland Rd, Bristol BS6 7AH. 

Cardiff Bay, Cardiff
Food, Travel

Thali at Chai Street and Cardiff Bay

Last week, on an after work trip over to Cardiff, we decided to pop down to Cardiff Bay and soak up the last of the evening sun.

Cardiff Bay

I haven’t been down to Cardiff Bay in at least a couple of years, but it’s still just as buzzing as ever, with a lots of new exciting restaurants and bars around the waterfront.

Cardiff Bay, Cardif. Trousers: Zara, Tshirt: Monki
Tshirt – Monki, Cropped trousers – Zara, Sandals – Dr Martens.

Cardiff Bay, Cardiff

Chai Street, Cardiff Bay

This is my second visit to a branch of the Cardiff local gem, Chai Street Indian Street Kitchen. It’s a really laid back restaurant, with the best, bright and dazzling decor; ideal for just dropping in on a whim, or for a special meal.

Chai Street Indian Street Kitchen, Cardiff Bay

I went for the Traditional Chicken Thali (£11.95) – a spicy chicken curry, a potato curry, dal, raita, pickle, mini poppadums, rice and a naan bread. I love to try a bit of lots of different things, so thalis are ideal for that, plus the Chai Street thali is slightly different every time. Despite the heat, the chicken curry was definitely the highlight for me though.

Chicken Thali at Chai Street, Cardiff Bay

Tom, meanwhile, went all out and ordered the non-vegetarian Chai Special Thali (£13.25). This was a meal and a half, it included: a starter (baji), a chicken curry, a lamb curry, and some of the potato vegetable curry, as well as dal, raita, pickle, poppadums, rice and a naan bread.

Thali at Chai Street, Cardiff Bay

It was a really delicious thali (almost as good as Thali in Bristol), but I think next time I’m going to try out some of their ‘Street Delights’. The chicken lollypops (marinated with spices, ginger, garlic and then fried!), Prawn Chatpata and the samosas all sounded, smelled and looked incredible!

If you find yourself down at Cardiff Bay, hungry and fancy some authentic Indian street food, then definitely check out Chai Street. They also have restaurants in Canton and on the High Street in Cardiff – so there’s no excuse not to visit.

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018
Food, Travel

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018

This weekend was one of Bristol’s summer highlights, Bristol Harbour Festival. Friday through to Sunday saw in and around the harbour transformed into one, massive, free festival.

It’s one of my favourite weekends of the year; involving a LOT of walking, bumping into friends, eating some incredible food and enjoying a few local ciders in the sunshine. And, of course, encountering a variety of live music, circus acts and all kinds of performances on the different stages dotted around.

Saturday at Bristol Harbour Festival

On the Saturday we walked down the harbour, past the Arnolfini, across the bridge and along past M Shed. We had a quick stop off at Wild beer in Wapping Wharf and then met up with friends by SS Great Britain. From there we walked all the way around the harbour past The Pump House to the Grain Barge. We checked out the stage by the Grain Barge and then a little further along the Spoken Word stage.

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018

Eventually, we made it to Millennium Square and Lloyds Ampitheatre, before checking out the stage by Thekla. After listening to a bit of the music there, and having a delicious falafel wrap, we took a bit of time to sit on Prince Street Bridge and just enjoy the boats and the atmosphere.

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018

After a little visit to The Louisanna, we ended the night back at Lloyds Ampitheatre to watch Roni Size.

Sunday at Bristol Harbour Festival

The 19,000+ steps on Saturday just wasn’t enough to soak it all in – so we headed back down to the harbour on Sunday afternoon. We started off by checking out the food stalls around Queen Square.

Bristol Harbour Festival 2018

We then took a stroll down past the Cascade Steps stage and then back through Millennium Square. In the top part of the Lloyds Ampitheatre area, we stumbled across KOYKYO stall. We shared the Korean Fried Chicken and chips, and it was heavenly. 

 

After spending a little more time by the Thekla stage, we finished off the weekend with a quick drink in Small Bar.

 

Travel

A Cornish wedding

This weekend, I went down to Cornwall for a beautiful wedding – perfect, sunny weather, old friends, many many drinks, and a picturesque location made for a wonderful time.

Harlyn Bay

We travelled down Friday afternoon, and went straight to our B&B in Harlyn Bay near Padstow. We were staying in the Harlyn Inn; a pretty basic room above a pub, but literally just across the road from the beach.

Sadly we didn’t have much time to spend on the beach, but it’s the perfect little spot for sunbathers, dog walkers and surfers. We did find a little time to dip our toes and take in the view before dinner though.

Holiday in Padstow, Cornwall
Halter top from Primark, midi skirt from Zara, platform sandals from Dr Martens.

I picked this yellow floral midi skirt up in Zara’s sale this week. It’s a-line cut is so comfy and flattering, and I love the jazzy pattern, perfect for super sunny days like we’ve been having recently.

The View, St Merryn

For our dinner we walked about twenty minutes up the road to The View, St Merryn.

Dinner at The View, St Meryn

The restaurant is located in a holiday park, you go past a play area, up the steps and there’s a little inside area with a few tables and a covered outside seating area with the most stunning views across the fields to the sea.

The View, St Merryn
The View

I had the fish goujons, that came with a generous portion of fries and a delicious salad and balsamic dressing. Amy went for The View burger – beef, cheddar cheese and chutney.

The View is a lovely little, family run restaurant that’s definitely worth visiting.

Summer wedding in Trevone

The wedding was at the Well Parc Hotel, Trevone. The hotel has a perfect garden overlooking the beach and the seas, the ideal backdrop for an outdoor ceremony. And the weather was absolutely incredible.

Wedding venue, Well Parc Hotel, Trevone

After a buffet lunch, there were of course pasties and chips in the evening, with plenty of dancing, laughter and far too many photos – all round it was a wonderful venue for a lovely Cornish wedding.

Summer wedding guest dress
Mint green halter neck lace dress, Boohoo from ASOS

Summer wedding venue - Well Parc Hotel, Trevone

Amsterdam city travel blog
Food, Travel

Amsterdam in December

Amsterdam is a city I’ve wanted to go to for so long, and one thing or another’s always got in the way. So we ended up going in December on a very last min, spur of the moment trip.

We stayed in the ClinkNOORD hostel,  a quick (free) ferry ride across the water from Centraal station. It’s clean, funky and super convenient for a quick trip – our double private room was basic, but everything we needed as a base for exploring the city.

They also offer really great breakfasts, and have a pretty cool bar. We’ll definitely be staying at ClinkNOORD again for our next Amsterdam trip.

Amsterdam city travel blog

As for the rest of our trip, it was very very cold, icy and snowy – but there’s so much to do, see, explore around Amsterdam that it didn’t stop us at all.

Amsterdam travel blog

My favourite Amsterdam highlights include (and yes, they’re mostly food related):

Foodhallen

The Foodhallen is an indoor food market inside a renovated tram depot. With lofty ceilings, over 20 food stalls serving cuisines from all over and a really chilled out vibe, it was definitely worth trekking to the other side of the city for. We tried out some  bitterballen, beers, and gyozas.

Bitterballen at Foodhallen, Amsterdam

Foodhallen – Bellamyplein 51, 1053 AT Amsterdam

BeerTemple

Not exactly an authentic Amsterdam experience, however BeerTemple is an American beer bar with 35  draft beers and around another 200 in bottles and cans – they also do a great cheese board if you’re feeling peckish while sampling the beers.

Cheese board, BeerTemple, Amsterdam

BeerTemple – Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 250, 1012 RR Amsterdam

Kantjil & de Tijger

We had dinner at Kantjil & de Tiger based on a recommendation from one of Tom’s friends. It’s a wonderful Indonesian restaurant, and as soon as you walk in you’re hit by the most incredible smell.

Luckily we were able to get a table for two without booking ahead – but for larger groups it’s probably worth making a reservation.

I went for the Nasi Goreng Rames – spicy stir fried rice with rendang (curry), satay skewers, fried vegetable and an assortment of other delicious bits. Probably one of the best meals we had in Amsterdam, and for €17 was pretty good value.

eating out in Amsterdam

Kantjil & de Tijger – Spuistraat 291/293, 1012 VS Amsterdam

The Butcher

We can’t go anywhere without trying to find the best burgers, and The Butcher, Amsterdam did not disappoint. It’s a very casual, diner, eat in or takeaway place: ideal for a quick, amazing dinner.

The Butcher, Amsterdam

I kept it simple and had The Butcher with Cheese: Prime Aberdeen Angus beef, lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, gherkin, Dutch Edam cheese and The Butcher sauce. It was absolutely perfect, and they also do some incredibly indulgent milkshakes, if you feel like being a bit extra gluttonous.

The Butchers – Paleisstraat 14 1012 RB Amsterdam

Cafe Sonneveld

We did one of the free (pay what you want at the end) walking tours around Amsterdam. It’s a great way to find out some of the history of the city, see the sights, and discover some local hidden gems like Cafe Sonneveld. 

Cafe Sonneveld, Amsterdam

Our tour finished outside the Cafe Sonneveld, and the guide recommended it as a good place to try out traditional dutch food.

I had Stamppot with meatball, and Tom had it with sausage. It was a delicious, warm and filling meal – just right for the end of a pretty chilly December walking tour. If you want to sample local food in Amsterdam, then Cafe Sonneveld is definitely worth a visit!

Cafe Sonneveld – Egelantiersgracht 72-74 , 1015 RM Amsterdam

Amsterdam travel blog

Ljubljana Food guide
Food, Travel

Ljubljana

I’m excited to write about Ljubljana because I had no idea what to expect from the city and it was completely amazing. Despite being the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana has a small-town friendly feel, especially in the old part of the city.

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We found some great places to eat in Ljubljana, although I did struggle a little as there was a lot of venison, veal and lamb on the menu, which I don’t eat.

Eating fresh, homecooked food is a big part of Slovenian culture – they have a market every day in Ljubljana selling all kinds of produce and you can really tell that Slovenian’s pride themselves on the quality of their food.

Open Kitchen

If you’re planning a trip to Ljubljana then make sure you are there for a Friday. They have an incredible food market where restaurants from all over Slovenia come to the city and set up a stall. It’s the best place to eat amazing, and cheap, food in Ljublana – your dining choices are almost overwhelming.

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We went there for lunch after we had done the free Ljubljana tour, and then in the evening we walked around looking at restaurants and eventually ended up back at the food market having shrimp noodles and chicken from two different stands.

Hood Burger

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We had heard that Hood Burgers were the best burgers in Ljubljana – but they were based a little further out from the city than we want to walk. So when we stumbled across the Open Kitchen we were even more excited to discover there was a Hood Burger stall.

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For just 5 I had one of the most delicious burgers I have ever had – I went for a cheeseburger while Chris had one with bacon. If you don’t make it to their Open Kitchen stall on a Friday I would definitely recommend making the trip out to Yams Road 105, Ljubljana.

Klobasarna

IMG_9839On one of the main streets in the old town, look out for the giant sausage hanging in the air. Here you can sit outside in the street enjoying the sunshine and eat delicious, traditional Slovenian sausage.

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We both had half a sausage with mustard, horseradish and bread for just 3.50. Klobasarna is the ideal place for a quick lunch in Ljubljana.

Most

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The riverside in Ljubljana is lined with restaurants and bars, and it’s a beautiful setting for an evening meal. All of the restaurants had great menus and we had a hard time choosing where to eat. Eventually we decided on Most, which is just next to Butchers Bridge. They have plenty of tables outside where you can enjoy the buzzing atmosphere along the riverside, but if it’s cold they also have a huge inside seating area.

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We both had the Beef Broth with Noodles to start, as we had seen it on almost all the restaurants’ menus. When it arrived it looked watery, but the flavour was strong and delicious.

For the mains I had a really difficult time choosing between the Home-made Buckwheat Ravioli filled with porcini mushrooms and truffles in a leek and shrimp sauce, or the Spelt Spaghetti with Smoked Trout with champignons and semi-dried cherry tomatoes. I settled on the spaghetti (despite having sworn off pasta and pizza when we left Italy), and Chris went for the Tagliatelle Most  with chicken breast, green peppers, home-made basil pesto, plum tomatoes, and roasted pine nuts.

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The pictures don’t do them justice, but both dishes were delicious, and you could taste the freshness of the ingredients. The combination of trout and curry flavours with the pasta made it a completely different dish to the pasta that we over indulged in in Italy. If I ever make it back to Ljubljana, I will definitely be going back to Most to try the ravioli.

Take a look at Most’s menu here.

Cat Caffe

Not strictly somewhere to eat, but we loved Ljubljana’s cat cafe so much that we went twice in the two days we were in the city! It’s a little way out of the main area in the old town, but it’s worth the walk.

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The cat cafe is a great place to sit down and relax with a glass of local Slovenian wine, in the company of five lovely cats – perfect if you’re having feline withdrawal.

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Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • I can’t recommend enough the Free Map for Young Travellers for Ljubljana – pick up a copy as soon as you arrive! We had no guidebook and very few recommendations, so this map with useful tips and places to see, eat and drink was indespensable.
  • Do the Free Ljubljana Walking Tour – they run every day at 11am, starting in front of the pink church in Preseren Square and take about two and a half hours.
Food, Travel

Rome

I love nothing more than excessive amounts of pizza, loaded with cheese and delicious toppings..so a trip to Italy was heavenly.

Here’s some of the best places I found in Rome to eat on a budget:

Tomoko Tudini

Via Principe Amedeo 27, 00185 Roma

We left Bristol at 6am and by the time we arrived in Rome at midday we were absolutely ravenous. So we dropped our bags at the hostel and headed out in search of some hearty Italian food.

Walking down from Termini Station we stumbled across Tomoko Tudini on a little side street with tables outside.

The ‘tourist’ offer of margerita pizza or lasagna with a glass of wine and tiramisu for €8 might give you the impression that the food will be quick and cheap.


However, the lasagna was well presented and tasted delicious. The layers of pasta were soft and there was plenty of cheese – I was content! It was absolutely ideal for a relaxed, casual lunch at a great price.

Florians

Piazza dell’Independenza, 9, 00185, Roma

Again, we left finding somewhere for dinner until we were starving and tired. So we just wondered around the corner from our hostel and happened on Florians.

Sitting outside on the pavement the restaurant had a laid back, friendly atmosphere. We went straight in for the pizza, I had the Cappriciossa and Chris had the Pizza Paza (salami).

 

  

As our first experience of genuine Italian pizzas it was pretty good, the edges were crispy and the middles were laden with cheese and toppings (a generous amount of olives which is always a bonus!) The pizzas were around €8 each and a bottle of wine was €18.

All round a successful first day in Rome.

Travel

Falmouth, Cornwall

Falmouth is one of my absolute favourite places, a long stretch of beach (no waves for the surfers though), and a cute, winding high street filled with unique shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants:

Rick Stein’s

You can’t book a table at Rick Stein’s so you just have to turn up and keep your fingers crossed that the queue isn’t too big. We went with the intention of going elsewhere if the wait was long, however once we were inside, and we smelt the fish, we couldn’t resist.

After about 20 minutes and we were sat at a high table near the kitchen. The atmosphere is laid back and casual, but definitely a few steps up from your local chip shop at home.

We were all tempted in by the three courses for £20 menu. To start with I had the Amritsari Fish, which was fried sea bream in a chickpea batter, garlic and ginger sprinkled with chat masala. It was the perfect combination of flavours – the pieces of sea bream were quite spicy but you could still taste the flavour of the fish and it was served with a cool cucumber raita dip.

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For the main course we all went for the cod, after all Rick Stein’s is THE place for fish and chips in Falmouth. The batter was delicious and crispy, the chips were chunky but not too big, and even the mushy peas looked good.

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For pudding there was a choice between strawberries with pouring cream, Lemon Posset with mixed berry compote, or sticky toffee pudding.

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Rick Stein’s is definitely worth the wait, but the dishes are large so if you have a small appetite maybe just enjoy a main dish.

Discovery Quay

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in Falmouth, then Discovery Quay is a good place to start – you have your regulars Pizza Express and Zizzi’s but also three sister restaurants The Ranch, The Shed, and The Shack, all catering to slightly different tastes

The Shed

Half cocktail bar, half restaurant, The Shed’s menu is very simple but it captured our attention and I was keen to try the Shed Burger.

Cornish beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, a big slice of pickle, onion rings, and BBQ sauce served in a brioche bun with fries. Just as incredible as it sounds. The only, only let down was the tiny portion of BBQ sauce – I completely forgot there was supposed to be BBQ sauce until I tasted it in the last few mouthfuls. But, it was still very nearly perfect.

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The Shack

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You can order Oysters individually for £2 each.

I had the Sea Bass with sweet potato mash, green beans and capers. I can’t quite explain how good it was – the combination of flavours was spot on. image(13)

 

We also had some delicious lunches while in Falmouth, in between pasties, which are definitely worth mentioning:

Trelissick
Trelissick is a beautiful National Trust property that runs down to the River Fal; it’s a great place to stop off for lunch. Entrance to the gardens is £8.50 for non-member adults, but you can park for £4 (or free for members) and enjoy their lovely cafe as well as take a look at the art gallery. They have sandwiches, toasties, pasties and hot food options..

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I had a bacon, brie and cranberry toastie – a combination that’s hard to resist – and it was amazing.

Truro Arts Cafe

No trip to Falmouth is complete without a trip on the river –  the FalRiver Enterprise boats goes from Falmouth to Truro(stopping by St Mawes). The trip takes about an hour and a half – two hours, and it’s definitely worth it.

In Falmouth we sat outside the Truro Arts Cafe, next to the Royal Cornwall Museum and had smoked salmon and cheese sandwiches surrounded by lovely flowers.
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 Charlotte’s Tea House

Located upstairs in the Coinage Hall, Truro, Charlotte’s Tea House is a step back in time to the Victorian era, with traditional cream teas and a selection of homemade cakes. They are only open until 4.30pm though!

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Pasties!

Lastly, you can’t go to Cornwall without eating at least one pasty. Rowe’s bakery had some amazing combinations, including pork and Ratler cider, and steak and Doombar. My favourite was the extremely cute, and delicious, Pixie sized traditional pasty from Oggy Oggy.
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