Our haggis, highland, magic-filled road trip around Scotland


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Aware that I've become one of those annoying 'travellers' who share every feast and sunny view whilst my chums are slaving away at work, I won't go on too long about my AWESOME TRIP TO SCOTLAND!

The best thing is that you can be sure to tick a good few things off 'the bucket list' by doing this road trip. From eating fresh oysters by the sea, to staying in a cosy bothy with a log fire - (at the risk of sounding cheesy...) there's an experience to be had at every corner.

On our 10 day trip we stayed at the following spots,

  1. Yorkshire Dales
    Stopping at Janet's Foss and the mountain that was inspiration for Helm's Deep from Lord of the Rings, finishing our day at a classic Yorkshire pub.
  2. Edinburgh
    Given a handy guide by our airbnb hosts we worked our way tirelessly through the best spots. Making sure we visited the Greyfriars dog (Lola!), huge museum, castle and...Mary's Milk bar (you know it must be good when there's a queue outside the door). 
  3. Caledonian Canel (at the bottom of Loch Ness)
    Staying at a Canopy & Stars modern bothy, this spot served a huge seafood platter on the nearby Eagle Barge. With log fire and beaut decor, the bothy was one of the cosiest spots I'd laid my head.
  4. Strathpeffer (above Inverness)
    A sleepy little place with a steal of an airbnb chalet, stunning views and lots of open countryside and forest to walk at leisure.
  5. Plockton (by Isle of Skye)
    This was the perfect pit stop to visit Isle of Skye, where we visited the Talisker Whiskey Distillery, The Oyster Shed and the stunning Fairy pools (more on that later). Plockton itself had pubs brimming with atmosphere and Scottish bands, and was home to a great Fish & chip shop.
  6. Inveraray (Argyll & Bute)
    A sleepy spot but we needed a bit of luxury so this airbnb hotel room was perfect. Bathroom bigger than my house and a big Scottish breakfast in the morning. On our journey here we visited 'The Silver Sands of Morar' which is a white sand beach in Scotland (I couldn't believe it either). The Isle of Skye ferry made this journey a lot quicker too.
  7. Gourock (west of Glasgow)
    Not a huge amount around here, but we stayed in a castle with a good view of the sea! On the journey down we drove across Loch Lomond, with a memorable stop at the restaurant Venachar Lochside
  8. The Lake District
    We travelled across The Lake District, stopping at Osprey Point to see...an Osprey. Then bumbling around Ambleside before heading to our lovely airbnb room at the back of a farmhouse. 

The Isle of Skye day was my favourite, mostly because my man popped the question at the Fairy Pools :-) Which means that not only do I have a fairy-inspired sparkler on my finger but also something to take my mind off the post holiday blues. Be prepared for (maybe just a few) wedding blogs detailing my planning turmoil...

 

 

Red doors and typographic prints galore


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I've gone a bit print mad, I think it's because I've filled the house with everything else all that's left are the walls. From song sheets from Antique shops to John Lewis for cheap abstract prints (Simon C Page - Moonlight on the bedside table). Another purchase includes an Anthony Burrill print, big, typographic and mint green - which now sits at the bottom of the stairs. Wes has only slightly ruined it for me by saying it reminds him of the Justin Bieber song.

Recent jollies include a trip to Berkeley, where this is little else but a castle (which was actually closed). But we did have a nice nose around, staring at the stunning old houses and their beautifully coloured doors. I had outside-house envy.  

From Cheltenham breakfast bites to top wine spots


I've lived in Cheltenham for nearly three years now, and yet I'm still discovering places to devour breakfast and find the perfect wine (more on both of these...). This is mostly down to the fact that Cheltenham is so good at opening new bars and restaurants for the foodies to get excited about.

Somewhere I've been most excited about is Baker & Graze, partly down to seeing my chum sampling their menu every Saturday via Instagram. After one failed attempt (too busy) and another nearly failed attempt (had to sit in the window seats for a bit), Wes and I got to try their avocado and poached eggs on home-baked sourdough bread. Followed by a sourdough doughnut that the chef bought out last minute (*hands in the air emoji*). I'm also pairing my breakfast with Frankie magazine to take it to the next level.

Other new/not-so-new places include The Clarence Social where I had a ladies lunch with Nic. We felt like treating ourselves (it was a Monday) so had cocktails served in BIG glasses with lots of flora/fruit/herbs and ice followed by King Prawn lunch to soak it up. 

For dessert - I've been on the search for the perfect brownie, The Coffee Dispensary do beautiful salted caramel brownies, and Bill's do the perfect warm brownie dessert (also with Nic, on the same day we had lunch at the Clarence social....read: fatties).

From breakfast to something a little stronger - The Grape Escape is a hidden gem. Living just down the road is also a bonus, especially as they're fast becoming the latest dog-friendly spot for locals.

 

 

A wedding inspired by copper and geometric highlights


Copper, rose gold and geometric shapes are some of the style setters I can't get enough of, so I was pretty chuffed when a bride and groom asked me to design an invite using these as inspiration. I had a colour palette of pastel pinks and navy blues to work with, which made it easy to work a day and evening version in. A personalised 'emblem' sat nicely on the stickers used to seal the envelope too. 

As the invite is at an early stage of the planning - I love having the opportunity to see photos of the day and how it ties in with the early invites. Looking at some of their photos (taken by Oobaloos Photography) they did a grand job of putting it all together. From glitter dusted cakes to copper lanterns, the wedding looked beautifully on trend. To read about their day in full and see more pictures of the wedding, head over to the Whimsical Wedding blog.

This invite is now available to order on the website, should you wish to have your own copper infused, art deco inspired wedding day.

Starting the New Year with fish & chips and cushions


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We started the New Year the best way we know how - with fish, chips and champagne. From the best chippy in Cheltenham (and the UK...), Simpsons Fish & Chips. I like the fact they do battered king prawns (my fave) served with a side of lemon. 

Whilst all my recent posts have been about home decor updates, that is my life now. The life of a renter who can do little else but buy funky cushions to make home feel like 'home'. In particular, more leaf print (THE visual trend of 2017!). I've also got back into the world of eBay - with the discovery of some urban outfitters-inspired cushions for our dining chairs (yes, more cushions), a retro (albeit broken) clock and an aztec rug. 

Another home decor update was for the bathroom - which we've given a lick of paint ('Pebble' or 'light lavender' as it actually turned out to be) and some wire basket shelves found in Sainsbury's.

As if these purchases weren't enough, I also took a visit to the Antiques centre in Cirencester - nothing short of a labyrinth with it's hidden rooms and tiny corridors. There I found a useless mug and song sheet print, which I'm yet to find a frame for. 

Here's hoping your 2017 is also full of beautiful (sometimes useless) things.

 

 

Vintage Christmas cards & home decor twinkle


This year's Christmas card design was a thinker, I needed to create something that worked alongside our designbytic branding but also, The Ink Closet. A touch of vintage never hurts at Christmas - and so, I found a cute Dachshund/lady picture and a Santa. I illustrated a Cheltenham-inspired stamp which put my 'stamp' on it, and worked in a designbytic pattern on the inside. Gift tags were also made to tie this in with the pressies.

My Christmas groove on, I went a bit crazy with home decor. Being our first Christmas in this home it felt like the perfect opportunity to find some new bits, Homesense was the perfect spot for this. The tree was covered in mostly 'white paper' decorations with a hint of red (no tinsel allowed). I also found a cute paper sign from Homesense, which I think is a Meri Meri goodie. When it's not falling down, it looks great. 

Merry Christmas

Winter breakfasts, red red wine & a trip to the Wilson.


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As soon as I felt the first cold gust of wind on opening the door, I knew I wouldn't be leaving the house much this winter. Apart from special occasions like a birthday or a pre-arranged visit somewhere within a 2 mile radius. Or to eat.

After making this realisation, I also discovered how much I love red wine and listening to UB40 on the turntable ('there's a rat in me kitchen...'). The man has also upped his game with mackerel breakfasts and home-made 'tomato sauce' (I might bottle it up to sell). I've also been trying to read more books and scour less pointless websites... 'The woman who went to bed for a year' by Sue Townsend (inspiration for my new lifestyle) and 'Love' by Angela Carter are recent reads.

If you live in Cheltenham and are thinking of going a small distance, take a look at 'The Last Word in Art?' at the Wilson Gallery. With artists like Tracey Emin, David Hockney and the opportunity to create your own work of art - it's one not to miss. 

Retro-inspired decor updates ready for winter


Working my way into winter means finding more home updates (as I shall rarely be leaving the house now), and being a renter means I like to invest in home decor items that I can take with me.

One of my new obsessions is the retro-inspired Orla Kiely, so I went for a discounted 70's pattern bedspread. It actually goes pretty well with our graphic diamond-dot cushions from H&M, and our bedside table penguin book (!).

After a recent stay at a lovely Airbnb in Brighton I felt inspired by the decor and bought another retro item - a 'menu' peg board for the kitchen, found cheaply on very.co.uk. More wall hanging pieces include some Instagram prints from lalalab - framed and hung up along the stair case.

Tea-drinking day jollies local and afar


After a few jollies away I've been staying in my home 'tan. There is actually lots to do in Cheltenham and the shire, including drinking tea and carbooting. No really... some of the tea drinking took place at the Scandinavian Coffee Pod (I don't drink coffee). After walking past it's new location at the Edge Studios each day and Instagram-ing their funky bright yellow 'stick out' building I learnt there was cake. They've done a good job with the limited space, making it a cosy spot to have a cuppa.

I also got taken on a surprise visit by the man to the Well Walk Tea Rooms, where I sampled their bake-off inspired jaffa cake, macaroons and home-made sandwiches. Lots of food between two, ok three of us (dogs were welcome). They seemed pretty busy, so recommend booking in advance.

A mini jolly was needed so we went to Upton upon Severn. A village that feels like it's stuck in time with it's old shop signage, retro fire stations and 50's garages. It did lack decent places to eat on a bank holiday but hey ho. Talking of retro, we also visited the posh carboot in Birdlip where I picked up a vintage gem of a handbag. Black leather with detailed gold edging, mini purse inside and haggled down price. The perfect accessory for weddings/cocktail/more tea drinking...

An Airbnb stay in Brighton with eats and treats


Considering the tales of quirky shops, pretty seaside and great places to eat - I still had not been to Brighton. And after some Airbnb searching my chums and I realised it was probably the perfect place to visit. 

Ah I love Airbnb finds - I'm fast becoming a lover of the homely accommodation and feeling 'part of the community' as apposed to a standard hotel. We found a stunning 3 bedroom house, just over twenty minutes walk away from the pier - the decor was beautiful and we arrived to find a hamper of wine and jam (only two of my favourite things). 

We explored the North Laines on Day 1, and loved it. It seemed like the eccentric, reasonably priced shops had escaped over-priced rents and being booted out in favour of the high street usuals. This area was also filled with cool sandwich and breakfast cafes, with people way cooler than me sat outside with their dachshunds and vintage gear. We were pretty hungry so stopped at 'Bread & Milk', a clean classic sandwich shop with Halloumi flatbreads and homemade cakes. We also grabbed a Glazed doughnut from another spot to go with a cuppa at home.

After some browsing we then headed towards the seafront to see the new 'Viewing Point'. We didn't venture up, though I'm sure the view would be pretty good on a nice day. The modern glass makeover of this part of the seafront didn't sit quite right though. The nicest bits being the picturesque wooden architecture which were slowly disappearing. Hopefully this isn't a sign of what's to come in the next few years, people don't want to go to a town to see the same shops, the same decor, the same people. We go somewhere different for exactly that.

Enough ranting. Food! Of which there was plenty. VIP Pizza was recommended to us by a friend. 'Pizza, how exciting can it be!'. Very is the answer. Before we managed to get a seat at this popular spot we had a few crazy cocktails at The Plotting Parlour round the corner - seated in vintage theatre seats we 'plotted' our food choices then headed to the cute little Italian restaurant where people were sat tightly together but didn't care because the atmosphere was brilliant. Italian foods hung from the walls and were crammed into shelves. And the pizza...! Huge folded dough sides and loads of toppings. 

The next day we recovered from fuzzy heads with a walk through The Pavilion, again another must see and breakfast at 'The Breakfast Club'. Good grub, sort of worth the wait if you can be bothered and aren't feeling too fragile.

Overall a great weekend, take a peek at my Instagram to see more.

A glamping gypsy adventure - with waterfalls & fire pits


I always knew I was a true gypsy at heart, the fact I've moved home about 5 times in 2 years was a good hint. Saying that, I didn't realise how much I'd love the lifestyle until I stayed in a real gypsy/circus caravan at Walcot Hall, Shropshire. 

We booked the stay through canopyandstars - where I pondered over yurts, real tree-houses and vintage sheds. But Walcot Hall stood out for it's arboretum location and pet-friendly accommodation (it was Lola's holiday after all). On arrival we carried our bits through the forest, to find the 'Red Showman's Caravan'. It stood out as looking quaint and cosy - and didn't disappoint inside with a beautiful little kitchenette, vintage yellow furnishings and snug bedroom.

Before some BBQ and scrabble, we explored the arboretum to find other 'hidden gems'. From a firetruck to an american chapel - they all sat far enough apart so that we rarely bumped into anybody. Even the bathrooms had character, sat in sheds with vintage copper toilets and big showers.

After a cosy nights sleep (bar the owl screeching in the trees above us), we spent the whole of the next day exploring. After what felt like sleeping in a 'wendy house' and then walking round to find wooden bear statues, a hansel and gretal house and a walkway behind a waterfall - it was like being a young 'un again. Exploring also included finding the hidden boathouse (after getting the padlock code online, finding the key and eventually opening the next door to some vintage boats - that in itself felt like a treasure hunt). We (ok, just one us...) then paddled the mile length along the lake navigating the swans and herons. 

We finished off the day by toasting marshmallows on the fire. Yes twee. But the man loved it. And I loved drinking wine and watching him make fire. And eating marshmallows. 

Overall, one of the best weekends I've had in a long time, leaving me yearning another gypsy/glamping adventure very soon...

 

 

 

Meat, beer & cheesecake at Grillstock Festival


I was left feeling full and happy after being lucky enough to receive some tickets for Grillstock Festival. Burgers and music - what more could you ask for... 

The man and I travelled down on the train, and followed our nose to the harbour (literally - you could smell the BBQs cooking). As soon as we got there I was offered a free cheesecake. Win. It's like they knew I was a sweet-tooth at a meat festival. Turns out there were quite a few dessert stands - from Ice-cream to Krispy Kremes. 

The main stage kept us entertained with bands and chilli eating contests, as we tucked into our brisket and Budvar beer. A very good combo. And the sun was beaming, which was great as there was little cover for standard British weather.

From garden pancakes to posh #chelteats grill diners


It has been brought to my attention that I've eaten out a lot recently, I mean I knew this already but maybe I need to stop 'checking-in' so much and also...doing more cooking at home. Breakfast is one weekend meal that we usually do cook at home (albeit that's usually because we can't agree on where to go...), you also can't go wrong with pancakes. And as 'Project Garden' is underway, it also means we can make the most of our new garden seating - including some made.com inspired chevron furniture (found cheaper at homesense), garden lights and potted plants.

Another reason I keep venturing out for dinner is because so many new places keep opening up, including the new Firestation. My frequent dinner chum, Nicola, and I were quite excited about paying this place a visit (especially when we saw cocktails were a large feature of the dinner menu). The dinner was nice, and the cocktails were also pretty special - sat in a bar area decorated with hints of copper decor and a ladder to reach the 'higher' spirits. But the rather large price tag means I plan to keep this place for special occasions, or just the one cocktail.

Another grill place that is actually quite underrated is GridIron, I've been there recently for dinner and 'just drinks'. Staff are attentive and the food is indulgently good (American BBQ ribs, chicken burgers with avocado and smore dessert!) - with two cocktails for £12 I feel it's also a bit nicer on the wallet. 

To end this blog with something sweet...thanks to SoGlos for helping me discover Cheltenham's newest 'Freakshake' spot. Incase you've missed this Instagram trend - Freakshakes are over-the-top ice creams (quite literally) which look like they've come from Frankenstein's Sundae shop. Not quite there, but Blue Dogs Kitchen, are the Cheltenham-based creators. 

Enjoy these recommendations... and if you fancy a good eating out/eating in compromise try Siena Pizza on the Bath Road (Thursdays from 5-8pm) for some amazing stone baked Italian takeaway pizza. 

Our Aztec/Geo cushion filled home & 'The Theme'


Since moving in 6 months ago, I thought I'd be 'there' by now. Over the decorating and the cushion-buying, but unfortunately it's a Pinterest-fuelled obsession that won't quit. Constant ringings of 'the theme!' in my man's ear when he places down a mismatched item (racing helmet ornament, golf clubs, cap hanging on a guitar) don't go unnoticed.  

My main source for inspiration is made.com and Pinterest - but, being the daughter of a hardcore carbooter - I'm keen try to find cheaper alternatives. H&M is a gold mine for funky cushions and bedding, Dunelm's great for lighting and Ikea for some standard furniture pieces (e.g. the white lockers). That said, there are some items you can't scrimp on. We invested in a beautiful Edelweiss dining table and desk from made.com - along with a geek bear print, geo cushion and rose gold lamp. The table is covered in a 70's 'tablecloth' I got from a summer fete years ago.

One addition I wasn't thrilled with was our extra fridge which had to live in the study. 'It's ruining the theme!' I cried. One of my dad's less ridiculous ideas was to make a print for it. After much (much) research and discussion we decided on a vintage map of Cheltenham, which luckily we could measure and artwork ourselves. It reminded me of the Instagram map, and so I stuck some of our polaroid prints on to the locations.

Another new addition has been a Crosley Turntable, which was a gift until the discovery of the 'Purple Rain' vinyl and now it is a gift for me also. Luckilly the orange fits in perfectly against our wallpaper, and of course - into the theme. 

A wine-drinking, city-visiting Tuscan adventure


It's been a few weeks, and I'm (nearly) over my post-Italy holiday blues. Food - good. Wine - good. People - good. Scenery - good. What's not to love! Italy gets into your soul. 

We stayed in a beautiful farmhouse in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Castelvecchi sits high on a hilltop and is also home to one of the oldest cellars in Italy. We felt pretty chuffed that our room sat opposite a stunning view, with wine-drinking-seats included. Being a rather posh Rose drinker myself I wasn't too fussed with the red stuff (sacrilige), but after a few vineyard 'wine tastings' (read - 'free wine') I was converted. Tied in with some shop bought Italian ham/cheese/bread to eat on the veranda and I would happily have missed the flight back to England. 

To ensure we made the most of our stay we had a car to take daily jollies. We visited San Gimignano, Florence, Siena, Pisa and the lakes of Castiglione del Lago along with a variety of random villages in Chianti. Ever the teacher, my man taught me many things about the history of Italy. Whilst I taught him that I can buy a new outfit in a matter of minutes (the cathedral visiting no-skirt rule meant I had no choice) and that every day is Gelato day. View the rest of my pictures here.

In other news - The Ink Closet website is in the middle of a big upgrade. Some final tweaks then we'll make the big transition. Ciao for now!

A Cheltenham ladies-who-lunch day at Jamie's


This Friday I took the day off to have the perfect girly day - joined by my fellow aspiring lady-who-lunches chum. I had a nail voucher to use at Earls & Co, so we ventured there first for some nail care/champagne. The ladies who work there are super-friendly whilst also giving you the opportunity to chat amongst yourselves.

Just down the road from this is Jamie's Italian, situated in the former county court building (making your way to the 'dungeon-esque' toilets is interesting). We went there to try their new lunch menu for three courses at 12.95. Pretty reasonable anyway but the food there is so fresh/delicious/generous in size that this seems even better on the wallet. I started with a crispy squid starter, wrapped in 'newspaper' for an old-fashioned fish and chip feel. Bryony had pate on toast which was equally as tasty. For main I had steak and frites, with a parmesan topping. Bryony opted for a super salad and we both opted for desserts. Popcorn brownie, yes! Orange polenta cake! After some persuading from myself and the waitress Bryony opted for the latter and loved it. Top this off with some wine and we were stuffed. Two and a half hours later(!) we waddled out of there to do a (tiny) bit of shopping. 

All in all - a highly recommended way to spend a day off. I shall be venturing to Jamie's again soon,  if only for the two course option so less waddling is needed. 

Cheese Rolling & the Devil's Chimney - Sunday suggestions


Sunday has become 'dog walking day', as after a weekend of friviolities some exercise and Lola-dedication is usually needed. 

We've been exploring Cooper's Hill, home to the cheese-rollers, which was the perfect opportunity for a steep walk (us) and some mole-hill investigation (Lola). Another good spot is Leckhampton Hill, home to the Devil's Chimney and many cliff edges that make throwing a ball around difficult ('Don't do it Lola!'). 

Some home-made Mackerel salad (courtesy of the man) is a good energy booster for days like this. We're still in search of the perfect Cheltenham based breakfast (excluding our home-cooked feasts of course) - suggestions welcome.

Pinterest inspired purchases, Ikea ideas & Cheltenham chippies


Things have been pretty busy recently with the house move and Pinterest obsession (dangerous and useful when trying to decorate/buy furniture). Along with the discovery of made.com - this has encouraged the purchase of a few beautiful housewares including a dining table, matching desk and lamp. Keen not to spend my life savings in one hit though, I'm thankful for fellow bloggers (mydomaine) sharing their Ikea hack secrets. Who knew that a lick of gold paint or adding a block of wood could give furniture such an upgrade, see below some of her ideas...

Whilst we await the furniture (getting it straight from the manufacturers means there's a bit of a wait involved), we've spruced up our dining space with a vintage tablecloth (£1 spring fete buy), picture cluster and H&M cushions/placemats/candles. Other rooms are also decorated with H&M Home items (which I'll rave about to anyone who'll listen), they're bargain-friendly with pinterest inspired prints galore. If you're in need of some pinterest inspiration (mostly house related) take a look at some of my recent pins...

The move also created an opportunity for obligatory 'fish & chips with champagne' so we took a visit to Simpsons - my man can be hard to please (especially when he knows there are cheaper fish & chips down the road). But even he agreed 'These ARE the best fish and chips'. You can also order battered King Prawns, all wrapped up in their lovely new branded packaging. 

Another Ikea Hack

Our abode

Simpsons Fish & Chips

Branded Christmas, bar stops and decorative twinkle


It's that time of year again, when I get to design something festive and fun whilst watching Elf/Love Actually. For my Christmas cards I decided to use the Kraft card material my printer offers for inspiration - using big type, vintage deers and a homemade print that sat inside the cards and as the pattern for my wrapping paper (yes, this year I got over-excited and made matching wrapping paper too). It's been a busy few months but it's good to take time out to do something indulgently creative, I hope the recipients appreciate the festive-icon pattern before they rip through the paper to get to the goodies... (who can blame them really). 

Alongside this I've been doing the usual torturous journey through Cheltenham to get presents in bulk. We had a pit-stop at the new bar/restaurant, Aqua Vitae, which was needed. A drink was had in the beautifully decorated bar that sat around a small kitchen (for snack food only I think...), and we ordered a couple of said snacks. They were delicious, and better than expected for somewhere that had only just opened. Pizza slices, beef skewers...perfect, easy pick-me-up food.

I've also been keeping my apartment festively decorated (mostly with lights - no tree), and have loved my advent calendar gift. I'm actually more excited about this than daily chocolate (and that says a lot). 

Merry Christmas one and all...

Berlin eats, sleeps and musical treats


To bring in another birthday with a bang, we ventured to Berlin to see Alt-J in concert. They were good. Particularly as they were in a converted warehouse-arena, which was the perfect setting for their light effects and music.

Berlin itself was interesting, if you look past the grey and the graffiti there are pockets of coolness. Like Dude's Delikatessen on the way to the arena, amazing burgers with (huge) gherkins served in double quick time. They were also big on nicely-branded bottles of Vodka/Gin/Rum...

Whilst we're on food, we also had breakfast at Silo Coffee which was nice (coffee-infused maple bacon!?) but expensive in a town that was often very reasonably priced.

Our apartment was a first step into the world of Airbnb, the apartment was beautiful (see it in full here). And was a great price for a whole apartment that had dachsund prints on the walls and a bed that was 'like sleeping on a cloud'.

Being in Berlin, the obvious choice was to visit the big landmarks and the Berlin wall memorial, personal stories covered every aspect and it made for a worthwhile (few) hours (I eventually 'hit a wall'). Definetly recommend doing this if you visit Berlin as you understand a lot of what the city's about. It's also useful if your companion is a history buff and can give you the full low-down on the walk there.

Overall it was a good trip. But with people walking the streets drinking and the lack of beauty as you walk around, I'm not sure if I'd recommend this as the top place for couples. I'm glad I did it though...walls an' all...