What I ate in Belgium

Moules Frites in Bruges Belgium

You might remember back when I went to Paris, I started a new post series on what I ate whilst I was there.  Half of the holiday is based on the food you eat anyway, right?  So it’s a series I’m going to continue for every trip abroad.

Soon after I arrived home from Paris, David and I set off on a road trip to Belgium!  Another country known for its dishes, more than you might realise.  But, I must warn you, my ‘what I ate in Belgium’ post might not be nearly as ‘cultural’ compared to the dishes I ate in Paris.  This country is believed to have invented ‘frites’, or chips to you and me, after all.

So forgive me and have a little read on things to eat in Belgium if you’re visiting soon…

A Burger from Ypres Burger

Ypres Burger

And now you must know what I meant by this post not being very cultural.  But we all go on those kind of holidays where we just eat a lot of junk and blob out.  (‘Blob out’ – I love that phrase.)  So here it is; I don’t live a perfect life or eat perfect food all the time and my god I love a good burger, I’m not ashamed to admit it.

So when I looked up the best cheap eats in Ypres on TripAdvisor Ypres Burger was number one.  Located in the central spot in town and after our early start, me and my boyfriend went for it.  A simple burger and chips meal is hard to get wrong anyway.  Ypres Burger could certainly give McDonalds a run for their money.  (Speaking of which, we didn’t see a McDonalds anywhere in Ypres!)

Cheese & cold meat nibbles in St. Arnoldus

Things to eat in Belgium

Before heading to Menin Gate for the Last Post, we slinked into one of the cosy bars that lined the street leading to the memorial.  There must have been over a dozen Belgian beers on tap in here – but not a drop to drink for me… I was driving.

Regrettably I did miss out on some Belgium beers and good beers they probably were too.  But to keep me going I was pleased to see a selection of nibbles on the menu.  We munched our way through some local cheese and cold sausage meat.  Although, for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the sauce (maybe a kind of mustard?) and that sprinkling over the cheese? That was David’s handy work…

Another burger from Paul’s Boutique

Paul's Boutique in Ypres interior

I can feel the judging already.  Don’t you judge me.  Paul’s Boutique was another cheap eat favourite, as voted for via TripAdvisor.  Not only that but it made me feel like a kid again.  (Thanks to its decor, similar to that of an indoor laser tag’s.)

We did manage to fit in some culture here though.  Despite it not being a Belgian dish, the Netherlands isn’t too far away and we dipped into some ‘Bitterballen’; deep-fried and crispy breaded balls with a meaty centre.  They weren’t too bad, but I know, still unhealthy.

Bitterballen from Paul's Boutique in Ypres

Moules Frites in Singe D’or

Moules Frites with Belgian beer

Bruges is a cosy city, especially in winter. The weather can be bitterly cold, but it offers two ways to warm up; sightseeing around the city, walking rather briskly, or nipping into one of the snug little restaurants to warm your belly and soul with Belgian beer and Moules Frites!  (Translation: mussels and chips.)

This was my third time in Bruges but my first time eating one of Belgium’s most famous dishes in the land of which it came.  The Belgians are brilliant aren’t they?  Mussels and chips. Simple yet so satisfying.  (We were sat next to a roaring fire too and felt especially cosy.)

Although I didn’t check TripAdvisor this time and to my horror discovered this restaurant’s 2 and a half star rating half way through my meal.  I was shocked for a second, then just carried on chomping on my mussels.

A Belgian Waffle, from anywhere

Belgium waffle and other things to eat in Belgium

I thought it would be quite apt to end the post on a Belgian waffle, should this post even exist without the mention of a Belgian waffle? Again I paid no attention to TripAdvisor this day (to my detriment or not) and we just swooped up a Belgian waffle from the nearest takeaway cafe.

We sat and munched over the bridge from the Beguinage, next to Horse Head Drinking Fountain whilst horse and carriages trotted by.  Which made me think, I’m glad I didn’t check TripAdvisor, because sometimes you just need to buy whatever food from whichever lovely setting you’ve wandered within.

We plonked down here for a few minutes, rested our tired feet before finally heading back to the car to head home.  You were good to us and our bellies, Belgium.  (We’ll be back.)

Have you ever been to Belgium?  Tell me your favourite meal you had there, don’t let me miss out on the good stuff!

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Discovering WW1 History in Ypres

Ypres_Grote_Markt

When most people think of Belgium they probably think of Bruges, chocolate and Belgian beer.  Their first thoughts might not wander to the town of Ypres, a location steeped in First World War history.

Just before Christmas, David and I set off on a Belgium road trip where our first stop was Ypres. We were there to discover sites in and around the town that was unforgettably caught in the whirlwind of World War 1.

Ypres might not seem like a location, or a history, that fits my blog’s theme/aesthetic.  The First World War is often referred to as a ‘senseless’ war, but one we shouldn’t forget and Ypres certainly has a presence to that. This is why I’ve decided to tell you about our time there and what to do in Ypres.

What to do in Ypres

What to do in Ypres

In Flanders Fields Museum Ypres

I won’t pretend I knew all the battle sites around Ypres, known as the ‘Salient’, before arriving. However, I did expect that I’d feel humbled from what we saw and learned.

Arriving in town this had already began.  It was hard to believe we were looking at buildings that were completely rebuilt back to their medieval design (as they looked convincingly older!).  I found the Ypres Cloth Hall to be the most striking piece of architecture in this area, which shockingly was too reduced to rubble.

Impressively it was reconstructed to its prewar condition, which gazing up at its sheer size you can believe why this took a few decades to complete and why its one of the best sights in town.

1.  In Flanders Fields Museum

Ypres Cloths Hall now houses In Flanders Fields Museum.  We could have spent hours in here, with its high and varied volume of interactive exhibitions and artefacts.  Many of which are activated by a microchip embedded ‘poppy’ bracelet given on arrival, (that can also be kept as a souvenir).

View from bell tower of Ypres Cloth Hall

We chipped in an extra 2 Euros to climb the 231 steps up to the belfry, which provides the best views of the town’s medieval architecture and layout.  The exhibition exits through the Tourist Information Centre, where we lingered to find walking and cycling routes of the surrounding area.  (Our plan was to cycle the ‘Peace Trail’ the next day.  Alas, weather or time wasn’t on our side…)

2. Menin Gate

One of the most touching memorials is found at Menin Gate, inscribed within its walls are 54,896 soldiers names who were killed in the war, yet whose graves are unknown.  If that hasn’t hit home enough, as a tribute from the people of Ypres, every night at 8pm the road that passes through the memorial is closed and buglers sound the ‘Last Post’.

A ceremony that has been carried out, uninterrupted, since 1928 (bar a few exceptions).  Despite us visiting at the end of November when the town was quiet, we found it was bustling under the memorial’s arches before the ceremony began.  Silence soon fell among the crowd though when the buglers were about to begin, with thoughts turning to the men who lost their lives.

Menin Gate at night in Ypres, Belgium

Inside view of Menin Gate, Ypres

Inescapably, you walk away with a weight of poignancy, especially knowing this ceremony vows to occur for eternity.  As we sat in a nearby bar beforehand, a local man told us every November 11th sees the service not just fill the memorial, but crowds pour out onto the street covering the city.

3. Tyne Cot Cemetery

Lying just outside of the town in the quiet countryside is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world.  Walking to the entrance of Tyne Cot Cemetery‘s Visitor Centre we began to hear names spoken from various speakers dotted along the pathway.  Later we would discover these names, 34,887 of them, were those who were reported missing.

Whilst Tyne Cot can be a very mournful place, with white aligned gravestones forming row after row, the stillness of the surrounding landscape creates a peaceful resting place for the fallen.

Tyne Cot Cemetery in autumn

Battle of Passchendaele Museum in Autumn

4. Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

A short drive from Tyne Cot is the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.  Passchendaele was a horrific battle towards the end of the First World War where half a million men were killed for just 8km gain of ground.

Housed in a beautiful chateau, the museum explores not just the battle at Passchendaele but the old weapons and uniforms of soldiers.  Realistic dugouts and trenches can be experienced too.

5. Hill 60 / Caterpillar Crater

Much is to be learnt about the war through museum exhibitions and seeing how many lives were lost in the many graveyards scattered around the area and beyond.  However, seeing battle sites that are still weathering the carnage of the past really instilled a lasting impression for me.

Hill 60 had been fiercely fought over in the war and although the trenches were filled, the land remains scarred.  Close to this lies Caterpillar Crater, which for me was one of the area’s most sobering sights.  Despite grass and nature growing over it, the huge hollow of land where the mine was detonated has to be seen to be believed.

Hill 60 former battleground in Ypres Belgium

Caterpillar Crater Ypres Belgium

6. Talbot House

Another short drive away from Ypres is the sleepy town of Poperinge, which became a place of refuge for soldiers.  Away from the trenches and shelling, a townhouse was founded where troops could recuperate and feel a little more at home (and looked like it too!).  There’s a cafe on the bottom floor, where you’re welcomed with a hot drink (no charge, but donations are suggested) and a makeshift altar that was created in the attic room.

Talbot House unexpectedly interested me the most and felt like a place stuck in time.  Particularly when I read a few soldier’s letters that were sent home describing this as a place of peace.  It has a huge emotional draw, yet tranquility too which is inescapable.

Talbot House Poperinge

Altar in the attic room of Talbot House

Watch where else we explored in Belgium:

Have you ever been to Belgium?  Where did you discover and what did you like about it so much?  Tell me about your experiences in the comments section below!

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What I ate in Paris

Things to eat in Paris

On top of my How I spent 5 days in Paris post, I thought I’d write a separate one on the hearty meals in cosy cafés I discovered when I was there.  A sort of ‘what to eat in Paris’, if you will and we know the French are well-known for being passionate about food, so why not write a food diary?

The French are known for many culinary delights, such as; beef bourguignon, the best fromages as well as idyllic baguettes from dreamy boulangeries.  Even the best desserts and naughty snacks herald from here – hello macarons!

So here’s a few things to eat in Paris that I particularly enjoyed.  (Don’t read if you’re hungry.)

Ravioli at Le Rouge Limé

Ravioli in Le Rouge Lime, Paris

Our AirBnb was conveniently close to metro stop Charonne.  And, as it turned out, close to some TripAdvisor tipped restaurants too.  Scanning the website for places to eat around us Le Rouge Limé was particularly loved and had received many good reviews.

So after arriving in Paris and eating a mediocre meal earlier in the day, we settled in amongst its cosy bar/restaurant setting, ordered a bottle of wine and its Ravioli (vegetarian) dish.  (Perhaps not the first dish you think of when looking for the best things to eat in Paris.)  But, the wine and food went down wonderfully and I actually regret not eating here again during my trip.  (So if you’re in this area, pop in for a meal.)

Croque monsieur at Café Le Nazir

What to eat in Paris Croque Monsieur

When you’ve been to Paris before as I have, then you’ll know that you’ll be doing a lot of walking.  So after getting up early, climbing to the top of the Sacré-Cœur and wandering around a bustling Montmartre; my tummy began to rumble.

We stopped off at a corner cafe (Le Nazir), which looked quintessentially French (dark red decor, with aloof waiters) and I knew before looking at the menu that I’d be asking for a croque monsieur.  I always have a croque monsieur when I’m in France, which isn’t the healthiest snack (it’s basically a fried boiled ham and cheese sandwich), so I reserve it for when I’m at my most hungriest!

Side note: there’s also a croque madame, which is the same but topped with a fried egg.

Macarons from anywhere

What to eat in Paris (macarons)

Before heading to Jardin du Luxembourg we picked up some macarons from somewhere in Montmartre.  I’m sure there’ll be some Paris experts that’ll tell you to go to prestigious macaron makers, but I’m really not that fussy when it comes to this meringue-based treat!

So apologies I can’t remember the exact name and place where I bought these macarons.  But I can tell you I went for the following flavours: strawberry, pistachio and champagne.  Délicieux!

Axoa of veal fried potatoes at Le Petit Baïona

Meat at Le Petit Baïona

Another restaurant close to our accommodation, although this time recommended by our Airbnb host, was Le Petit Baïona.  I was quite intrigued, given that it served traditional Basque dishes, a part of France that may seem world’s away from Paris in the deep south.

Although embarassingly this is where my memory escapes me.  I’m sure this was a tender pork meat, served with sautéed potatoes, but I can’t find this in the online menu.  So I’ve labelled this the closest meal to it, (I really should start keeping travel notes…).

Different regions of France are known for different culinary expertise, so although this was a bit meat heavy I was glad to try a different taste from the country.

Tarte Fine de Saison at Publicis Drugstore

Tarte Fine de Saison

It’s so easy to get pulled into French bakeries from just window shopping. This tarte fine de saison is a prime example.  I’d only nipped through Publicis Drugstore to get to an ATM, but these caught my eye.  I picked one up on my way back and munched on it in the queue to the Arc de Triomphe.

Its pastry crumbled away as only French pastry does. But sadly for me there was too many onions in the middle.  Other than that, I have no regrets – always buy something that takes your fancy, you’ll never know you might try your next favourite thing!

Have you tried any culinary delights when visiting Paris?  Let me know in the comments below because I don’t want to miss out on the good stuff!

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Edinburgh (Day 3) / Travel Diary

National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh

This was sadly our last full day in Edinburgh (Edinburgh Day 1 + Day 2 here).  So there were just a few things me and David wanted to see before we were due to leave.

Day 2 in Edinburgh

We still needed to visit The Royal Yacht Britannia as part of our Royal Ticket we’d bought with the Tour Bus company, so we headed here first.

The yacht is yet another royal connection and visitor attraction in Edinburgh and of course belonged to the Queen.  It is, however, no longer in service and is permanently berthed (not docked, as I first typed and needed to google ) at Leith, in Edinburgh.

The bus ride here, which is a little out of town, took roughly 30 minutes.  It was actually a nice route to see some of the lovely houses outside of the city centre in the suburban areas of Edinburgh.

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh

A free audio tour was provided, which had no real set tour route, so we could wander, begin and finish the tour wherever we liked.

I thought it was also nice that taking photos/videos was encouraged, so of course I managed to get some snaps for my blog and vlog!  I found the yacht quite astounding to see, for example some areas of this ship were really luxurious, which of course it needs to be if the Queen’s going to be travelling on it.  I also didn’t know about the many famous visitors who boarded the ship over the years too, like Bill Clinton, Princess Diana etc.

But then there were areas that left me surprised, such as the Queen’s bedroom.  This room had only a single bed – a single bed!  Forgive me for expecting the Titanic sort of proportions of size and grandeur, but this shocked me the most.  Surely she’d at least get a double bed to sleep in?  Anyway, she still had more room than most, if not all, the officer’s on board, I suppose.

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh

It was all very distinctly British, which was interesting to me being British myself, because I felt it was quite ‘homely’, rather than overtly royal.  Surprisingly enough, that’s apparently just what the Queen wanted it to feel like too.

Anyway, there was a cafe on board with a sweet shop.  So after snacking on some fudge me and David headed back into town.

Mary King’s Close

I was really excited about Mary King’s Close, as we read about it in our rather miniature Edinburgh guide book!  This is a series of streets, or ‘closes’, underneath the streets of today’s Edinburgh.

The streets are underground because the government back in the 17th century wanted to build The Royal Exchange in the city, but there was no room.  So they practically built it on top of the slums instead!  Nice…

Unfortunately no photography was allowed in here, which is a shame because a part of the street and one of its houses were still in tact.  Me and David were put within a group that was guided around by an actress.  She told us all about the gruesome living conditions of the time and history of the close, really bringing it to life.  Our tour guide was called Mel, who was fantastic!

The National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland in Edinbrugh

We finished Mary King’s Close a little earlier than expected and walked over to the Museum of Childhood that we had heard so much about since being in Edinburgh.  This sounded like a great museum, but we didn’t realise it was closed on Tuesday’s – just our luck!

So, me and David still felt like we were in a museum-y sort of mood, if there is such a thing and ambled over to the National Museum of Scotland, not too far away.

This was quite an unexpected delight, as there were many rooms and interactive exhibitions from world culture, science, technology to culture and Scottish history – all of which were in one beautiful building!

The National Museum of Scotland in Edinbrugh

Goodbye Scotland

Feeling fairly knackered, me and David ate a delicious curry at a restaurant called Slumdog near our hotel and headed back for an early night.

And no!  I didn’t miss out on a whisky this day, me and David actually had a whisky cocktail in our hotel bar.  It was called a Hot Toddy and included whisky and lemon juice, topped up with hot water.  It was quite yummy and something I thought would clear up a nasty cold (if I had one)!  Even David liked it, so that’s saying something.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my Edinburgh travel diary series!  Please share your experiences in Edinburgh if you’ve been in the comments section below, or ask any questions if you’re yet to visit!

Don’t forget I have made a vlog of our trip to Edinburgh, which you can watch here.

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Edinburgh (Day 2) / Travel Diary

Edinburgh Castle

With yesterday (Edinburgh Day 1) mostly spent moping around near our hotel in Edinburgh at a snails pace, today was all about taking much more in, with more gusto!

Day 2 in Edinburgh

Edinburgh blog post & travel diary

We headed straight to the centre, where we’d seen a bus stop for tour buses.  Luckily, David’s parents had been to Edinburgh recently and mentioned a great deal.

We bought the Royal Ticket, which gave us fast track entry to Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Yacht Britannia and Palace of Holyroodhouse – all of which that were on our itinerary!  (And gave us a saving of 20%.)

But, you could also travel around Edinburgh on any of the 3 tour bus routes unlimited, for 48 hours.  (Yes, I know tour buses can be a bit cringe, but they certainly get you round a new city quite easily!)

This ticket was £51 from the tour bus vendors or can be bought online.  We thought this was worth it and so our first stop was Holyroodhouse

Holyroodhouse / Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace Edinburgh

Holyroodhouse, or Holyrood Palace, is an official residence of the Queen – she actually lives here for part of the year!

No surprises then that photography wasn’t allowed.  Still, this was quite educational (if you don’t mind royalty) as past British monarchs, like Mary Queen of Scots, once called this home too.

Tours are compulsory through complimentary audio headsets.  Holyroodhouse is located within Holyrood Park – where Arthur’s Seat can also be found.

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur's Seat Edinburgh

We headed to Holyroodhouse at the start of the day because we planned to climb Arthur’s Seat straight after.  Arthur’s Seat is a hill that rises above Edinburgh and gives stunning panoramic views. (Some call it a mountain, but I didn’t think it was that serious of a climb.)  At around 250m tall we were expecting a steep incline nonetheless!

Luckily it was a mild day and the path to the top of Arthur’s Seat wasn’t too muddy.  Saying this, it still wasn’t easy and I’d suggest taking some sensible walking shoes if you’re planning on doing this!  We were both equally panting when we got to the top, which took us roughly 45 minutes.  We spotted an easier route when we did get to the top, but we still felt quite accomplished.

There were a lot of other tourists doing this, so I would suggest if you want complete peace (and better pictures) to climb it at sunrise.

This was actually my favourite part of Edinburgh for the views and unique rock faces.  It’s this reason why I now also want to see more of the Scottish countryside.  Arthur’s Seat is definitely something not to be missed.

Arthur's Seat Edinburgh Scotland

Me and David climbing Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

Panoramic Views from Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

The Royal Mile

After a quicker climb down, it was walkable from here to The Royal Mile and then to Edinburgh Castle.

I wanted to share some pictures particularly of this part of the city, which was so picturesque.

These streets of the city were lined with independent bars, restaurants and shops. making a better selection than Princes Street for eating.  We grabbed some light pub grub after our climb (a sharing platter including haggis!) and headed onto the castle.

The Church of Scotland in Edinburgh

The Royal Mile Old Town Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle near The Royal Mile

Edinburgh Castle

We were both really looking forward to visiting the castle.  Once inside there’s quite a few different rooms and parts to look round.  There are audio tours here too, but at a price that we didn’t feel was necessary as there’s plenty of plaques and other information to read.

There’s a few exhibitions here too, like The National War Museum and The Stone of Destiny, so there’s a lot of history to take in.  My favourite room was The Great Hall, mostly because it looked very Winterfell/Games of Thrones.  (And I can’t wait for Season 7 !)

And of course, views looking down to the city from here are great too.

Edinburgh Castle Entrance

View from Edinburgh Castle

After the castle, we walked to the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue – a statue of a dog that supposedly waited by his owner’s grave for fourteen years.  (Fourteen years!)  The grave is found near here too.

Then, as I hadn’t had my whiskey of the day yet, me and David tried to find a whisky bar I’d seen whilst scrolling on Pinterest.  But as we soon found out, this wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

Firstly, because of the layout of the blog post (the link behind the pin), we ended up at Bannerman’s Bar.  Being a cavernous rock bar, it didn’t look like the ‘period interior’ of The Voodoo Rooms, the bar I’d accidentally mixed it up with.

So after dusting off one whisky here I dragged David over to where The Voodoo Rooms was meant to be.  However, we couldn’t see The Voodoo Rooms and thought Cafe Royal looked good enough so we stopped to have a whisky here instead.

Cafe Royal Edinburgh

Emma Rose Blog in Edinburgh

I had a Highlands Park and David, a known whisky-hater (if only to me!) felt he should have one too (being in Scotland and in a nice bar), so went for Dalmore.

After a few sips, he declared he still hates whisky and thinks it’s ‘disgusting’, and so I ended up drinking the rest of his.  This was before having the ‘brilliant’ idea to go on The Star Flyer, at the Christmas market.

The Star Flyer

The Star Flyer Edinburgh

Yes, after 3 whisky’s (for me anyway) we thought it was a fitting time to go on the Star Flyer in the fairground of Edinburgh’s Christmas market.

Yes we knew it was high, but it wasn’t until we got onto the ride and started to be lifted up way above the crowds and streets of Edinburgh that we knew just how high it was.

Genuinely more scary than it looks and maybe a little dizzying. Not to mention David telling me whilst we were on it; “I can’t help but imagine how scary it would be if one of these seats detached.”  Yep, thanks David .

Me and David on the Star Flyer

Anyway, after this somewhat exhilarating experience me and David picked up some Mulled Wine, had something to eat and headed back to the hotel.

 Day 3:

The next day was our last full day in Edinburgh, so we’d planned to go to The Royal Yacht Britannia and Mary King’s Close.  Read my my final blog post on our visit to Edinburgh here or watch my Edinburgh vlog now on my YouTube channel.

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