The Travel Diaries: Brussels August 2016

So last week I headed off to Brussels for 3 days as part of the prize for my Undergraduate of the Year award! Brussels was somewhere that I had never visited before so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like. We also were travelling by Eurostar, again something that I had not done previously so I had no idea what to expect there either! I just wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone at ACCA (Association for Chartered & Certified Accountants) for organising this trip and making it as amazing as it was – especially Alicia (who I hope will be reading this!!).

It was an early start for me on the Tuesday morning as my train left Nottingham for London at 5:50 am. I wasn’t impressed!! However, I did get to see the sun rise, something that I don’t get to see very often so it made it more manageable! Once in London, I dashed through the station to catch my Eurostar to Brussels and thats where I met Alicia and Daniel. Alicia works for ACCA and coordinated the trip and Daniel is last years runner-up so he got to come along too. I was really really surprised as the Eurostar only took 2 hours to get from London to Brussels and did just feel like any other train but we were clearly going a lot faster!IMG_1650.JPG

Day one consisted of meeting members of staff from the ACCA office in Brussels and also hearing about the European parliament and how it effects the different businesses. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know all about Brexit so the trip really enlightened me as to the consequences of Britains exit from the European Union. After our lunch meeting and chats we headed off to check into our hotel which was the Thon Hotel set in the European Quarter. It was a great hotel that was lovely and modern and had the best buffet breakfast i’ve ever seen! You could even make your own Belgian waffles, which I did every single morning!20160831_100940.jpg

That evening, we headed off to Place Luxembourg for dinner and drinks with two lovely members of the ACCA Brussels office, Cecile and Vikte. This square is set just down from the EU parliament building so is a popular networking place for the professionals living and working in the city. Although I’m not a beer drinker, I was told I couldn’t leave Belgium without trying a Belgian beer! I opted for a Liefmans Fruitesse which was a light fruit beer so wasn’t too overpowering and was a good starter beer for beer haters!! It was very similar to fruit ciders like Rekorderlig or Kopperberg so it was really tasty! We stayed there for hours, soaking up the atmosphere and the sun and enjoying the food and drink until tiredness got the better of us all!

Day two started with a breakfast meeting back in the ACCA office and was swiftly followed by a trip to the European Commission office to find out more about how policies were set. I didn’t realise it can take years to make even a small change and that even then it might not be accepted! It was really interesting finding out more about what goes on behind the scenes as most of us only see what is directly in the public eye.20160831_111610.jpg After that we headed off to the European Parliament building which was perhaps one of my favourite things we did. The building is absolutely huge and has thousands of people from all over Europe working inside. We got to sit in one of the rooms where the meetings take place and I couldn’t get over how big it was! 20160831_130928.jpgThe main thing that struck me was how many translation booths there were inside that room. Obviously everything has to be translated into the many languages of the countries from the EU (I believe there are 24?!) so there are plenty of clever men and women working hard to ensure that happens! We also met a couple of lovely ladies who work for Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) and found out more about what they do day-to-day. 20160831_132437.jpgPolitics is not a career path that I am particularly interested in but hearing abut their jobs did paint it in a completely new light for me! They are so busy and permanently running from one place to the next that it sounded quite exhilarating! Sadly, Brexit has had a negative effect on some of these roles and sadly means that some MEP’s and their colleagues will no longer have a job.20160831_151118 As someone who was a strong supporter to stay in the EU it did make me quite sad that the majority of the country had voted against this fantastic union! IMG_1718.JPG

After our trip to the parliament we headed off to do some more touristy things! We paid a visit to the Magritte museum which was full of the amazing art from René Magritte who was a Belgian artist specialising in surrealism. Now I am not really a lover of art so I was not sure how I would find an art museum, but it was amazing! The surrealism element made the paintings so intriguing and there were clear patterns in the style of his paintings at various stages of his life. I set myself a bit of a challenge to try and come up with an interpretation of each painting but some of them were very ‘surreal’! After the museum we had a wander round the older streets of Brussels in search for the Manneken Pis (Weeing Man) statue. We eventually found it on one of the street corners and couldn’t believe how small it was! It was such a funny little statue but one of the main things you have to see when you go to the city! We spent the next half an hour wandering in and out of chocolate shops being handed samples from the staff. I could definitely have got used to that!! IMG_1674.JPG

Finally it was time for cocktails and Alicia had received a recommendation from Vikte that we should go to La Pharmacie Anglaise, which describes itself as a ‘cocktails and curiosity’ bar but specialises in gin – something that I am incredibly fond of!! The bar itself is incredible. It has all sorts of knick-knacks and jars full of crazy things lining them walls and even a staircase full of Hendricks Gin bottles!IMG_1662.JPG There’s also a fantastic balcony level that overlooks the bar too. We all had different cocktails with Alicia opting for a Tropical themed cocktail, Daniel a rose flavoured one and me a berry and sage concoction! They were some of the best cocktails i’ve ever tried and really set the scene for the rest of the evening! We headed off to dinner after that at the delicious Les Petits Oignons which was a delicious french restaurant! I had a amazing truffle pasta dish and we drank some of the best wine I have ever tasted! It was a lovely meal and we all headed back to the hotel very full! IMG_1666.JPG

For our final day, we had no set plans so we decided to try and see as much as we could on foot to make the most of our time in Brussels. We headed straight for the palace as this was something we all wanted to visit. It is actually free to enter so we spent a while wandering the grand hallways and marvelling at the tapestries! It’s definitely worth a visit if you have a spare hour in Brussels!20160901_115328.jpg We spent the next couple of hours wandering round the shops and taking in the atmosphere. We had a bite to eat and then decided that we wanted to find the other famous statue in Brussels, the Jeanneke Pis (Weeing Girl). There was clearly a bit of a theme going on with these statues! This was even funnier than the first one and was set in an even more obscure place – down a small side street opposite a restaurant!!IMG_1677.JPG Sadly, we were fast running out of time so we started to make our way back to the hotel to grab our bags. On the way we did manage to fit in one more sight which was the beautiful Notre Dame De La Chappelle which is a gorgeous church in the centre of Brussels. It was as beautiful inside as outside and made a great end to our trip!20160901_141235.jpg

All good things come to an end and it was time for us to head home on the Eurostar! I was so pleased I got to see such a beautiful city and I would love to see more of Belgium in the future. One thing that did really stand out for me was the fact that there were a lot more women than men doing these kind of jobs. It was incredible to see so many fantastic ladies in such powerful jobs and was something I found incredibly inspiring! Thank you again to ACCA for making the trip possible and to Alicia and Daniel who put up with me for three days! Bits of this post may be distributed by ACCA so don’t panic if you see it somewhere else! Have you been to Brussels before?

Much Love

xoxo

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The Travel Diaries: Venice September 2015

Words can’t express how sad I feel writing this post now that almost 4 months have passed since I was in the most beautiful and enchanting city I have visited so far. Writing this makes me want to jump on a plane tomorrow and enjoy the trip all over again, it really was some of the best days of my life. However, with Valentines Day approaching, I thought it was quite an apt time to fill you in on my time in this romantic city. Tom and I were fortunate enough to spend 4 nights in Venice and were both blown away by its beauty and charm. 11224032_10207923403033079_5640331581475703422_o.jpgIt also helped that we had absolutely gorgeous weather whilst we were there, around 26 degrees everyday which the locals said was pretty warm for late September! I thought I would share a few of my favourite things I discovered on my visit and naturally share lots and lots of pictures!

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Where To Stay:

If like Tom and I, you don’t have a colossal budget to spend on a hotel then you really do have to lower your expectations when it comes to accommodation in Venice. Everywhere is very expensive and quite traditional in its decor which makes it difficult for a young couple like us who like luxurious and contemporary accommodation. There’s no slumming it for the two of us FYI. I spent a lot of time panicking that we were never going to find anywhere suitable and we would have to sleep on a stray gondola, whereas Tom actually did some searching and found us a great little place to stay. We stayed in the district of Santa Croce which is walking distance to pretty much all the major attractions that you may want to see. We stayed in Venice Resorts, which is basically a collection of apartments that also provide a breakfast service and free wifi. Perfect! The rooms were spacious and homely and we found them just what we needed for the duration of our stay. We were treated to breakfast every morning just up the street at a tiny family-run cafe that overlooked one of the many canals. If time had stopped on one of those lazy mornings, I simply would not have cared. It was bliss!

What To See:

The Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge are definitely worth a visit when you are in Venice. The canal is pretty break-taking when you see all the boats heading up and down. It is incredibly relaxing to just stroll along the side, looking at all the restaurants and just watching the world go by. Unfortunately, the Rialto bridge was under renovation when we visited but it I believe it was the first bridge to cross the canal.

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Another key thing to visit is Saint Mark’s square! The atmosphere is unlike anything else with many people bustling around, high-end shops lining the perimeter and classical music playing in every restaurant. There is also the basilica and a large tower to take a trip up if you’re a fan of large panoramic views. One thing I would suggest is to not eat in St Mark’s square as it is absolutely extortionate! There is a ‘music charge’ per person just to sit down which could make simply grabbing a coffee very expensive! Overall, I didn’t find venice that expensive as long as you avoided the main tourist sections.

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One final thing that you may not have heard of is the Scala Contarini Del Bovolo which is a lovely ornate spiral staircase that is quite off the beaten track. It is a beautiful example of Venetian architecture and is a must see in my opinion. It would only take a few minutes to visit but it is pretty breath-taking!

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Overall, I would have to say that Venice is my favourite citIy to date. It has everything: fantastic food, friendly people, beautiful sights and incredible architecture. I don’t often go back to a city again once I’ve visited it as I feel like I want to see as much of the world as possible and revisit my favourites later on in life when things may have changed, however I would visit Venice again tomorrow in a heartbeat. It really captured my heart and the memories Tom and I have taken from those 4 days will last us a lifetime. I am incredibly lucky to have been able to visit it with the person I love and would recommend it to anyone! Next time I go I’d like to visit the islands such as Murano where they make the special glass. There are lots of shops selling the glass but I would have liked to have visited the factory shop to buy it first hand. Have you visited Venice? Let me know your favourite places!

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Much Love

xoxo

The Travel Diaries: Budapest July 2015

As summer is quickly drawing to a close, I thought it was about time that I wrote my very over due post about my trip to Budapest last month! I have been spurred on to do this as I have FINALLY booked my main summer holiday with tom, round of applause please! We are going to Venice for 4 days and then on to Crete for a further 6, I am literally so looking forward to it! So this bring me to another quick issue, I will need some blog posts to be scheduled for those 10 days, is there any posts you’d really like to see here or is there anyone that would like to do a guest blog post? If you have any idea leave them in the comments please and if you’d like to write a guest post, then please email contact.therosebeautyfiles@gmail.com. So, back to Budapest, I will split the post up into the 2 main days that we were there and will also pop a few links to restaurants and our hotel incase you are interested.

Thursday 16th July 2015 

We arrived in Budapest in the early evening, the flight wasn’t too long and we arrived a little early which is always good! If anyone is thinking of going to Budapest and is needing a transfer to your hotel then definitely check out Airportshuttle HU, they have a booth in arrivals so you don’t have to book it in advance. It is definitely the cheapest and most convenient option that we found and the service was very well organised and professional.

Our hotel was the Hilton Budapest in the Castle District which was absolutely perfect for our stay, it was a 5* hotel but we managed to get a really good deal so it was not 5* prices when we went! The Castle District is beautiful, you get amazing views over the whole of Pest and the Danube. There are lovely restaurants near by and loads of fantastic sights to see! What struck us was just how clean the entire district was, there was no rubbish anywhere and all the buildings and pavements looked like they were cleaned every day, not something you can say about many cities nowadays!

Friday 17th July 2015

Whilst we were staying in Budapest, they were having a heatwave, and when I say it was hot, I mean HOT! It was 38 degrees celsius every day we were there which made sightseeing quite uncomfortable! We decided to go out in 2 hour bursts and then come back to cool down and refresh before going out again. We managed to cram absolutely loads into one day and I think we saw pretty much everything we wanted to which is always a good sign!

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The first thing we saw was the Matthias church which was situated next door to our hotel conveniently, it is a beautiful church, even if you are not into religion, you cannot deny how amazing the building is. It has a fantastic mosaic roof that is really striking and sparkles when the sun shines!

From the Matthias church, we headed to the Fishermans Bastion which is right next to the church.IMG_0906 It provides some fantastic views over the city and the architecture is brilliant. There are a couple of places to grab and ice cream and cool off nearby but it is quite busy during the day with people wanting to take advantage of the amazing photo opportunities!

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Seeing as we were staying in the castle district, we obviously had to take a walk along to visit the castle! The castle and the palace are right next to each other so it’s great if you are short on time and want to cram in as much as possible. The palace has a ‘changing of the guards’ procedure and certain times throughout the day. This is something you should try and see if you get the chance as it is completely different to the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, as it’s quite a formal routine they have to go through and in that heat, I had a lot or respect for them standing there all day! The palace and the castle are both really amazing buildings and definitely worth a wander round the outside, it’s another great photo opportunity and a lovely bit of history.

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We couldn’t stay in Buda forever, so we decided to take a trip over the river to Pest. We decided to take the funicular railway down the hill as it was quite a walk otherwise! I would definitely recommend this mode of transport, not only does it take no time at all, but it is a really lovely historical thing to do and is something you might not see in too many places any more! IMG_1003We took the railway up and down but you can just take a one way trip if you prefer. At the bottom of the railway is the Chain Bridge which is one of the most famous bridges in Budapest and connects the cities of Buda & Pest and offers great views up and down the Danube when you take a walk over it. IMG_1015

We wanted to take a stroll along the Danube and sat and watched the boats going by and could see the Matthias Church and our hotel from down on the other side which made them look even more grand. Along the banks of the Danube is the incredible memorial ‘Shoes on the Danube’ this represents the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank. IMG_1022It is really shocking to see the amount of shoes that are there and shows the struggle that Jewish people were having across the whole of Europe, not just in Germany & Poland. It is definitely worth a visit! Just along from this memorial is the Budapest Parliament building which is such a stunning building! We didn’t go inside although you can go inside for free if you are a European Citizen I think but just remember to take your passport with you! IMG_1029

After all this sightseeing, we were absolutely shattered, so we headed back to the hotel to get ready to go out for dinner. Both Tom and I love Italian so we found an Italian nearby that served lovely, cheap food in a garden like setting with live singers which was the perfect ending to a great day! The restaurant was called Riso and serves lovely pizzas and pastas! If you are in the Castle District, you should definitely give it a try!

Saturday 18th July 2015

We wanted a more chilled day today in comparison the busy day we’d had yesterday. We headed off to the Gellert Baths for a bit of relaxation. Budapest is famous for it’s baths and this was something I had been told buy numerous people, was a must visit if I was in the city. Gellert Baths is one of the oldest in Budapest and is beautiful! It is so well run and is perfect for both hot and cold days as it has an outdoor pool with a wave machine, and heated indoor pools. We haven’t got any pictures of the baths as I thought it was a bit weird to take photos inside a swimming pool however there are plenty online if you want to see what it was like! The outdoor pool was perfect for us seeing as it was so hot outside, it allowed us to cool off and made it feel like you were on a lazy holiday rather than a city break. There was no chance to get a sun lounger however, we really didn’t need it, we just lounged in the pool and enjoyed the sun!

Inside there are pools ranging in temperature from 31 degrees to 38. It is so lovely to sit there in the warm thermal baths and just chat and have a relax! One of the rooms inside the building has an incredible glass roof that can be opened on hot days, it is honestly the strangest thing to see the whole roof come off an old building! One thing that Tom and I tried was the steam room which is 50 degrees in temperature! I found it a bit too hot and I think Tom did too! We were both wearing contact lenses and all the steam was making them go a bit strange so we didn’t last very long! It is suggested that after the steam room you dip into the plunge pool which is literally about 10 degrees and is absolutely freezing! I only managed to get up to my knees but Tom was brave and did go all the way in.

We spent the best part of our day here and then just wandered around the district for the rest of the afternoon. We found a fantastic restaurant for dinner which funnily enough was directly opposite our hotel. It was called Speiz and the food was amazing, it served some traditional dishes like Goulash Soup but then catered for all tastes, including me the picky vegetarian, in the form of Mushroom Tagliatelle which was simply incredible! We also had some of their homemade lemonades which are definitely worth a try!

We headed home the next day and despite it being a short trip, I feel like we managed to cram a lot in to a small time. I would definitely recommend a trip to Budapest as it is such an incredibly beautiful city with so many things to see! IMG_0981 I will definitely do another travel diary for Venice and Crete so keep your eyes peeled towards the end of September/early October for that! Thanks for reading!

Much Love

xoxo