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



The Travel Diaries: Italy June 2016

So this month Tom and I were lucky enough to jet off for 8 days in Italy to mark the end of my exams! We love Italy having visited Venice last year together and I visited Rome a couple of years ago. The food, the people an the scenery guarantee a beautiful and memorable trip. This time around we decided to try and visit a few places in the same trip and settled for Pisa, Florence & Milan. Thankfully the weather was on our side and I thought I’d share with you what we got up to!

We started our holiday in Pisa having both always wanted to see the Leaning Tower! The weather was absolutely beautiful for the first few days and we spent our time strolling the streets and taking in the atmosphere. The Leaning Tower itself is pretty impressive and is a hell of a lot more wonky than you would think! It is about 15 feet out of plumb and leans at an angle of approximately 4 degrees so its seriously leaning! Of course Tom and I had to do the stereotypical ‘holding up the tower’ pose so I’ll share mine with you below!13422316_10209857668548508_2247247816101997224_o.jpg

On our second day we headed over to Florence for a little sightseeing tour. Tom is a huge fan of vintage cars, having renovated his own Classic Mini so when we saw a driving tour of Tuscany in a Vintage Fiat 500, we knew that was the one for us! I absolutely adore driving but I’d never driven either abroad or a vintage car so it was quite exciting yet nerve wracking to give it a go! We had a fantastic tour guide Jimmy who chatted to us whilst we drove and told us all about the scenery that we were driving through. I was first to drive and I loved it! It was so weird to drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and the double clutch took some getting used to! We stopped at some absolutely breath taking spots the provided gorgeous views over both Florence and the whole of Tuscany. It was beautiful! Tom, of course, loved it and was in his element driving down the narrow roads in an old car. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that loves driving or even if you just want to really see a lot of Tuscany in a short space of time. I think there was the option to have the guide drive the whole way if you weren’t too keen but that was one of our favourite parts! 13391448_10209857918034745_1976218114899642276_o13403110_10209857794871666_2583303341282123804_o

Our final day in Pisa was sadly very very rainy so we just took it easy and watched a film. It was still lovely though as we had both been incredibly busy leading up to the holiday and needed a break! The next day we headed back to the train station but this time to travel to Milan! We wanted to see a different side of Italy and Milan was definitely it. It is so chic and stylish and very different to anywhere else in Italy. We stayed at the LaGare Hotel near the central station and it was absolutely beautiful! It is reasonably new and no expense has been spared when creating it! Our favourite part was the incredible spa that took over the bottom floor and it was just the most relaxing way to spend an evening!13391521_10209857916834715_2301915322983212211_o.jpg

We spent our days in Milan wandering the streets, eating Gelato and exploring the beautiful shops. We took a long stroll round one of the parks in the city and were surprised to see turtles swimming in the ponds! Now that’s definitely something you don’t get to experience in the UK!! We of course took a wander down to the Duomo and took in all the beautiful historical sights. We actually walked all the way to the top of the Duomo and got fantastic views over Milan. 13415499_10209886409507014_8886484321943335573_o.jpgThe building itself is really very beautiful and a must see if you are in the area! We also walked through the main shopping centre marvelling at the expensive treats we could have picked up had we had the money! 13418602_10209886319624767_2312567515721407508_o

As ever, all good things have to come to an end and we had soon reached the end of our trip. Italy will always hold a large place in our hearts and we have plans to visit Lake Garda next year if possible as we have heard that that is stunning! That’s going to be it for the travel diaries for a while until I head to Belgium in August. There is potentially a trip to Amsterdam in the pipelines with my friend Emily again, however this is completely dependent on my funding situation!! I hope you have enjoyed this post! Have you been to any of these wonderful cities? What did you think of them?

Much Love


P.s all photography credit goes to Tom who is a thousand times more talented with a camera than I will ever be! I’m grateful though as we get beautiful images that will last us a lifetime!

Thinking of a Last Minute City Break?

I thought it would be fun to tell you about four of the cities I have visited within Europe to help you out if you fancy a last minute long weekend away. I like to visit a range of places if possible so some of these are probably not what you would expect to see listed but I thought that would make it all the more interesting! N.B I was going to make this post into 5 cities but it started getting ridiculously long! If you are ever going to Stockholm (that was going to be number 5) then please just email me and I’d love to tell you more about it!


This was the first ever holiday Tom and I went on together as I took him for his 19th Birthday. The city itself is very like London but probably more expensive! The Irish people are so friendly and as uncultured as it sounds, it’s nice to go somewhere where you can still speak in English without feeling useless!

Where to Eat? Our favourite restaurant was called The Church, the food was really tasty and reasonably priced and the atmosphere was really nice and chilled! Having said that, I’ve looked on the website today and it seems to also be a nightclub! Hopefully that chilled ambience is still there some nights of the week!

Where to Go? If like us, the bustling city became a bit much for you, take a trip on the train to Killiney and Bray. Bray has a wonderful long beach front where you can take in the sea air and they also have a really nice sea life centre that Tom and I loved! We went to a little cafe for a cup of tea to warm up and then to contradict ourselves entirely, we sat on the beach front with an ice cream. It really is a gorgeous place to visit! 4695407505_93849ebdd0

ROME rome1

After watching endless programmes about Italy and drooling over the pasta dishes, 2014 was the year I finally got to visit one of it’s many enchanting cities. My 5 days in Rome were absolutely incredible and the city should be on everyone’s ‘to-visit’ list! However, I went in July and it was RIDICULOUSLY HOT! Anyone that knows me at all, knows that I overheat at the drop of a hat so this was in a league of its own for me really. Saying that, Budapest is 38 degrees this week so Rome is quickly looking like it will drop down the overheating rankings soon!

What to See? You HAVE to visit the colosseum! I think it may be one of my favourite landmarks I have ever visited. I really didn’t know that much about what it was until I visited and the history behind it is amazing, if a little stomach churning! The place is a photographers delight, with an amazing picture to be taken at every turn. It would be good to book tickets in advance though, as we spent quite a long time in a very snaking queue and that was even after a sneaky bit of queue jumping! rometravelguide5

Where to Stay? We stayed in the H10 Roma Citta hotel just a short bus ride outside of Rome centre. I have to be honest and say it was perfect! It has a gorgeous roof-top infinity pool and the rooms were really spacious! When going to such a warm city, having a pool to jump in at the end of a long day is just what you need!

What to Avoid? This may just be personal preference, but unless you are REALLY into art, avoid the Vatican Museum! That was honestly the longest and hottest museum I have ever been in and it really does feel like it is never going to end! Also, don’t get a taxi around the Vatican City, they are so overpriced it is unreal!


View on Paris form Notre Dame cathedral

The romantics that we are, Tom and I took a trip to Paris last year. There is so much to see and do that I feel like no amount of time would ever be enough to compete it all in. Before you go, prioritise what you want to see to make sure you don’t go home disappointed!

What to See? The Eiffel Tower. Obviously! I am terrified of heights so the whole process took us 5 painstakingly long hours! Partly because I went into meltdown mode on level one and partly because I was so unfit that the stairs made me out of breath. I only realised how embarrassing this was when a family with 2 children under 6 overtook us and passed us again on their way down while we were still stationary. However, when you do, eventually, get to the top the views are phenomenal! It was so worth all the stress to be able to say that I have stood at the top of the Eiffel Tower and seen all of Paris! There are so many incredible sights in Paris that I could write about them forever, if you want any other recommendations then just comment below and I’ll tell you a few more of my favourites!First-Time-Paris-Eiffel-Tower

Where to Stay? If like us, you are looking for cheap and chearful, there are many IBIS hotels across all of Paris. We stayed in the IBIS Paris Eiffel Tower in Cambronne which had fantastic metro links! We could get absolutely anywhere from a stop just up the road from us and it was so cheap and efficient! The whole process was a bit more exciting as it gave the sense that you really were on a bit of an adventure. The rooms at the hotel were small yet suffice and we didn’t have breakfast, we just grabbed something whilst we were out. The hotels across all of Paris are crazily priced so don’t have high expectations about what your money will get you! We were incredibly lucky though, as our room had a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower, it was particularly beautiful at night all lit up.

COPENHAGEN 1428636048_wee_2014-05-03_lif_036_31493321_i4

I have visited Copenhagen many times now as one of my best friends lives there! It is a very interesting and beautiful city that many people overlook when it comes to thinking about city break destinations! If you’ve never considered a trip to Scandinavia, you really should as it is lovely!

What to Do? The best thing I would say to do, is to go on one of the boat tours. They are a great way to make sure you see all the sights and the tour guide ensures that you really get to know the history about this wonderful city. You get to see plenty of great sights like the Opera House where last years Eurovision Song Contest was held (Woo!) and also the Little Mermaid, one of the key things to see whilst you are in Copenhagen!

Where to Go? If like me, and the idea of visiting two countries in one trip really appeals to you, take a trip on the train over the bridge to Malmo in Sweden! It is such a surreal experience to be on a train, going over the sea on a bridge that connects two countries! Malmo is a little Swedish town that is lovely to spend an afternoon in, having a wander round or sat having a coffee watching the world go by. Bridge_3

Want Something Extra? As a little extra, you should visit the Somods Bolcher Factory. This is a tiny old fashioned Danish sweet factory where you can watch the sweets be made and you even get to try them whilst they are still hot! Make sure you buy plenty of bags too as they are very moreish! This will only take you half an hour or so, but I would recommend a visit. I go back every single time I go as it is so old fashioned and I love the smell you get when you walk in! somods-bolcher-shopok

So hopefully now, you have a few more ideas about where you may like to visit. Make sure you pop back next week if you want to hear about how I found Budapest! Writing this post has actually got me so excited now, I can’t believe its only two days away! If I have internet I will be tweeting about it so make sure you’re following me on Twitter! TheTravelLiz2

Much Love