Castle Combe Nissan Figaro

CASTLE COMBE

Having a car has given the boyfriend and me the freedom to explore further than we normally would. For my birthday weekend we booked a lovely cottage on airbnb (get £30 off here) in Batheaston, a village near Bath, and drove over from London. Before buying a car we would have had to stay in the centre of town and probably wouldn’t have ventured very far out, but this time we decided to enjoy driving the tree-lined country roads and visit the Cotswolds.

I’d been wanting to see Castle Combe for a long time (it’s all over Instagram!) and it was only a short drive away from our cottage so it made for the perfect excursion.

 

Castle Combe is often called the prettiest village in England, and it’s easy to see why. Every cottage in the village looks like it could be on a pretty postcard. Don’t expect to see an impressive castle here though; little remains of the one the village gets its name from.

malthouse

castle combe cotswolds

Castle Combe Cotswolds Nissan Figaro

How to get to Castle Combe:

The village is a 25 minute drive from Bath, or a 10 minute drive from Chippenham. If using public transport, get bus 35 from Chippenham train station.

There are free parking spaces at the top of the hill, North of the village.

 

Castle Combe

castle-combe cakes

“It’s run on trust”. This baker is counting on people to put money in the letterbox if they want to buy any cake. Very sweet to see!

Castle Combe door

Castle Combe houses

Castle Combe road

Castle Combe bridge

Things to do in Castle Combe:

  • Go for a walk along Bybrook river
  • Visit the tea room – contact them before you go as they don’t have regular opening times
  • Alternatively, have afternoon tea at the luxurious Manor House Hotel
  • Have a pint at The White Hart, a 14th century pub
  • Take pictures by the bridge – obviously!

 

Question is: where should we drive to next?

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A frequent flyer's tips for finding really cheap flights, beyond just using Skyscanner.

How to find cheap flights

Flying for less

People are often surprised to hear that I’ve been on yet another long weekend away, and wonder how I can afford it. The thing is, travelling doesn’t have to be expensive! Staying in London, doing a bit of online shopping and going out for a few meals and drinks can often be just as expensive as going abroad.

I do have a few tricks that help me find cheaper airfares and go away without blowing all my savings. They take some extra effort and research but I think it’s all worth it because I get to travel so much more. Hopefully they can help you to plan your next trip too!

 

Compare, compare, compare

Compare the comparison sites! I used to be a loyal Skyscanner user, but more recently I’ve started using Momondo or Kayak to double check that I’m getting the absolute best deal. I’ve found that sometimes one website will have a slightly better price for the exact same flights. It’s always a good idea to check what fare the airline is offering on its own website.

 

skyscanner

How about a weekend in Norway?

 

Keep an open mind

The best way to get cheap flights is to be really flexible, both with your dates and your destination. Try searching for “everywhere” on Skyscanner or “take me anywhere” on Momondo to find the cheapest destinations for your chosen dates. This is how Chris and I ended up going to Stockholm for £50 return. We didn’t have a set destination in mind but Stockholm came up so we booked it. Also great is Momondo’s little calendar above your search results, showing you if you could get a cheaper fare on a different day.

 

momondo calendar - how to find cheap flights

Leaving on Sunday could save you a lot of £€$!

 

Good timing

Timing is everything! Fares fluctuate a lot depending not only on when you fly but also on how far ahead you’re booking. Momondo has this cool feature called ‘flight insight’: it tells you all sorts of things like how many days ahead of flying you should book and what the seasonality is for your destination.

If you’re not ready to book straight away, you can also set up a fare alert so you get an email when the price changes for your chosen route.

 

fare seasonality

November is looking good!

 

Look out for error fares

This is how I booked return flights to Tokyo for £245! Normally I would have had to spend £500+ to get myself over to Japan so when I saw this fare I jumped on it. You have to be very lucky, quick, and flexible to make the most of error fares, but they can save you a lot of money. Sign up to Jack’s Flight Club and you will get great deals emailed to you. Websites worth checking include Cheap Flights Lab, Flynous, Secret Flying, and Fly4free.

 

Consider buying a package

Sometimes you can make great savings when you buy your flights and your hotel as a package. EasyJet Holidays are great! If you find the same flight and hotel for less elsewhere, they will match it and even give you an extra £10 off. Chris and I have bought holidays from them twice (skiing in France and a long weekend in sunny Croatia) and saved money this way. Kayak lets you compare holiday packages from different providers, so it’s worth checking there before booking.

 

Happy flying!

Let me know if you found this useful or if you have any other tips.

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Manhattan NYC sunset

Boro Hotel corner king

Boro Hotel, Queens

I did so much research before booking a hotel for our NYC trip. I spent hours trawling through Tripadvisor, travel blogs, Booking.com and I even had a spreadsheet going (anyone else love a travel spreadsheet?). Although Chris and I were really excited about making the most of the post-Christmas holiday vibes and New Year’s Eve in New York, going in December meant that hotel rooms were waaay more expensive than usual. We wanted to find a cool, modern hotel, preferably with a view, but that wouldn’t break the bank. Boro Hotel was a great combination of (relatively!) good price, incredible view, convenient location, and cool minimalist design.

 

Boro Hotel reception NYC

Boro Hotel nyc

Boro Hotel NY

Boro Hotel bar
Boro Hotel LIC

The hotel reception is lovely, with comfortable sofas to hang out in and a modern fireplace in the middle. There’s a lot of space for working or lounging, with sofas and tables at the back and a nice cafe/bar area at the front where you can get food and drinks. I’d love to come back in the summer to make the most of the rooftop view and the outdoor seating area on the ground floor.

 

NYC sunset view

Boro Hotel view

Manhattan sunset view

Manhattan view long island

The View

We booked a Corner King Room with Manhattan View Balcony, and it didn’t disappoint! Waking up to the amazing view every morning was such a treat and made us really excited to go out and explore. We also caught some incredible sunsets from our window, the kind that you can’t take your eyes off of and that you want to take a million photos of so that you can remember it. We also had a nice little balcony which would have been great if it weren’t absolutely freezing outside!

 

Boro Hotel bedroom

Boro Hotel bathroom

The Room

I loved the minimalist design of our room – very scandi-chic. The problem with a minimalist hotel though is that a lot of things you expect to have are missing! When we checked in we were given a list of things that we could request to get sent up to the room: kettle, bathrobes, slippers, mini bar, etc. A kettle got sent to us but we had to buy our own tea and milk. The TV also had a strange selection of channels, most of which were selling stuff like wrinkle cream. Otherwise, we loved the bed and the bathroom was modern and spacious. It would have been nice to have a bath, but there’s an extra charge for that.

The Location

Most tourists think that staying in Manhattan, usually Midtown, is really important so that they can walk around easily. Instead I think everyone should consider staying in Long Island City in Queens because it’s super convenient! Boro Hotel is near stations with four different subway lines going into Manhattan. Just get a one week Metro card – you’re only two stops away from Midtown! The W train takes you to Lexington Av/59 St in under 15 minutes.

Boro Hotel queens

Boro Hotel cafe

Boro Hotel corner room

Boro Hotel prices start around £120, or £160 for a Manhattan view room. If you want a cheaper option (£29 for bed in a dorm) in the same area and with the same rooftop view, try The Local Hostel NYC – it’s cool and modern and is perfect for backpackers, solo travellers or party people. You could even split your stay between the two hotels if you wanted to treat yourself but also save money.

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tiny's and the bar upstairs NYC

Pretty NYC Lunches & Brunches

When I’m looking forward to an upcoming trip, I like to do A LOT of research. Whenever I have a free minute, during my commute or my lunch break, I love to browse through Instagram, Pinterest and blogs in search of inspiration and cool places to visit.

The thing I was most excited about when planning our New York trip and daily itineraries is food. NYC is so full of delicious food options and a variety of cuisines. London is pretty good for that too, but NYC just has an incredible amount of great Mexican, Korean, Italian and American food (duh) that we don’t really have over here.

While scrolling through Instagram, I found out about so many really pretty restaurants that are worth a visit for both their food and their decor. After all, if you’re going to pay for a nice meal it might as well be in a beautiful setting!

This is the first part of what will probably be a series of NYC food posts… I have a lot to say on this topic!

 

Tiny’s

I had marked the location of Tiny’s on Google Maps after seeing a picture of the building, so when we happened to be in the neighbourhood at lunchtime it was an obvious choice. The menu is a little limited but the meatballs are great and it’s lovely and cosy inside.

Where: 135 W Broadway (between Thomas and Duane, in Tribeca)

Best for: getting warm and cosy by the fireplace in the back

Everyone’s talking about: the kale salad and the meatballs

 


 

A photo posted by cynthia kuo (@cynthiaakuo_) on

By Chloe

I had this one on my list because of its great reviews but didn’t get a chance to try it (boyfriend wasn’t keen to eat vegan!). Definitely next time!

Where: 185 Bleecker St (West Village), but also Flatiron and Soho. More locations coming soon.

Best for: hungry vegans

Everyone’s talking about: the guac burger and the air baked sweet potato fries. Try Sweets by Chloe for vegan desserts too!

 


 

Café Henrie

The pink and blue decor really caught my eye while I was scrolling through Instagram! It was popular with bloggers during NY Fashion Week.

Where: 116 Forsyth St (Lower East Side)

Best for: #foodstagram addicts

Everyone’s talking about: the avocado toast and the dragon bowl

 


 

Jack’s Wife Freda

Everyone I asked said we should go here. I loved it! The decor is very pretty and the menu has a good mix of delicious treats and healthy eats.

Where: 224 Lafayette Street (Lower Manhattan) and 50 Carmine Street (Greenwich Village)

Best for: all-day breakfast lovers

Everyone’s talking about: green shakshuka, duck bacon, and rosewater waffle.

 


 

Pietro Nolita

I’m a sucker for pink restaurants, and this one is entirely pink! Its owners met while working at Dolce & Gabbana so as you’d expect the interior is pretty dreamy. The idea for it is to create an American diner-style place serving healthy Italian food.

Where: 174 Elizabeth Street (in Nolita, obviously!)

Best for: adding some colour to your ‘grams thanks to its pretty all-pink interior (and exterior!)

Everyone’s talking about: pasta! Make it wholewheat or gluten-free for an extra dollar or two.

 


 

 

A photo posted by NYCTips (@nyctips_) on

La Pecora Bianca

My friend who lives in NYC recommended this one and after a quick look at the reviews I really want to go there. There is nothing more satisfying than freshly made pasta!

Where: corner of 26th and Broadway (NoMad)

Best for: fresh pasta and quality ingredients

Everyone’s talking about: gramigna pasta and kale lasagne

 


 

A photo posted by Alycia Jack (@leashajack) on

The Butcher’s Daughter

Another recommendation from a local, The Butcher’ Daughter is great if you’re trying to eat healthy or stay away from the bacon. Don’t go there if you’re looking for fluffy pancakes!

Where: 19 Kenmare St (Nolita) and 581 Hudson St (West Village)

Best for: healthy vegetarian food and (expensive) cold-pressed juices

Everyone’s talking about: avocado toast (popular at all the pretty NYC spots it seems!) and salads

 


 

Two Hands

I’d heard about this place a few times before going to New York as it seems to be one of those places that everyone loves. Started by two Australians, this place is bright, modern, and filled with plants.

Where: 164 Mott St in Little Italy (cafe) and 251 Church St, TriBeCa (restaurant and bar)

Best for: avocado and coffee lovers

Everyone’s talking about: gluten-free walnut and banana bread with espresso mascarpone. It’s a must try!

 


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NYC's prettiest restaurants for lunch or brunch!

Phew, that was a lot of pink and avocado! Let me know if I’ve missed any of your favourite pretty restaurants and I’ll add them to the list. I certainly wish I had all of these great spots on my radar on our first day in New York.

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Looking back at 2016

What a year! Taking the time to think about what I’ve been able to do in the past 12 months makes me realise just how lucky – and busy – I’ve been. I won’t touch on how awful this year has been in terms of world events and politics, and instead I’m going to share with you a few of my favourite moments and photographs from my travels. One of the reasons why I love sharing on City Cookie is that my photos have a place to live and be seen by like-minded travel lovers.

 

January:

I started the year in Myanmar. To be honest it was the worst New Year’s Eve of my life, but the country made up for it with its temples and monkeys. I loved riding dirt roads at the back of Chris’s scooter, surrounded by dozens of beautiful temples in Bagan.

The biggest highlight for me was climbing Mount Popa with monkeys jumping all around us:

mount popa burma myanmar

 

February:

Chris’s parents took us skiing in Méribel, which was such a treat! We stayed in a lovely cosy chalet with a gorgeous view and ate so much great cheese!

 

March/April:

My Mum and I went to Japan together! This is definitely my most memorable trip of 2016. We had both been dying to visit for years and I was beyond excited about going there. I could hardly believe I was there! I’m dying to go back in 2017…

From the cherry blossoms and the bamboo forest to the busy Shibuya crossing and the temples, I loved every second of being in Japan.

I shared so many photos on Instagram while I was there and I still have plenty that I’ve saved for later.

 

May:

With Spring in full swing, Chris and I got a train up to the Lake District. Chris got organised everything as a Christmas present to me, and I was so happy to get away from London and hang out with adorable little lamb by the lake. We stayed in a great bed and breakfast in Keswick and ate the best Cornish pasties ever!

We did a big hike to get an amazing view of the lakes, and my legs were sore for days afterwards…

 

We also went over to York for a weekend, mainly for a friend’s wedding but we managed to fit in a lot of exploring! It was my first time there and I was so impressed. I recommend York to anyone looking for a weekend trip in the UK.

York wisteria at Treasurer's House

 

June:

I went to Iceland to spend time with family and to see my grandmother. I wrote my guide to Icelandic food and discovered some lovely waterfalls in Reykjavik.

reykjavik waterfall iceland

 

July:

July was a very London month, and one of the highlights was travelling to South London to see the Mayfield lavender fields. I’d been wanting to wander around a lavender field for a while and it was a great way to spend an afternoon with friends.

mayfield lavender

 

August:

In August I went to see my parents in the South of France, which was so nice because I used to spend all my summers there when I was little. We went to see the Gorges du Verdon which are amazing!

This is even more gorge-ous in real life! Seriously so beautiful. Be prepared to stand in line if you want to rent a boat, though!

A photo posted by UK Travel Blog ✈ City Cookie (@citycookie) on

 

Chris and I also went to see his family in North Wales, and we met up with some friends who drove us to Penrhyn Castle in their awesome vintage Mini.

 

September:

September was busy! Chris and I went to beautiful Lopud island in Croatia (I still haven’t written about that!), and I went to Porto with some girlfriends. Lopud was so peaceful and relaxing and had the most perfect blue sea, while Porto was a fun city break with lots of great food and a lot of walking!

 

 

church of saint ildefenso porto

 

October:

In October, Chris and I booked a speedy trip to pretty Stockholm. We got really cheap flights and only stayed one night but it was perfect for a weekend and we saw most of what we wanted to see. I’ll admit it was a bit tiring, but so worth it!

stockholm view of gamla stan

 

November:

This was a quiet month, which was actually really nice. I did go to Brussels for a weekend to spend time with my Dad on his birthday!

 

December:

My whole family went to Barcelona for a weekend to celebrate my Mum’s birthday. It’s such a great city, with really unique architecture and amazing food. More on that in a future post!

 

I miss beautiful Barcelona, its architecture and its tapas! ✨

A photo posted by UK Travel Blog ✈ City Cookie (@citycookie) on

 

and soon…. New York! Chris and I are (meant to be) packing for NYC right now. We’re flying out this afternoon and I am so incredibly excited! Send me your tips!

 

I have to say, out of all of these trips, Japan was definitely the highlight of the year for me. I had been wanting to go there for years and now I’m dying to go back!

What’s been your highlight of 2016?

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