London Christmas Delights

London has the best Christmas lights, there’s no doubt about it. Not only are the streets always colourfully lit up, but restaurants and shops go all out to spruce up their fronts for the festive season.

Trying to decide where to go can be slightly overwhelming – there’s just so much to see! I recently used The Curious Pixie’s walking tour as a base to see some of the highlights in Central London this year. It was a great opportunity to get into the Christmas spirit and snap some festive shots.

I ventured ever so slightly off the tour’s recommendation, so my route is below. They’re all within easy walking distance of each other, so it’s not a problem if you discover your own route. The tour can take around 40 minutes, but ours was much longer as we took so many photographs and ventured into some of the shops.

We started with Oxford Street and Regent Street, which have beautiful lights hanging above to enjoy as you shop. Just past H&M on Regent Street, head left down Foubert’s Place until you reach Carnaby Street, which has partnered with charity Choose Love for their light display. Further down Carnaby Street you can find Kingly Court, one of my favourite places in London. It has a fantastic range of restaurants and is under shelter – perfect for winter in the city.

Back onto Regent Street, follow the road round and cross on the right to Piccadilly. Turning right onto Piccadilly, you’ll spot department store Fortnum & Mason – you can’t miss its red façade. We also popped inside to see the incredible Christmas decorations they sell (and to shelter from the rain, of course – it’s London)!

On the other side of the road is the historic Burlington Arcade, the world’s first shopping arcade! Their luxurious Christmas decorations are picture-perfect. Walk all the way through to enjoy some window shopping, and you’ll reach New Bond Street on the other side, home to Cartier’s dazzling Christmas décor. Most of the designer shops down this road have impressive Christmas designs.

Back round onto Piccadilly and head back towards Piccadilly Circus, turning right once you get there towards Waterloo Place. Sofitel London St James has a brilliant tree on the square – we even saw Santa Claus!

From here it’s about a 15 minute walk through Leicester Square towards Covent Garden, which is the perfect place to stop for a hot chocolate or mulled wine and admire their bright decorations.

I also went to Chelsea at the weekend, which is another great spot to get in the festive spirit in London. King’s Road has its own lights, and the stores and restaurants have gone all out – even some homes are dressed up!

Have you got anywhere else in London you’d recommend for a festive walk? Share it in the comments!

Christmastime at Disneyland Paris

Last July, I received a text from my cousin: “So Paris. When?” Within about 3 hours, we’d booked Disneyland Paris for a few days after Christmas, including New Year’s Eve (thank goodness for book now, pay later). It was undoubtedly the most magical way to spend New Year’s Eve, full of classic Disney moments and surprises.

This will be quite a photo heavy post, as I just have so many to share. The Disney Parks at Christmastime are just the most photogenic! I’ll write about New Year’s Eve below but I’ll also be working on a post about my top tips for NYE at Disneyland Paris, so let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions!

Looking back at these pictures almost a year on makes my heart melt. I’m so grateful we got to go before the chaos that has been 2020. We stayed at the Dream Castle Hotel, just a short free shuttle ride to the parks. Our room for the 3 of us was huge, and included a great view and hearty breakfast (much-needed for those long Disney days). We also took advantage of the relaxing spa and pool to rest our feet!

The daily Disney Stars on Parade

We stayed from the 28th December until 1st January with a 3-day ticket to both parks, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park, as well as our separate New Year’s Eve ticket. The first couple of days we used to ride as many of the rides as possible, buy all the Christmas decorations we could fit in our bags, and eat many Mickey shaped treats. The Disney Stars parade and night time spectacular, Disney Illuminations, were as joyful as ever!

We also visited the Disneyland Hotel, which you can enter even if you’re not a guest. At Christmastime they have an incredible Gingerbread House and Christmas tree display, which is perfect for photos. The smell is just so nostalgic and Christmassy, I can’t recommend taking some time in your schedule to visit the hotel enough!

There were 2 parades on New Year’s Eve. The first was the Disney New Year’s Eve Parade at 8.30pm, with some special character appearances as well as the usual daily Stars on Parade crew! The second was the Countdown to Fun Street Party at 10.30pm, with tons of characters in their special cars, including the Incredibles and Mushu (two of my highlights)! Most of the rides had really short queues (they lead all non-NYE ticket holders out around 6pm), and there are also smaller special events on throughout the park including free face painting, shows with the Princesses and Mickey and the gang, and meet and greets (the queues for these were gigantic).

Of course, the fireworks at the countdown to midnight were beautiful. They lasted for about 10 minutes, and focused on 2019 releases such as Aladdin, Star Wars and Marvel’s Avengers, as well as some old favourites, with a big finale. Afrojack came out afterwards to DJ until 2am! The rides (except for Fantasyland) were also open until this time, and with the younger kids heading home by then, the rides were practically all walk-on.

Some quick iPhone snaps of the fireworks and Afrojack DJ set – I was too excited!

I’d highly recommend Disneyland Paris for New Year’s Eve – there’s nothing quite like a bit of Disney magic at any time of the year, but especially Christmastime. Look out for my top tips for New Year’s Eve at the Disneyland Park, coming soon, and comment below if you have any questions!

Summer in Seville

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I’ve been taking the time over lockdown (thank you, coronavirus) to sort out all of my travel photographs and organise some blog posts. First up is the beautiful Seville! Admittedly, this post was prepared a long time ago but I guess you could say I lost confidence with my little blog and it took a backseat – let’s get back on the horse, shall we?

If I’m completely honest, a trip to Seville had never crossed my mind before but the sunny city proved to be the perfect September getaway. Easily done in a long weekend, the traditional Spanish streets were perfect for wandering, lined with boutiques and sweet bars to hide away from the sun (and play a good card game). What else are holidays for?

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We stayed in a lovely Airbnb by the river which was a short walk to Alameda De Hercules, a fun square with bars and restaurants. The city is full of photogenic spots, including the beautiful Plaza de España (pictured above) and Parque de Maria Luisa. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones was even filmed at the Plaza de España.

It’s very much a walking city; everything is within a short distance and it’s easy to while away the time as you wander the streets. You can find charming boutiques and cafés in the Jewish Quarter, just behind the Royal Alcázar of Seville – a magnificent palace with a mix of Christian and Mudéjar architecture. The palace has also been a screen star, appearing on the famous series Game of Thrones. Book in advance for a €4 student ticket and skip the huge queues. Be warned – you’ll spend hours in there!

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The weather was glorious in September but in the afternoon it reached up to 36 degrees – the perfect time to hide in those bars I mentioned!

Hot spots

  • Museum of Flamenco – only €15 for a student ticket (€22 for full adult) for a fantastic show and cheap sangria!
  • H2go! paddle boarding and kayaking – this was such a lovely way to spend our final evening, paddling along the beautiful river as the sun set!
  • Las Setas De Sevilla – the famous wooden structure in the old quarter, with great views across the city.
  • La Azotea – a very chic restaurant, with delicious seafood dishes. They also cater for dairy-free and gluten-free diets.
  • Ice Wave – very instagrammable ice cream, frozen in front of you (picture at the end of this post)!

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Falling in love with Lisbon

Portugal’s capital made the perfect September city break (I know I’m running a bit late, let’s just call this post a throwback). The city is made for those who like to explore on foot – the quiet streets climbing up the hills are great for wandering, but bring good shoes!

The views are wonderful, the September sun is just right, and the famously colourful tiles and gorgeous light make for great pictures. Our 3-day trip was short and sweet, and left me wanting more! We strolled through the cobbled streets and ate our way through ice cream and pastries – the best way to spend a long weekend, right?

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Hot spots

H10 Duque de Loulé
A beautiful hotel with a great rooftop bar which is open to visitors. We visited on a Saturday night and it wasn’t busy at all. Cosy up in the cool evening breeze and take in the spectacular view of the city.

Open Brasserie Mediterrânica
Some of our party had food allergies so we were eager to find a restaurant that could accommodate all of us. The Open Brasserie Mediterrânica had knowledgable, friendly staff and a great choice of meals for everybody, including vegan and gluten free. I recommend the pumpkin gnocchi!

Belém
Belém, a charming district just a tram ride away from the centre, fast became my favourite part of the city. There was a photogenic door or wall at every turn through the peaceful, colourful streets and the Tropical Botanical Garden was perfect for chilling out in the sun.

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Thailand

I never thought I’d really have the chance to go to Thailand. It just seemed like one of those far-away, mystical places. Luckily, my best friend Emily travelled the world this year and I managed to join her for two weeks, travelling to Bangkok and the Gulf islands of Thailand! We started with 3 days in Bangkok, including a visit to the Grand Palace. I’d highly recommend a visit to the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, a two hour drive from the city – we got to walk with, feed and shower the elephants, as well as learn about where they’d all come from. It wasn’t just a home for elephants, either – bears, gibbons, birds and dogs were all looked after. I wish I could’ve stayed with the elephants forever, especially baby Prin!

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A long overnight bus and ferry took us to Koh Samui, our first island adventure. The Sirin Samui Hostel was the perfect stop, with clean, spacious rooms and a great pool to relax by. We spent most of our time on the beach! Our second island was Koh Phangan, for the infamous Half Moon Party. Once we’d recovered from our hangovers, we visited Paradise Waterfalls and even found the beautiful Milky Bay resort tucked away on the beach. The breakfast was delicious and they let us use their pool!

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Our final stop was Koh Tao, which fast became my favourite island (perhaps purely because of the sunsets). Koh Tao is the smallest of the islands, and I found it the most beautiful! Our days were mostly spent relaxing on the beach and walking around the shops and restaurants. A snorkelling or scuba-diving trip is a must – we visited all of the bays of the island, as well as Koh Nang Yuan which is just breathtaking. I can’t wait to go back!

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