Stories of 2019 #62: Adriatic Explorer with TUI Marella Cruises

We discovered historic cities and picturesque ports along the Adriatic coast on Marella’s Discovery ship last week. I always knew I have had a long romance with Europe’s lesser known cities from four years ago when I went interrailing through Eastern Europe with my friend Eve and we got to see uncovered corners such as Krakow, Sophia and Bratislava. Europe in my eyes is simply beautiful and this cruise did not prove my point wrong.

The Discovery docked in Kotor, Montenegro with the tender boats bringing us too and from the boat

Before we left, none of us really knew what to expect from this cruise. Our family holidays have often consisted of waking up, going for breakfast, sunbathing, going for lunch, sunbathing, getting ready, dinner and then bed. You know, your usual relaxing week away. But seeing as we were visiting all these amazing countries we felt that we needed get off the boat and have a taste of each port. However, dubious as my dad is not too into the whole sight-seeing thing.

Adriatic Explorer itinerary;

  • Fly into Corfu from Luton
  • Day at sea
  • Koper, Slovenia
  • Venice, Italy
  • Split, Croatia
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Kotor, Montenegro
  • Corfu, Greece and fly home to UK 😦

The nice thing we all agreed on about visiting these places on a cruise was we got the best of both worlds. We were able to get off for a few hours and walk the cobbled streets and sip on ice cold beers (or mainly Aperol in my case) in the main city squares. Then when the boys we dragged along with us got bored, we could get back on-board for a few hours of rest and relaxation on our sun beds before the ship departed for the next port of call.

Sipping the world’s best Aperol in Venice

Venice and Montenegro were the ports I was most excited for. Venice because it is Venice… and Montenegro because it has forever been on my bucket list and I have longed to visit the majestic fjords and quaint city of Kotor. But Croatia I had recognised as becoming more of tourist destination now as flights and access to the islands have become much easier and Slovenia I had been to before and was never blown away by the city of Ljubljana but I was going with an open mind with these places.

By the end of the cruise my highlights were of course, Montenegro. It is an utterly breathtaking place and I am so happy it lived up and exceeded my expectations completely. I was surprised by Croatia and I would 100% return to both Split and Dubrovnik and hopefully explore more of this idyllic haven. Both ports had a real buzzing atmosphere, packed with rich histories and both nights had fire-like sunsets – my absolute fave thing to see. And of course, Venice was beautiful but I must say it is only a place I would go to for a day, out of all the ports we visited, with the best part about visiting Venice being the incredible sail away party Marella cruises hosted as we sailed through the Grand Canal of Venice with prosecco cocktails and a live opera singer. Finally, Slovenia as I had expected was a sleepy town, with not too much to do. In hindsight we should have gone on one of the excursions that Marella cruises offer rather than wandering around aimlessly. And Corfu or I mean Corfu’s airport was, unfortunately, all we got to see.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Our home for the week was Marella’s Discovery boat. An 11 deck cruise liner with 918 cabins, seven restaurants, seven bars, a climbing wall, a spa, mini-golf and two swimming pools. We have stayed on TUI cruise liners before it was Marella, as well as other company cruises such as Royal Caribbean but I think this ship was the perfect size in order not to get lost everyday (you would be amazed how hard it is to get your bearings on a ship) and be able to be involved with all activities throughout the day.

Everyone on-board is also part of the all-inclusive package so all drinks and most food is included. We had the premier drinks package so we had more spirits, beers and cocktails included as well as the coffees from the Coffee Port station on-board. This is where you would find me more often than not if you lost me! Coffee bean is my nickname…

Unlimited expresso martinis – yes please!

Food is incredible on cruises… full stop. From buffet options to more formal three-course meals, you cannot fault the food on-board. I read one day in the Cruise News (delivered every night to your room) that the average cruiser puts on 1 to 2 pounds a day! A DAY! And that does not surprise me with the delicious food they plate up every hour, everyday of the week.

Also as a veggie I was worried that I would end up eating chips and salad all week but in the main restaurants (Islands, 47 Degrees and Gallery 47) they had the most amazing vegan/vegetarian options available. Inserting images for you (and me) to drool over… Especially the trio of tiramisu at Gallery 47.

It is not surprise the scales were up when I got home as I flick through these images but with the menu being different each day it is so nice to be able to try all these different dishes. I would never have Russian dumplings otherwise. And yes, that is a tower of Baileys, Amaretto and Cointreau…

It was also my birthday whilst we were on-board and seeing as it was a special occasion we booked into Kora La which is a restaurant were you have to pay a supplement. It is pan-Asian cuisine and the dishes are created by renowned chef – Ian Pengelley. The menu included crusted tofu, satay chicken and several curries accompanied by rice, naan and some veggies. We all thorough enjoyed this meal and all loosened our belts a few notches after. I had tofu to start and then a vegetable kashmiri before a big spoonful of the sweetest, most delicious birthday cake. Happy Birthday to me!

After dinner most nights we would find ourselves having a little flutter in the casino in Live bar before heading to deck 11 where we found, funnily enough, Bar Eleven and we would cut the shapes on the dance floor until the early hours of the morning. Around the clock there is always something going on on a cruise ship! From the morning stretch, to poolside catch-phrase, afternoon bingo and late night discos, I think you find it hard to be bored on-board.

Our cabin was on deck seven and also had a balcony. We have had outside cabins before with no balcony but only a little port hole and I must say, it makes such a difference having that extra little bit of space to sit outside. Also, coming in and out of these amazing ports it was so lovely being able to roll out of bed in your pjs onto the balcony and see the cities as they are waking up.

Early morning docking in Kotor, Montenegro

I loved every moment on this cruise with some very special memories of beautiful countries, breathtaking experiences and an untold amounts of funny memories.

More to come on the ports we visited.

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Stories of 2019 #59: The Best Place for Breakfast in Seville – Filo

Three out of the four days we were in Seville, we ate at Filo. And everyday we both ordered the same thing. It turns out we are not the only ones either mad for this cafe, on TripAdvisor several people had visited on multiply occasions during their short stays. If this does not tell you how good this little cafe is, then I do not know what will!

Both me and Jessamyn, as avocado lovers, have both had our fair share of avocado on toast but then we came across this gem who made it like no other and the future of avocado on toast for us had changed. I just feel like no other cafe/restaurant can now compare. It sounds like I am going a bit OTT here with my statements but I would happily visit Seville again, alone, for this avocado on toast. And if you are not an avo toast fan (aka, my mum) – you are missing out.

Where did I come across this cafe?

Instagram. Like everything I place I find to eat or drink, I have found it on Instagram using hashtags or the location tool. It is actually a pretty useful tool for finding nice cafes and especially vegan/veggie eateries or, you know, a good bar…

As I am into eating healthily, when I saw delicious bowls of greens, granola and bright coloured smoothies, I was sold. Filo became a must visit place in Seville for me. Digging a little deeper, I also found out that it had two cafes and one was literally just around the corner from our hostel and we visited this cafe on our first full day in Seville before getting the train to Cadíz, and then everyday since that first visit (lol).

This quaint cafe is on Calle Hernando Colón down the road from Seville’s town hall. Inside is an intimate eating space with lots of wooden benches and stools. White walls provide the background for the rustic furniture, hanging plants and quirky features. However, due to the cafes small size it can get busy pretty quickly but there are two tables outside and a standing area.



From sandwiches, to salads, to sweet treats, Filo provides Seville with tasty and healthy food from breakfast to dinner. And whilst the decor is simple, the food and drinks are vibrant and freshly made right in front of us! One thing we loved as we now know how to make these slices of avocado bliss.

You order from the till so grab a seat and a flick through the menu. Choose between the various breakfast combinations or if is later in the day, choose between the sandwiches or build your own salad. But be ready to be tempted by all the cakes on display as you wait in line to order. Or if you were fans like us, head straight to the bar and order two energy combinations which includes, dark rye toast, tomato, avocado and seeds alongside freshly squeezed orange juice and an expresso. All for €6.50!

Take a seat, relax and watch the cooks at work whilst you wait for your name to be called. I think on our third return, all we spoke about was how excited we were to eat our breakfast!

The service is quick and it is not long until you are ready to eat and enter a dream like avocado toast state. Even the freshly squeezed orange juice is yum. In Seville their chosen breakfast dish is called ‘tostada’ which is toasted bread topped with olive oil and grated tomato or for the meat eaters ham is added. However, Filo took the tostado up a notch with their choice to use dark rye and add avocado and lots of seeds. We tried a tostado at another cafe but without the avocado and it just did not compare to Filo.

So, if you are ever in Seville and you are amongst the avocado toast tribe be sure to visit Filo for breakfast, lunch and dinner… because you can honestly can!

Stories of 2019 #57: The Real Alcázar, Seville

In the heart of Seville, the Real Alcázar is the oldest palace still in use today. Over the 11 centuries it has been in use, it has seen many changes. From being a fort for the governors of Seville to a royal palace for the Spanish royal family to reside when they are in the city. And it is no wonder they choose to reside in this glorious palace – it is utterly breathtaking. Gold ceilings, intricate and colourful tiled walls and lush gardens, I could picture myself wandering around this peaceful palace in my long silk dressing gown and heeled slippers… unfortunately, when I visited so were 200 other people.

A few minutes walk from our hostel, we saw people still queuing for the palace despite the opening times online saying it shut at 5pm? We decided to queue as we had been pre-warned that during the day you can be queueing for several hours! They tell you to buy your tickets online beforehand but the website does not seem to work. Twenty minutes later and closer to the entrance, the palace was now working to their summer opening hours until 7pm. And to top this off, we only paid €3, as we are between the ages of 16-25. €11 otherwise or free is your a Seville citizen.

Walk through the Puetra del León onto the Plaza de Triunfu, where the palace’s beauty truly begins. Take your time to meander at the rich history of the palaces rooms and gardens, taking in its detail. My favourite area of the Real Alcázar is the Palacio Mudéjar. The elaborate interior is unbelievably detailed that you could spend hours letting your eyes work over the tiled walls, carved archways and golden ceilings (especially in the Ambassadors Hall). In some rooms this Moorish interior designs does not leave an inch untouched. With contrasting designs and clashing of colours, you can become almost hypnotised! Adding the golden sunlight, and the palace feels even more magical.

Luckily, the evening we spent in the palace the sun was like liquid gold seeping into the rooms and the blue sky matched perfectly with the iconic Triana-made ceramics.

But the beauty does not just run within. Step outside into the lush gardens and a whole new world awaits to be explored. You would not believe that you are in the heart of a busy city when you are daydreaming around the grounds of the palace’s gardens.

Walk through the different time periods and let your mind wander to who and what has once happened in each. Choose from the more modern English Garden or the Poets’ Garden, or head further back in time to the Cross Garden or 12th century garden. Walk beneath the 170 types of trees, sit on one of the many benches or watch the peacocks roam amongst the visitors.

Mesmerised by the tranquil Real Alcázar, we needed hydrating and a sit down to let the beauty sink in. Walking down the river earlier in the day we spotted a small bar perched on the rivers edge, and with it being such a beautiful evening we both agreed this would be the perfect place to stop. Now, it would not be a true holiday without a little alcoholic beverage and as tradition goes now, for mine and Jessamyn’s trips, an Aperol spritz was in need. The bar was called Manhattan River Bar Cocktails. It had a great atmosphere as the sun set in Seville and cheap drinks with big slices of Seville oranges in!


Not only did the bar have a nice atmosphere but as we were walking back along the river, we noticed the chilled out vibe of the city. People sat on the rivers wall, sipping beers and chatting with friends. There was a buzz as the sun set over Seville.

Back on the Happy Cow app, we headed to a restaurant in the center of the city where we tried sherry and had big bowls of pasta. Not our most authentic meal of the trip but we were so tired after being up since 2:30am and disorientated of not only being in a new city, but also having to navigate the Holy Week processions taking place.

After a long busy day, once we had dinner we climbed up into out top bunks and fell into a much needed sleep.

Stories of 2019 #51: Sketch, London

Iconic, quirky and utterly beautiful – Sketch London has been one of my favourite dining experiences I have had in London. There are five rooms spread across a three-story Georgian style townhouse on Conduit Street, The Gallery, The Parlour and The Lecture Room and Library, The Glade and The East Bar.

My mum took me last June for my birthday, where we had dinner in the dreamy pink Gallery dining room. Founded in 2003 by Algerian born Mourad Mazouz, this venue has now become the most weird and wonderful spot to be in London. As soon as you enter the building, you come across a hop scotch and that is only the beginning of all the little quirks you are about to come across.

The Gallery is the flagship dining room within Sketch due to its candy-floss pink design from the ceiling to the bubblegum pink velvet armchairs with the only exception being the floor which is contrastingly a beautiful mix of white, cream, teal and navy marble with gold specs. It is a truly stunning room, all designed by India Mahdavi (I mean great name). Lining the walls is 293 art line illustrations by David Shrigley and even designs on the dining wear. This is one of the cool touches which Sketch London does so well. From the salt and pepper to the bottom of your desert bowl, words or sayings are on each dish.

We ordered two cocktails as we were celebrating and starting to look at the menu. Maybe we looked confused but the staff were very attentive and helped us work through the menu, asking what we liked and recommended dishes to us. Pre-vegan days, I opted down the fish list, whilst my mum looked for a meat option.

We began our meal with campagne sourdough mixed cereal bread and Abernethy salted butter. Followed by our dinner and then tiramisu for two dessert. Do remember if you do get the chance to go, order the mash on the side. It needs to explanation to why once you have had a spoonful of this creamy, potato heaven! I mean it was my birthday and it is not every day you are lucky enough to celebrate at Sketch London, so we were making the most of it! I even had a glass of champagne also which they poured in the most amazing way, from a very great height lets just say that.

Not only did we get to experience the iconic Gallery restaurant but even the toilets are a unique experience. You pee in a pod, literally. It definitely has to be one of the weirdest toilet experience to date in my 22 years. Under a multi-coloured ceiling, similar to a disco dance floor, large egg-shaped pods are scattered around, where inside the toilet awaits. Even the mirrors above the sinks are quirky! You could visit Sketch London just for the toilets themselves.

I would really love to go back to Sketch London and try all the other stunning bars and restaurants but I would also like to go back to The Gallery and have afternoon tea.

It was such a lovely afternoon with my lovely mum, celebrating my birthday and one that I will cherish forever! I hope everyone gets to experience the mad hatter world of Sketch London. From the decoration, to the staff, to the food, to the drink – it was exceptional.

Stories of 2019 #45: Pancake Day in Hitchin

Wasn’t pancake day good! I mean, I and my mum did not even bother to attempt to make them, we chose the sensible choice and decided to head out for elevenses pancakes. We are not just pretty faces, we knew somewhere else would make them better than we ever could!

Already in the area, we went to my absolute favourite cafe – Chia Naturally Healthy. A cozy plant-based health cafe in the center of Hitchin. So aka, we had healthy pancakes…

Every time I have visited this cafe I have had the most delish food so it is no wonder they have been voted top three of The Sunday Times best plant-based cafes.

For pancake day they were also offering not only 10% off pancakes but also had two exclusive flavour toppings. Pancakes on offer were…

Coconut sugar and lemon

Banana, pecan and maple syrup

Cinnamon and blueberries

Thankfully the words, “shall we get two different and share” come out of my mum’s mouth and I was at the counter ordering one maple and pecan, one blueberry and cinnamon. Coconut sugar and lemon sounded lovely too but I mean if I am going for pancakes, I want all the toppings! We also had an English breakfast tea with oat milk and a matcha latte with coconut milk.

My excitement was building when they arrived and we tucked straight into the three-stack, heavily (thank god) topped pancakes. I was in almond butter heaven and we were switching forks trying to decide which ones we preferred. Both equally as good I reckon and thinking to myself what a great idea this was whilst trying to savour every last bite.

Eyes bigger than my belly, I also ordered a slice of their ginger cake to-go… I mean by the time I am writing this blog post (2:30pm) I have had a sneaky spoonful and I mean it is safe to say the cake will not be there for long!

Once again, Chia Naturally Healthy has wowed my tastebuds and I am itching to go back already!

Not only do they do pancakes but they do a whole range of tasty, wholesome food from burgers to smoothie bowls, to beetroot lattes to protein smoothies.

I am beyond happy that this gem is in Hertfordshire and I highly recommend a visit if you are nearby, even if you are not plant-based.

What did you top your pancakes with?

Stories of 2019 #37: Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom

The land of endless enchantment, where your ultimate Disney fantasy’s become reality.

As soon as I stepped into this park, I was mesmerized. Walking down Main Street with a smile on my face and my eyes wide to take everything in. It truly is the most magical place on earth. All my senses were going. I could hear people singing, see the iconic castle at the end of the street from the parade square, smell the delicious buttery popcorn from the stand and feel the sun beating down on my skin.

Where to begin? There is so much to do in this park from places to eat (honestly if I had not just eaten a massive buffet breakfast I would have eaten my way around the park), shopping and then there are the characters and rides! Our guide took us straight to Space Mountain before we had to meet the group at the castle for photographs. In Tomorrowland this thrill roller-coaster dips and whips around in the darkness as you shoot off in your rocket to space. Queue screaming…

Nothing like a fast roller-coaster to shake up the breakfast! After getting the adrenaline hit of the first ride of the next four days we went to the iconic Cinderella castle. Surrounded by lush rose gardens and a tranquil moat, the magical castle is the perfect place to get your perfect Disney photo.

We did not get to go inside the castle but they showed us from the outside the windows to the Cinderella suite. Imagine staying inside the suite! There is also the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where fairy godmothers can sprinkle their magical dust and transform you into a prince or princess. Or, dine with Cinderella, Belle and all the other Disney princess’s at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

We were so lucky also to have such beautiful weather.

But it was only to get better as we were led to a private rose garden just opposite the castle. And believe it or not, we were greeted by a very very special character. Cinderella herself had met us in the rose garden! Pretty as a picture she was.

Photos complete, me and my hair were ready to be thrown around on some rides. Starting off on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train before screaming our way around Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and The Haunted Mansion. Then, we took a more relaxed route and went on “It’s a small world” as well as, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spinner.

One of the highlights of having the VIP Disney tour guides is that there is little to no waiting for rides, which is unheard of at Walt Disney World. You all have fastpass+ so you manage to get lots of rides done within probably the time you are queuing without it. I once remember we queued for three hours for the Peter Pan ride back in 2004!

With time to spare before the Festival of Fantasy parade we stopped for lunch. We went to Gaston’s Tavern and had, I think the world’s largest cinnamon bun. I cannot describe to you how amazing this warm, dreamy cinnamon bun was. Alongside this swirl of cinnamon dough heaven I had LeFou’s Brew. It was a must whilst there, so rude not to.

Topped up on sugar, we went to the parade. A celebration of your favourite Disney music and characters dancing their way through the Magic Kingdom. Be sure to spot Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a huge hot-air balloon, Alice in Wonderland chasing after her rabbits and Maleficent on her fire-breathing dragon!

And the excitement just continued as we headed to the Town Square Theater where we were fortunate enough to meet the duo Minnie and Mickey in their celebration outfits. This is a once in a life-time opportunity as you do not often get to meet them both together so be sure to meet them before the 30th September.

Turning dark, we finished off the busy day at the Magic Kingdom with the most spectacular firework display above the castle. Happily Ever After is a dazzling journey of colour, light and music that bought me and many others to tears. There is nothing more special than this firework extravaganza. Simply memorizing. Take your 3D glasses too to see the secret Mickey’s!

I know what you are thinking… India you have not had sugar in a while are you feeling OK? I know my cinnamon bun was what only a few hours ago? But do not worry, America have us covered and we arrived home to a cake on our bed!! I could get used to this life easily.

Tomorrow – Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and of course, more sugar fueled treats!

Stories of 2019 #35: Walt Disney World Throwback

What an incredible trip I have recently had to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was truly MAGICAL! And yes, it deserves to be in capital letters because it was the most unbelievable week.

I have been to Walt Disney World before back in 2005 when I was only eight but I only remember a few things such as breakfast with Minnie and going on Splash Mountain and it being an amazing trip. However, going back as an adult, I found it so much more special. Previously we stayed in a villa just outside of Disney World but for this trip, I stayed in the Animal Kingdom Lodge and it was so special. I mean it was a dream waking up in the morning, stepping out onto your balcony and spotting giraffes!!

Here are some gems from my previous trip to Walt Disney World. Look how young we look!! These beauties are scanned in from the Florida photo album ha ha.

My friend Jess took me on her trip and we had such a lovely time. We flew out of Gatwick airport last Monday at 11:40am. Both very excited we bounded into the airport early in the morning, met the others who were also on the trip and got all set for our 9-hour flight to Orlando!

The time flew by (literally), especially with good films and food. Afternoon tea miles high in the sky was a particular highlight for me, with Rodda’s clotted cream too… Virgin knows how to do a proper scone.

Once we had arrived at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we were greeted by Zoe and Dave – the amazing Disney PR’s that took care of us – in the grand lobby of the hotel with our magic bands and hotel packs. They took us to our rooms and that is when the excited screams began…

Towels, pillowcase, Minnie ears, personalised hats and tons of sweet goodies – Thank you, Mickey! We were completely spoilt from the word go. The room was wonderful, all African inspired with wooden interiors and quirky wallpaper with animals and mountains on.

It was quite late by the time we had reached the hotel and settled in but around 7pm we all met for dinner. The first meal was within a restaurant at the hotel called Jiko – the African cooking place. Food that was vibrant, spicy and packed full of flavours paired with South African wines set for a lovely evening.

To start, me and Jess shared the Inguday Tibs in Brik which was a samosa-like dish. Mushroom and spinach in a crispy Tunisian filo pastry with apple and curry vinaigrette. Following this for main I had the West African Koki Corn. Mushrooms and avocado on a poblano-tomatillo puree with roasted red pepper sauce matched with a smooth, rich red wine.

But jet-lag hit the group and everyone headed to bed as some stayed behind and had a slice of white chocolate cake – the first signs that I would not feel hunger for the next five days. Not long after we headed back to the room, excited for what was to come the next day when we were off for breakfast with the characters and a day in the Magic Kingdom!