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On thursday night myself and the rest of the family popped into Birmingham newest pop up bar, Once Upon a Time in Birmingham. It's a Christmas themed pop up bar situated slap bang in the center of Birmingham inside the old Jamie's Italian Restaurant. 
The launch night actually fell on Dads birthday so I thought it would be rude not to nip in for some complimentary xmas themed bevies!


On arrival you are given a pair of kaleidoscope glasses which are meant to 'enhance the experience'. They basically multiply the twinkling lights by 1000 and make you feel like you've already had one too many cocktails.They do make for some fun photos though and I've never been to a bar in Birmingham (or anywhere for that matter) that dish out props for the night!

Once inside there are several areas to sit in, booths, a chill out area, and the main bar area. We chose to drink in the main bar area as there were a few of us and the booths were taken. If you do get the chance I would recommend grabbing a booth as the view you get of the bar is by far the best from there. The booths are also surrounded by a forest of fairy lights making that area almost den like.


Around the bar there are over 88,000 fairy lights, a shit tonne of tinsel, and various other Christmas decorations, tacky doesn't even come close to describing this temporary birmingham bar. That being said I am a lover of all things novelty and I know this place will do incredibly well in the run up to Christmas. Christmas, booze, and a super fun interior? I think they're onto a winner here.


Speaking of booze, what can you guzzle down in this funky little place? Well the menu consists of everything you would expect, wines, beers, soft drinks etc. but it also features several Christmas cocktails which I don't think you would find anywhere else in Birmingham, or even the UK. Over the course of evening I think I managed  to try every festive drink on the menu, but my favourite by far was the super sweet Gin & Pomegranate Punch. It would have been nice to also see a few basic cocktail combinations on the menu but I understand that they've tried to keep the whole experience on theme.


There are also festive bar snacks (Christmas spiced bombay mix, pine salted peanuts, and potato & gravy flavoured crisps) none of which I tried as we had come straight from a Chinese buffet and you best believe we stuffed our little faces silly! The one thing I would have liked to try however was the elusive clear christmas pudding. It's highly advertised and even shown as a bit of a selling point for this Birmingham bar however I sadly couldn't get my hands on any as the chefs had gone home. Better luck next time maybe?


So what did I think overall? It's a fun little pop up that I know will be massively popular over the next few weeks. I do think the cocktails are a little on the pricey side of things but it's a gimmicky xmas themed bar so you're always going to pay a little more at those kind of places. It's probably not the kind of bar you would want to spend every weekend but it's a nice enough place for a few festive drinks in the run up to Christmas!

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* Our drinks were complimentary however all opinions are my own

ONCE UPON A TIME... IN BIRMINGHAM?*

Dublin, a dirty old town but an absolute cracker of a place for a city break. It's a city I've visited a few times now and each time I've left hungover and poor. But whilst it's true that Dublin is a very expensive city there are also lots of great things to do that won't cost a penny. So I've rounded up my favourite free things to do in Dublin city!


Dublin Airport

Walking Tour - Shocker! A free walking tour made it on my my list! Now I don't want to say I'm an expect (I deffo am) but free walking tours are kinda my thing and I when in Dublin you best believe I'm jumped on one. There are several tour operators offering free walking tours in Dublin but they should all pretty much cover the same sights; O'Connell Street, Temple Bar, Dublin Castle Etc. You can pay €20+ for a bus tour (which will travel at 0 miles an hour by the way) or your can get off your arse and see the heart of Dublin for a fraction of the price!

The GPO - That big beautiful building full of bullet holes on O'Connell street? That would be the General Post Office and the main scene of the 1916 uprising. It's still a working post office today which means it's absolutely free to enter. Whilst it is all very pretty inside it's the outside that really does leave an impression on you. The exterior is laced with very visible bullet holes from the famous uprising which took place over 100 years ago. You can physically feel the history here.

If you do fancy a paid tour here I would recommend the Rebels Rising tour, though it will set you back €16 for an adult ticket.


Love Lane - Spotted on the Dublin free walking tour

National Museum of Ireland - After more history? Take yourself down to the National Museum of Ireland. It's less than 10 minutes from the centre of Dublin by bus and well worth the trip. I have to point out that I've actually only been to one exhibition here but for a very good reason. Currently there is a fantastic exhibition on the 1916 uprising in the museum which features an original Irish Republic proclamation poster. There are very few of these left now so I would recommend you see one while you can.

Arbour Hill Military Cemetery - If the upsring exhibition leaves you wanting more then I would recommend taking a short walk up the hill to Arbour Hill Cemetery. It's roughly 5 minutes away from the National Museum of Ireland and fairly easy to spot once you've left the museum grounds. Here you will find the final resting place of several of the 1916 uprising leaders. 16 rebels were executed as a result of the Easter Rising and 14 of them were laid to rest here in Arbour Hill Cemetery. 

Grave's of 14 of the Easter Rising rebels - Arbour Hill Cemetery

Glasnevin Cemetery - Glasnevin is Dublin's Largest cemetery and it's absolutely jam packed with some of the most well known Irish people. From Daniel O'Connell (The liberator of Ireland and who O'Connell Street is named after) to Luke Kelly (founding member of the Dubliners) you will find all manner of famous Irish folk here. Whilst I would recommend the paid general history tour, you are free to rome the grave stones as you like.

Molly Malone - Good old Molly Malone, flogging Cockles and Muscles (and erm other services depending on who you ask) in Dublin's fair city ever since anyone can remember. But whilst she was likely not a real person, it wouldn't be a trip to Dublin without visiting her famous statue. It's also supposed to be good luck to rub her left breast. Or was it her right breast? Better give both tit's a tickle just to be sure!

Original Irish Republic poster - Museum of Ireland

Temple Bar - A beer here will set you back a good €7, heartbreaking I know. Now I will admit that a night around the Temple Bar area is fantastic and well worth the eye watering amount of money it will cost to drink here, however, there are better (and much cheaper) pubs in Dublin city. So down your drinks here if you want, or be a typical tourist and snap away at the very pretty, very famous temple bar pub for free, I won't judge you. 

Chester Beatty Library - A library? ON HOLIDAY? Hear me out! Now I'm not expecting you to spend your valuable holiday time walking the aisles of a busy Dublin Library, I do however think this building is worth 10-20 minutes of your time if you're in the area. The Chester Beatty Library is located just beside Dublin Castle in the centre of the city and, you guessed it, completely free to enter. So nip inside, head straight to the lifts, take yourself off to the top floor and walk out onto the roof terrace. From here you will see the rooftops of Dublin and get a cracking view of the Dublin Castle gardens.


View from the top of the Chester Beatty Library 

So those are my favourite completely free things to do in Dublin! I'm sure there are plenty of other free, or extremely cheap things to do in Dublin (see Kilmainham Gaol at just €8 a ticket) but these are just the few I personally enjoyed and would recommend.

Have you been to Dublin? I'd love to hear your recommendations!


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8 COMPLETELY FREE THINGS TO DO IN DUBLIN

A couple of weeks ago myself and Mom were invited* down to Rico Libre to see the new location and try out the new menu. I’m a big fan of tapas on holiday and so I jumped at the chance to test out how well we do it here in the centre of Birmingham. Rico Libre is now situated in the heart of the custard factory, so just a short 10-15 minute walk from Birmingham city centre. 



Between us we ordered 6 dishes which was the recommended amount. Initially we weren't sure if this would be enough as we are big eaters but I think anymore than 3 dishes each would have been a bit of a struggle.

After a fairly intense look at the menu, I finally decided on my three. I chose Pollo Marbella (chicken breast with white wine, chorizo, and cream), Pisto (Spanish Ratatouille), and Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish Omelette). The Polla Marbella was nice, though the taste of the chorizo was a little strong for me after a while, the Pisto was delicious, if not a little on the spicy side of things, but the Tortilla de Patatas was the real winner for me. It was larger than the other dishes and really was my favourite of the night. I would also recommend the Pisto as both myself and mom thought it was very tasty, but it is a little spicy and if like me you can't hack the heat, you may struggle with this one.


Mom on the other hand went for Pan de Barra (bread with Kalamata & Halkidiki olives and balsamic oil), Pescado Blanco Frito (deep fried fish in a light batter), and the grilled beef served with a five bean salad. The Pan de Barra was perfect, we both love olives and thoroughly enjoyed nibbling on them as we sipped our drinks. The fish I'm almost certain was moms favourite dish as the portion size was quite generous and she said the batter was lovely too. I will admit though that the beef, as beautifully presented as it was, just wasn't really our cup of tea.

A lot of the dishes were very different to the kind of tapas we’d tried in the past so some of them we loved and some of them just weren’t to our taste, but that’s always the risk when trying out new foods. Sometimes it's nice to give new things a go even if they aren't something you'd be in a rush to try again.


After finishing off our meals we decided to have one small desert between us, and I will admit, it was quite small. We chose the Mousse de Maracuya (Passionfruit mousse in a chocolate cup). I think mom only had one small spoonful, but in all honestly was more than happy to finish it off as the mousse was incredibly tasty with a really great texture to it, and the chocolate cup, well I wolfed that yummy little casing down in no time.

Drinks wise we opted for a bottle of Peach green tea and a can of San Pellegrino as Rico Libre isn’t licensed and we didn’t know this beforehand. I do wish I'd done my research before dining as I'd set my heart on a glass of Sangria which I thought would be readily available in a Spanish restaurant, but as they cannot sell alcohol this would never have been possible. I would definitely recommend taking your own wine/ beer etc. as that way you can drink whatever you like and obviously it keeps costs down a little which is always a bonus.


As for the service, I did think this was a little on the relaxed side of things, especially for a weekday. I did have to ask for things a couple of times, but I will say our server was incredibly friendly and once we had requested something, nothing was too much trouble for him.

So my verdict? As I said previously not all of the food was to my taste, and if I’m honest I did find some of it a little on the pricey side of things. Dishes range from £3.50 all the way up to £7/£8 which can very quickly add up when you are ordering a few items. That being said it is a little independent place set in one of my favourite (and one of the most instagrammable) parts of the city and it offers an experience unlike any chain restaurant you dine in. It's clear that the food is cooked fresh and the ingredients used are good quality, you wont get microwaved tat here.

Are you a fan of Tapas? Where is your favourite place to eat Tapas in Birmingham or even the UK?



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* Our meals were complimentary however all opinions are my own 

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RICO LIBRE - TAPAS IN THE HEART OF BIRMINGHAM*

Krakow, an absolute dream of a city, where do I even start? I had two very jam packed days in Poland's former capital and my god I cannot wait to share it all with you! Whilst I only had a very short time wandering around the streets of Krakow, I got A LOT done!



So here are my Krakow recommendations...


Things to see


Wawel Castle - The most slapped together patchwork castle I have probably ever seen in my life, but one with such a unique beauty to it. I didn't actually have time to go inside but the grounds are free to wander and full of fantastic photo opportunities.

Smok Dragon - A dragon sculpture at the foot of Wawel castle near the river. No spoilers but hang around for 5 minutes and you might be pleasantly surprised. 





Oscar Schindler's Factory - Whilst I don't think going inside is a necessity (most of the original factory was gutted and no machinery or artifacts remain) I do think it's worth a trip just to see the outside of the famous office building.

If you do want to say you've been inside Oscar Schindler's factory however, and you are short of time or cash, the Museum of Contemporary Art next door is housed inside the actual former factory, just don't expect too much as it has been completely refurbished inside.




Cloth hall shopping arcade - This gorgeous vintage style shopping arcade can be found within the cloth hall in Krakow's main square. It is very touristy, but it's also very beautiful and totaly instagram worthy. 


St Mary's Basilica and Bell towers - The odd bell towers at the front of St Mary's Basilica are probably the most photographed thing in Krakow, but for a good reason. The unusual towers are really quite incredible to look at, day or night. If you do visit in the day however, you are likely to be treated to a short trumpet solo, every hour on the hour. Its tradition apparently. 

The Barbican and remains of the city walls - Walk 2 minutes north east of Krakow's main square and you will find, Florian's gate, the remains of the city walls (and lookout towers), and a beast of a building - the Barbican.


Things to eat


Try out Pierogi at Van Gogh's Cafe - It would be a crime to visit Krakow without sampling the famous Pierogi (stuffed dumplings). They come in a range of sweet and savoury flavours so there is something for everyone, plus they are incredibly purse friendly.

I chose to lose my Pierogi virginity at a tiny little Van Gough cafe (Pierozki u Vincenta) in the centre of the Kazimierz district and I'm so glad I did! I opted for the Russian Pierogi (potato, curd, and onions) as these are the originals and probably what I would recommend if you are trying Pierogi for the first time. 





Breakfast at Milkbar Tomasza - I ate breakfast each morning in this cosy little cafe and thoroughly enjoyed it every time. Not only is it dead central, but its cheap as chips, and the omelettes are cracking.

Snack on a obwarzanek krakowski (ringed plated bread) - When in Krakow, especially around the old town, you will find street vendors selling these strange bagel-like breads on every corner. It's just bread but its bloody good bread.

Things to drink

Try a Plum Beer at House of Beer - Ever tried a Plum Beer before? Nope? Well neither had I until I strolled into the House of Beer in Krakow's old town. Every type of Beer imaginable is on offer here so take advantage and try one of everything, you're on holiday after all...



Taste Marcowe at Bierhalle - A word of warning, I wouldn't recommend spending too much time in the Bierhalle, the food is average and it's a total tourist trap, that being said I wouldn't judge you if you nipped in for one drink. I tried Marcowe which is a Bierhall own beer. It's pretty strong, and has quite a perfumy taste to it, but bloody hell was it a cracking beer. 


Things to do


Climb the tallest bell tower of St Mary's Basilica - Got half an hour to spare? Climb the tallest of the two bell towers. For your efforts you'll be treated to a fantastic view across Krakow and the chance to take some great snappy snaps. 



Take a free walking tour - Pretty much every small to medium city in the world now offers a free walking tour (or 7) and Krakow is no different. During my time I hopped onto 3 free walking tours and I would recommend all of them:

1. Free old town tour - Exactly what it says on the tin,  2.5hr tour of the oldest parts of Krakow city.

2. Free holocaust traces tour - A tour of the Kazimierz quarter and the former Jewish Ghetto.

3. Free street art tour - A tour showcasing the best of Krakow's street art.




Wander around the Kazimierz district and Jozefa street - These areas are the life and soul of the city, and parts most tourists won't see if they stay in the old town. Jozefa Street in particular hosts a boat load of independent shops, cafes, bars etc and is well worth an hour of your time.

Whilst I'm sure there are a thousand other things to see, eat, drink, and do in lovely Krakow, these are just the recommendations I have from the two incredible days I had in this beautiful city.

Other Krakow tips:


- If Uber is your usual mode of transport you'll need to be aware that Uber doesn't have a licence to enter Krakow's old town. This is something I wish I knew before trying and failing to order multiple Ubers one morning. You can either try to flag down a registered Krakow taxi, or if you're feeling cheeky like me nip into a nearby hotel and ask them to order you one. 

- Eating or drinking in the old town will cost more than anywhere else in the city. Whilst this can still be incredibly cheap ,especially if you're from the UK, I would recommend feasting in the Kazimierz quarter if you can as it's the heart of Krakow city in my opinion. 

- As always I recommend learning a few basic words in Polish before you go. Everyone I spoke to on my short break spoke fantastic English however that shouldn't be an excuse for laziness. It doesn't hurt to say please and thank you in someone's own language when visiting their country now does it? Click here to learn the basics in less than 1 minute.

Have you ever been to Krakow? What would you recommend?


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KRAKOW - 14 THINGS TO SEE EAT DRINK & DO

Well this is an overdue blog post if I ever did write one! A couple months ago myself and my lovely mother took a trip down to Solihull as I was invited to review* the new (well, not so new now) afternoon tea at the Village Hotel. Spending an hour or so chatting over a good cuppa and munching on miniature cakes is one of my favourite past times, this however was an afternoon tea with a twist...



The afternoon tea is actually inspired by Great British Bake off winner Candice Brown. Now I'll come clean, I've never watched bake off, nope not even once, so fans of the show might find that more interesting than me - I'm just here for the tea and cakes let's be honest.

So what's on the menu? As with all great afternoon teas you should expect lot's of tea (or coffee) and cakes. As I said however, this is no regular afternoon tea so you'll also be treated to bite sized quiches, teeny tiny egg mayo rolls, and some kind of prawn cocktail creation on a cracker, instead of the usual finger sandwiches. Now I'm not a fan of seafood so I didn't touch the prawn creation or the salmon quiche but I was told that alternatives are available for fussy eaters like myself. My mother and loyal afternoon tea taster did enjoy the little fishy foods however and reported back to me that they were in fact quite tasty. I'll take your word on that one mom.



Along with the little savoury snacks we were also presented with rocky road style cakes, miniature rhubarb & custard profiteroles, and posh cornflake cakes of all things. The cornflake cakes actually took me a bit by surprise as they are something you usually make with 5 year old and not something you would ideally serve up to paying customers, however it was more than your bog standard cornflake cake. The cake had a soft base, similar to that of a cherry bakewell and was filled with a sweet lemon filling, the cornflakes themselves were then topped with coconut which might seem like a ctrange combo but funnily enough it all worked really quite well together.

So what's after the cakes? Scones of course (or scoooones if you're posh). To mother and I the scones really are the make and break of an afternoon tea. Give us a good jam & cream scone and you're onto a winner. Give us a bad one, or one with, god forbid, butter and you're straight into our bad books. So did this this afternoon make our naughty or nice list? Well I'm still slightly undecided. The scones included in the Village Hotels afternoon tea were actually chocolate orange flavoured so they were pretty much written off straight away by my mom. If it's not broke why fix it right? Well I would be inclined to agree with her but I did actually quite enjoy these funny little citrus scones and although they aren't necessarily what I would chose, they were still pretty decent.


So what was my opinion of the whole thing? Well it was a different afternoon tea experience I'll give it that, but it wasn't too different, and actually it was nice to spice it up a little bit. The platter comes in at £17.50 per person which isn't too pricey for a 4 star hotel restaurant, but it probably is a little more than I would usually spend on an afternoon tea if I'm honest. All in all it was pretty damn decent and I enjoyed trying out an afternoon tea with a little bit of twist.



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* Our afternoon tea was complimentary however all opinions are my own!


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THE SOLIHULL AFTERNOON TEA WITH A TWIST*

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