Maleficent Adventures

Travelling Around the World

Category: Top-9-Travel

Top 9 Things To Eat in New York City

As a follow up to #Top9ThingsToDoInNYC, Lucy felt it important to guide you towards foods that made her trip, and where to find them. Included in each point is a location, but some of these are just generic NYC eats your trip desperately needs.


  1. Pizza – Picasso Pizzeria, 303 South End Ave, New York, NY 10280.

This specific location I would highly recommend, because it was perfectly located between getting off the ferry from Ellis Island and heading to the One World Observatory. The service was friendly and fast, and for three slices and a drink it was less than $15 (can’t remember exactly). Have you even been to New York if you haven’t eaten pizza by the slice?

despite my expression, I am in my happy place


  1. Breakfast Diner food – Juniors

Juniors was recommended to me by our older sister who visited New York in November. We went out of courtesy, as she was adamant we should go there, and now I press it’s importance this onto you. There are two locations in Manhattan, and we tried them both! The 45th street restaurant is smaller, but they both provided us with outstanding service and delicious fresh breakfasts. Filled with locals fuelling up before a day’s holiday shopping, so you know it’s good. Reasonably priced at $40 set us both up for a day of exploring, I think it was a bargain. We didn’t need to eat again till late afternoon despite being on our feet all day!

The theming is very 1950s and very neon, and apparently their cheesecake is legendary.


  1. Beer – Heartland Brewery/Jimmy’s Corner/Brooklyn Brewery

Trying local brews is an important part of our holidays, if we can also squeeze in a brewery trip then that’s a win! Here are a few places we found that had a great selection of beers:

  • Heartland Brewery: right next to the Empire state building. It was a great place to people watch (we had a seat right next to the window), but also the basement is huge so even at its busiest I think you could still get a table. It’s the perfect place for a pitstop during a busy day of sight-seeing.

  • Brooklyn Brewery: highlighted in our previous article, this place had a great selection of delicious beers, brewed on site. Hipster vibes and comfortable surround made it a nice break on a rainy day.

  • Jimmy’s corner: our hotel was right next door, so we had passed this place a few times and when it was suggested as a good place to go in our Lonely Planet guidebook, we couldn’t resist it any more. It was everything you would expect from the outside, a bit grotty, but mostly just a homely place to sit and have a drink. Beers here cost half the price of those in the Hard Rock café, only 100m away!


  1. Pretzel – Any stand

This is a no brainer, they’re on every corner of every block, they’re fresh and they make for a very affordable and filling dinner!


  1. Italian food – ViceVersa, West 51st Street, New York, NY, USA

Over 14% of New Yorker’s are Italian American, so it makes perfect sense that the city has some amazing Italian food. We decided to go out for a nice meal one evening, consulted our guide book, verified on Instagram and went to ViceVersa.

Everything we ate was amazing and authentic (see: arancini, lasagne and ravioli), the service was perfect and the cocktails were also delicious!


  1. Southern Style – Fat Bird, 44 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011.

Fried chicken, onion rings, mac and cheese, Brussel sprouts and coleslaw, a hangover heaven.

This place was somewhere we stumbled upon by Chelsea Market, slightly hungover and wanting some comfort food. This really hit the spot and the service, was almost too good. Is there any better feeling than finding the perfect mac and cheese, when you need it most? No.


  1. Donuts – Donut Plant, 220 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011.

Festive mint chocolate filled donut – AMAZING!

This is a good location for a pitstop if you are headed downtown, or walking back towards midtown. It had a great selection of treats to try, and we popped in after we had walked off our Fat Bird (see above), the perfect dessert before bed!

What do you get when you cross a cinnamon roll with a donut?


  1. Coffee – Bluestone Lane

What better way to start your day than a fresh coffee? This was just what we needed before we traversed across the Brooklyn Bridge.


  1. Sweet Treats – Carlo’s Bakery

We couldn’t resist visiting one of America’s most famous pastry chef’s establishments to see what all the hype was about. Don’t be put off by the queue, the staff work tirelessly to take your order and process it in minimal time, getting you to your pastries in no time at all!

Everything was delicious, but very rich so make sure you go with an empty stomach and a sweet tooth!

I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I enjoyed eating it, I would love to know any of your recommendations for our next trip!

Top 9 Things to do in New York City

Lucy and her husband took a 4 night trip to New York the week before Christmas to enjoy the festivities in the Big Apple. These are the top 9 activities they would recommend you add to your itinerary.


  1. Go to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island

This was absolutely my favourite thing we did on our trip. Lady Liberty is so beautiful and quite something to behold in the flesh! We booked pedestal access in advance, this is crucial information to know as these tickets sell out as soon as they go up online. I wanted to get Crown access but we left it one day longer to book and they were all gone for the days we were there.

We still got amazing views from the pedestal and would definitely recommend it, especially if you have smaller children as  there are fewer steps to climb.

You book through the official National Parks website, and pick the time of your ferry departure. We went for 9am on the second day of our trip because we decided that jetlag would mean that we would be up bright and early.

This was true, and the island was deserted when we arrived meaning we had a nice casual morning taking our time. When we were leaving to go to Ellis Island the boats arriving were twice as full as the one we arrived on!

The ticket includes a round trip to Elllis island, which is also well worth a visit. They give you a free audio guide, allowing you to work your way around the exhibits at your own pace. Again, because it was early on we didn’t feel rushed, and crowds were almost non-existent.

We come from an Irish family, with half of our descendants migrating to America through this building so it always feels very emotional to stand in this hall. It is a great place to visit, and is a bargain, for only £18 each for two attractions, a boat trip and audio guides.


  1. Rockefeller Centre

Our visit was at Christmas so obviously we had to call by to see the famous tree and ice rink.

The whole place is beautiful, from Radio City Music Hall:

To the Top of the Rock – which in my opinion, gives you the best views in the city. We opted for an evening view because I wanted to see the Empire State Building lit up for Christmas, but the views during the daytime are just as good.


  1. Walking tour – Grand Central Terminal/Chrysler Building/Public Library/Empire State Building/Bryant Park

I always make sure I have a Lonely Planet guide for the city I am visiting, mostly because they provide great ways to see the city – self guided walking tours! This one was a really good way to get some air but also see a lot of the architectural landmarks in the area. First off, start at Grand Central Terminal (not a station, a terminus!).

Don’t forget to call by the whispering gallery, where you and a friend can talk to each other from across the room using the architectural magic of the alcoves. There aren’t any signs for it (that we could see, but we followed the Dining Concourse signs and on our way out from there we came across it.

The building is so beautiful it is well worth a wander, even if you haven’t got a train to catch!


  1. Central Park

We had a few jaunts in central park, I think it would be much more enjoyable in the summer as most of the grass areas were cordoned off (presumably to help growth in the winter). None-the-less, it was still nice to get a break from the hoards of people on 5th Avenue and Times Square and the Bethesda Fountain and surrounding area are featured in so many films that its worth a visit.


  1. Brooklyn Bridge

This iconic bridge is well worth a visit, and very easy to walk across to get the full impact of this beautiful structure. We were already in Williamsburg at the brewery, so we walked from the Brooklyn side towards Manhattan and the views were great – despite the weather being miserable.

Top tip: Pick up a pretzel on your way onto the bridge to keep you going!


  1. Brooklyn Brewery

Me and my husband are huge beer fans and visit breweries in most cities we visit (see: Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Bruges, San Francisco, Monterey, Las Vegas…), so naturally we weren’t going to miss out on one of the most famous in the world.

You buy beer tokens when you enter the building, and this makes buying beers much quicker and smoother. Sipping iconic and seasonal brews within these hipster surrounds is the perfect way to while away an afternoon. They have an ever-changing food truck outside to cater for those of you who don’t want a liquid lunch!

Top picks: Bel Air Sour and Defender IPA


  1. Walking tour – Flat iron/High Line/Chelsea Market/Meatpacking

Another great walk, with two from the book (Lonely Planet Pocket Guide to New York) merged together. We walked to the Flat Iron district and had a mosey round Eataly – which is a huge food court/department store/eatery, it was amazing with Italian food as far as the eye could see. This is a definite lunch stop to be added to your itinerary.

We carried on down to around 30th street, where we joined the High Line.

The High Line is the old New York Central Rail Road, which has been converted into a public walkway, with green spaces and seating to look out over the roads below. It was really nice to be able to walk without having to stop at every single road for traffic. This made the rest of our walk to Chelsea Market much more enjoyable.

Chelsea Market is a converted factory complex housing shops, eateries and businesses. It had so much to offer in terms of food and drink, and was also great for buying last minute unique Christmas presents. There was a whole area reserved for market stalls where sellers were offering their hand made original wares.


  1. Check out the window displays on 5th Avenue

I’m not sure how relevant this is outside of the holidays, but the Christmas displays on 5th avenue were amazing. Saks this year were celebrating the 80th anniversary of Snow White, with windows all along the front telling the story with moving puppets and scenery.

Bergdorf Goodman had a homage to iconic attractions in the city including the Natural History Museum in Swarovski crystals (mesmerising) and a neon trumpet scene for the Philharmonic.


  1. Twin Towers Memorial

I don’t think there could be a more perfect way to remember the towers, and what happened here in 2001, than to leave the foot prints of the buildings empty. The void left in the space of the towers speaks volumes.

The reflecting pools and enormous waterfalls give a timeless element to the memorial, surrounded by trees rustling, you can’t help but feel moved standing on this site.

We did not visit the museum, instead we opted for the One World Observatory.

The views are really good, and on a clear day you feel like you can see for miles.

We did however, find this to be a bit gimmicky, although the lifts are an experience all on their own, it does give you a different view to the options in midtown (Empire State/Rockefeller).

We much preferred the Top of the Rock, in terms of views and the building, the Rockefeller’s art deco interior just has much more character than the sleek insides of One World.


We hope this article helps you plan/decide on your next trip! If you agree or disagree with any of our opinions, reach out to us on social we’d love to hear your thoughts!

This holiday was booked with British Airways Holidays – a great way to find a deal by combining hotel and flights.

Top 9 Christmas Markets in Hamburg

Here at Maleficent Adventures we love Christmas markets, each year we go away with our sisters to a different European Christmas market for the weekend. This year we travelled to Hamburg for a weekend filled with mulled wine, bratwurst and good times.

We went to so many Christmas markets over the weekend that, in true Maleficent Adventures style, we decided to rank our top 9 and here they are:


  1. Rathausmarkt
    This is the largest market (we found) in Hamburg. Nestled next to the majestic and historic town hall, this market is packed with stalls selling everything from decorations to local delicacies and is a must see for all visitors to Hamburg in the festive period.

Käthe Wohlfahrt is by far always our favourite stall which specialises in Christmas decorations. It is filled with hundreds of very delicate ornaments to suit every taste, and whilst we had to queue to get in the door, this meant once we were in we had time to browse and weren’t rushed by the large crowd of market goers. It’s a winter wonderland!


  1. Mönckebergstrasse Christmas Market
    Along the streets of Hamburg, these market stall facades reminded us of wild west saloons. Regardless of the size this was a great place to pick up some tasty food and drinks with much smaller crowd then in the squares


  1. Christmas market at the church of St. Petri
    Located near the Rathaus this market snaked round the back of the historic church. It was nice and quiet during the day for perusing the stalls and had a few good places to perch with a hot beverage.

Look, even the cups match each individual market!


  1. Gänsemarkt market
    Nestled in a small square was Gänsemarkt Christmas market. All the stalls were designed to look like Gingerbread houses and whilst we were there it continued to snow making a magical backdrop for a cheeky mulled wine.


  1. Fleet Christmas Market
    We came here in the evening, the large marquee complete with chandeliers, provided a warm and relaxing atmosphere whilst we sipped mulled wine whilst overlooking the river.


  1. WinterWald
    Who doesn’t love drinking a toasty mulled wine whilst sitting in a Forest? Towards the back of the market was an area cleared just for drinks stalls and was lined with Christmas trees, very magical.


  1. White magic on Jungfernstieg
    Found across the road from Europa Passage shopping centre, beside Binnenalster lake, is the Jungfernstieg Christmas market. It is definitely one of the fancier markets we have seen, but this came with a higher price tag! Glasses of gluhwein were the most expensive here, but at night this really was very pretty. They even had exclusive fire pit booths available for hire.


  1. Winter Pride
    We stumbled across this area one night, we wouldn’t quite describe it as a market as it only had a few bar stalls and 1 food venue serving bratwurst. However, it was very lively, with good music and great atmosphere perfect for a night on the tiles!


  1. Santa Pauli
    Located in Hamburg’s right light district, this Christmas market is publicised as Germany’s best x-rated market. We actually didn’t get a chance to go into this market as it wasn’t open whilst we were there. But we think this would have been well worth a look in if you are passing by and into niche markets! Probably not suitable for families.

Honourable mention: not a Christmas market but we also visited Altes Mädchen the bar/restaurant attached to the Ratsherrn brewery for a few hours which we would strongly recommend. It stocked a wide selection of beers on draft (with a great beer flight to get you sampling some of them), tasty food and with a warm and welcoming environment. The staff were great and service was very efficient to say it was a busy Saturday. This was the reason we did not make the aforementioned erotic market – too busy drinking beer!

We all had a fantastic weekend, do you have a different order? Reach out to us on social media, we’d love to hear about it.

Top 9 Tips For European Christmas markets

Each year we go on a European Christmas market trip with our sisters. Coming home from our fourth annual trip we have put together our top tips on how to prepare for a great festive weekend:

  1. Think about logistics ahead of time
    If you are planning a trip abroad and therefore flying or getting the Eurostar, book early. We cannot stress this enough, the later you leave it, the more expensive it will be. We booked our latest trip to Hamburg in February! You may scoff, but flights and accommodation were £200 all in. Be sure to check your arrival and departure times as this will help maximise your market times and remember on a weekend there will be bigger crowds so you may want to think about heading midweek.


  1. Map out the markets before you go
    Whilst you have time and Wi-Fi at home take note of what Christmas markets the city offers and where they are located. You want to make sure you hit the biggest and best ones in the time you are there. Lucy saved us loads of time by pinning all the markets in Hamburg to her Google maps so it was easy to navigate through the city.

Top tip: some markets are only open select weekends – and during certain hours.


  1. Dress in layers and stay warm
    Make sure to pack comfortable shoes and supportive socks, in most cities the markets are spread out and if possible get waterproof ones! Waterproof shoes are best where possible because we are yet to have a 100% dry weekend! Hats, gloves and scarves are a godsend when you’ve been stood too long drinking mulled wine!


  1. Keep an eye on the weather
    This is both before you go and whilst you are away; try timing indoor activities with predicated spells of bad weather so you aren’t caught out. Our first trip to Berlin we managed to time ducking into a beer hut avoiding a heavy rain fall with lightning.


  1. Have a light breakfast or go hungry
    There are so many good food options at Christmas markets, make sure to leave space as you’ll want to try everything!


  1. Have a break from Christmas markets

This might seem a little strange but, taking time to warm up and see whats good in the area can be just as rewarding. During our latest trip to Hamburg went out of our way to visit the wonderful Ratsherrn brewery, which hosted homebrewed and local beer with over 20 tipples on draft.


  1. Go back at night
    Whilst evenings can draw a bigger crowd than lunchtimes, the warmth of mulled wine and sparkle of Christmas lights create a more festive atmosphere after dark.


  1. Try the local delicacies and Christmas specialities
    No two markets are the same either in the same city or country so keep an eye out for unique items. Berlin invented the Curry Wurst and Hamburg is famous for Frazbrötchen, similar to a cinnamon roll, and these were things we were glad we didn’t miss out on.


  1. Pick up a souvenir mug
    For every drink, mulled wine or otherwise, you normally have to pay a 2-3 euro refundable deposit. Every market has its own different mug, sometimes even for each year, so why not commemorate the occasion with a cheap souvenir which can be used again and again.

Top Tip: Feeling tired and cold? Most cities in Europe now have a Nespresso store, we’ve used these on our last few trips to have a warm up and a free coffee for an additional pick me up mid-afternoon!


So far, we have been to 4 different European markets (excluding the UK): Berlin, Brussels (where we did a day trip to Brugge), Stuttgart and Hamburg. Berlin has hands down been our favourite city, not just for the markets (there are over 50!) but because the city itself is so rich in culture.

We look forward to planning next year’s trip – where would you recommend? Get in touch through social media.

9 Things To Do In And Around Dingle, Ireland

Holly and her friends went to Dingle in August for a colleagues wedding. Whilst there they explored the region and here are the top 9 things they recommend:

  1. Go on a walk along the harbour
    Dingle is a beautiful, picturesque town sitting on the Kerry peninsula. This harbour town is full of life and is a great way to experience County Kerry. Take a relaxing stroll around the harbour, explore the shoreline and watch the fishing boats come in with their latest catch.
  2. Drive Slea Head
    Signed posted along the Wild Atlantic Way, Slea Head is a circular route following the Dingle Peninsula. Take your time to enjoy the scenery and the views; the roads are a mix of country single track and normal roads making it an exciting adventure!

    There are lots of viewpoints sign posted along the way to stop and take it all in. One of our pit stops accidently lead us to discover these fantastic prehistoric Beehive huts, ancient dwellings nestled along the coastline.
  1. Head to the beach
    The west coast of Ireland is littered with beautiful sandy beaches and County Kerry is no exception. Inch beach is by far the best one in the area, which is around a 30 minute drive from Dingle. We passed a number of beautiful beaches on the Slea Head drive, all with parking, so it was easy to stop and paddle in the cool Atlantic Ocean.
  2. Experience as many pubs as possible
    Dingle is full of quaint pubs on every street. These traditional pubs might not look like much from the outside but on the inside they are bursting with character and atmosphere.

Whilst all the pubs we visited we enjoyed, there were two we would definitely recommend putting on your list:

Dick Mack’s, found opposite the church in Dingle, sells a selection of beers, whiskeys and craft leather goods. No, you read that correctly, whilst you are enjoying a quiet pint whilst you can get a personalised belt made to mark the occasion (if you are so inclined).

It’s much larger than it looks on the outside, with a second bar towards the back of the property which opens when it gets busy on an evening. The courtyard at the rear hosts 2 permanent food trucks, one with fresh pizza and the other has burgers and chips. As if all of that wasn’t enough to entice you, in the last three years Dick Mack’s has won the Munster Whiskey Bar Of The Year and the Irish Whiskey Bar Of The Year.

Foxy Johns

Another great stop just around the corner from Dick Mack’s, Foxy John’s is also a hardware store during the day. This pub is more spacious than Dick Mack’s but still has a wide selection of beverages and a good courtyard out the back if the weather is good.

  1. Do a Brewery or Distillery Tour
    Microbreweries have become increasingly popular in Ireland over the last few years and the Dingle Brewery Company is an excellent example of this, located only a 10 minute walk from the waterfront.
    They make Tom Crean’s, a lager inspired by a local adventurer who travelled to the South Pole. He was named a hero after walking 35 miles, non-stop for 18 hours, alone across the Antarctic to save the lives of his fellow explorers.
    For 7 euros you get a self-guided tour and a pint, which you can take on the tour or enjoy in their nautical themed bar afterwards.
    Whilst we didn’t get a chance to go to the Dingle Distillery, we had heard great things about it. They specialise in their own line of gin, whiskey and vodka which can all be found in the local pubs. Tours occur a few times per day and cost 15 euros.
  2. See Fungi the Dingle Dolphin
    Probably the most famous attraction within Dingle is their resident dolphin, Fungi. We remember coming to Dingle as children and this was definitely a highlight.
    There are several companies around the harbour providing boat trips out into the bay to try and see “Fungi”, departing regularly throughout the day. We went with Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours, the trip was an hour long and cost 16 euros. They gave an up-close look at the dolphin in his natural habitat and was seen just alongside the boat.The trip also took us along the coastline, taking in the landscape including the natural rock formations – sea arches, famous in the area. You could also go on a longer boat trip, visiting some of the nearby islands – Blasket and Skellig.
  3. Live Music
    Nearly every day, every bar has incredible live music. We stayed in a B&B next door to Murphy’s Pub and after 9pm each night there was a small band set up. It was a perfect place to get a pint, sit in a booth and relax listening to the music.
  4. Sample all the local delights
    Dingle is a harbour town, home to lots of fresh seafood but you’ll also find delicious traditional Irish favourites such as beef stew and soda bread. We ate in several of the bars along the seafront but which ever place you choice to go to, you’ll be treated to a delicious feast and a hearty welcome.
  5. Explore the town
    This might seem a fairly obvious point to make but there is plenty more to the town than just the waterfront harbour and the next-door streets. We found whilst walking to the Dingle Brewing Company (see point 5) we saw streets full of shops and pubs we wouldn’t have know were there! Every Friday, Holyground car park hosts the weekly market. You’ll find a few stalls set up flogging the best in local food and craft fare.

Did you know? Both Game of Thrones and the latest Star Wars movie (Episode VIII) were filmed around Dingle. There are plenty of signs up, informing tourists of the different filming locations.

9 Things To Do In Venice, Italy

Lucy and her husband went to Venice in June, here are the top 9 things they recommend:

  1. Taking in St Mark’s square with a post-dinner drink
    It is very expensive in the square, so we would only recommend one tipple to finish off your evening with a touch of class. The square is all lit up and the ambiance from the orchestra makes it magical.

  1. Views of the Grand Canal
    No matter where you cross this iconic canal, the views are always spectacular. Whilst the Rialto bridge is obviously a must see, we found it to be much less crowded on the Ponte dell’Accademia, with just as nice a view.

  1. Wander the backstreets with no destination or purpose
    The beauty in Venice lies not only in its popular tourist hot spots (Campanille, Doge’s Palace), but in the architecture of the city itself. Wandering through the backstreets, finding hidden passage ways and tiny bridges kept us busy for hours – and is also the best way to find popular local eateries and bars.

  1. Eat local
    We used the Lonely Planet guide (I rarely travel without one) to help locate osterias and ristorantes that the locals love. It not only gives you a better feel for a city, but we also found them to be much cheaper. Venice is great for its own version of tapas – cichetti, which we fell in love with and ate for nearly every meal. Our main eating rule: NEVER eat somewhere with a picture board of the food – these are tourist traps with huge prices attached.

Recommendations for Venice:

Posso Pomo Doro (Calle Larga San Marco) great modern take on rustic Italian food, fantastic desserts.

Pasticceria Dal Mas (Rio Terà Lista di Spagna) –  bakery for great cannoli and other sweet treats, we also had some beautiful macarons here:

Barco Risotto (Campo San Provolo): We asked behind the bar what all the cichetti were and then also for a wine pairing. The staff were so helpful and the food and wine were delicious!

Osteria ai Osti (Corte dei Pali già Testori) – This place was a random find, tucked away down a back street. We were aiming for Cà D’Oro alla Vedova but after being stood in the door and ignored by staff walking past us for 5 minutes we decided to take out business elsewhere – and we were glad we did. It was VERY rustic – we did not understand most of the menu and ordered blindly (no signal to use google translate!). However, the service was fantastic, the food delicious and the prosecco 2.50 Euros a glass – perfecto! We were also too busy enjoying ourselves to take any photos, sorry! There are some good ones on the google maps page though.

Osteria Dei Sapori (Fondamenta Trapolin) – perfect for a spot of people watching and cichetti:

Al Ponte Storto Osteria con cuchina (Ponte Storto, San Polo) – This place was fantastic, super fresh ingredients, great staff and a very nice quiet corner to get away from the crowds.

  1. Try the gelato
    You might think this needs to come under the food tip, wrong. Gelato is a way of life in Venice (and Italy – see our Tuscany blog), and we made it our purpose to visit as many different gelaterias as possible. All except one were recommended by our Lonely Planet guide, and were all fantastic.

Recommendations for Gelato:

Gelato Fantasy (Calle dei Fabbri) – because I am a real hunter of KitKat ice cream we sought out this place, and I was not disappointed.

Suso (Calle della Bissa) – amazing flavours, and always so crowded. Definitely try the pistachio, it comes with a nut butter top layer (pictured below) and it is phenomenal.

Alaska Gelateria (Calle Larga dei Bari) – great flavours but they were a bit melty and there were no waffle cones.

Magnum Pleasure Store (Fondamenta S. Simeone Piccolo) – We are kind of ashamed to say we visited this place, because it isn’t Italian in the slightest. However, it is delicious so: sorry – not sorry.

  1. Visit local attractions
    Whilst on this trip, we kept it to strictly food, drink and wanderings; on previous trips however, I have visited the main tourist lures.

If you are low on funds then choose one, I would recommend the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), where you can walk through various rooms of the palace and also visit the bridge of sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri).

The Guggenheim is a great way to see a grand collection of art.

St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) is also a beautiful building to visit, but arrive early as the queue can stretch as long as the square later on in the day. There are a whole host of museums and churches well worth a visit.

  1. Visit Rialto
    We took a walking tour out of our Lonely Planet guide called “Venice Gourmet Crawl”, where we visited the Rialto market and Pescaria – where all local produce is bought by chefs and café owners for the day’s menu.

We went to Caffe del Doge a fantastic coffee shop and perfect for breakfast.

Wandered the streets, finding a great viewing point of the Grand Canal by the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia.

Finishing by Alaska Gelateria (see tip 5), which, despite flavours being good here, the gelato was quite wet and melted very quickly. Still worth a visit though.

The Rialto bridge is also spectacular at night.

  1. Visit the islands
    This time we went to Murano – home of glass making in Venice.

It is a quaint little island with a lot of shops selling glass items, and a few factories where you can actually see the glass blowers at work.

The museum here (Museo del Vetro) is also a good place to visit to learn about the processes and see the current artist installation – which is pretty much mind blowing (pun intended).

You can easily buy tickets and hop aboard the waterbus to any of the islands, which works like a metro in any city with the stops along the way signposted and arrival times marked clearly.

We had lunch at Osteria al Duomo which was fantastic! We sat out in the walled garden behind the restaurant, which was beautiful and highly recommended.

  1. Drink!
    The region produces Prosecco, so it would be rude not to sample a couple of local glasses. We particularly recommend a visit to Al Prosecco for a glass of the old style ‘natural process’ wines, where you can get a glass of unfiltered (cloudy) prosecco. It definitely has a yeasty flavour to it, but worth a try, great on a hot afternoon. One of the things you’ll also see people sipping around the city is a glass of Aperol Spritz, which was invented by Austrian immigrants that lived in Venice. Whilst prosecco suits me just fine, I can get why it is such a popular drink – it can be quite refreshing on a hot afternoon. There are also a couple of local breweries on the island worth visiting.

Bar recommendations:

Al Prosecco (Sestiere Santa Croce) – set in a beautiful square, it is perfect for people watching and was full of locals (so you know it’s good).

Bar 1 Ciak (Campiello San Tomà) – another great spot in a shaded square, plenty of people milling through perfect for sitting back and taking in your surroundings and planning your next move.

9 Things To Do In Tuscany, Italy

Last month, we headed off on our annual family vacation, this year to Tuscany Italy. We flew into Pisa before driving to Vorno, a small town just outside of Lucca.

Here are a few things we’d recommend doing when visiting Tuscany

  1. Overindulge in the delicious food
    Italy isn’t short of amazing food that the whole family will enjoy: pasta, pizza, charcuterie, cheese, gelato …. Need we go on?

Our recommendations in Lucca include:

  • La Buca di Sant’Antonio – book ahead, because we were a party of 9 we got a private room and the service was impeccable.
  • Trattoria Da Leo – vino della casa (house wine) is delicious, all pasta dishes to die for!
  • Pizzeria Pub Io Skianto di Fabrizi Anna Maria Lo Schianto – perfect lunch spot just on the edge of the city, right next to the carousel

In Vorno:

  • Ristorante Pizzeria A Bimbotto – family run, great deco, SUPER delicious food.

  1. Sample local drinks
    Each town and region throughout Italy has its own unique beverages, be sure to ask your server for something local to compliment your food choice. We found ‘vino della casa’ did us just fine, and was very affordable! As an aperitif, you can’t go wrong with a prosecco or Aperol Spitz – when in Rome!
  2. Book a villa with a pool
    Temperatures in Tuscany, in the summer can hit heights of 40 celcius, we were so greatful to have the option to cool off with a quick dip. Make sure you buy an inflatable online and bring it with you – saves a fortune, and your pool cred 😎
  3. Visit the historic city of Lucca
    This ancient walled city is full of culture and fantastic food. Weave your way through the streets from square to square and you’ll pass some delicious gelateria, mesmerising churches and great museums.
  4. Hire Bikes
    Down the narrow streets in the cities or in the countryside, hire bikes to explore more of Tuscany. In Lucca, we were able to hire bikes and a 4-wheel cycle (perfect for keeping naughty toddlers at bay!)  by the hour to explore the city walls. Tandem bikes were also available, located near the entrance to the city on the south side – by the carousel.
  5. Visit a local vineyard
    Throughout Tuscany vineyards are abundant, scattered amongst the hillsides as far as the eye can see. We visited Montechiari Winery in Monte Carlo, and had a great time learning lots about the processes used to create their cabinet sauvignon and merlot wines from grape to wine. Surrounded by gorgeous views, we got to sample 4 wines and a champagne including appetisers for 50 Euros per person. It was so good our mum ordered a case of the champagne for her 60th birthday celebrations next year!
  6. Head to Pisa
    Home of the iconic leaning tower, head to the city to see this epic monument. Be sure to head there earlier or later in the day to snap that iconic photo with the tower with fewer tourists getting in your way.
  7. Visit Florence
    Florence is the capital of Tuscany and is a beautifully unique and majestic town. Be sure to stop to see Statue of David (Michelangelo) and Florence Cathedral.
    Get a lift up to Piazzale Michelangelo for an amazing viewpoint over the city.
  8. Take in the countryside with a nice walk
    Rolling countryside is in abundance in Tuscany, make the most of it and take your time to explore the local area.

9 Things To Do In County Clare, Ireland

Over the past 20 years family summer holidays at Maleficent Travel have largely been based in Ireland. One of our favourite places to stay is the seaside resort of Lahinch (or Lehinch) in County Clare on the west coast of Southern Ireland.

We recently have both taken friends to explore the area again and relive some of our favourite childhood destinations. We’ve put together our top 9 things to do in Clare:

  1. Visit Lahinch beach
    Lahinch Beach is an expansive sandy beach which stretches across the bay. Take your shoes off, roll up your trousers and go for a paddle in the cool Atlantic Ocean. If you don’t fancy getting in, or it’s high tide, the promenade stretches the length of the beach making it perfect for a gentle stroll. The beach has had recent renovations (thanks to the 2013/2014 winter storms) and is now completely accessible.
  2. Go surfing
    Whether you are a seasoned pro or a newbie, Lahinch beach is a perfect place to ride the surf. Littered across Lahinch town, is a number of surf schools which can provide both board and wetsuit rentals as well as lessons for all abilities. Holly’s friends used Lahinch Surf School during their visit in May. This school is one of Lahinch’s longest running and we can remember when it was first established by Former Irish Champion and Pro Surfer, John McCarthy. Lessons last around an hour and a half and cost 35 Euros for an adult, they are taught by enthusiastic surfing professionals and are a great introduction to the sport.

    If you are not inclined to head out on to the ocean yourself, Lahinch is home to the West Coast Surf Club’s Longboard Competition and Festival. Held in September each year, you can see some of the world’s best surfers out on the water doing their thing.
  3. Drive the Wild Atlantic Way
    The Wild Atlantic Way is a coastal road which stretches across the entire West Coast of Ireland, starting at Londonderry (Co. Derry) and finishing in Kinsale (Co. Cork).
    Lahinch is one stop on this route but if you travel in either direction you’ll come across some beautiful villages and hidden coves.

Holly and her friends headed North, up to Ballvaughan, through Fanore and back around to Lahinch.

Ballyvaughan is a beautiful harbour town, and we can highly recommend the Ballyvaughan Tearooms. The stone restaurant, that looks like a cosy living room, dates to the 1790s and was renovated in 1981 into a tearoom. The quaint cafe, complete with conservatory, is light and open and a perfect place to stop in for a brew. If the idyllic settings haven’t piqued your interest, the food should draw you in. Everything is homemade fresh, and even the strongest of wills would have a hard time walking away from that cake table.Lucy and her friends headed South, visiting the picturesque Town of Ennis. This was the perfect town for a spot of breakfast (try Café Aroma – 6 Euros for a cooked breakfast and a hot drink), and a look at local wares. We then headed south to the coast, calling at the beautiful port town of Kilrush.Then onto Kilkee, where we had a delicious lunch at Stella Maris – featuring fish caught fish daily and very knowledgeable staff, highly recommended.Our final stop was Spanish point, named because part of the Spanish Armada was ship wrecked here in 1588. This is a lovely beach that was packed full of families enjoying the water, it is also a great place to surf if you fancy a change from Lahinch.

  1. Head to the Cliffs of Moher
    Probably Clare’s most recognised landmark, the Cliffs of Moher are a natural beauty to behold. The adjoining visitors centre tells the story of the region and how it has developed over time and offers information on its history as well as local flora and fauna. There are a number of boat trips available from Doolin or Liscannor to get an amazing view from the other side of the cliffs.Did you know: The Cliffs of Moher features as the backdrop for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince; when Harry and Dumbledore go in search of the locket Horcrux in the cave, it was filmed right here.
  2. Drink Guinness
    Lucy: I have been visiting Ireland all my life, and yet it was only on this last trip that I discovered the beauty that is Guinness. It really is true what they say, they don’t taste the same anywhere else in the world.

Whilst in Lahinch, it is easy to enjoy a Guinness in a whole host of great places all up the main street but our favourite is and always has been: O’Looneys. Sitting on the water’s edge, O’Looneys has a great restaurant that offers panoramic sea views whilst you dine on delicious local fare.

Other great places to grab a pint in Lahinch include Kenny’s and The Corner stone, both of which are very homely and welcoming.

  1. Take in the Irish Atmosphere
    Most weekdays in the Summer, and definitely every weekend, you will be able to find a pub with a local band playing. Whether it’s a cover, modern or trap band, Ireland is notorious for live music which are always great to watch. Ideally, head for dinner around 7pm and then once you have finished your meal you have an excellent set up for the evening’s entertainment.
  2. Walk on the Burren
    Just a short drive North of Lahinch is The Burren National Park, home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. The region hosts great walking trails, but you can’t visit the area without exploring some of the limestone formations the county is famous for.

  1. Eat local
    Nothing beats a traditional Irish stew, or a plate of cabbage and bacon, so do not hesitate to order these customary dishes. Lahinch boasts a wealth of eateries, obviously O’Looneys gets a special mention but Joe’s Café is also a great place to eat and offers a wide range of vegetarian options. We also ate in McGann’s in Doolin, whilst rather daunting to walk into an establishment stuffed to the rafters with locals, we were made to feel very welcome and the food at atmosphere were fantastic.
  2. Fish and chips by the coast
    If you’re from the UK then we won’t need to press this point too heavily, but there is nothing better than eating fresh fish and chips after a hard day’s surf. So our final shout out goes to The Chipper in Lahinch, for fuelling 15 years of surfing in our family.

Ireland is a beautiful county, home to some of the friendliest of people in the world. The Emerald Isle’s notorious green countryside comes from its high levels of rainfall, so our final advice to you is get out and enjoy the good weather whilst you can (also pack a raincoat)!

9 Things To Do In Rovinj, Croatia

A few short weeks ago, we headed off to Croatia with our sister to a small town situated on the coast of the north Adriatic Sea called Rovinj (or Rovigno). Located on Istrian peninsula, this bustling town had lots of offer.

Here are a few things we’d recommend doing when visiting

  1. Hire bikes and cycle along the coastline
    The flat terrain around Ronvinj makes it ideal for exploring by bike. Check with the hotel or apartment you are staying at, most of them will supply bikes free of charge, otherwise many local shops offer bikes to hire.
  2. Try the ice creams/gelatos
    You won’t be able to go far in Rovinj without hitting a Gelataria which is perfect, as temperatures can get very high (around 30°C/86°F when we visited). With so many flavours to choose from you’ll keep coming back for more!
  3. Explore the markets
    Located near the centre of town, the Green Market sits just to side of Marshall Tito Square. Wander through the many stalls selling fruit, souvenirs and local wares which include: local liquors, homemade olive oil, figs and honey.
  4. Take a boat to Katarina Island
    For just 25KRN (£3!) for a return trip, hop on a boat in the Marina and take a short ride across to the island. Don’t worry if the wind gets up, the island itself has two docks, and they use the calmest one so you can safely board and disembark.
  5. Explore the Old Town
    Rovinj feels very reminiscent of Venice, due to its Italian history and today remains a bilingual town (Istrian/Italian). It’s interweaving streets are picturesque and let you explore for hours down cobbled throughways finding hidden gems to sample the delights. Be sure to keep an eye on your surroundings as you’ll come across an ornate church hidden away or a cat asleep on top the shutters.
  6. Hike up to Basilica of St. Euphemia
    The pinnacle of the old town and Rovinj, is this unique Baroque church. Head up for stunning panoramic views across the coastline and town.
  7. Have cocktails at sunset
    Facing the setting sun, Ronvinj has lots of bars perfect to grab a cocktail and watch the sun go down over the water. Valentino Cocktail and Champagne Bar also offered stunning views, with an under lit lagoon feel when the sun has set. Be wary though, every patron must buy a drink to enjoy these views – something they will uphold almost to the point of rudeness.
  8. Indulge in the local cuisine
    Sitting along the coastline means fresh seafood isn’t hard to come by. The small town of Rovinj is home to Croatia’s first Michelin Star restaurant Monte. Awarded in January 2017, Monte has two superb taste menus: a 5-course and a 7-course. Our favourite course used liquid nitrogen to give authentic and immersive “under the sea” movement to the fish dish. Not to mention the outstanding – if not a little bizarre – puddings!

    We also stumbled upon Bookeria, a very chic looking small restaurant not far from the main square. It seems to be newly opened as it does not have many TripAdvisor reviews yet and we found it purely by browsing Instagram photos of food in the local area (top tip for finding good restaurants in places you haven’t been to before). The food was fantastic, and the only criticism would be that they were slightly understaffed and it took a while to move between courses and to pay the bill. However, genuinely it was obviously newly opened and still making necessary tweaks. We would recommend booking an early table to avoid the local rush around 9pm, and thus get the service you require. We also ate at La Puntulina, which was not only delicious but provided stunning sunset views to complement our dinner. Definitely another place we would recommend booking ahead of time, the sunset dinner slot was very busy.
  9. Try the local wine and beer
    Istria is best known for its Malvazija wine and most restaurants only stock local produce. We had a wine pairing at Monte, and every wine was locally sourced and excellently complemented the food. Don’t be scared to ask your waiter for a recommendation, they are very proud of their produce! Obviously a hot day’s exploring is not complete without sampling a selection of Croatian beers, again, we were not disappointed.

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