Thursday, September 19, 2019

A (baby) Guide to St Ives

The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos The Little Magpie St Ives Cornwall Film Photos

Hey fellas! For today's post I thought I'd share with you some snaps from St Ives, the place that encouraged me to shout 'I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS THE UK' at least seven times a day. I've been to Penzance before (you can have a read of the guide here if you missed it) but, as much as I loved it, it was March and the weather wasn't fantastic, so this is the first time I've seen Cornwall in all its turquoise-sea'd glory. We were down there for Meggy's birthday so I was in holiday mode and didn't capture as many guide-style photos as I normally would, but I thought it'd be worth sharing some snaps along with a wee round-up of the places we stopped! 

We flew from Manchester to Newquay (a short forty minute flight with incredible views) and from there it's about an hour's drive to St Ives. There were six of us altogether so we booked into this Airbnb here which I couldn't recommend more; it was in a great location and had the most beautiful views across the harbour (again cue spontaneous, 'I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS THE UK' comments). Over the course of the weekend we filled our bellies with some wonderful food in the form of:
- Burgers and gluten free (!) fish and chips at Hub
- An insanely good brunch at Scoff Trough
- Cocktails and seafood dishes a-plenty at Rum & Crab Shack
- A big, hearty brunch at The Cornish Deli which has a really welcoming, homely feel to it as well as a deli in the front where you can buy local produce (chocolate and teabags for me)
- A morning-of-the-airport run to St Ives Bakery for Cornish pasties
- Delicious ice cream at Moomaid

There were a few recommendations that kept popping up, like Porthmeor beach cafe, that we didn't get a chance to try so I'm taking that very seriously as instruction to go back. 

Amy 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Cuba: A Photo Diary

The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat
Ohh Cuba. The question most people have asked me is, ‘...how did you find it?’ with an accompanying meaningful glance. It’s somewhere that a lot of people haven't been to, or possibly don’t even know someone who’s visited, and so have no idea what to expect and I was in exactly the same boat. Normally before I visit somewhere I like to have a real nerd out on blogs and online guides to get a good feel for a place but could find very little this time and so, for one of the first times, arrived with almost no expectations. After an initial afternoon of  'this is so different to anywhere I've ever been and I can't tell how I feel about it', I completely and utterly fell in love. It's such a unique and magical place that no words can do it justice, it's best just to go there and totally immerse yourself in it, but I'm hoping I can share even the tiniest slice of its charm through this post!

The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat
The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat
The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat
The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat
What to know before you go..

- Make sure you have a visa beforehand. Rob phoned me the night before we left like, ‘Amy… do we need a visa?’ and I was like, ‘no, surely not – the airline normally tells you if you need one’ as a cold sweat started to form on my back. Turns out that you absolutely DO need a Visa and won't be allowed on the plane without one. You're more than welcome to think 'uhh-duh', as I am in hindsight, but I’d had an absolutely mental month leading up to the trip and because KLM hadn’t emailed beforehand to tell us, like you'd normally get with an ESTA, and had also let us check in completely online without any mention of one, it completely slipped my mind. Unlike an ESTA, there's no such thing as an electronic Visa so make sure to leave plenty of time to send away for a physical copy! We, on the other hand, arrived at the airport four hours early on the morning of our flight and had a frantic run round every airline check-in desk that we knew flew to Cuba to see if they had any spare Visas on site. After two hours of no luck - there's a mile in between each terminal so we genuinely ran 3.5 miles than morning. With suitcases - we spoke to the Cuban embassy on the phone, who assured muggins one and muggins two that this happens more than you'd think, and told us Virgin sometimes have some. Thank GOD for the wonderful people at the Virgin helpdesk who were so incredibly kind – and looked only momentarily traumatised by our sweaty, panicked faces – who had two visas behind the desk that we were able to buy. So, the sweaty moral of the story is – apply for a Visa long before you need to leave. And, if you don't, wear a good deodorant.

- When you're in Cuba, carry small change, toilet roll or tissues and antibacterial handwash in your bag. A lot of the public toilets (including ones in cafés or restaurants) charge you to use them and don’t come equipped with ye olde toilet paper. 

- Make sure to carry a bottle of water with you and don't drink the tap water.

- Say sayonara to the internet before you need to leave. There’s absolutely no 3G and the wifi that does exist is generally very slow, so make sure you’ve finished all urgent emails, looked up online recs, read everything you need to and all that jazz before you arrive. And, other than that, enjoy it! It’s a forced break from the interweb and I guarantee you’ll be amazed at how good you feel for it. I came to a horrible realisation of how reliant I am on my phone when I was out there; I reached for it a record number of times in the first couple of days out of sheer habit. By the end of the trip I was more focused, more present, I was sleeping better and that wee knot of low-level anxiety that's always in my belly was gone. Because of this lack of connectivity, the locals couldn't be more engaged with day to day life. Whether they're playing instruments, playing football, engaged in a game of chess, chatting to one another or are just watching the world go by, I've never been somewhere where people are so connected and I think that's a huge part of its charm and magic.

- Download offline google maps or maps.me before you leave and I'd also pick up a paper map and a guide book (I've recommended one in the 'what to do' section below that we found to be really helpful!

- Take cash with you! Bank machines are few and far between and often the ones we did stumble across were down. Don't take US dollars as that's the only currency that you'll be charged to change to CUC aaaand if you are desperately in need of a cash machine in the centre of Havana there's one in the basement of Hotel Manzana that we found to be quite reliable.

 - Taxis. We were told, ‘every car in Cuba is a taxi’ and, apparently, that’s true, so don't be alarmed if a car with no markings offers you a lift. Generally the most expensive taxis are the marked yellow ones - more so than the vintage cars - and, when it comes to the vintage cars, don’t expect seatbelts (my nightmare, it took a good few days for me to stop saying my goodbyes every time I got in a car) and there are often little knacks to opening and closing doors so make sure to let the drivers do that for you or you'll be in trouble. We had no problems whatsoever and the cars generally drive very slow around Havana old town but I just wanted to mention it for people who are unaware so, like me, you don’t get a 'please god where are the seatbelts’ shock when you arrive. We also hired a vintage car (with driver) for the day for about 100USD and had a little road trip along to Cogimar – the fishing village where Ernest Hemingway used to fish and where Camila Coelho is from, some more pub quiz trivia for you there – and then along to Playa Santa Maria and back again. Metres are rare so make sure to agree on a fare before you hop in the car.

- Only buy cigars from authorised vendors. I'm not saying we got caught in conversation with a man on the street, taken through someone's living room and into a back room and bought overpriced cigars before we knew what was happening, but I'm not saying that didn't happen either (I blame Rob, I was merely a dazed observer). There are, I think, five cigar factories in Havana and you can buy tickets to the tours from any big hotel. 

- Get chatting! Everyone we spoke to was incredibly warm and welcoming and so eager to share their version of Cuba so, whether you need directions or advice on where the best show is that night, don't be afraid to ask.
The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat
The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eatThe Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat Photo 11-08-2019, 18 07 4The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat8 The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat
What to do...

        I know I normally have a huge list of things to do but for Cuba my main tip would just be to get lost and to go with the flow. Take a paper map and wander through the streets in the old town, pop in and out of bars, people watch. It’s such a unique place with so much going on that there’s something different waiting for you down every street. However, I will pop a wee list below of some of our favourite spots to get you started!  

 El Dandy: One of our favourite bars! Named after a well dressed local gentleman (whose photo you'll see up on the wall), it sits on the corner of La Plaza del Cristo and is a great spot for people watching. Make sure to try the Café Dandi cocktail – condensed milk, Havana rum, cinnamon and espresso mixed together to make a little bit of heaven in a glass. Apparently they also serve up a great breakfast! 
El Cafe is a very cute wee spot in a Spanish colonial building where you'll find everything from amazing brunches to (very tasty) hot chocolates to mojitos. One of our favourite food stops! They also accomodate for vegan diets here. 
Experimental Gallery: For me, this is a must do! It's an art gallery and souvenir shop run by local artists - we ended up buying a beautiful painting, some smaller prints and a couple of postcards - that has an adorable resident cat called Paul (there's a wee snap of him flirting above) who's always up for cuddles.  
Plaza Vieja: its been everything from a spot for bullfights and executions to a market square and is now a beautifully restored, bustling square that should definitely be on your list to visit. We sat in Cafe Boheme for lunch and a mojito in the sun for an afternoon of people watching and architecture admiring. 
        Camera Obscura: if you’ve done the one in Edinburgh you’ll know the drill! You get a little presentation and a 360 real-time view of Havana before heading out onto the rooftop for an amazing view of Plaza Vieja. 
Rub the beard of El Caballero de Paris for luck
Visit Gran Hotel Manzana for a rooftop cocktail and beautiful views across the city. You can also pay a day rate to use the pool up here if you're not a guest!
Of course you need to stop in at, or at least admire from the outside, the iconic El Capitolio Nacional. Right next door is the Gran Teatro which, sadly, we didn't get time to visit apart from to have a cocktail on the terrace, but have been told puts on a ballet that's not to be missed.
El Malecon: This is about a five minute walk from Paseo 206 and is a four mile promenade that always, always has something going on. There's live music, people having drinks, people wave-watching.. it's such a vibrant and lively place to walk along at any time of day. 
304 O'Reilly: famous for its extravagant cocktails and apparently does some very good tacos too! 
Paseo del Prado: Again. this is a must visit for me! It's a long, tree-covered esplanade that was re-modelled in 1925 and, on weekends, is filled with local artists selling paintings, children taking craft classes and small stalls filled with souvenirs and is so lovely to walk along. It was also the site for this Chanel show
Walk through Cementerio de Cristobal Colon to admire some truly magnificent gravestones. Make sure to pick up a map at the entrance or you'll end up wandering for days. 
Hotel Raquel: There are a good few snaps of Hotel Raquel scattered throughout this post and oh my goodness what a building, I think I actually gasped like an old dame the first time I saw it (once at the outside and once again when I walked inside and saw the beautiful glass ceiling).  Make sure to go up to the rooftop for a drink as well! 
La Guarida: You've very possibly heard of this as its one of Havana's best known restaurants thanks to the film Fresa y Chocolate! The food wasn't amazing but it's worth a visit for the beautiful setting alone, from the old, crumbling marble staircase to the views from the rooftop. Make sure to book in advance if you want to visit! 
      You may very well have heard of El Floridita, where the daiquiri as we know it today was perfected. There's a life size bronze statue of Hemingway, a fan and frequent patron of the bar, waiting to greet you.
 Santa Maria del Mar was our favourite stretch of beach with white sand and crystal clear sea. We were told by a few locals not to eat the food there so, if you visit, make sure to eat beforehand or take a wee picnic! If you'd prefer something a bit less rugged, you can pay 25CUC to spend a day at Club Havana, which has its own private beach, beach bar and pool. 
          Calle Cardenas is the colourful street you see above with some of the most breathtaking art nouveau buildings I've ever seen (the turquoise building being a particular favourite). Again this is somewhere I would add to your 'must-see' list!

...Turns out that was quite a sizeable list after all. There are so, so many more things to see and do (I left with the biggest case of FOMO knowing how much we'd yet to do) from Guanabo to the tobacco farms to snorkelling and so, so many more, but hopefully this list'll give you a bit of a taster! I'd also recommend picking up a copy of  '300 reasons to Love Havana' - it's one of the best guidebooks I've read and left us with a to do list the length of Rapunzel's hair (not sure where that comparison came from) during the trip. 


WHERE TO STAY 
The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Guide to Cuba What to do Where to stay Where to eat The Little Magpie Cuba Paseo 206
Where to stay...

We stayed at Paseo206, a ten suite family-run boutique hotel in Vedado in a beautifully restored 1930s mansion, which I honestly couldn’t recommend more. It’s a member of the Small Luxury Hotels Around the World Group so I knew before I arrived that I was going to like it – as I’ve said many, many times before (you know how I like to repeat myself) that they’re my go-to for hotels; if a hotel’s a member of the SLH group then you know it’s gonna be a good ‘un. However, I didn’t realise quite how much I was going to like it and how quickly it would feel like a home from home.

It’s located about a 10-15 minute drive from old Havana in the area of Vedado and is within walking distance of the Malecon, Revolution Square, La Casa de la Amistad, John Lennon statue, Cementerio de Cristobal Colon and lots of other things. The rooms come equipped with Hermes toiletries, Marshall speakers, king sized beds and, if you're on the roof, your own private terrace. We were lucky enough to stay in one of these, so we’d often wander all day and come home for some mojitos (one of the best mojitos I’ve ever had may I add) and a cheeseboard to sit and watch the sunset from the terrace. We did have room service dinner on our wee terrace once, but I’d absolutely recommend going down in to the restaurant instead, it’s a beautiful set up both inside and out (fairy lights, a mild temperature and homemade pasta, need I say more) and there’s often live music on. The food in Cuba is notoriously.. not very good and, although we had our fair share of bad meals out there, the Italian-Cuban fusion food served up at Paseo is incredible; I had hands down the best Carbonara I’ve ever had at Eclectico. In fact I had several of the best carbonaras I’ve ever had there because I couldn’t stop eating it, but that’s another story. Oh, also... Do. Not. Miss. The. Gelato. That's my tip if you eat there! They’re so good with allergies – as you know I have many so I almost wept with joy when the chef told me he could whip up some pasta dishes and fresh fish dishes that I could have. That’s right, gluten free pasta! Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, absolutely make sure to pop along for some food in the eve.

 Breakfast was also a wonderful affair; you can, again, eat inside or outside and enjoy fresh fruit, tea and coffee, some of the best eggs you've ever had, pastries and bread with homemade guava jam . Someone told me that the eggs in Cuba taste especially nice, which I forgot all about until I had that first morning omelette. I don’t know what it is but my god they’re good! The best thing about the hotel, however, are the people who work there, who genuinely bring a smile to my face now when I think about them. They were always there to help with any queries, to offer recommendations that aren't your usual tourist hotspots, or even just for a wee chat.  Each evening we looked forward to coming back so we could have a wee chat and a laugh with whoever was on front desk and, by the end of our stay, we were genuinely so, so sad to say goodbye to everyone. It feels like one big family, in the style of the traditional Cuban Casa Particulares, and you’re lucky enough to be made to feel like part of this big family for however long you stay, so saying goodbye was a sad affair.. When we got in the taxi to head to the airport, both waving like maniacs, we both said how much we’d love to go back to Cuba in the near future and Paseo206 was a huge part of that, I honestly wouldn’t stay or recommend anywhere else. Thank you so, so much to Andrea, Diana and everyone there for making us feel so at home and making our time in Cuba so special. You can also have a wee read of the online guestbook here to see everyone else's lovely reviews of their stay!

Well, if you made it to the end of that, I commend you. I hope you enjoyed the post and that it gives even a tiny insight into Cuba and helps anyone who's planning a trip (take me with with you)

Amy 

Our stay at Paseo 206 was offered at a press rate but the intense gushiness is all my own