One of the main reasons I was excited for our trip to New York, was simply because of all the food. There were so many places that we'd racked up on our favourites list, that we debated whether it was possible to brunch twice a day, followed by a late lunch and then an even later dinner.  And snacking in between.
Is that even possible?
Well, we failed. Massively.
If we'd opted for breakfast, we tended to grab a snack instead of lunch, saving ourselves for dinner, or having a breakfast snack and a bigger lunch. Basically, we covered half of what we wanted to do. But what we did cover was delicious, and would 100% recommend you checking them out.

Ready, set, FEAST!

BREAKFAST

Russ & Daughters - Now, I'm no salmon and cream cheese fan, but that didn't stop me really wanting to try out Russ and Daughters - after all, bagels are the thing of NY right? Prepare for it to be busy in there, with a huge range of folk - some buying salmon for a big feast, others wanting to grab a bagel before breakfast, and then us, the tourists. Actually, it's not that touristy at all, which is kind of the beauty of this place. Chloe opted for The Daughter's Delight, and it delighted for sure, and I went for tomato and onion cream cheese on a garlic bagel. Because if there's garlic available for breakfast, I am all about it. And yes, it was one of the best bagels I've ever eaten. Messy. But very very tasty.

Egg Shop - If you'd asked me last year about my view on eggs, I'd tell you that I merely like them in cakes. But lately, I have a little more time for them. And so I was interested with The Egg Shop. After debating for what felt like years, I settled on the Scrambled Egg bowl and a bowl of scrambled eggs it was - as in, we're talking maybe 8 eggs used?! Topped up with mushrooms, parmesan, herbs and avocado it was a pretty delicious way to start the morning. And with gorgeous interiors to match, it's a lovely little place to just sit and catch up with your friend (whilst letting your huge egg consumption settle in your stomach!).

LUNCH

Wanderlust - This might be a pretty bold statement, but I think Wanderlust was actually my favourite places of all. I think (oh, I mean they were all good, but this was just another good). We headed here for a very late breakfast or an early lunch, if we were trying to make ourselves feel better for ordering Mac & Cheese and Baked Alaska at 11.30am. The interiors are absolutely beautiful, and I feel this place is still so undiscovered, which is maybe why we loved it even more. But actually, the winner for me was seeing the Baked Alaska on the menu - reminding me of my childhood.
So yes, ordering dessert for breakfast is totally allowed when it's here. Because Wanderlust is all kinds of wanderlust.

The Butchers Daughter - I'd seen The Butchers Daughter about a lot on Instagram, which definitely explained the huge crowds that come here. And I also see why they come here (I mean, I'm all about the plants), because the food is good. Like really good. It's healthy and full of flavour, and for us, it was the perfect lunch to welcome us to the city. Also, who doesn't just love a colourful salad?
Plus, I totally had a thing for the hanging plants over the counter. Honestly, the places here have nailed their interior.

Salvation Taco - We came across Salvation Taco when browsing for rooftop bars, and I'm so glad we did. It wasn't somewhere on our radar, and it's not really a food place up on the rooftop, but actually, the two choices of tacos that they offer (chicken or mushroom), were insanely good. We ordered only one each as a little snack before dinner, BUT I'd happily have munched away on 50 of these (whilst drinking my Aperol obviously). Also whatever they did with the salsa, was a winner.

Nickel & Diner - Another place that originally was on our list but not top, was Nickel & Diner. We'd agreed to grab a coffee from here at some point, but after a bar that we wanted to spend an afternoon in, was closed, we headed to Nickel & Diner and we're 100% glad we did. It's like a classier diner if you'd like to call it that, with really friendly staff, and equally friendly bellini's. The menu was fairly standard, but the flavours were delicious. Oh and the fries? Yep, I'm still dreaming about them now...

Milk Bar Store - We really couldn't take a trip without trying Milk could we? I don't actually eat cereal at home, but I was so up for trying this. What I liked, is that unlike some of the UK ice cream stores, they don't mess around with the portions. There was more than enough ice cream that we actually struggled to finis it. And the cereal with the ice cream? It's that much of a winner for me, that I'm now contemplating eating cereal at home, just so I can have ice cream for breakfast...

DINNER

Pastai - Another place that we hadn't actually looked at going to was Pastai, but upon passing it on our first day, we wanted to make time for this spot as the menu sounded sensational. It was one of our finer evenings, if you'd like to call it that, and making a proper night of it, was also one of my favourite nights of our trip. We sat on the stools by the window, watching the world go by as we laughed and talked, and ordered starters such as Fried Olives filled with Pecorino Cheese and pasta dishes topped with Burrata and Caulifower Saffron Ragu. And we drank a whole lot of prosecco. And then we debated coming here every night for the rest of the trip, because pasta is life. And this pasta was really really good. Definitely add this to your list.

The Meatball Shop - I was hesitant about The Meatball Shop, because of the name (obviously), but it's so far from being just all about meat. Not only are the cocktails super tasty that they went down a little too easy, but the vegetarian option was a winner covered in Parmesan sauce. We ordered sides of cheese balls and broccoli (because it's all about balance), and had a first lovely evening in New York. There's a fair few of these dotted around, so whether it's lunch or dinner, you should at least order yourself some balls...

Pizza Beach - There's always time for pizza, and now I've discovered that there's always time for Pizza Beach. We headed to the Upper East Side location and felt like we were in Miami. We sipped on rose cider (trust me, it's good), and ordered pizza with avocado on. To be fair, we were sceptical, because should avocado be on pizza? Well, the answer is actually yes. It was delicious - especially with some parmesan and chilli oil drizzled on top. And the staff were some of the friendliest we'd met on our trip. Basically i'm still thinking about Pizza Beach a lot...

QI - We'd walked past QI most mornings, and admired their tiles and doors but never ventured in until our last day, when we knew we needed to grab something to eat close by before heading to the airport. And I'm glad we did actually. Being in the Hells Kitchen area, we literally felt so lucky that we got to try some amazing places (that weren't recommended on Instagram too!!), and this was a nice little way to end our trip. The starters were mourish, and the Pad Thai was a winner. Also, I know we can't eat them, but honestly, those tiles are a bit lovely aren't they? But if that's what sways me to try somewhere, then so be it!

COFFEE

Urban Backyard - If there's one thing I regret, it's ordering a takeout from Urban Backyard. We'd grabbed our bagels from Russ & Daughters and were on route to find a sunny spot for breakfast when we decided to grab coffee (or tea in my case) from Urban Backyard. I'd seen that it was a cute place, but it's even cuter in real life. The staff were kind and chatty, and the plants were also an appeal. Inside is just very lovely, and outside they have a little seating area which is equally as nice. Honestly, grab a coffee for in. Because it's calming. Although you might not want to leave...

Brooklyn Roasting Company - It was a really hot day, and we'd walked from Central Park all the way down to Brooklyn. And we were about to walk to Williamsburg, so we wanted coffee. Cold coffee. We found Brooklyn Roasting Company just by the water. Chloe ordered one and said it was super delicious, and I opted for a raspberry iced tea which was refreshing and just the liquid we needed to get us through another 10k steps. The location is also right next to DUMBO, so has a really cool relaxed vibe, full of quirky folk, and a whole host of laptop clubbers.

The Wild Son - We stumbled across The Wild Son as we were about to walk The High Line. Ideally, we should have stayed for lunch because the plates looked amazing, but we'd filled ourselves up on breakfast (as usual!) so we settled ourselves down by the window for a coffee and peppermint tea and embraced a slower pace that day. It was a really buzzing lunch spot, which attracted loads of locals catching up with friends, or grabbing a solo lunch. The staff were polite, and the atmosphere was chilled and warm. It was nice.

Birch Coffee - Let me tell you a little something, if you're like me and not really a coffee drinker (makes me ill FYI), then you may struggle with the tea. I'm not really sure if New Yorkers get the same tea we do, but whenever I'd ask for milk, I'd either be met with a strange look or some frothy milk that almost resembled a latte, but tea. HOWEVER saying that, Birch Coffee came up the best, making the most British tea I'd had all week. And what's better, it was around the corner from our hotel, so was the perfect little coffee/tea stop to kick start our busy day ahead.

Nickel & Diner - I mentioned about Nickel & Diner for food, but it's also a great place to grab a coffee. Not only do they have the diner area, but you can order coffee from the separate coffee counter, and settle into one of the bar stools or grab it to go. Again, the staff are really friendly here, and yes, dare I say it, Nickel & Diner is very Instagrammable. 

DRINKS

Wanderlust - I couldn't not mention Wanderlust again, because even if you don't eat, there's still an amazing bar to grab a few drinks at. There was a great selection of cocktails on offer too, and although we visited one lunchtime, I reckon it gets pretty lively on an evening.

City Vineyard - Once we'd strolled through Wall Street and Battery Park, we ambled up towards City Vineyard as it looked like a perfect spot to see New Jersey from. The whole walk up was gorgeous, and actually completely not what we expected, so I'd definitely recommend a walk up this way. We sat on the terrace with a chilled glass of rose in the sun, and honestly, we could have stayed longer. It seems to be a busy place once the workers are finished and I reckon on the weekends, it's a completely vibrant and buzzing place!

Refinery Rooftop - On our search for rooftops, Refinery Rooftop kept popping up and so it was only right that we gave it a visit. We couldn't get a table as the reservations list was nearly two hours wait, but we grabbed ourselves a drink at the bar and headed towards the terrace to stand. It was certainly one of the finer places that we'd been too, and was lovely to see some sights such as the Empire State Building especially as the sun began setting. For us, it wasn't our favourite place (it didn't help that we were constantly getting frowned upon by some city men), but for views, and maybe on a quieter afternoon it's worth at least one drink.

The Hoxton - Being a fan of The Hoxton, we were definitely eager to check out the new Williamsburg hotel, and after walking over 25k steps in the morning, we earned ourselves a fair few Aperol Spritz's. We settled ourselves into some comfy seats, half in the bar and half on the terrace and lost a few hours here, in all of the good ways. Because, The Hoxton is one of those places, that makes you feel so welcome and warm. Now we need to find an excuse to go back for an overnight stay...

Salvation Taco - Of course, another mention for Salvation Taco for being our favourite of the rooftops that we visited. It's a really cool spot, and the perfect place to watch as the sun sets over the city. Because it was such a nice day, we ordered ourselves Aperol (I'm fairly sure that's what we drank most of), but the rest of the drink menu looked pretty tasty. I think you could easily spend a long evening here. I mean, why wouldn't you want to?

So basically, the food and drink in New York did not disappoint one bit. And I'm already planning my trip back, just so I can eat some more of the good foods. Including THAT bagel. Oh and those pasta dishes.
Actually, all of it. And more this time.

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I turn 30 at the end of the year, so technically I'm in my 30th year already.
BUT, I thought I'd write down a collection of things I've learnt in those 29 years (and Sade's post inspired me to actually publish it!). And whilst it might not be to everyone's taste, and that's totally cool, I wrote this for me.
Because, I need to remind myself of the things I've learnt.
Rather than the constant guilt that I'm nearing 30 and still haven't quite learnt to love myself like everyone says you will do.
I haven't.
But I have learnt that pasta really is life.
And many other things. But mostly that pasta is life.

1. Not everyone will like you, and that's really OK. Well, I say it's OK, because I'm sure there'll be a panic and worry over why they're not a fan of me, but sometimes people just really don't gel together. And it's human. It REALLY is OK. It's not me. (Or is it?!).

2. Be kind. Such a simple concept, but one that genuinely helps. Karma can be a bitch for sure, and it's been tempting to shout to be heard, but forever showing kindness does eventually pay off. I won't pretend that it sometimes makes for an unhappy feeling inside, but I truly believe that kindness spreads kindness. Or something like that...

3. Love your parents like no other. I've always admired and respected my parents (maybe not so much when I was 14), but as I grew, I realised and learnt just how much they do for us. And I like being around them, and treating them, so I make sure to spend plenty of time with them. Oh, and calling them!

4. It's OK to not be OK. It really really is.

5. Imposter Syndrome is always lurking in the background. And it probably won't ever go. But remember where you were, and where you are now. Nobody is going to take this away from you. You are in control.

6. Travel will change your mindset. A huge one. I wasn't such an avid traveller as a child (although I did love our annual Greek holiday) nor in my late teens but now, it's what inspires me. It's what gives me the push to work hard and also, it has taught me so many things, and opened my eyes to things I never once thought or knew. I don't think I'll ever give that up now.

7. It's totally acceptable to still order a side of corn on the cob if it's on the menu. Totally acceptable.

8. You will love in all kinds of different ways. As children, we have this idea of love. But what I've learnt is that no love is ever the same. There are so so many different ways to love. And you can't run out of love. Ever.

9. Friendships will come and go. People will come and go for that matter. Friendships will change, and sometimes these things just happen. And what once was a friendship based on mutual interest, isn't there anymore. People change, life changes. It happens. But nobody prepares you for that feeling, of people disappearing from your life.

10. Be a cheerleader. For your friends, your family, and for anyone you care about. And be their biggest cheerleader ever. And if you wanna send ten hundred cards to them,  just because, then that's cool. Because a trip to Paperchase is always a good idea.

11. Talk. Communicate. Tell people how you feel. It really does help.

12. Pasta solves everything. Well not everything, but mostly everything. Especially with cheese on top.

13. You will change as a person in more ways than you'll realise. Oh this is a huge one I've learnt. I didn't realise how much I changed, and for the better I hope. But what I once loved or would do, I don't really enjoy now. I never stood up for myself, and OK so sometimes I still don't, but I am learning to do what works for me, not just what works for others. I wonder what I'll be like in another thirty years...

14. Drink on a Monday night if you want. This is my favourite thing (I say that like I drink every Monday), because it just doesn't matter. We can do what we want, when we want.

15. Our planet needs us. And our voices should be used.

16. Surround yourself with good people. I've finally started to accept that if people make me feel rubbish, they're really not worth my time. I like to think that I put care, time and love into friendships, so when people can't even just check in to see how I am, it leaves me feeling like I'm not good enough for them. I'm still dealing with it, but slowly making more time for those who have time for me.

17. Family always have your back. They're my biggest supporters, and are always there for me when there's change, or if I need them more than ever. And I couldn't be where I am now, without them at all.

18. Sex gets better. Oh yeah. As you get older, it gets much much better.

19. Things are just things.  Memories are what matters. Well, except my telephone table. That's not just any old thing.

20. Listen to people. My dad always taught me that we have two ears to listen and one mouth to speak, so we should listen twice more than we talk. And it's so true. I try to be a good listener, even for a distracted person. And I think that helps with all aspects of life - listening.

21. Grief really can't be described. I've been lucky to have grown up with a few of my great-grandparents until I was 15, and apart from a few family friends who sadly died from cancer, I'd never had somebody so close to die. Until I lost my grandad unexpectedly last year. It taught me so much, but still to this day, I can't quite describe the feeling that it left me.

22. No-one will judge you if your bathroom isn't always sparkly clean. I used to always panic when people came over, and wanted it to look like a show home. And now? My friends won't disown me if they see my trainers not stacked neatly, or if my sink has been wiped with an Andrex toilet wipe rather than bathroom cleaner. They just want the wine.

23. Invest in comfortable shoes and a warm coat. Being practical was never my idea of fun. And getting through many plasters was a terrible habit of mine, because nice boots that were infact uncomfortable didn't make anyone happy. Now I'd rather be able to walk without my bag filled with plasters, and just the right temperature with a practical coat. That preferably has a hood, but y'know, one step at a time...

24. Home is wherever you make it. I hated the thought of moving as a child. But now I've learnt that home can be anywhere. Someplace safe. Oh and with a few houseplants!

25. You will turn into your parents. THIS. I never ever expected to. But it genuinely does happen. And I think without even realising, we just do things that reflect what our parents do. Although if I look half as good as my mama at 56, or still have a powerful head of hair like my papa (at nearly 60), then I'll be pretty pleased.

26. Everyone has their own path in life. As hard as it is, we shouldn't compare ourselves to others. We all have our own paths. And none of us are doing it wrong, or right. Everything happens for different people at different times, and almost, that's the beauty of the world we live in. Embrace it.

27. Peppermint tea helps. Especially when you like and eat pasta as much as I do.

28. Being happy is key. THIS is the biggest one. If something isn't making me happy anymore, I have to change it.

29. Nobody has their shit together. They really really don't!

"Our backs tell stories no books have the spine to carry"

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Whilst I try not to follow the crowd too much, it's hard not to be sucked into visiting places that others have been. And when I spied Elmley Nature on my Instagram feed last year, I knew this was somewhere I wanted to visit.
You see, the male and I love those nights away; where we have no TV, and just pack up the car with cheese and wine, and a speaker (although we totally forgot that this time). Oh and our coats, because, I'm a cold person. And you just never know!
So, it almost was a bit of a no-brainer to book this for the males birthday in August.
I mean, obviously it was his birthday.
And obviously it was a nice treat for him.
But also, I wanted to go.
And sometimes we need to find an excuse. A perfect excuse in fact.


I expected that the Isle of Sheppey would be this ridiculously quaint place, just off from Kent. But in all honesty, the place wasn't for us. So I was a little hesitant as we headed towards Elmley.
However within minutes of heading down the long winding path (and spotting many cows), we breathed a sigh of relief as the reserve came into sight. We were taken to our home for the night, The Damson and immediately fell in love.
Small but utterly compact.
Everything you need is there, with a bathroom (complete with shower), cooking area and a very very comfortable bed. And yes, the bath tub outside was a big hit! But the main star of the show, is the view from the bi-folding doors.
And with it being early August, you can bet those doors were open all evening.
"The flies won't be THAT bad we said". We were wrong, oh so wrong.


Once we'd chilled for a little while, we decided to take a walk around the reserve. With it being a Tuesday night, the reserve was actually closed to the public, however we were able to roam and spot some more cows, as we wished.
We meandered along, laughing, doing our best Steve Irwin impressions, and taking in the beautiful surroundings. Almost, like we didn't know what we did as we walked, but all we remember, is how peaceful, and calm it was. And how much it felt like absolute bliss.
We liked it here a lot.


The evening was spent doing what we do best - eating cheese (Rosemary & Garlic Camembert FYI) and drinking a bottle (or two) of wine, with our feet hanging over the edge of the hut, doors open, the cool August air catching us, and chatting about all things life.
These are the times when we talk about everything, from our first dates to our future.
And they're some of my most favourite moments.


We woke to the morning sun streaming in through the doors, as we'd decided to keep those curtains open. It's funny, as whilst I'm quite a weed when it comes to noises and shadows (and bugs and you name it, I wimp at it...), I love nothing more than having the natural light creeping in to gently wake me.
Although, as I drifted off to sleep that night, I must have forgotten what August mornings are like. So 5am, there I was - wide awake.
But it didn't matter to me, because that view was still as beautiful and spectacular as I thought the night before. So I opened the doors and snuggled back into bed where I just laid - daydreaming, and watching the cows go about their morning.

We eventually got ourselves up, had ourselves a delicious breakfast with some fresh milk and made the most of the outdoor tub.
Just for the two of us. With the peaceful sound of the reserve (and a few birdwatchers walking by behind us - don't fear, they can't see you!).

I didn't want to check out.
Not one bit...


But like everything, good things (most good things...) have to come to an end (for now). And we loaded up the car, wished the lovely owners of Elmley a thankful goodbye and headed for home.
We simply cannot recommend Elmley Nature enough, and would suggest a two night stay, to fully make the most of your time there. Whether it's summer or winter, The Damson is the ideal place to relax, unwind and drink wine under the warm evening sky or starry cold night (just have a blanket to hand!).

More nights like this!

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Hi my name is Katy, and I can't stop buying plants. You see, every Friday after my therapy session, I walk home, and on my walk home is Camden Garden Centre. And well, you know, I end up in there just to browse what's new, and then before I know it, I've one (or sometimes two) bags in my hand and I'm adding them into my home. They say that getting your greens is crucial and all that, right...?

 Since working from home more regularly, my little buddy has become even more of my little buddy/shadow. Whenever I head into the garden, he'll wake up from his snooze and follow me out with sleepy eyes, or if I'm running a bath, you can bet he'll be there expecting plenty of fuss. I don't mind, because cats are life and precious and cute. And it keeps me company - you know, baths get pretty boring after the first five minutes. Even though I still have one daily!

Mare Street Market has become my little go to place for my morning cuppa, lunch and sometimes a cheeky drink or two after work. It's such a beautiful space, and being a few doors down from my client's office, it's fast becoming one of my favourite places. Their deli is delicious too with plenty of salad options, pastries and some good coffee! Can't recommend it enough if you're Hackney way.

I've been wondering what exactly we've been up to in the last month or so, and quite honestly, if we've not been hanging out with family on most weekends, we've been drinking with friends. I mean, that's what summer is all about - BBQ's, pub gardens and cider on the green. I think it's fast becoming one of my favourite seasons, spending time with everyone we love and care about and just having a pretty awesome time. Except for the hangovers...

 Talking of hangovers, we've seen a fair few of those lately! And whilst I'm not one to just chill out at all, it's been duvet days to cure those headaches. To be fair, most of the time I've felt this rough, it's been raining - so it's almost a little blessing! And we've managed to work our way through a few murder documentaries (we're talking Evil Genius, The Staircase, World's Toughest Prisons and Dark Tourist), so I guess all is not lost. Anyone else obsessed with crime stories?!

Long time readers may recognise that this isn't our cat. He's in fact our neighbours cat, who basically makes himself at home, like it is his home. Every morning he stands at the back door howling to get in - and merely pops in, wanders around, has a little scratch on the pad, settles for five minutes then leaves. He repeats this in the evening too. It's too hard to resist letting him in when he has incredibly cute (and big) paws. Plus look at that face. Official cat lady.

Summer, you've been fun - please don't leave us just yet.
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People talk about Sri Lanka in so many ways, and they don't lie. But actually, even after explaining places and showing photos to anyone and everyone (who'll listen), they'll never quite show the true beauty of the country, without seeing it for yourself.
Our nine day trip was a bit of a whirlwind, as there was so much of the country we wanted to see, but on such a tight schedule (had to get back to finish up my work notice didn't I?) we had to plan plan plan. And when I say we, I totally meant me. I did my research, and then some more, and added a list of all the places we (I) wanted to visit, and the places that didn't seem as important to us (me). And then I made a plan. And searched endless hotels and Airbnb's. I left the flights to the male.
And on the 29th June, we packed up our backpacks (we weren't all about the backpacker life, but for ease of travel, these were ideal. Plus it was fun to see the male with a backpack), and headed to the airport, without a hangover. For once.

DAY ONE - Colombo to Kandy

We arrived in Sri Lanka about 4pm, and decided the best thing would be to get ourselves a taxi to Kandy once we'd collected our luggage. After a little bit of bartering (from the males side because I was whispering how cheap a 2.5 hour journey was...), we left the airport ready for our adventure and agreed on 5,000 Sri Lankan rupees (about £25). Nearly four hours later and some incredible roads driven we arrived at Ozo Kandy. I found it quite strange that it had gotten dark about 6.30pm, so almost didn't fully feel on holiday.

Kandy

Nonetheless, we dropped our bags down, sprayed ourselves in insect repellent and headed to their rooftop bar to grab some food and appreciate what we could of our first night.
The following morning we woke to an incredible view overlooking Kandy Lake, so decided to wander around the city for a few hours before heading to our next location. The Lake was incredibly picturesque with all kinds of people wandering around - from tourists, to locals and school children. It was buzzing, and we were pretty sad to be leaving after less than 24 hours.
Ozo Kandy was a great place to stay, it was clean, fairly modern and the staff went above and beyond the care. It was an ideal location in terms of the city, where it felt a little further out, but only took a five minute walk towards the lake.
We'd definitely recommend a few nights here, as the temples are worth seeing, and apparently the traditional food is amazing too.

DAY TWO - Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

I'd originally planned for us to get the train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, as it was one of the most talked about things to do in the country. However at this point, the male wasn't fully ready for this, and with us having not settled somewhere for 24 hours, we opted for a taxi again which would take 3 hours. Ozo Kandy helped arrange a taxi from the city, and a kind Sri Lankan man picked us up, stopping en-route to show us all of the fruit stalls that were by the side of the road. Half of me loves that we got the taxi, because the views were beautiful, driving through the tea plantations (which Nuwara Eliya is famous for), and being able to stop at any opportunity, but also, think the views inbetween the mountains on the train, would have also been stunning, if not more!

Nuwara Eliya

We arrived in Nuwara Eliya just after lunch and although we knew it was known as the 'Little England', we weren't quite prepared for what it had in store. It was drizzly, and cold, like very cold. We were up in the mountains, and the views were stunning that the cold didn't bother us. We pulled out our only hoodies that we had, and headed towards our accommodation. I'd booked us into Luxe Wilderness, because I was totally lured in by their decor (and THAT bathtub). Unfortunately, with the area, it was damp and the walls were thoroughly soaked through with the mist (we're talking like a shower had been left on constantly). And mist equals a whole host of mosquitos!
We tried to put this past us, as the lovely guy showed us around, but couldn't help feel a little uneasy when he explained there wasn't many restaurants here except a Pizza Hut delivery or Indian takeaway. Refusing to order pizza, we headed down towards the village for some evening food.
Nuwara Eliya is a place to visit for sure, and online, people are either all for staying a few days to truly explore, or a pit stop place for a few hours. For us - we wished we'd stayed an extra day in either Kandy or our next stop, Ella, rather than here. Apart from the fascination of the tea plantations, the town itself didn't do really anything for us. I mean, we did completely appreciate and admire the traditional Sri Lankan hustle and bustle (and in finding a red post box so high up in the clouds!) and found ourselves in a proper market that was insanely busy. I also found myself having a mild panic attack from the overwhelming attention that we were getting down these narrow lanes, so couldn't quite manage to relax here, even though I tried so hard.
Our night was long, in that we wrapped up for bed, for fear of being hounded by mosquitos, and watched movies until the sun came up. We managed a few hours sleep before packing up again and taking a Tuk Tuk to Nanu Oya train station for our next stop.

DAY THREE - Nuwara Eliya to Ella

As soon as we arrived at Nanu Oya (it took us 20 mins in a tuk tuk), we almost felt calmer seeing many other backpackers ready for the train. If you're wanting to stay the night around this area, it seems Nanu Oya has much more to offer.
After much debate over 1st or 2nd class tickets, I managed to convince the male that 2nd class tickets would be better, because of what I'd read online. First class has aircon for sure, but there's almost a sense that you're not truly getting to really enjoy this train ride in its true form.
For a three hour journey, I don't think even a month since returning home, I've stopped telling people how it was 50p for a ticket! FIFTY PENCE. Of course, I understand this is all relevant to the country, but found it fascinating how it was on time, and how appreciative Sri Lankan's are of their trains.
What an incredible experience it was. We sat with our feet out of the door, the whole way, admiring each and every view and landscape that we passed. Talk between us was minimal, apart from agreeing how amazing a view was, and instead just found ourselves completely and utterly falling in love with this country.
Is there a top tip to which side to sit on the train? People told us Nuwara Eliya to Ella is best on the right side, but after twenty minutes or so on the train, I'd disagree. But whichever side you choose, you'll agree with what the people say - it really is the most beautiful train journey in the world.

Ella

After expressing how amazing the train journey was, it actually broke down a stop before Ella. So we grabbed ourselves a tuk tuk to take us to our accommodation. Still to this day I laugh about what happened - I'd booked Serenite Ella, up in the trees of Ella basically because it's a spot for monkeys visiting on your balcony in the morning. And of course, I wanted to see a monkey.
Our tuk tuk driver didn't have any change, so wandered into the accommodation with us, which apparently was described as 'still being built' by the male. Twenty minutes and one slightly agitated male later (who'd definitely been browsing booking.com for a hotel), we'd finally got change to send the tuk tuk driver on his way, and were being greeted by the sweetest lady taking us to our room. As we settled onto our balcony, I could see the calmness coming back to the male who couldn't help but agree with why I'd booked this accommodation. Overlooking Ella and the waterfall, is one of the reasons I'd highly recommend Serenite Ella. The owner even came to chat with us all about his culture, and the staff couldn't have been more helpful.
We took a tuk tuk down towards the town, and LOVED it. Ella is a place I wish we'd stayed for 3-4 days, there was so much happening. We set up camp in Cafe Chill for the night, tucking into Lampraius, a Sri Lankan curry cooked in a Banana Leaf until finally heading back for an early morning of monkey spotting.
I woke at 5am, where we enjoyed a home-made breakfast from the lovely lady, on our balcony. And whilst we heard monkeys in the distance, we didn't see one single monkey.
But it wouldn't stop us staying here again!
A taxi was booked for us by the staff, to take us to our next stop (it was nearly a five hour trip ahead!), and had offered to stop at Nine Arches Bridge on the way.
Nine Arches Bridge was amazing, even after the thought that we were lost forever, the mud stained dress and the sweat that had appeared everywhere for the trek. But as soon as the bridge came into view, none of that mattered anymore. We spent our time there wandering on the train tracks, looking out at the tea plantations and sitting with our feet over the bridge (OK, maybe not the male, because he's afraid of heights) blown away by the landscapes. We didn't want to leave here at all.

DAY FOUR - Ella to Unawatuna

Our driver that was booked for us, couldn't talk any English unlike the others but that didn't stop us enjoying this journey. Whilst it felt long, we saw another side to Sri Lanka. Having done the city, the jungle and tea plantations, it was fairly flat on the journey from Ella to the South West coast. If we'd have had more time, I'd have loved to have visited one of the National Parks, but alas, our relaxing days on the coast were waiting for us. We slept a fair amount of this journey too, but were soon awake when greeted with the choppy coast on our left.
Pulling into Cantaloupe Aqua, we were excited for a bit of relaxing and luxury and as those doors opened, we instantly felt chilled. You can read my full review of Cantaloupe Aqua here.

DAY FIVE - Unawatuna

Unawatuna didn't typically have much to do, but we were fairly happy in the comfort of Cantaloupe Aqua. We chilled, read books, ate and drank and talked. Lots. And we took walks along the beautiful and serene beach. We did however get the opportunity to do a culinary demonstration which was an amazing experience. The chef at Aqua, took us to the market the following morning where we were shown all the amazing fruit and veg the country had. We tried some fruits (Rambutan was a favourite!), and felt in amazement as all of the colour. Heading back to Aqua, we cooked seven dishes and then got the fun of eating them - was there any dhal left? Absolutely NOT! I'd 100% recommend a cooking class in Sri Lanka, wherever you are!

DAY SIX - UNAWATUNA TO GALLE

After a day and a half of relaxing at Aqua, it was time to move onto the next stop for some more unwinding (and eating of course!). As we loaded up the van that kindly took us to Cantaloupe Levels, we met some people that the male knew (forever fascinated by the world we live in), so arranged to see them that evening.
En route to Galle, we stopped at Wijaya Beach where we were informed of a beach swing (ultimate IG moment right here). Taking off his flip flops, the male paid his 500 rupees and attempted to climb up the tree for the swing. Let's just say it wasn't his most graceful of moments, but alas, he managed something!
Back in the van with sandy toes, we headed up the winding road towards our next jungle retreat. And it did not disappoint. Within minutes of arriving at Cantaloupe Levels, we decided this was our favourite of the two Cantaloupe hotels. The views were unbelievable, looking out towards Galle Fort. You can read my full review of Cantaloupe Levels here.
The evening was spent in the company of the couple we met earlier, watching the sunset over the fort, eating delicious Sri Lankan dishes and drinking the hotel out of beer. We certainly slept well that night.

DAY SEVEN - Galle

Our time in Galle was planned for us Cantaloupe Levels, to visit the Japanese Peace Pagoda and followed by a jungle trek but with us being non-stop at home, and having a huge pool overlooking the sea, we couldn't help but want to just lounge around. And so that's what we did. We watched Youtube videos of dogs, we listened to music, we read our books, we talked and then we talked some more, we ate lots of Dhal (obviously) and we swam in the pool. And it was absolute bliss. We're not normally ones to do very little, but fully switching off was just what we needed in that moment, so we were completely and utterly making the most of it.

DAY EIGHT - Galle to Negombo

We woke to rain (the first in the time we'd been there considering the season we visited), so had a lazy morning in bed followed by another showstopping breakfast. After a mooch around, and a little wander up the winding roads near the hotel, we packed up our bags and decided to take the train to Colombo. We'd debated staying a night in Colombo, but as we had an early flight, and researching that it was still roughly an hour to the airport from the city, we headed straight for our final night in Negombo.
Levels helped book us a tuk tuk to the station, where we easily got our tickets and boarded again, this time in third class (which was fine, as we had a window seat - and I loved people-watching too!). It was slightly different to the other train ride in certain elements, that really stuck with me. We saw another side to Sri Lanka, with the train heading right through the slums and the quieter villages with little on offer. But what really got me, was how happy these people were. How grateful they appeared, and just how friendly and warming they were when we passed by. Not a single person didn't wave. It was quite bittersweet. But equally heartbreaking, as we forget just HOW lucky we are to have a sturdy roof over our head.
We arrived into Colombo a few hours later, and my gosh, we did not expect Colombo to be SO busy. It was heaving, and chaos and everything you normally expect when a train is delayed here in the UK. But this is everyday for them. We managed to hail a taxi, who took us the remainder of the journey to our hotel in Negombo. Driving through Colombo, we were a little pleased we didn't stay the night as it didn't seem for us. But to be fair, neither was Negombo. However when England are playing in the quarter finals, The Gateway Hotel, was just the place that the male wanted to be. Big screens outside, beer, burger and football.
And whilst it may not have been how I pictured our last night in this incredible country, I was ready for some stodgy food in the way of pasta, because Sri Lankan belly is also a thing.
And yes, I got it real good.


To sum up our trip, it was an unbelievable country and I would highly recommend a visit. Whilst we managed a fair amount in nine days, it definitely wasn't enough and we'd suggest two weeks so that you can explore more of the country and it's beauty.
What we loved in particular, was how one day we'd be in a city, then the misty tea plantations, followed by a jungle before heading to the coast for absolute bliss. Sri Lanka has so so much to offer, and getting around is also easy. I wish we'd taken the train more, but knowing we had only 24 hours in some places, meant that taxis were easier for us. For a four hour journey we're talking £60, which isn't too bad, although the train is a much cheaper way to travel - and an amazing experience! So take a backpack, travel 2nd class and fully embrace the beauty that Sri Lanka has to offer.

Is it too early to plan another trip?

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