Stresa and Lake Maggiore

Just an hour North by train from central Milan is the small lakeside town of Stresa. It sits right on the edge of Lake Maggiore and is famous for its stunning sunset views. There is a real sense of belle époque elegance and sophistication to Stresa, with beautiful old villas lining the shore and a pretty warren of pedestrianised cobbled streets in the old town where there is lots of fantastic  restaurants, cafes and gelato all over to choose from. I stayed at the Hotel de Parc, a beautiful former private villa since converted into a quaint little boutique hotel.
Along the gorgeous lakeside promenade sits the Hotel La Palma. From the outside it looks very traditional and maybe even slightly old fashioned, but peaking out on the rooftop sits the Sky bar. This was definitely my favourite Aperitivo spot in all of Stresa. The views over the lake are incredible. Go around 6.30/ 7pm just before the sun starts to set and enjoy the stunning views across the lake with a Spritz or two.

Ceresio 7 Milan

This cool rooftop bar sits atop the former 1930s Enel (electricity company) HQ in the Porta Garibaldi area of Milan. It includes two stunning swimming pools, a bar and restaurant all under the guidance of the ex- Bulgari Hotel head chef. You can hire cabanas by the pool from €110 a day, but I went for evening cocktails or what the Italians call Aperitivo. After a few delicious Spritz cocktails and with the sunsetting over the rooftops of Milan I moved into the adjoining restaurant. Although very tempted by the amazing sounding tasting menu, I felt I probably wasn’t hungry enough for 8 courses and so resisted and went for a simple primo and secondi option instead. I started with a raw tuna carpaccio with black figs and caramelised onions, before moving onto a beautiful loin of suckling pig with celeriac, honey and chilli, accompanied with a glass of Italian white with the fish and a light fruity red with the pork. I skipped the dessert, but they generously surprised me with a couple of complimentary mini choux buns filled with a white chocolate and passion fruit mousse before bringing me the bill.

Ceresio 7 Milan

Tower of London

So often when we live in a city like London we can forget the wonders that are right on our doorstep. While abroad I often take the chance to visit those countries art galleries and museums, I forget that some of the best of these in the world our actual in my own home city. Making a conscience decision that I needed to rectify this I suggested to my friends that we should head to the Tower of London. Not only is this World Heritage site actually in our city, it’s even in our borough, so local in fact that as residents of Tower Hamlets we can visit for just £1. Anyway we all took the Friday off work and headed to Tower Hill with our proof of addresses and local library cards.

After buying our tickets we walked through the main gate and waited on the bridge over the moat and on the advice of the ticket office waited for one of the regular tours that start from there every half an hour. The completely free tours are led by one of the famous tower beefeaters and take about 45 minutes. The tour only covers the outside of the tower complex, but gives a really good overview of the various buildings and the beefeaters are excellent guides and drop in lots of jokes and fun facts along the way. This leaves you to explore the insides of the various buildings by yourselves. The main building is the White Tower, which although famous as being a jail was actually a royal palace for over 500 years,

The other main building is of course the Jewel House that houses all the Crown Jewels. This building is completely windowless (I imagine for security reasons) and also included the coronation robes. Annoyingly no photography is allowed, though I did manage to catch a sneaky shot of the imperial state crown when one of the guards wasn’t looking! I asked why no photography was allowed, but was told if I wanted a picture I could buy a postcard in the gift shop, which I thought was a tad rude. The main jewels are located in glass cabinets with travelators each side like you get at large airports. I assume this is to stop overcrowding and encourage people not to dawdle, but it was hardly necessary on the day we visited as it really wasn’t that crowded.

Afterwards we went to the small Chapel Royal of St Peter next door where some of the VIPs were buried after their executions, including three Queens of England, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey.

We finished off our tour by walking around all the battlements walls of the Tower and admiring all the stunning views of the City of London and Tower Bridge that they provided. We then exited on to the riverside and walked across Tower Bridge to the Ivy Market Grill at One Tower Bridge for a late lunch.

Polzeath Cornwall

Sunday was our final day and another hungover late start (starting to spot a pattern here!) we wanted to go visit the coast and what with us being in Cornwall there was several different options to choose from but in the end we decided to head to Polzeath. The bay there is incredible. We had a lovely walk along the beach, over the rocks and then along the coast. Afterwards we headed to a local pub for a late lunch. I had a delicious bowl of local Cornish mussels cooked in cider with bacon washed down with some local beer. We all then back to the house before heading back to Newquay airport and getting the Sunday night flight back to London. I hugely fun few days, I had such a good time. Thank you to my lovely friends Craig and Rob who hosted us so well.

The Eden Project Cornwall

On the Saturday we made our way to the Eden Project. I’d been wanting to visit this place ever since it opened at the turn of the millennium, so I was super excited to check it out. I’d heard reports that it can get incredibly busy, but what with the COVID pandemic it wasn’t actually too bad at all went we visited. It’s a really impressive site, with the domes looking almost otherworldly set in the old chalk quarry. The outside area is actually almost as impressive as inside the domes. The planting is incredible and you really do feel like you could be in the rainforest.

Afterwards we drove to the nearby town of Fowey for a look around.. This is a beautiful little town situated right on the mouth of its namesake the River Fowey. At its centre is a lovely warren of narrow streets lined with beautiful traditional brightly coloured Cornish cottages, many of which are now rented out as holiday lets. We found a lovely little pub right on the waterfront and enjoyed a few pints while admiring the view. Before we headed back to the house we stopped at a local bakery and picked up some Cornish pasties and some scones with local clotted cream for a late lunch.