Bright lights, Cold nights – Southend in the Winter

Fancy a wintery stroll along the British sea-side? Forget Brighton and its pebbly beaches. Check out our Fotogalerie of Southend.

Witness the dichotomy of the flashy, trashy, bright lights of the oft-titled “Blackpool of the South”…

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…compared to the cutesy, chintz rooms full of posh nosh found at the Bacchus Restaurant.

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The food is not cheap but the interior is absolutely smashing and it is a complete labyrinth of hidden jewels. With ball gowns hanging from the ceiling, and vintage bathing suits dangling in the bath rooms, it really is worth spending that little bit extra to warm up with some wine and cosy surroundings. It gives off the vibe of a really wealthy grandma’s closet that has been raided.

Antiques roadshow would have a field day!

20131122172019688Oh yes and do stop in to the yummy Essex version of Honest Burger – it is entitled Henry Burgers. The owner is super nice and so is the food!

When we went they had sold sooo many burgers that they had to give their chef the day off on Sundays because the place was so in demand.

That is a sign of  a GOOD burger. (Thankfully, now the situation has been rectified and the people of Southend and visitors from far and wide can be fed every day of the week – hooray!)

henryThe faded glory of Britain’s seaside towns has often been lamented. Hip and happening in the Victorian era. People flocked to the beaches in their thousands and insisted on getting changed in bathing machines to protect their modesty. Oh how times have changed…

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Then the Mods and Rockers got all angry in the 60s. Flinging their deck chairs about in rage and scooting around on their Vespas and motobikes.

So what has become of the coastal holiday resorts so jam packed in the summers of yore? What is it like during the bleak winter months?

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(Brighton 1964)

We all know that Blackpool is synonymous with stag dos and generally scary folk. Yet Southend is not to be sniffed at. Take a wander down the promenade and you will be smelling the sugary sweet smell of donuts and your eyes will be gleaming with all the sparkling lights found in every direction.

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For twee seaside towns to enter the modern era they have had to adapt – HELLO BRIGHTON – the perfect example and winner of the hipster beach of the UK.

BUT Southend has one huge crowning glory…it has the longest pleasure pier in the world. (Gasp!)

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However, there is not a lot on there and you actually have to pay for the opportunity to wander down it or, alternatively, catch the train to the wind-swept end. (This was not something we fancied doing on a blustery November night).

Just go and munch a burger at Henry Burgers instead and wander round the Adventure Island…wrapped up in gloves, scarves and very woolly hats.

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Anne x

Photos: Henry Burgers Facebook, BBC

Michelberger Hotel – the most wunderbar place to stay in Berlin

We love Michelberger Hotel. Situated on Warschauer Straße in the cool Friedrichshain area, it’s the perfect location for everything you need on a trip to B Town. 

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It was recommended to us by friends, and honestly, we think it’s the one of the best places we’ve stayed in any city, ever. We wouldn’t stay anywhere else. We’ve visited friends in hostels in the city, and nothing compares to the quirky, modern, edgy, yet friendly atmosphere at Michelberger.

You’re free to come and go as you please (obviously, you won’t get judged for disappearing off for a few nights clubbing and coming back disheveled – a big plus. Who needs nosy receptionists? But maybe we’re just used to curtain-twitching British B&Bs – argh). And when you ARE in your room, you think, god, why isn’t my house like this?!

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Vintage deco is mixed with clean lines, details that are unique to each room, and a range of rooms from cosy (which are lovely, minimalist, and cute as hell) to loft rooms and special mezzanine abodes.

We hate to use the word ‘quirky’ – but this place truly is (shout out to the Big Lebowski – which plays on TVs in the halls on loop. It might drive you a little bit mad after a while, but it also makes you think, ‘Ah, I’m home’).

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And the lounge area is to die for – with amazing cocktails (we’ve OD’d on espresso martinis many a time). And the food is ace, too!

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Yummy.

Plus, it’s all totally on budget – rooms start at just 70 Euros for two people per night (that’s 35 Euros, kids – a steal for the standard you get).

We can’t sing its praises loud enough. Seriously.

Don’t bother with chain hotels! Go for lovely MichelB. You won’t regret it.

Our rating: *****

Rosie x

Photos: Michelberger Hotel, Rosie’s Instagram

 

Places to visit – Cambodia

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Cambodia is often overlooked in the well-trodden and much lauded route taken by travellers around South East Asia. But this is beginning to change and rightly so! During my travels across Thailand, Vietnam and Laos I was overwhelmed with relief that I had chosen to include Cambodia on my trail around the world.

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The history of Cambodia is one full of bloodshed, civil war and poverty. But the Cambodian people have the most infectious smiles and laughter that you may ever see or hear.

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In Cambodia you can witness the battle that the people have been through: a battle between heaven and hell.

Heavenly – Upon visiting Cambodia via beautiful Siem Reap you are able to enter the kingdom of the gods: Angkor Wat (built in 1125). This is widely viewed as the ‘pride’ of Cambodia; a world full of temples (‘wats’) and the remains of a once glorious and rich empire. The scale and grandeur of the ruins are impossible to imagine until you have visited them for yourself.

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Yet even here you can see where marks of evil have left their stain upon this once beautiful landscape. The magnificent walls are punctuated by bullet holes and large portions of the temples have been destroyed by looters and thieves.

Hellish  – These bullet holes brought the heavenly realm of the Angkor gods back down to earth with a crash. It is humanity and the reign of the Khmer Rouge that have since left their imprints upon Cambodia.

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The country has been through colonisation by the French in the 19th century, bombings by the US in the 70s, and then the reign of terror and civil war, sparking the rise of the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

This radical communist party and its leader Pol Pot killed an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians through torture and starvation.

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Areas known as ‘The Killing Fields’ were set up to maim and execute people. Weapons such as guns, poison and bamboo sticks were used upon families who had been uprooted from the cities, such as Phnom Penh (the capital). These mass graves, which often had to be dug by the victims themselves, can still be visited today.

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As a result of this fractured history, Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and to this day most of the population still subsists on less than $1 a day. It is only now that the UN is bringing to justice those responsible for this mass genocide.

Travelling to Cambodia is something that is a worthwhile and culturally rich experience. Here you can meet local people and witness life in a way that still manages to preserve the native environment. Living alongside the communities, eating and drinking local delicacies, such as the delicious Amok dish, are real eye opening experiences. It is impossible not to notice the charm and warm-welcome that you will receive from both the city and village dwellers, despite all that they have been through.

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Angkor Wat and the Cambodian people may have felt the sting of bullets in the past, but these bullets have always managed to narrowly avoid the heart of the Cambodian people. It may be said that the ‘pride’ of Cambodia is Angkor Wat, but I would beg to differ: the pride of Cambodia is its people!

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Our rating: *****

Anne x