20 useful things to know if you’re travelling Europe by campervan

Setting out in a campervan for who knows how long is daunting. But, luckily for you, we learnt A LOT during our time away. We’ve curated a list of practical, useful things to know that we picked up during our European adventure.  

1. Diesel is really cheap in Bosnia

If you’re winding your way from the North coast of Croatia down to the South, a map will have already told you that a piece of Bosnia lies in the way (dammit!). We had no problems getting in, or out, of Bosnia, but did notice that diesel was incredibly cheap there compared with in Croatia. Don’t top up your tank just before crossing the border – you’ll be kicking yourself if you do.

2. France has huge supermarket complexes with washing machines

We spent an awful lot of time at Super Us in France – firstly because they sell everything you could possibly need and, secondly, because they all have launderettes. So, you can pop your washing on for an hour whilst you go and do your shopping and avoid traipsing around towns looking for somewhere to do the laundry. It’s a win-win.

3. You’ll need tonnes of mosquito spray

If you’re not keen on becoming a highly aggressive, panicky insect-squatter such as myself, you’ll need a shedload of mosquito repellent. Funnily enough, mozzies love campsites. They hang around the showers waiting to pounce on innocents at their most vulnerable, and they gather in hoards around washing machines, even in daylight hours.

4. You’ll cycle everywhere 

Cycling is a great mode of travel for sightseeing. But it’s also a necessity if you want to avoid getting stuck in city traffic in an enormous motorhome. Italian hilltop towns are not van friendly, and neither are metropolitan cities. In fact, some cities like Paris require you to have an emission certificate. Aside from that, time is on your side when travelling, so cycling means winding your way towards a destination and finding hidden treasures along the way, instead of squeezing your van into a carparking space just to get within a mile of a tourist hotspot.  

5. Germany has a gigantic super-store of motorhome supplies

….and it’s amazing. Just when we needed access to a vast array of things like chemical toilet fluid, giant water containers and gas hose fittings, we found it. Just outside of Munich, this is the place to go if you’re short on supplies or need fiddly things like gas hose fittings that work in every European country. 

6. Duct tape will come in handy at some point

Broken wing-mirrors, broken beds, kidnapping – duct tape is a wondrous thing when living in a van. Pretty much anything that’s broken can be temporarily fixed with it. We used duct tape on outside compartment doors whenever there was a storm, too, to make sure no rain ever crept in.

7. You’ll want a fan

At one point during a 40-degree heat wave in Biarritz, we found ourselves sat in bum-shaped sweat puddles. We’d spent all day sat on the beach, swimming with ten-minute intervals. And then night-time came. Without a fan…well, it doesn’t bear thinking about. Imagine turning your pillow on to its other side in search of cool material, only to find that side HOTTER and WETTER than the last. The lesson is – a fan will likely be the only source of cool(ish) air available, so take one.

8. The Amalfi Coast can’t be driven on by a campervan

You can hitch a ride on a tour bus carrying 40 people, oddly enough, but motorhomes are prohibited on the Amalfi Coast between the hours of 6.30am and midnight.  Our advice? Leave your camper van in a campsite – somewhere like Sorrento (a beautiful town nearby) – and hire a car. That way you can enjoy the views instead of trembling your way along the coast road. 

9. Most Aires in France offer a single stand for services

Aires are cheap campsites and they vary from country to county. France and Spain are particularly well-known for them. But, in France mainly, you need to watch out for Aires that say they have electricity but only have one standing charging point.  These charging points cost roughly two euros an hour and often you can’t stay plugged in overnight. So, no kettle or toaster in the morning if you’re reliant on 12V plugs like we were. DISASTEROUS for us Brits. If you want to make sure an Aire has a certain level of amenities before you arrive, it’s worth investing in an ‘All the Aires’ book. They are unbelievably useful and cover France, Italy, Spain and Portugal plus others.

10. An Aire camping card is useful to have

We came across a delightful campsite on the West coast of France (Seignosse) that was only accessible if you had an ‘Aire Camping Card’. Luckily, we were able to sign up for one there and then. Most of the campsites in that area were £20-30 a night, but this one was more like £12-15. And membership gives you access to lots of similar ones around France. They’re much nicer than your average Aire because each pitch has a electric charge point. No showers though, just a toilet.

11. Some campsites offer fresh croissant delivery  

Occasionally, you’ll come across an epic campsite that offers fresh bread or croissant delivery in the morning. All that’s required is a pre-order with cash. This usually happens on small campsites, as big ones tend to have their own (expensive) shops on site. Many of our top moments travelling were spent sat in a camping chair taking in the view with a warm croissant in one hand and freshly brewed coffee in the other. It always signalled the beginning of another spontaneous day of discovery.

12. In peak travel times you need to book Aires

…especially in tourist hotspots. In high season, most campsites get booked up by regulars, meaning you’ll have to trek further away to find somewhere to sleep. Often, though, that’s worth doing. Campsites right next to Dubrovnik, for example, are double the price of those twenty minutes away. We scored a private pitch with panoramic sea-views for £10 on the outskirts – and buses, into Dubrovnik were regular, safe, and cheap.

13. Toll roads are sometimes worth it, sometimes not

Our first toll road in France cost us €40. It was a bit of a shock, considering our daily budget was £50. After that we vowed to avoid tolls, but it soon became apparent that our van wasn’t suited to rugged climbs up the Pyrenees mountains and the Alps. Some tolls are worth the money. Take Southern Italy and Sicily for example, where one huge toll road ploughs through mountain after mountain and only costs about €10-€15 in total.

14. You will need a budget for things that break

‘Our van will survive a year without any problems, we’ve only just had it serviced!’ Yep, that’s what we thought, too. Unfortunately, motorhomes and campervans are built for holidays, not long-term travel. Things will go wrong. You’ll need a ‘bumps budget’ of roughly £1000 for breakages along the way.

15. Fairy lights, cushions and kindles are necessities

One word…AMBIENCE. Cosying up your van is a sure-fire way to make a stormy day pleasurable.  A good tip is to spend as much of your time as possible outside of the van – which is the point of travelling really – so that rainy days are pleasantly relaxing rather than painfully dull. If you’re feeling tired but it’s a beautiful evening, force yourself to sit at the beach or a local café. You don’t want you van turning into a negative space that feels claustrophobic.

Our kindles were essential. They were so handy for the beach, and ideal because we had a lot of spare time so got through a lot of books. As you can imagine, there’s little space in a van for stacks of novels.

16. If your gas stops working, it’s probably your regulator

Most van-duellers will have experienced their gas turning off with no explanation. If that happens, it could be your regulator. Luckily, buying a new regulator is cheap and you can do that in most big motorhome stores. We got ours replaced in Italy at a small garage that knew how to deal with campervans, which cost £100. We were overcharged, but that became a regular occurrence – us being naïve, privileged young people. If you find yourself without gas, we developed a fine selection of emergency no-cook recipes whilst away.

17. You’ll probably never use your van shower

Bathroom cleaning rota? No thank you. We stayed at campsites mostly, so showering inside the van just wasn’t necessary. When we buy another camper – we’ll be downsizing to one with a stow away toilet.

You can also get these great ‘shower bags’ that heat up in the sun after being filled with water. They’re only £10 or so, and handy when you’re travelling through hot countries and need to shower off the beach before getting into the van.

18. Park4night is useful if you don’t want to stay at campsites

Park4night is a simple app that records overnight camping spots. Official campsites and Aires are listed on there, but so are ‘wild camping’ spots with no amenities. The best part is destinations are posted by people that have actually been there. Every spot is reviewed to give you an idea of likeability, amenities etc.

But it’s worth checking the dates – we ended up traipsing from one wild camping spot to the next in Slovenia to avoid the extortionate campsite prices, only to find signposts had been erected forbidding campers in every one of them. Remember, it’s illegal to wild camp in most European countries. Some are super on it and some not. Take Croatia for example, where the fine can be over £400 – but that’s because wildfires are a real risk to locals. Just be sensible and take precautions. Oh, and don’t leave litter or toilet roll – clear up before you leave people!  Respect the local wildlife, and don’t play a part in the destruction of some of earth’s most beautiful scenery.

19. It’s worth flying to some destinations

…and it might provide some much-needed respite from van life. Halfway through our trip we parked our van at Rome airport (it wasn’t hideously expensive) and flew to Istanbul for five days. The flying balanced out the petrol money and we didn’t feel comfortable driving into Turkey, anyway. But it was one of the best decisions we made whilst away. Istanbul is super cheap. We stayed in a swanky hotel for 60 euros a night, with aircon which was absolute bliss. It meant we got to dive into another culture and Istanbul wound up being one of our favourite places.

20. The best gelato in Italy isn’t on show

This is an odd one, we know, it’s an odd concept. But every outstanding dollop of ice cream we gorged on in Italy happened to be served from underneath a silver lid, instead of from a giant melting pile on top of a counter. So far, the theory has been proven in Matera, Rome, and Palermo. Our advice is to meander down backstreets in every Italian city you visit, where you’ll find these artisan-style ice cream shops with stunning flavour combinations. Try the flavour Stracciatella – a milk-based ice cream with chocolate chips.

Planning an epic campervan trip? Check out our ultimate packing guide so you don’t forget anything important.

Guernsey’s best cold-water swimming spots

The first step is bitingly cold – waves crash over your toes and, as you reach your waist, the chill clings to your skin, urging you to slink back towards the sand and away from the deep blue.

You take the plunge and cool salty water jets through your hair. It’s deliciously fresh and you kick your legs furiously to break through that ice-cold barrier. But once that’s happened – an overwhelming sense of calm blankets you, acting as a shield against the shivers.  

Perhaps it’s just the shock of the temperature, but cold-water swimming has long been hailed healthy. Its so-called benefits include decreased inflammation, increased immunity, and radiant skin. But it’s the post-plunge high that keeps Guernsey islanders fully committed.

Here, you’ll find hard-core swimmers donning hats and nothing more than a swimming costume in the sea throughout winter. But late summer is undoubtedly the more pleasurable time to dive in – with temperatures having ‘warmed up’ to a balmy 15 degrees. That said, here are three swimming spots in Guernsey that will take your breath away, both in the literal and metaphorical sense of the word.

Three top sea swimming spots in Guernsey

Petit Port

Best for? The adventurer

Tucked away on the South coast of Guernsey, a fifteen-minute walk through bracken-clad cliff paths will lead you to one of the island’s most stunning secrets – Petit Port. It’s a steep, stepped climb down to the beach and the ascent is sure to leave you out of breath. But the striking scenery is worth it. There are no kiosks or toilets – just colossal cliff faces that hug a perfectly formed cove of sand and sea.  When you take the plunge here, make sure to spin around and take in the swimmer’s view. It’s an out-of-body experience, like being transported to a desert island and looking back at the world you’ve momentarily escaped from. As cliché as it sounds, sea-swimming is an unbeatable form of mindfulness. It completely distracts your mind from negative thoughts and leaves you feeling overwhelmed with a sense of serenity.

Petit Port

Fermain Bay

Best for? Those who want to dine at a beach café post-swim 

Short of being in the Mediterranean, Fermain bay emanates major holiday vibes.  An impending sea wall separates the pebble beach from the famous Fermain Bay Beach Café – we say famous because Richard & Judy once wined and dined there, and they couldn’t stop raving about the food afterwards.  We recommend an early dip for get-up-and-go types because the café serves generous bacon sandwiches on weekends before 11am.

But, if it’s a leisurely beach day you’re after, the crystal-clear waters of Fermain are swim-friendly at any time of the day. You can dip your toes from the beach side or hike the short trail around to ‘The Moorings’ – where steps take you down to a swimming platform. And then, when hunger strikes, set up shop outside the café and order one of their ‘seafood sandwiches’ – your choice of bread stuffed with freshly caught smoked salmon, prawns and crab – or a steak ciabatta if you’re feeling extra peckish. Honestly, you’d be hard pushed to find a more beautiful destination.    

How to get to Fermain

Either park in the carpark opposite ‘The View’ and walk down the main road back past The View, cutting into the cliff path via the lane called ‘Gypsy Lane’. Or park near the Bathing Pools in St Peter Port, and walk the cliff path from the opposite direction which will take roughly 40 minutes. The cliff path here is accessible from a short way up ‘Les Val Des Terres’.

Fermain Bay

The Bathing Pools

Best for? People that require nearby parking

On the South side of St Peter Port are a collection of bathing pools – one for mixed gender, one for women and one for men. But those rules are rarely abided by these days. All the pools section off a little of the ocean so that swimmers needn’t worry about tides. And the pools are usually calm, so perfect for days characterised by strong winds when coastal beaches are a no-go.  

The bathing pools are a great location for those looking to avoid sticky sand, and often a practical choice if the kids are in tow, too. Plus, the restaurant ‘Octopus’ nearby serves ice cream with all the extras – think salted caramel in a waffle cone topped with candied pistachios, or classic vanilla lathered in honeycomb shards.

The Bathing Pools

Have we persuaded you to book a trip to Guernsey? Take a look at our list of the best restaurants to eat at in Guernsey, too.

Looking for luxury? The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath oozes it

The Royal Crescent Hotel is renowned for its traditional beauty. Here’s our experience.

Entrance to The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath, is as quaint as it is magnificent.  The hotel itself is part of thirty terraced houses that make up John Wood the Younger’s architectural triumph.  Due to being listed as a grade 1 structure, its Georgian stone facade remains beautiful to look at.   

On arrival our suitcases were promptly taken by the concierge. We were guided into a waiting room littered with plush looking armchairs and sofas, before being whisked away on a tour of the hotel. Jaws had already dropped to floor level by this stage.

Forget room cards. The Royal Crescent hands you a traditional key for your door. Being a small, boutique style hotel, you’ll find only two to three rooms per floor. We kept the curtains open for as long as possible because of our beautiful view over Bath and beyond, though the risk of sliding nakedly into bed, fully lit by the moon, as well as the lighting of the restaurant and bar opposite, was extremely high.  

A hand-written name tag on the door will invite you into a space of comfortable, luxurious elegance. It was clear that every aspect of our room had been designed with a painstakingly precise level of attention to detail. Put more simply, the morning tea tray consisted of loose-leaf tea bags as opposed to your average English breakfast, and the radio had also been pre-tuned to classic FM ready for our arrival.

Afternoon tea is a must at The Royal Crescent Hotel. Expect the full chabang; tiered trays of scones, Bath buns (homemade sweet bread rolls that are a speciality of the city), finger sandwiches and fluorescent patisserie. By the time we reached the last tier food was gathering in the warmth of our cheeks instead of being swallowed. 

One of the joys of the hotel is its proximity to Bath’s city centre. A ten minute stroll through the nearby park leads you onto the beautiful streets of Bath.

​Breakfast is served in the hotel’s elegant restaurant, which sits next to the spa – another stunning building that offers treatments. It’s the kind of place where couples meander back and forth in their bathrobes; the ultimate place to recuperate in pure bliss.

​At breakfast, take advantage of an unlimited food order system. Our six course one went something like tea – pastries – cereal – cooked breakfast – waffles – leftover pastries. At the pastry stage, we were questioned a total of three times on whether another course was necessary. But keep at it, they eventually back down. 

Leaving Bath was difficult. The Royal Crescent Hotel is a draw in itself and the perfect retreat for a special holiday. Plus, Bristol airport is one hour’s drive away, making access to the hotel incredibly easy. If you’re looking for a luxurious break in a beautiful city, you could do much, much worse.

Seven stay-happy hacks inspired by Scandinavians

We’re sitting in those horrible ‘in between’ months where the weather’s set to get colder still, and daffodils seem a life time away. A tone is set for Blue Monday (20th January this year) and there’s no wonder a lot of us are left feeling a bit glum. Fortunately, though, we’ve taken inspiration from our friends up in the North of Europe on how to cope with winter and stay happy until the sun shows its face.

Take a spa day 

As if you need an excuse to head down to your nearest spa, the Scandis take saunas very seriously – not least for their health properties including better sleep and cardiovascular performance. If you want to reap the rewards further, though, real locals take a dip in an ice cold lake or bath after sweating out any toxins which, apparently, helps to boost circulation which is good for the heart. This might not be an option in the UK, but it’s worth a try if you’re holidaying in Iceland or elsewhere in Northern Europe. And dunking your head in the cold Atlantic boasts similar health benefits. 

Make your own glow 

Dark winters are something Scandinavians have to get used to, with the Northernmost town of Sweden – Bjorkliden – seeing only two and a half hours of sunlight in the day during winter’s darkest months. Blue Monday (which is on January 20th this year) is the shortest day of the British year and an accumulation of the post Christmas, back to work, lack of sunlight blues, so despite not having quite the never-ending gloom that Northern Europe does – seasonal affective disorder (SAD) still affects a lot of us. 

One remedy that we’ve adopted is a sunrise-simulating alarm clock. It wakes you up slowly and naturally with an orange glow that can last between 15-90 minutes. Short and sharp phone alarms will become a wonderfully distant memory.

Cycle to work 

If you’ve ever been to Copenhagen, you’ll know their love of cycling means the majority of people living there cycle absolutely everywhere. The roads are awash with trendy Scandis on bikes who never seem to break a sweat on their graceful commute into work. And we’re not talking people in padded lycra on racing bikes – cycling in Northern Europe is mostly a gentle affair with minimal exertion. Of course, Copenhagen is completely flat so if you’re living somewhere hilly, or lacking in cycle lanes for that matter, swapping four wheels for two is easier said than done. 

Some of our favourite travel moments have involved cycling into a brand new city. It’s a wonderful way to get a feel for parts of a place that you might not go to otherwise. Along with many others, San Sebastian and Zurich are made for cyclists. 

Up your intake of rye and fatty fish 

It’s easy to indulge in a little too much comfort food during the colder months, and we’re certainly not suggesting you deny yourself of good food (whoever said carbs are bad is very much mistaken), but one thing Northern Europe does rather well is bread. They usually opt for rye flour which keeps you fuller for longer and quells hunger more so than your average slice of a white supermarket loaf. 

Scadinavians also eat plenty of fatty fish like herring, mackerel and trout which are full to bursting with omega 3s and antioxidants. Public Health England actually recommend adults eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily/fatty, and this is because a lot of people have a low intake of omega 3s, which are important for loads of things including a healthy brain and heart. 

Practise hyyge 

By now you’re probably fed up with the term ‘hyyge’, which stems from Scandinavian tradition and essentially means taking pleasure, and deriving health benefits, from the simple things in life like brand new socks and cosying up by the fire. Another part of hyyge, though, that turns a gloomy winter’s day into something to be treasured and enjoyed, is atmospheric lighting. We’re talking lamps that emit gorgeous orange hues instead of stark white lighting, and tealights in pretty vases or candles that smell of cinnamon. You might call it an excuse for spending money on small luxuries, but we say it’s a surefire way of turning your house into a home; a place of comfort that blankets you after a long day at the office. You can’t go wrong with Neom’s calm & relax candles.

Get outside despite the cold 

The Norwegian saying goes something like ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes’. Scandinavians have to embrace the cold to stay healthy, which means layering up in order to go cross-country skiing or snow hiking. We’ve experienced Oslo in freezing temperatures and a thin coat simply does not suffice. 

If you’ve got the right gear, you’re much more likely to get yourself outside. And if you’re running or walking at a pace that gets your heart pumping, your temperature will pick up relatively quickly. It’s worth supplementing your diet with vitamin D tablets between October and March, too. Even if you exercise outside regularly during those months, the sun’s UV rays are not strong enough in Winter for them to have the reaction on your skin that ups your levels of vitamin D, unlike in spring and summer. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with low mood so it’s worth considering if you suffer with SAD. 

Stay social 

The Swedish word ‘Fika’ means making time with friends or colleagues to share a cup of coffee. It’s British equivalent, ‘elevenses’ is similar minus the emphasis on socialising at the same time as drinking refreshments. The latter is the important part according to Northern Europe. Loneliness is well-known as being detrimental to health and a coffee break with friends is the perfect antidote. The Swedes usually pair a sweet pastry with their coffee, too, which we are more than happy to get on board with. 

Feeling inspired? How about a trip to Iceland for the real deal? We’ve got plenty of advice on what to do there.

UK staycations: a week in Woolacombe

Devon: land of pubs, wind (the meteorological kind), fish and chips, and scones topped with cream and then jam. A break in one of its best-loved towns, Woolacombe, is best described in three simple words. Simple, Glorious and unapologetically British.

These days a whole lot of taboo surrounds the idea of holidaying in the UK. Staycations seem rather looked down upon, so much so in fact that then when our parents suggested Devon as a holiday destination, one of my younger siblings refused the idea, saying she’d rather stay put in Guernsey. 

Initially, I could understand her apprehension. Why go on holiday somewhere so similar to where we already live?

To me, though, there is something about the non-expectation of a holiday closer to home that makes for an experience that never disappoints. It’s simple, it’s non-fussy, and its utterly relaxing. No long-haul flights, no travel mishaps, no mosquito repellent induced coughing fits, no sunscreen and no pain killer charades in unknown pharmacies. 

Woolacombe was the perfect place for this. An ever so slightly shoddy seaside town with a beach that stretches 3 miles either way, it’s the kind of place you find yourself very sad to leave. 

The break is described rather well by the following few pictorial compilations. The first and last, naturally, are of the beach. The second is exploration of nearby towns and villages. And the third?  Eating…where would we be without it? 

We were sad not to have visited the local cafe, ‘Beach comber’, earlier, but fortunately our last two days enabled full face stuffing prior to the activities ahead. 

​The atmosphere was perfect. Friendly staff, acceptance of sandy, muddy clothing, a surfer vibe and a fantastic view of Woolacombe beach. The best part though? Really good coffee and really good food. We’re talking a smooth flat white, and a fry up that covers every square inch of the plate and every best known full English ingredient. The kind of fry up that has you wondering why you ever spent money on sourdough toast, or a pretty pot that separates your baked beans from your mushrooms. 

Ten out of ten for being one of those places you feel guilty about not considering earlier, and ten out of ten for lulling every one of us into a sleepy haze of gastronomical satisfaction. Would recommend. 

Really, I leave you to decide whether this holiday looks appealing. The photographs describe the vacation perfectly.

Tamarisk Beach House, rented out by Unique Homestays

All I will say, is that I’ve never felt so rejuvenated on return to work. That may be due to the sea well and truly cleaning out my sinuses (A couple of surfs dressed head to toe in neoprene left us feeling very, very clean), or it may be due to the true relaxation of reading a book with no beckoning tasks or life admin requirements. Whatever it is, nothing beats good company and the cliché concept of wind through your hair. 

Sometimes, simple is best.

For more information and photos of where we stayed, click here. Tamarisk beach house is the ultimate luxury holiday home and a joy to return to after a long windy walk along Woolacombe beach.

Where to eat in Bologna

Oh Bologna: no less than the food capital of the world and boy does it live up to its namesake. If a holiday that features no guzzling or gorging is your worst nightmare, then a city break to Bologna is well worth the trip. Aside from the food on offer here, the city’s bustling atmosphere and outdoor eating culture (whatever the weather) are traits that make Bologna the perfect city for a hungry ambler.

La Prosciutteria

If a wine and charcuterie evening is what you’re after, La Prosciutteria serves platters of local produce – think parma ham, iberico ham, cheese, pickles and chunky bread lathered in truffle mayo or homemade tomato chutney – in a very simple format. The only choice you need make is how much food you want to eat. Go for a medium sized platter if there’s two of you and you’ve had a big lunch. Go large if you want something to pick at for the entire evening. The interior is casual but delightful. It’s a mish mash of cozy corners and wooden stools and, when it gets busy which is most nights, you have to park yourself wherever there’s room.

Trattoria di Via Serra

It’s a little outside of the city centre (near Bologna’s train station) but Via Serra is absolutely worth the walk, or so we are told. Booking is a must – we forgot and sadly never managed to grab a last minute table. For a shared starter, we’ve heard good things about their baskets of crescenti tra le tigelle served with mountain pesto. Tigelles are small round, flat bread rolls and you’ll spot them all over Bologna. They make great mini sandwiches when stuffed with good quality ham (see ‘The market’ below). Apparently, the Gramigna alla Salsiccia is also very good here.

Oltre

Don’t be put off by Oltre’s entrance. Or do what I did, which was give my hair a reshuffle and dazzle an entire restaurant of people with my vanity thinking the mirrored windows were not part of the restaurant. The only bit of the building that looks promising is the door. It’s covered in stickers and gives the impression of a grungy underground club rather than a trattoria, but fear not, the inside is beautifully decorated and has a Scandinavian feel.

Otre is one for an occasion. If you go for starters, mains and desserts you’ll be parting with a fair wad of cash. Having said that, the pastas are a lot cheaper than the other main courses. Try the tortellini alla panna – a light dish that sees stuffed tortellini served with a simple cream and parmesan sauce.

Cucina Aperta

Just off the Piazza Magiore (Bologna’s picturesque main square that houses one of the most voluminous churches in the world – yes we know, a bizarre fact) you’ll find food heaven; trattorias, delis and wine bars alike. Rows and rows of them packed with students, tourists and locals all selling divine smelling food. You can pretty much walk in to any restaurant you like the look of here, but we went for Cucina Aperta. They serve fantastic homemade tagliatelle with beef ragu (what we would call bolognese in England), and the prices are pretty low, too.

Around the square you’ll find people eating outdoors with heaters and blankets whatever the time of year. At the risk of sounding cliche, it’s a magical city to be in at Christmas time, as well as during spring and summer.

Mercato Delle Erbe

One food stop you can’t miss on your food tour of Bologna is the city’s buzzing market. Packed with local delicacies, you can get just about any kind of Bolognese dish made to order here. Plus, it’s a lovely venue for a drink and very much a place where you can wind away a few hours over lunch or dinner. Get whatever pasta you fancy made to order along with a glass of wine, or a platter of tigelles stuffed with parma ham.

A top tip for library lovers:
Opposite the market is a charming and huge library that sells not just books but all sorts of deli goodies. Not only that, it has a stonkingly good cafe on the top floor that serves up top notch pasta.

Il Piatto Rotto

We found Il Piatto Rotto by chance and wondered in because of its inviting, cosy interior that offered us some respite from the bitingly cold outside. More often than not, these kinds of places charge you more than average for a less than average plate of food, but at Il Piatto Rotto, this was not the case. It ticked all the boxes – mouthwatering food, comfy seats, excellent atmosphere – and we ended up going back for our last night in Bologna. It was here that we took on the Italian ‘pasta for starter, another large plate of food for main’ tradition for the first time. Never again.

If you fancy something less starchy, Il Piatto Rotto do a delicious chicken supreme dish. Not your standard set menu slab of chicken, but 3 delicate rolls of chicken with a red wine sauce. Their beef steak is delicious too.

Takeaway pasta

If you find you’ve splashed the cash on a few too many meals out already, fresh, homemade, takeaway pasta is available across Bologna in abundance. Open since 1985, Pasta Fresca Naldi is one of the most famous pasta shops in the city. In the streets surrounding the Piazza Magiore, you’ll find loads of homemade goodies that can be taken home, too.

Local dishes to try in Bologna

Green lasagna Lasagna Verdi al Forno

Tortellini in meat broth Tortellini in Brodo

Tagliatelle with ragu Tagliatelle al Ragu

Stuffed tortellini with parmesan and cream sauce Tortellini alla Panna

Pasta with Sausage Gramigna alla Salsiccia 

For more food inspiration, visit our food and drinks hub.

What to buy someone who likes travelling for Christmas, from the perspective of a traveller

Most travellers (or people about to set off travelling, for that matter) don’t have room for unnecessary stuff, which is why we’ve put together a list of gifts that are perfect for globe trotters, some of which we already own and some of which we’d be overjoyed to receive as Christmas gifts.

A kindle

A kindle is a no-brainer for someone who’s setting off on a roadtrip. Travelling means a lot of time hanging around at airports, bus stations, train stations and ferry ports and a good book makes the time pass a whole lot quicker. Plus, with Amazon’s latest deal where you get the first 3 months free if you sign up to an unlimited downloads subscription, a kindle works out so much cheaper than buying actual books all the time.

House of Marley portable speaker

Music is a God-send when travelling by van and House of Marley’s range of speakers aren’t just functional, they’re beautiful, too. They even have mini portable speakers which are great for backpackers. The best part, though, is that the company uses proceeds from product sales to support global reforestation through Project Marley. Because it was set up in collaboration with the Marley family to carry on Bob Marley’s attitude towards loving our planet, the materials used to make the speakers are sustainably sourced.

North Face thermal slippers

Okay, so we bought these for each other as an early Christmas present. You might be thinking ‘Hell, that’s extravagant for a pair of slippers’, but we will never go back. When you’re staying in a campsite, or wild camping and winter has arrived, and you’re tiptoeing around puddles in a pair of flip flops (because they are the easiest thing to get on when you’re running errands or going to the loo) the thought of sliding your feet into a comfy, thermal slippers is the absolutely heavenly.

BOSH!

The popularity of veganism just keeps on growing, and like many others out there, we often find ourselves wondering if a plant-based diet can be made as tasty as one including meat and dairy products. The Bosh! authors Ian Theasby and Henry Firth have, however, been heralded vegan Jamie Olivers and, to be fair, their recipes are delicious. The vegan mac-and-cheese recipe from the book is spot on.

Ottolenghi Simple

Ottolenghi’s recipes are glamourous and out of reach for someone on a budget, at least they used to be. His book, Simple, is packed with loads of mouthwatering recipes that won’t blow the bank. So it’s a perfect gift for someone travelling by van who loves cooking but needs to do it on the cheap.

Patagonia fleece

Every traveller loves a cosy fleece. You can hike in them, you can lounge in them, you can wear them around cities because they’re now incredibly cool (only if you’ve got a Patagonia or North Face one though). It’s an irreplaceable piece of clothing and when you don’t have much money, an extra nice fleece is a real treat.

Rechargeable fairy lights

We all know fairy lights make a great Christmas gift. And, take it from us, they make living in a van during the festive season happy and cute rather than dark and depressing. But rechargeable ones? That’s a whole other ball game. We’ve only just discovered these and are already working out how much money we’ll save not buying batteries to fund our fairy light addiction. Simple ones are perfect as they can be tacked up around the outline of the ceiling, and they go with everything.

Barbarian days: a surfing life

A story that you can get completely lost in, Barbarian days is an autobiography about William Finnegan, a journalist for the New Yorker who travelled the world looking for world-class longboard waves in his youth. It’s proof that a passion can take you places you’d never thought possible. Finnegan started surfing as a young boy in California and Hawaii, and his travels took him through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa and beyond

An Osprey rucksack

One thing a traveller can’t live without, is a rucksack. If you’re backpacking, it’s a necessity. But if you’re living in a van you also need one for cycling in to towns or taking to the beach. They come in handy for hikes that last longer than a day, too. We’d always suggest one with a waist and torso strap – they help spread the weight of a load across your upper body rather than putting too much pressure on your shoulders.

A neighbourhood guide to Karakoy, Istanbul

Oh Karakoy! Your streets throb with the sound of happy chatter and your boutique shops ooze homemade charm and trendiness. Not to mention the smell of strong Turkish coffee and sizzling pork kebabs that wafts past one glistening hotel window after another.

If Istanbul tops your bucket list, its Karakoy neighbourhood is the perfect place to stay. Beautifully designed but affordable hotels and apartments are in abundance as are local Turkish restaurants that will promise (and deliver) some of the best food you’ve ever tasted. Already sold? Read on to find out where to eat, where to drink and where to wander in Istanbul’s funkiest neighbourhood, as well as how to leave Karakoy in search of Istanbul’s cultural sights including the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar.

Where to eat breakfast in Karakoy

Karabatak

The perfect spot for a morning coffee, Karabatak is tucked behind one of Karakoy’s main streets. If you’re looking for a healthier breakfast option like granola with yoghurt and fruit, or a smoothie bowl, or even a simple pastry, its a tranquil spot that’s meant for a slow morning and endless chatter. Karabatak has a gorgeous seating area outside with lounging chairs and plenty of greenery and a quirky, classically Turkish inside space with a tiled marble floor.

Mum’s Cafe

The food at Mum’s is just as comforting as it’s name, but breakfast is where the cafe holds its own. If you want savoury, opt for Turkish eggs which come with a bread basket on the side. There’s not much to them – eggs, paprika, red peppers, cheese and tomatoes – but it’s a must-try dish if you’re in Istanbul. And, if a sweet breakfast is more your style, the banana bread here, served with homemade granola, fresh fruit and whipped cream, is divine. Mum’s do great cakes, too.

Where to eat in Karakoy

Karakoy Lokantasi

Eat at Karakoy Lokantasi on your first night. We didn’t and, if we had, our last night would’ve been spent there, too. The restaurant itself is sheek; oozing 1920s glamour like a scene from The Great Gatsby with it’s pristine white tabelecloths and tiled, mirrored walls.

By most publications Lokantasi is heralded as Istanbul’s best restaurant, and it’s easy to understand why. The menu focuses on mezze (small plates of food for sharing), with some main courses available if desired. Dishes such as their seabass ceviche and crispy Turkish dumplings (lathered in yoghurt and spicy tomato sauce) come packed with flavour and are easily gobbled up within seconds. It’s impossible to get a taste of everything in one night, hence us wishing we’d gone back for more!

Komur Kebap

With it’s wooden tables and chairs spilling out onto the high street, Komur Kebap is the perfect place to gorge on traditional Turkish cuisine made with quality local ingredients. Think glazed chicken thigh and lamb koftas with spicy bulgar wheat and whatever sauces and sides you fancy; hummus, spicy salsa, pickled vegetables with dill, the list goes on. You’ll get a basket of delicious homemade flat breads on the side, too.

Karakoy old town brasserie

If a casual but vibrant restaurant is what you’re looking for, Karakoy’s old town brasserie is a traditional pub that plays wonderfully local Turkish pop music. But, before you make assumptions, know that Turkish pubs are nothing like English ones.

The Old town brasserie has a wonderful outdoor seating area covered with leafy climbers and made cozy by atmospheric lighting. When you want order, the waiters will bring over a huge platter of starter plate examples. All you have to do is point and choose. The options are, again, classically Turkish – things like slow cooked vegetable mixes, and tzatziki style sauce. And the mains here are absolutely delicious. Try the succulent meatballs and their fish dish of the day – delicately cooked and served simply with lemon juice and black pepper.

How to get to Istanbul’s tourist hot spots from Karakoy

Take the T1 line from the tram stop Karaköy İstasyonu to Sultanahmet. No changes, 10 minutes, 4 stops.

Take the T1 line from the tram stop Karaköy İstasyonu to Beyazıt. No changes, 15 minutes, 6 stops.

Istanbul travel card

You’ll need an Istanbul travel card to use public transport, but they’re easy to get hold hold of. You can get a card at any tram or metro station – it’s a simple machine system where you pay 6 Turkish lira which is about 80p in sterling to get a card, and top up your card with travel money just like you would an oyster card. The machines accept cash only, remember. You can walk into the city centre, too. It takes about 45 minutes and you’ll cross the river where locals fish for mackerel on a daily basis.

What to do in Karakoy

Wander around its boutique shops

The streets of Karakoy are lined with shops selling Turkish souvenirs. But you won’t find tacky stuff that pops up on every corner. The locals sell intricately designed homemade jewellery and cushions. Watch out, though, sellers have hiked up their prices because they know Karakoy is popular among tourists. The weakness of the Turkish Lira’s doesn’t apply there anymore.

Eat a mackerel sandwich

One neighbourhood tradition you won’t be able to resist is a crispy mackerel sandwich drizzled with lemon juice. If you’ve over spent on meals out, it’s the perfect on-the-go snack.

Have a coffee

The Turks don’t do anything without a coffee in hand. And, rather pleasingly, you’ll often find them curled up in a restaurant with a hot drink in the evenings, rather than with an alcoholic one. Despite the majority of eateries in Karakoy serving alcohol, some stick with their Muslim roots and don’t. It’s important to respect the culture of a city that’s opened themselves up to mass tourism and, in fact, rather refreshing to embrace a pub-style evening without the pints. It’s also common place to have a glass of black Turkish tea after meals in Istanbul (though you’ll have to ask for milk if you want it).

Go for a cocktail

A cocktail without the prospect of an early morning get up is one of the best parts of a holiday. But, just as a good one slides down the throat deliciously, a bad one can be terribly disappointing. The bar Chez Moi stays busier much later than others in the same area, and that’s probably down to its skilfully put-together cocktails. They bring out a small plate of popcorn with every drink, too. It’s the little things that count, right?

Try a shisha pipe

In keeping with the Turkish cafe culture is their love for an evening shisha pipe. Whether you like the idea or not, it’s the concept of gathering around a table and sharing stories that makes it a popular one.

Where to stay in Karakoy, ranked by price

Karakoy Rooms:
Price: £50-70 a night

Modern, beautifully designed rooms in the heart of Karakoy. If you book with iescapes you get a free bottle of wine!

Air BNB loft flat
Price: £60 a night

A stylish apartment with a rooftop terrace, a living area and a kitchen. Handy location for tram lines.

Cheers Porthouse hostel
Price: £25-35 for private room

A cheaper alternative with simple but clean rooms. Breakfast is included. You can also get family rooms, double twin rooms and triple rooms

Surfing through generations: Guernsey’s long lasting love affair with the sea

In July and August, the West coast of Guernsey is awash with islanders seeking a day of water activity. Those commuting to work drive past in envy, wishing to swap the office with a day of soaking up the sun. Fast forward to Autumn’s ocean temperatures of ten degrees Celsius, and a drive along the West coast does little to inspire the same sense of longing. Despite this, Islanders remain steadfast in their commitment to the sea. An overwhelming desire to surf, or ‘wave slide’ as was the original Hawaiian term, prevails over the prospect of the cold.

Hooked from the off

Guernsey Surf School manager Steve Hardy describes his greatest surfing experience as, ‘surfing perfect warm waves in Fiji’, though the cooler conditions of home do little to discourage him, ‘I am a better person after catching a few waves, if it means going into a freezing cold sea, then so be it’. This is undoubtedly a sport that gets you hooked from the off. Having started surfing at seventeen, Steve’s new found passion led him to hit the road as soon as he could drive, surfing every weekend before moving to Cornwall in 2001. Not only this, it led him into a career of instructing, ‘if you have a job you don’t mind getting out of bed for in the morning, then that is the job for you. I have no problems getting out of bed in the morning’. 

​On what drives him to enter the sea in the cool climate of winter, local windsurfer Martyn Ogier replies ‘the thrill you know you’re going to get’. Martyn’s affair with the sport started at the age of eleven, leading him on to a string of successes within the competitive field of speed windsurfing. Included in this, is his procurement of the title ‘Britain’s highest ranked sailor’ a total of six times between 1990 and 1999. After twelve years of retirement, a self-confessed ‘midlife crisis’ led Martyn back into competition in 2009. Yet more success followed, with him attaining an impressive second place in the 2010 ISWA world rankings.

Island life

Outdoor endeavour has always been a mainstay of island life. As part of ‘The Centre Steps Crew’ back in 1964, Kevin Hinshaw recounts his surfing beginnings as being a natural step on from snorkelling, open sea swimming and cliff diving. Though a world away from homemade wetsuits and ‘Gold Leaf’ cigarette sponsorship, Guernsey surfing exists to this day because of a passion for the sport being passed down through generations. 

Vazon beach in Guernsey

Our larger neighbour Jersey, having pioneered the first ever regional surf event in 1963, as well as the first two European championships in 1969 and 1970, often dominates the media. None the less, Guernsey Surf Club, established in 1964, has been paramount in the recent increase of local competition. October 2nd 2016 recently concluded The Morgan Sharpe Junior Series, leaving eleven-year-old local ripper Tom Hook in 1st place for the under fourteen’s division. Scoring 1st place in Jersey’s Freedom Grom search event, on September 10th, has also left this young talent with a year long Quicksilver sponsorship, impressive when Tom states he was ‘nervous for the comp because the standard of surfing in Jersey is so high’. October 9th concluded this succession of triumphs, with young Tom reaching the semi-finals of The British Nationals in Perranporth. ​

Tom’s parents advocate surfing, saying ‘It’s a big part of island life for many and a sport that the whole family can enjoy. It gets you out into the fresh air, is great exercise and a good way to meet people. It also doesn’t have to be expensive’. Easy to forget, is the fact that buying a wetsuit and a surfboard is an investment. Once you’ve got them, the outdoors is free.

Not so safe

Surfing does come with its dangers. Ogier gives us plenty of evidence for that; a back injury in 1994 left him horizontal for three months, and it turns out that wiping out at fifty-one knots, post mid life crisis, is not advisable. Ocean awareness is crucial for remaining safe in the water. The Guernsey Surf School offers free, annual beach safety talks to schools island wide, giving youngsters the chance to respect as well as have fun on the coast.

So the next time you find yourself looking for winter entertainment, get involved. There are plenty who have taken the plunge and never looked back. Living on an island has its advantages, and surfing is undoubtedly one of them.

GUERNSEY SAILING TRUST
info@sailingtrust.org.gg
01481 710877

GUERNSEY SURF SCHOOL 
info@guernseysurfschool.co.uk
07911710789

Move over millenials! Your parents are looking for a room

It’s a common misconception that authentic travel experiences in faraway places are for millennials. In fact, retirees are being christened the new nomads as over 60s quickly becomes the fastest growing age group to use Air BNB.

One man making the most of this lust for travel is Peter Mangan, owner of the travel-based social club, ‘Freebirds’, that was set up with one breathtakingly moral objective – to combat loneliness in older generations. 

The club is a bit like Air BNB (a host offers their house, apartment or room up for holiday rental) but tailored to over 60s. Whereas Air BNB offers little to no interaction with the host, a Freebird host is part of the holiday. It’s about connecting socially – so often you’ll spend time together experiencing the local food and culture. 

Take Diane, a Freebird guest who travelled around Bangkok with host Cliff for what turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. ‘We visited a nearby island and two beaches (Koh Larn), attended a New Year’s Eve party, strolled through various markets and malls, rode the water taxi from one side of Bangkok to another and visited the infamous “Khao San Road”‘. 

Mangan set up the club after noticing his 77-year-old Father found joy in hosting guests with similar interests. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

‘Travel has become a major ambition for older adults, especially once they hit retirement. They have the time to indulge their latent wanderlust, visit bucket list destinations and open their minds to new cultures and experiences’, he says. 

The company has an empowering set of principles born out of early focus groups. Originally dubbed ‘Silver Sharers’, Mangan soon realised the name Freebirds reflected his audience better. ‘I learned very quickly that people over the age of 60 want to feel inspired, as opposed to patronised’. 

According to Mangan, the ‘silver’ tag only makes people feel older. Similar, probably, to the word pensioner – or even worse, ‘OAP’, which encapsulates ‘ageing’ somewhat unpleasantly.

‘One focus group told me to look around the room and then said, “Most people dye their hair for a reason!”, and that feedback has stuck with me ever since. Freebirds is about taking action and making the most of life, irrelevant of age (or hair colour)’. 

The idea behind the club is to enable active, healthy, ‘connected’ ageing. ‘It makes no sense that so many older adults struggle with loneliness, considering it’s detrimental effects on wellbeing’, says Mangan.

He’s not wrong – isolation rivals smoking 15+ cigarettes a day in the health stakes, and it’s a serious problem in the UK. On the contrary, Mangan points out ‘studies on longevity say the biggest contributor to good health in later life is the quality of our social connections’. 

That’s not to mention the savings to healthcare that combating loneliness could achieve. Just like social prescribing – the new NHS initiative that sees doctors prescribing events like Parkrun on a weekly basis, instead of dishing out pills – using the later half of life to travel offers so many health positives. 

Even planning and looking forward to a holiday offers psychological benefits and, says Mangan, getting out exploring ‘keeps people physically active, but also mentally it’s so good for you – travel opens the mind, heightens curiosity and stimulates the part of the brain associated with learning’. 

This is true when you visit any new place, but especially if it’s a foreign country with a different culture. If you do it with Freebirds you gain the added benefits of interaction – meeting people is socially engaging and good for self esteem and wellbeing. 

Still not convinced? Before parting we asked Mangan one last question – any tips for those sitting on the fence? 

‘Just one really. Do it. Life is for living and travelling is the one thing people never regret. It keeps you curious, open-minded and dare I say it, young. There are plenty of people of a similar age who are waiting to meet you ‘on the road’ or to greet you at their homes – so don’t worry if you’re travelling solo. It’s all about getting active and embracing the possibilities’. 

As George Bernard Shore once said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing”.

Take it from them

These Freebirds have found a new lease of life through travelling: 

Name Gaetano (Guest) 
Destination Switzerland
Favourite spot The spectacular view from the house of the lake, surrounded by imposing mountains.
The experience Since I was travelling solo, the best thing about my stay was the fact that Luisa and Joseph treated me as a friend. Their life is so interesting and full of laughter which was a big part of the experience. On day two, we went for a picnic and, sitting in a field of wildflowers, we chatted for hours and spoke about life experiences as if we had known each other forever. I felt immediately relaxed and didn’t want to leave!

Name Ilona (guest) 
Destination Germany
Favourite spot The 800-year-old church in Buckau.
The experience I was a little nervous about travelling, since my husband recently died. But, for me, this trip marked the beginning of new adventures. I enjoyed the trip around the town with Thomas, our host, in the horse and carriage. He showed us all the historical sites in the village, and we had a lovely time with his neighbours and friends, sharing stories over a long lunch. The local church in Buckau is a treasure and our hosts were a fountain of knowledge when it came to local history.

Name Francesca (host)
Destination Italy
Favourite spot The town of Treviso is steeped in history and beautiful buildings. The fountains that used to dispense wine are fun, too.
The experience Deirdre was the perfect guest. The time we spent together, was wonderful. Exchanging stories and various points of view on life was most enriching. I felt very at ease with her, and I must say, Deirdre is living evidence that age is not about how old we are, rather about how young we keep! 

If you’d like to become a Freebird host in Guernsey, don’t hold back. Becoming a club member is an easy and guided process. Select ‘Join club’ at freebirdclub.com to find out more. 


The ultimate campervan or motorhome packing guide

From solar panels, WiFi widgets and chemical toilet fluids, to the luxuries that make van life bearable and the kitchen ingredients you can’t live without, our campervan packing guide has got you covered.

  • Silicon filler for re-doing seals and filling holes when needed
  • Duct tape for when literally anything in your van breaks
  • A little screwdriver and spare bolts because they always pop out!
  • Hand-held hoover because crumbs get absolutely everywhere!
  • Dust pan and brush
  • Washing line to tie between trees (a piece of string will do)
  • Pegs and plastic bands
  • Bleach (septic tanks can grow bacteria!)
  • Bike locks to deter thieves
  • Picnic blanket (for the beach, picnics and quick HIT workouts)
  • Wetsuit matts (Find them here). They are so useful as a matt for wet stuff that’s been outside in the rain)
  • Bike rack (and bikes)

The little things make a van a home. For us, fairy lights have made our lounge area a place that’s nice to lounge in with our kindles.

We couldn’t live without our kindles. They save space (we certainly haven’t got room for loads of books) and work out a lot cheaper.

Take snapshot memories in every place you go to. We string our Polaroids across the van as a gentle reminder that life is pretty darn good.

Is there anything more comforting than curling up with a blanket when it’s cold? We use ours to cover the van’s horrible brown upholstery, too.

We bought a banana hammock because we thought they looked pretty. Now, it’s our place for stuff that hasn’t got a home. Super handy!

It’s easy to forget special places like cafes, restaurants, drink stops and campsites. Write them down so you can always reference them.

These staples will be your cooking base as soon as you leave. Fresh ingredients can (and should) be brought on the road. You don’t want to miss out on all of the lovely markets Europe has to offer. Biarritz has a great one! Supermarkets in France and Italy can be expensive so, if you can, res-stock in Spain because their shops sell goods at a much lower price. And, by the way, not all countries sell black tea. And often when they do, they sell really expensive stuff like ‘Winston’s tea’. All of the below will set you up to make some simple but tasty van-friendly recipes like these. We haven’t included anything that you won’t end up using.

It’s surprising how little you can manage with whilst away. Below are the items we use religiously in our campervan. A blender comes in useful occasionally, but not very often. And believe us when we say you’ll find multiple uses for every piece of equipment you have. We never used a sieve because we drained our pasta with the lid of a saucepan, and we never used a grater because ready-grated cheese is considerably cheaper in most countries.


Some of our favourite enamel kitchenware pieces from Kapka…


Our campervan dream all started with a tent on a beach, cooking fig, salami and ricotta crostinis and grilled grape and gorgonzola pitta pizzas on a BBQ. All of the recipes were from The Camp Cookbook (George’s anniversary present) and we’ve used it to make meals in our van ever since! We’d also recommend Tiny Camper Kitchen Cooking for easy van-friendly recipes that are also super cheap.

Some countries take motorhomes very seriously (in a good way). These countries have ‘aires’ – camping stops for vans – that cost anywhere between £0-£20. They are always cheaper than actual campsites and ‘All the Aires’ books list every single one of them. There are Aires books for all of these countries: South of France, North of France, Spain & Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg & The Netherlands.

This tiny island is right on your [UK] doorstep and it’s food heaven

Guernsey is a tiny island home to no more than 70,000 people, so the fact that it doesn’t make most people’s holiday hot list is no surprise. But this seaside escape offers more on the food side of things than you might think. The last ten years have seen Guernsey’s gastronomy boom, with brilliant new restaurants opening left, right and centre and, being lucky enough to call it our home, we’ve come up with a detailed guide on six of the best ones.

Octopus

Food type?

French with an emphasis on seafood

Why so good? 

This classy but relaxed restaurant takes direct influence from its seaside doorstep, with framed swimming shorts (or bathers as locals would say) hanging on the walls and dominating, sliding glass doors opening out towards a never ending blue abyss. The setting is draw-droppingly gorgeous with food to match, despite the menu being a little confused.

What to order: 

If you’re a seafood lover, crab and octopus dominate the menu in the form of stews and unshelled plates. Or try the moule for a less hefty price tag. The flatbreads – one option covered with blue cheese and caramelised red onion, another with goats cheese and broad beans – are divine if you want something a bit different, or a starter for that matter. As are some of the smaller plates; think delicate, lemony lobster served in a warm brioche bun or pan-fried duck served with salad, zesty orange and honey.

Any downsides?

The service is known to be slow. You may have to press for a drink whilst you’re waiting.

Anything else?

Octopus do a great breakfast. If you’re visiting Guernsey in Spring or Summer, head over at about 11am and sit on the deck overlooking Havelet Bay. Remember your swimming stuff because you’d be mad not to go for a swim afterwards.

Red

Food type?

Quality steak & wine

Why so good?

It’s the sides that really bring it home at this chic restaurant on Guernsey’s harbour front. Red takes creamed spinach, lobster macaroni cheese and truffle fries to a whole new level.

What to order?

You’ll want the mixed platter to start. This mouthwatering selection offers a trial run on all of Red’s quality ingredients. Regulars on the platter include calamari with jalapeno mayo, lamb pop sticks and the ceviche of the day. A steak is a must for the main event. Pair it with any of the chef’s sensational sides like parmesan and hazelnut salad or creamed chilli and coriander sweetcorn.

Any downsides?

Red is famous across Guernsey for its steak, so don’t expect the bill to be cheap. And sides are charged separately to your main meal.

Anything else?

The Red cocktail bar upstairs gets lively past 10pm and they’ve almost always got a great DJ up there. It’s lovely for a pre-dinner tipple too as the balcony overlooks St Peter Port’s harbour. Also, Red offer American style brunches at certain times of the year (Liberation Day is one of them). Keep an eye on their Facebook page to find out more.

Petit Bistro

Food type?

Classic French

Why so good?

If an intimately lit, beautifully traditional French restaurant is what you’re after, Petit Bistro is the place to go. On entering you’ll be greeted by a waiter or waitress donning a beret and braces and be asked whether you’d like a seat in the cafe or restaurant. Both have equally delicious menus but a slightly different ambience. You’ll notice people melting into brown leather armchairs or bent over mahogany tables in the cafe, it’s a lovely place to grab a drink if you’re not dining. Whereas the restaurant is traditionally designed but dingy and cosy at the same time. If you eat at the restaurant, you get to snack on complementary pate and French baguette before you order. 

What to order?

The best burgers in Guernsey (in our humble opinion) can be found in Petit Bistro’s cafe. Choose their classic beef burger or their bourguignon variety – slow cooked beef in a homemade sesame bun topped with onion compote, tomato concasse and pickled cucumber. It’s mouthwatering. From the restaurant menu, the coq au vin is very good, and it comes with dauphinoise potatoes on the side. Their steak also rivals Red’s and has an especially crisp outside. 

Downsides:

The occasional moody waiter, French style. 

Anything else?

At Christmas time, Petit Bistro is just about the most festive restaurant in Guernsey. The staff stick up a giant red bow that makes it look like the small cafe is one huge Christmas present. It’s a small gesture that goes along way in giving people that christmassy feeling.

Tinto

Food type?

Authentic Spanish tapas

Why so good?

This is the kind of tapas bar that wakes you up on a Friday night after 5 days of hard graft (yes I know, we don’t know what hard graft means anymore). Spanish music wafts around the small but tightly packed venue as people group together chatting over wine. Tinto offers an array of G&T flavour combinations, too, including Blue Bottle gin that is in fact brewed in Guernsey. Plates of steaming, charred green peppers and patatas bravas are scattered all over the place as people dip in and out of eating and socialising. It’s a restaurant that screams ‘wind down, it’s Friday!’. 

What to order?

What not to order is a more apt question. The long list of tapas on Tinto’s chalkboard is impossible to choose between, but we’ll suggest a few of our favourites. The prawns and chorizo is divine and, if you order some garlicky tomato bread on the side (On a date? Make sure both of you eat it), you’ll have leftover chorizo oil to double dip in. They also do a beautifully soft plate of calamari and Spanish croquettes stuffed with manchego cheese. What you absolutely have to leave room for, though, is the freshly baked, fluffy churros with dark chocolate sauce and their chocolate pot – a circle of set creamy chocolate scattered with salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Sounds weird, but it works. 

Downsides

It’s a tiny venue so it gets full pretty quickly. Friday nights are usually heaving. 

Anything else?

Tinto actually belongs to the same owner as Red, as does Rosso ( a pizza place next door). The owner is always nearby so the quality at all three of these places never falters. This part of St Peter Port really is foodie heaven.

Fat Rascal

Food type?

Traditional food with a modern twist, craft beer

Why so good?

Fat Rascal is a fantastic place for vegans and vegetarians, But hold on one second if you’ve just shied away because of that. As far as plant based diets go, Fat Rascal offer a menu that doesn’t just rely on mushrooms and aubergine. But it doesn’t shy away from things like crispy chicken parmigiana or fried sea bass, either. This restaurant offers something for everyone yet every dish is packed with flavour. Its interior is also lovely. Settle in for the whole evening by booking one of the comfy booths that take design inspiration from Morocco. 

What to order? 

If you’re looking for a huge plate of food that’s American but not too greasy, look no further than the chicken parmigiana. Fat Rascal also does pork belly on a bed of potatoes beautifully – it may even be better than your Mum’s roast. The fish of the day is always superb and usually served with something fresh and zesty like avocado salsa and cherry tomatoes. And if you’re looking for something more snacky (or a starter selection) they do great small plates like chorizo sizzled in red wine and honey or hummus and homemade flatbreads. 

Downsides?

Watch out for Christmas parties or large groups. When you book (which is a must) it’s worth asking if any large tables will be present on the same night. Otherwise, Fat Rascal is a ten out of ten! 

Anything else?

The friendliest restaurant owner you will ever come across, Steve is attentive and chatty in equal measure. But do not fear, he knows exactly when to pull away and leave you to enjoy your meal. And that’s coming from an introvert. 

Rosso

Food type?

Italian with emphasis on pizza

Why so good?

It’s the only restaurant in Guernsey that serves authentic-style Italian pizza. As in a homemade, fluffy base, good tomato sauce and not a ridiculous amount of cheese. We’ve spent a lot of time in Italy, so you’ll have to believe us when we say Rosso’s pizza rivals the best Naples has to offer. All of their pizzas are freshly made and cooked in a hand-made stone oven at precisely 350 degrees to create the perfect crust. Also, the atmosphere in Rosso is hard to beat. It’s the kind of place you can’t wait to go back to. The bartenders really know their stuff so you’ll enjoy your cocktail(s) as much as your food, too. 

What to order?

Rosso has all of the classics, but it’s wild card dishes are incredibly popular. You’ll be introduced to toppings you never thought possible like pork belly with crispy crackling and bolognese with parmesan. If whacky flavours aren’t your thing, their classic margherita hits the spot, as does the nduja sausage, mozzarella, parmesan and mushroom variety. Don’t skimp on starters either. They serve a dish of stracciatella, tomato and parmesan dough balls with parma ham that is to die for. 

Downsides?

The meat pasta is not always top notch. Having said that, we’ve had phenomenal veggie pasta there so the not-so-good lamb ragu could have been a one off. 

Anything else?

Another pizza for dessert might seem excessive, but Rosso’s nutella calzone is irresistible. If you plan your meal in advance and share accordingly, you might just be able to stomach it. 

Looking for more food inspiration? Our Food and drink hub will get your taste buds tingling.