Hannah Drake

Trips

24 Hours in Liverpool

TravelHannah DrakeComment

In April, we got to spend a quick weekend in Liverpool to go to the Everton v Arsenal game (and do our F date). I was so excited to go to Liverpool because it’s one of the places in England I’ve been wanting to visit for quite some time. We had so much fun and I pretty much fell in love with the city, even though we were only there for about 24 hours. I would love the opportunity to go back for a bit longer someday. And it’s not so far away!

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed at the Adelphi Hotel, which had such a fantastic location. Everything was about a 15 minute walk away and it was right where all the action in town is. It’s a stones throw away from the train station and not much further from the bus station. It was crazy busy in Liverpool that Saturday because of The Grand National Weekend so it made the city have all that much more energy, especially at the pubs around the train station before the races. The hotel was massive and looks like it was once the place to be. But to be honest, it’s not my favourite place where we’ve stayed. The hotel didn’t have free wifi, which I don’t think I’ve even heard of in the last 10 years (yes, I know I sound like a snob over my #firstworldproblems), the room had a strange smell to it (I wanna say it was musty?), and the bed was really uncomfortable. Still, it wasn’t bad for one night and we spent most of our time outside of the hotel.

If we go back, I would look into places like The Shankly Hotel, The Nadler Liverpool, Titanic Hotel Liverpool, or Hard Days Night Hotel. I also really like the looks of these places on Airbnb: Super Luxury City Centre Apartment (sleeps 8), The Albert’s Studio 2 (sleeps 3), and Luxury Waterfront Apartment With Sunset Terrace (sleeps 4).

WHERE TO EAT

We got to Liverpool about lunchtime, so we just set out toward the docks looking for somewhere to eat when we stumbled upon Cat Cafe. It’s always been my dream to visit a Cat Cafe and at the time, I was still sad about having to say goodbye to our foster cat Jake. You check in when you arrive and they record your arrival time because you pay for the amount of time you’re in there. (£12 per hour per person.) That also includes unlimited hot and cold drinks. They have a decent menu. Luke and I both got a panini and crisps, which was good. Of course the fun is looking for all the cats. (They have a list of their cats on each table.)

The Fab 4 Cafe is connected to The Beatles Story, but there’s also another location further up the docs near the Beatles statue. We got a hot drink after going through the exhibit mostly because I wanted the super cute to go cup.

My #1 travel rule is don’t eat somewhere you can eat at at home. I love trying new restaurants when I’m travelling and, even though Red’s True BBQ is a UK chain, we don’t have a location in Birmingham so it fit all the criteria. We had chosen a different place for dinner on Saturday night, but passed Red’s on our way to the other restaurant and we had to go in. The vibe was awesome. The drinks were delicious. And it was hands down the best BBQ I’ve had in the UK. Luke and I split a tray with Smoked Cheese & Jalapeño Sausage, Baby Back Ribs, and Burnt Ends. We also got slaw, mac & cheese, and loaded fries. Oh my gosh it was so good! We both tried Grandma’s Louisiana Lemonade (with rum) and Luke had the Godfather Sour as well. Seriously, Red’s, you need to open a Birmingham location like yesterday. I would recommend booking a table because even though it’s big, it’s busy.

We found The Brunch Club on Sunday morning just by looking up breakfast restaurants near our hotel. Again, we were able to walk to it, which made everything so much easier. Luke and I both had the Full English, but their whole menu looked great and the place itself was really cool as well. We didn’t need to book a table, but shortly after we got there it started filling up with people who had attended the Grand National (I’m assuming, based on the luggage and garment bags), so it might be a good idea to book a table in advance.

On our way back from the Super Bananalama, we walked by Love Thy Neighbour. We had already had breakfast, but it looked really cool. If we go back, that’s definitely the first new place I want to try!

WHAT TO DO

The first thing we did when we arrived was set out for the Royal Albert Dock. It’s a fairly touristy place, but even if you’re just walking around, it’s a lot of fun. We wandered into a few of the shops and checked out a couple of the menus posted outside different restaurants, but we mostly just people watched and enjoyed the surroundings. There’s plenty do to in the area, including Tate Liverpool (an art gallery), the International Slave Museum, the Merseyside Maritime Museum (say that five times fast!), a carousel, the Magical Mystery Tour, and more! There are plenty of places to eat and shop, but do keep in mind it will likely be busy.

The main thing I wanted to do on Saturday was The Beatles Story. It’s a Beatles museum on the Albert Dock that will literally take you through their entire story. It’s £17 per person (£13 for seniors, £10 for children), which includes an audio guide and I feel like it’s well worth it, especially if you’re at all a Beatles fan. Inside the museum, they’ve recreated locations that were important in the group’s history, including the Cavern Club, the recording studio at Abbey Road, the White Room where John Lennon recorded “Imagine” and more. There are original set pieces, costumes, and props from their movies and videos. Each of the four Beatles has their own section covering their time after the band broke up. It’s all very well done and was a good way to spend the afternoon.

On Sunday morning, we walked down Matthew Street, which is where the Cavern Club was located once upon a time. There are some Beatles stores on the road now, but it’s cool to imagine what it was like when the Beatles were at their most popular in Liverpool.

The Bananalama was a series of street art sculptures around the city. I don’t know a lot about the history of them or when they were popular, but you can still find some dotted around the city in various sizes. Most notable is the Super Bananalama, which we walked over to see on Sunday morning since we had some time to kill before the Arsenal game. (Matthew Street was on the way.)

Have you been to Liverpool? There are so many places I still want to visit around England the the UK, but I would absolutely go back to Liverpool in a heartbeat! Hopefully for longer than 24 hours next time. Plus I’m still 100% game to go back next year over the Grand National Weekend and go to that as well!

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9 Things to Do in Rome

TravelHannah DrakeComment

We were only in Rome for about three and a half days and we did two different walking tours (Best of Rome Walking Tour & Cooking Class and Rome in A Day), but we also spent a great deal of time wandering around the historic city on our own.

SEE THE COLOSSEUM AT NIGHT

This was absolutely my #1 priority in Rome and we did it the first night (after checking into the hotel and hanging out for a while, watching The Lizzie McGuire movie, of course). We planned on taking the tram from near our hotel in Trastevere to the Colosseum, but a bus had broken down on the tracks, so we were forced to walk. The walk was AMAZING and got us there just as the sun was setting. We walked between the Roman Forum and the Colosseum taking it all in and I just don’t have the words to tell you how beautiful it was. They light up the Colosseum at night and even though you can’t go in and there are people everywhere, it’s definitely worth seeing against the candy coloured sky. There are nighttime tours of the Colosseum available through different tour companies that might be worth looking into as well. It’s just absolutely stunning all lit up!

LOOK UP — AT THE DETAILS

The Romans were absolutely brilliant when it came to engineering and art, as well as combining them in their architecture. And while the city has been rebuilt (or built upon—more on that later), beautiful buildings continue to line the streets. The intricate details in the buildings is absolutely breathtaking and the best part about Rome is that it might be an incredibly famous architect who designed them.

GET HIGH — FOR THE VIEWS

Getting up as high as you can in a new city is one of the first things I try to do when travelling and something I always recommend. Rome is no different. The morning of our first full day, we walked to Parco del Gianciolo, which offered some great views of Rome from above and was a beautiful park. We also went to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, which had 360 views of the whole city and is absolutely worth the cost and the effort to get to the top.

VISIT LARGO DI TORRE ARGENTINA

We actually stumbled upon this location (which is why the next thing is so important) and I’m so glad we did. It’s currently a cat sanctuary, AKA heaven, but once upon a time, it was the site where Caesar was assassinated. You can walk all the way around the area and see the ruins from above. It’s strange to think about such a pivotal piece of history took place there and now the streets around it are bustling with everyday life.

GET LOST

The entire city is packed to the brim with history and art. No matter what street you walk down, you’ll find something beautiful, something historical, something that might just take your breath away. There is so much to do and see in the city and I love that we did two different walking tours (even though there was some overlap on the stops), but I think you should also set aside time to explore on your own. See what you stumble upon and try seeing the city without a solid itinerary.

TAKE THE STAIRS AT ST. PETER’S BASILICA

There is so much to do and see inside the Vatican, but one of the best is to take the stairs all the way to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. There are 551 steps to the top and it’s not for the faint of heart. (Possibly not for the claustrophobic either because those stairways get quite narrow near the top.) It’s worth the views from the top, though. You get 360 degrees views of the Vatican and Rome, though you’re looking through bars. You can stop at a couple of points on the way up or down to get some other views too. It’s €10 per person to go to the top and it’s cash only.

EAT WHERE THE LOCALS EAT

The best tip I can give you for the country is that if you find yourself looking at fettuccine alfredo on the menu, you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. We learned in our cooking class that Romans do not eat fettuccine alfredo. In fact, it’s an American invention. Instead, Romans eat cacio e pepe and now, so do I. Italians also don’t eat chicken on pasta. Instead, you’ll find a pasta menu followed by an entree menu that would include various cuts of meat and chicken. Keeping those things in mind, you should be able to tell with a quick glance at the menu whether it was created for tourists or Italians. You may also need to travel away from main tourist attractions to find an authentic Italian restaurant. For example, the restaurants across the street from the Colosseum are probably there for tourists.

VISIT THE JEWISH GHETTO

We got this recommendation from a few people, so we decided to make our way to the Jewish Ghetto on our last night in the city. We didn’t spend as much time as we would have liked, but it was the most quintessential Roman scene I could have imagined. We sat at a red and white checkered table on the cobbled street eating pasta, drinking wine, and listening to street musicians make their way up and down the street. It was the chilliest night of our trip, but it was still warm enough to sit outside. Aside from the fact that I got mad at Luke for something really stupid, it was a perfect night in Rome!

When we go back, the Jewish Ghetto will undoubtedly be one of our first stops. It’s the oldest Jewish settlement in Europe, dating back to the 2nd century BC. It’s brimming with Jewish culture. Of course you’ll find a beautiful synagogue and kosher bakeries, all the while rich with history. I read that approximately 2,000 of the 7,000 Jewish residents in the area were rounded up in one day in 1943 and sent to concentration camps. Only 16 survived. Today, Rome is said to have fewer than 20,000 Jewish residents and only a few hundred live in the Jewish Ghetto.

Many of the restaurants will be closed Friday evening through Saturday, so it’s worth looking into an advanced booking if you plan on visiting over the weekend.

GO BACK IN TIME AT BASILICA DI SAN CLEMENTE

Nina, our first tour guide, recommended we visit the Basilica di San Clemente to get a better idea of how Rome is layered on top of itself. The city has been built upon itself a few times over and this particular Basilica essentially functions as a time machine as you travel down through the layers. Through excavations, they have discovered two more layers beneath the basilica that stands on the modern Roman street. It’s absolutely breathtaking! No photography is allowed in the excavations, so you’ll have to see it yourself. I recommend checking the hours before you go as they close for lunch. We made it by the skin of our teeth and actually had to beg them to let us go down as they weren’t allowing any more visitors before lunch. That meant we didn’t get as much time as we wanted, but it was worth the €10 admission fee.

(Apparently I didn’t get any photos of the basilica, even from the outside.)

WHAT TO WEAR IN ROME

I decided to include this section for any ladies planning a trip to Italy in the late summer or early autumn. Consider the cobbled streets of Rome when choosing your footwear and stick to something with a sturdy sole. You’ll likely be doing a lot of walking and you want something comfortable. Rome won’t be as warm as the cities on the coast, but it’s still hot during the day. You might want a light jacket in the evening, especially toward the end of September.

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Rome in A Day

TravelHannah DrakeComment

On our last full day in Rome, we did an eight-hour walking tour of the city that 1) wasn’t as bad as it sounds and 2) I couldn’t recommend more highly. I think we both really enjoyed it and it was such a great way to see two of the most iconic landmarks in Rome without having to wait in line. With our tour, we got to skip lines at both the Colosseum and the Vatican and that was absolutely fantastic!

Sadly, because I’m writing this post so many months later, I don’t remember a ton of the information from the tour, so I hope you’re not looking here for a bunch of facts and a lot of history. Besides, I think the tour was really cool and that it should be experienced by anyone who has the opportunity.

We booked our tour about a week before we left for Italy after having saved that day for something like that. After a lot of research, we ultimately decided to book with Walks of Italy and I’m glad we did! Not only was the tour itself bigger than the tour we had done the day before, but it was also a much bigger operation. We met in a park near the Colosseum in the morning along with at least a half dozen other tours from the same company. The entire tour was done by headsets, which definitely made us feel like cheesy tourists, but really came in handy when you wanted to straggle behind to see something for a bit longer.

Because the tour started near the Colosseum, that was our first stop. Like I said, we got to skip the line, but there are a few things to keep in mind about visiting the Colosseum. First, there’s a bag size limit. Luckily our MUZMM backpack was small enough. (You can use the code HANNAH20 to get one for yourself.) However, we had to throw our spray sun cream because you can’t bring any sprays (sun cream, deodorant, bug spray, etc.) into the Colosseum. I’m not sure why, but that’s just the way it goes.

After spending much of the morning walking through the Roman Forum, to the Pantheon (which we had seen as part of the tour the day before, but got some new and different information), and more, we took a bus to be closer to the Vatican. So it was a lot of walking in the morning, but when you look at a walking route for everything we saw, including walking to the Vatican, it' seems like a lot.

We broke for lunch, so Luke and I wandered off for our daily pizza, before meeting up again outside of the Vatican. Like the Colosseum, there are things to know before visiting. Most importantly, there is a dress code for the Vatican. You can’t show your knees or shoulders. Luke brought jeans to change into during the break since it was obviously too hot to wear jeans all day, and I made sure not to wear a tank top. There were vendors selling wraps that people had around their waist or around their shoulders, but you don’t want to get stuck paying for an overpriced scarf when you can just dress appropriately to begin with.

Again, we got to skip the line, and the tour guide showed us through some of the museums in the Vatican, as well as the Sistine Chapel. We did have to wait in a line for the Sistine Chapel, but that’s because they control how many people are in there at a time, so everyone has to wait to go in. You can’t take any photographs and you’re not permitted to speak. The experience was, to be honest, a bit underwhelming. There were security guards loudly telling people to be quiet the entire time we were in there. The ceiling is incredibly high, so the painting is far away. And it’s insanely crowded. I can fully understand how that could be a moving spiritual experience, but personally, I would probably need to be in there alone or with only a handful of other people. It was just too much for me.

The tour finished after the Sistine Chapel, but we were already in the Vatican, so we decided to stay longer. We walked up the steps of St. Peter’s dome (which is not included in your ticket and is cash only). We saw St. Peter’s Basilica from the bottom and marvelled at its beauty and intricacy. We walked around the courtyard, which definitely made me think of The Da Vinci Code. We decided that it counts as one of the countries we’ve visited because Vatican City has their own flag, their own stamps, and their own designs on the Euro.

It was such an amazing experience to be able to visit the Vatican. When we go back to Rome (notice I didn’t say if, because we agree that we could easily spend another week at least in Rome), we absolutely want to spend an entire day in the Vatican alone. But the tour was a great way to see some of it and a great way to understand what we were seeing.

The tour cost about £115 for each of us, but we thought it was worth it. Tickets to the Colosseum are €19 to skip the line and it’s €21 to skip the line at the Vatican museums. Even thought that’s only about £36 combined, the knowledge we got from the tour guide was well worth the money. I would recommend a tour like this, especially with Walks of Italy, at the beginning of your time in Rome. You’ll see so much of what you came to Rome to see and you’ll get a good idea of how you want to spend the rest of your time.

WHAT TO WEAR IN ROME

I decided to include this section for any ladies planning a trip to Italy in the late summer or early autumn. Consider the cobbled streets of Rome when choosing your footwear and stick to something with a sturdy sole. You’ll likely be doing a lot of walking and you want something comfortable. Rome won’t be as warm as the cities on the coast, but it’s still hot during the day. You might want a light jacket in the evening, especially toward the end of September.

This post contains affiliate links, so I may make a commission off any purchase you make through the link. Some linked items are similar to what has been shown. Thank you for supporting my blog!