American Gal’s Guide to Windsor, UK

Sometimes, there is nothing better than escaping London and one of the amazing perks of living in the UK is having an awesome train system where you can visit lots of beautiful destinations with ease. Windsor is one of those lovely escapes that is just 45 minutes from London via a Southwest train from Waterloo or Paddington – perfect for a day trip or a weekend away. I’ve been to Windsor quite a few times over the last few years and have put together some recommendations for how to make the most of your time in this charming and historic British town.

EXPLORE

You can’t visit Windsor without a trip to the castle of course. Part-time home to the Queen and steeped in 900 years of history, it’s an absolute must-see for history buffs, anglophiles and tourists alike. Tickets are only £20 and you can buy them ahead of time online. You can also visit for free up to a year if you save your ticket stub!

Be sure to visit St. George’s chapel – it’s breathtakingly beautiful inside. I like to light a candle and say a little prayer every time I visit.

After a visit to Windsor, be sure to take a walk or enjoy a picnic in the Windsor Great Park. You may recognise it from pictures of the long road leading to the castle. Windsor Great Park dates back to Pre-Saxon times, and today you’ll discover historical monuments, rare wildlife, deer, and beautiful plants as you walk along. It’s perfect for long walks in the summertime.

The town of Windsor is very charming, with little shops, side streets and fantastic pubs, it is truly a quintessentially British town. It’s also equally as beautiful in the winter with Christmas baubles and lights as it is in the summertime.

Take a wander around the town and head over to the river where Windsor meets Eton. Both towns are fully walkable and you can get around without a car just fine.

A footbridge along the Thames connects the lovely towns of Windsor and Eton. Eton High Street has remained unchanged for many years and you’ll find plenty of antique shops, cute restaurants and cafes, and of course Eton, one of the most famous colleges in the world. Royal processions from Westminster to Windsor passed along the High Street, one of the most famous being the funeral of Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII, in 1537.

DRINK

The Two Brewers Pub on Park Street, (the oldest street in Windsor) right outside Windsor Castle, is the perfect spot to grab a pint of English beer. The pub dates back to 1792 and is one of the smallest pubs in the town with only 9 tables inside and a few benches outside. This is a must-go spot for a drink, but be sure to book ahead!

EAT

Gilby’s on Eton High Street is a fantastic little wine bar and restaurant that is ideal for a spot of lunch on their fabulous terrace in the summertime or a cosy dinner inside in the winter. Gilby’s used to be a an old butcher’s shop and then it became one of the first wine bars outside of London in 1975. After years of success, they changed the name to Gilby’s as the food became more well known than the wine (it’s still great for the wine!). This quaint restaurant serves up delicious modern British food in a picturesque setting with wonderful service.

STAY 

Ciaran and I visited Windsor right before Christmas and it was beaming with charm. We made a relaxing weekend out of it and stayed at the Castle Hotel conveniently located on Windsor’s quintessentially English High Street directly opposite Windsor Castle. It was amazing to wake up to the view of the Queen’s residence in the morning.

You’ll find a “welcome” fruit platter upon arrival to enjoy whilst you unpack your suitcase. The suite features everything you could want and more including a luxurious large bed fit for a queen, a waterfall shower, fluffy bathrobes for lounging, The White Company toiletries and a Nespresso stocked with a variety of coffees and teas for your convienence. The hotel is also steeped in history, dating back to 1528.

History and charm resonate throughout the hotel. We noticed little details and touches that brought the past and present together. We were pleasantly surprised to find we were staying in the gorgeous Charles Sheriff room, the Royal Warrant Holder during the 1850s.

After day of exploring Windsor, enjoy a cosy afternoon tea in the lounge of the Castle Hotel next to the crackling fire. The Afternoon tea at the Castle Hotel is lovely with fresh warm scones, finger sandwiches, an array of teas and champagne to wind down before a glass of wine in the bar.

Whether you are visiting Windsor for the day or making a relaxing weekend out of it, there is so much British history to explore in this beautiful town. Have you been to Windsor before? What’s your favourite thing to do?

A Countryside Escape at the Goodwood Hotel, Sussex

This past Thanksgiving weekend, we decided to escape busy city life for a relaxing stay in the English countryside at the gorgeous Goodwood Hotel in West Sussex. Home to the exquisite Goodwood House, Festival of Speed, a golf course, an incredible spa, and now the newly opened and highly anticipated, Farmer, Butcher, Chef restaurant – this countryside escape is just what the doctor ordered. It’s also only 1.5 hours away from London via Victoria station, making it the perfect weekend getaway spot.

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We checked in a bit early and went for a nice long country walk around the estate. I couldn’t wait to breathe in some fresh country air. The hotel gave us a walking map with a few different trails to follow. The grounds themselves are truly spectacular and you can see all sorts of animals from sheep (my favourite) to cows and deer. Oh, and make sure to watch out for any pheasants that may fly out from underneath a pile of leaves suddenly. Depending on which path you take, you may be led to Goodwood House or the motor circuit.


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goodwoodhotel-017740For more than 300 years, Goodwood has been farmed by the family and is one of the largest lowland organic farms in the UK (more to come on this later). It was incredible to see so many animals freely grazing throughout the grounds.

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goodwoodhotel-017743As the sun set, we took a little shortcut and eventually made it back to the cosy Goodwood Hotel  just in time to check into our room and explore a little more of the fabulous hotel before heading to the bar for cocktail hour.

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goodwoodhotel-017977Our quaint room had the perfect dash of English countryside charm with plaid accents throughout. The room featured a flat screen TV and tea and coffee making facilities. Some rooms also have private terraces, which would be lovely in the summertime.

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goodwoodhotel-017756The bathroom featured a swoon-worthy farmhouse sink along with subway tiled accents and a large deep bathtub to soak in after a long walk through the grounds. Our room boasted all the amenities you could want for an evening away, including these lovely Elemis products. Overall, the room is super comfy and I really enjoyed the countryside charm that came with it. We felt right at home from the get-go.

goodwood-hotel-pool-1We were told to check out the spa when we got there, and I’m really glad that we did because it was gorgeous. Guests can make use of the lovely wet spa area, featuring a large pool and relaxing hot tub or make the most of it and enjoy some stress-busting treatments. Facial and body treatments at Goodwood include waxing, hot stone massages, Indian head massages, and reflexology. I am planning to come back with a few girlfriends for a relaxing spa-weekend next year.

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goodwoodhotel-017773Later that evening, we made our way to the bar and settled into one of the stunning private rooms and curled up by the crackling fire with drinks before our highly anticipated dinner at Farmer, Butcher, Chef. I loved every element of this living room – from the fireplace, to the comfy furniture and the colour scheme – it was incredibly charming and cosy. We both agreed that one day we’d love to have a room in our house similar to this.

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goodwoodhotel-017789A couple of hours flew by whilst we sipped on Sussex Lagers and Tinwood Estate sparkling wine and before we knew it, it was time for our reservation at Farmer, Butcher Chef, which you’ll find out all about on the blog tomorrow…

The Goodwood Hotel is a gorgeous countryside getaway far enough away to escape the hustle and bustle of London, but close enough that travel time won’t cut in to your weekend plans. With a relaxing spa, an awesome golf course and stunning grounds, it’s great for both him and her, and I haven’t even mentioned how incredible the restaurant is yet…

The Goodwood Hotel | Chichester | PO18 0QB | Book Now 

Pin for Later 

 

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Seafront Views at the Grand Brighton

For the past few months, my friend Lizz and I have been planning a gals trip away and decided on beautiful Brighton! I had never been before and we wanted a little getaway from London where we could have fun and relax and Brighton was the ideal spot. Brighton is a short hour away from London and it’s super easy to jump on the train from Victoria and in 50 minutes you’re at the beach.

When we arrived in Brighton, the sun was shining and we were both really excited to just breathe in the fresh sea salt air and be out of the city for a while. We walked over to the Grand Brighton hotel to check in, and I must say, it is one of the most grandiose hotels I’ve been to.

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The Grand Brighton is a show-stopping hotel that stands centre-stage on Brighton’s beautiful seafront.  The gorgeous hotel is steeped in history, dating back to 1864 and still exudes the same elements of glamour as it did all those years ago.  The hotel itself was built with an Italian influence in mind, though Victorian in structure, it is truly magnificent.  From the moment we walked into the unique hotel and saw the dramatic winding staircase extending over seven floors, we knew it was going to be a most memorable stay.

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We had the pleasure of staying in a spacious sea-view room with breath taking views of the Brighton seafront. The moment we walked, in we were in awe of the sheer size of the room and were filled with excitement at how gorgeous it was. We had a lovely welcome card and sweets waiting for us on the table when we arrived, which was a lovely surprise.

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The room featured a soft egg blue and grey colour palette with elegant beach-inspired decor including silver starfish lamps and photos of Brighton adorning the walls. French doors lead us out onto a large balcony and there was also a comfortable seating area that was ideal for drinking champagne and taking in the exquisite seaside views. I also must note, that the beds were so incredibly comfortable. It was lovely to fall asleep in 400 thread count Egyption Cotton sheets and fluffy pillows! Needless to say, we felt like we were on cloud 9!

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The bathroom was clean, modernised and chic and boasted fluffy towels and robes and all the amenities one could hope for.

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After settling in and taking in all the views of the beautiful room and ocean-front views, we decided it was time for some bubbly before dinner! We headed down to the opulent Victoria lounge, bar and terrace for some snacks and pre-dinner tipples. I loved the art-deco inspired lounge area with bright plush furniture and pretty chandeliers.

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The bar exuded 1920s glam, featuring a large marble topped bar, dark wood liquor cabinets and a great cocktail list. It was the perfect place to kick off our mini holiday and toast to our gals trip. The service was friendly and outstanding and always on hand for a top up! After a few more glasses of champagne, we headed out for dinner and a night out in Brighton. More to come on that later.

The location of the Grand Brighton cannot be beat, as it is situated between the Brighton Pier and the remaining structure of the West Pier, making it central to all Brighton’s major attractions. We suggest heading out of the hotel and taking a long walk down the beach or shopping over in The Lanes – Brighton’s quaint historic quarter, before heading back to the hotel for cocktail hour, where cocktails are just £5 from 5-7pm!

The Grand Brighton Hotel exudes elegance and grandeur, making it one of the most iconic hotels not only in Brighton, but England too.  From that stunning sweeping spiral staircase (I recommend you climb to the 8th floor to experience the true magnificence of the hotel), to the beautiful sea view rooms and elegant decor throughout,there is no doubt you will have a memorable stay at the Grand Brighton.

Thank you to the Grand Brighton Hotel for hosting us.

My review of the Grand Brighton for Luxuria Lifestyle can also be read here! 

Soho Farmhouse

This past Sunday, we drove up to to the Oxfordshire Countryside to spend the day at Soho Farmhouse. Needless to say, it was love at first sight for me. I am going to preface this post by saying, I did not take nearly enough photos, which is really unusual, but trust me when I say, despite a lack of photos to show you, it was spectacular and so much so that I had to write about it.

Soho Farmhouse is like a luxury summer camp for adults. The gorgeous grounds span over 100 acres of the Oxfordshire Countryside and has 40 cabins, a seven bedroom cottage and a four bedroom cottage. It also has horse stables, a pool, a gym, a lake, a deli, two gorgeous barns, a few different restaurants, a spa, a boathouse, a farmyard, a garden, cinema, a cookhouse …yes the list goes on and on. It’s an incredible retreat.

We had lunch in the gorgeous Main Barn, which boasts a classic British menu alongside local beers, wines, cocktails and afternoon tea. It is a huge space, spanning two floors, but is instantly cosy with numerous fireplaces, comfy couches, pillows and wooden farmhouse tables. We ordered our Sunday roasts, which were really very lovely and some pints of Cotswolds Lager. After lunch we went exploring…

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The Farmyard area was awesome – pool tables, foosball tables, plush couches, and a roaring fire. It’s the ultimate hangout to kick back and relax with some drinks.

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You can hop on some bikes and traipse around the countryside.

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Be sure to visit the cheese room in the Farmhouse Deli!

cinema-roomOr catch a movie in Electric Cinema – how amazing is this movie theatre?

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Take a walk through what is quite possibly the most beautiful barn in the world. (Hello dream wedding venue).

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IMG_5993 (1)I’m enamoured with the barn – the huge wheel chandeliers, cream furniture and haystacks. It was charming, elegant and rustic.

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me with horse 2And visit the horses in the stables. You can take horses out and ride them around the countryside for the day. I used to ride horses until I was a teenager and would still love to get back into it.

Soho Farmhouse is an exquisite retreat and an ideal place to switch off for a weekend. There isn’t any cell phone service there, which really helps you relax and enjoy the moment. The atmosphere, service and food was excellent and there is so much to enjoy while you’re there. I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re a Soho House member and haven’t been yet – grab your wellies and make a reservation for a weekend away! Good news is, even if you’re not a member, you can arrange a getaway. If you’ve been on the fence about joining Soho House, Soho Farmhouse will convince you. It’s that beautiful.

Check out Soho Farmhouse by clicking this link here.

Thanks for reading x

Wight Christmas

Every year we celebrate Christmas at home in London followed by a relaxing few days on the Isle of Wight with my finance’s whole family. We pack up the car and drive over to Southampton to catch the ferry across to the Island. A little side story: Last year was my first year visiting the Isle of Wight and when we got to the ferry port, Ciaran’s family asked me if I had my passport to show the toll booth lady before we drove on. I was mortified, thinking I had ruined the entire trip, a hysteric no, I said – to which they all burst out laughing and couldn’t go on with the joke any further.

Anyways, the ferry ride is always fun – if the weather is lovely you can look out to the ocean on the deck or stay warm inside with pastys, bacon baps and lattes – we went for the latter this time around. It only takes about 45 minutes to sail over to the Island – it’s a breeze.

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For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Isle of Wight, it holds a significant place in history. Ciaran’s grandad always tells me tales of how he was sent off to the Isle of Wight during World War II to stay safe when he was younger. I always deemed it to be a safe place to seek refuge based on his stories, but it was in fact one of the most dangerous places to seek refuge. It was on route for German bombers and was attacked 125 times. This year, we went up on the Ventnor Downs and saw the massive pillboxes used for protection during the war. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me at the time, but we’ll be heading there in a few weeks and planning to explore more so stay tuned.

Besides being a significant part of British history, the Isle of Wight is picturesque and proves to be one of the most peaceful retreats. It’s like stepping back in time to a place where time stands still. Buildings that are far older than the US as a country, remain over looking the ocean. Cottages that look like they leapt off the page of your favourite story book exist here. We always stay in Ventnor, but the surrounding areas are lovely as well. The village is filled with independently owned shops and friendly faces and the seafood is out of this world because it’s caught fresh everyday. For a most relaxing and serene weekend getaway, I can’t recommend the Isle of Wight enough. Check out some of my favourite photos from our Wight Christmas that will make you fall in love with this laid back and charming seaside town. 

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Every morning, we take a walk over to Steephill Cove. The sky was so blue on this particular morning, it was beautiful and a welcome change to the endless downpour we had been experiencing in London. Ciaran always tells me how they get fresh lobster from Steephill Cove in the summertime and its the best he’s ever had. I can’t wait to visit this summer to try more of the restaurants as a lot of them have closed down for the winter and will re-open in the Spring.

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IMG_0448The past few years, we’ve picked up crab and lobster meat from Ventnor Haven fishery to take home and make sandwiches. In the summer, I want to get the legendary takeaway fish and chips, packaged up in newspaper, to eat on the beach.

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Our weather the second day we were on the Island wasn’t as great as the first, but still beautiful nonetheless.

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Whenever I spend a few days by the ocean, I feel compelled to eat as many crab and lobster sandwiches as I can to tide me over to the next trip. This crab sandwich from Betsy & Spinkys was pretty amazing – packed with crab meat, a little lobster meat, and just the right amount of mayo to coat it all in a warm toasted baguette – I can’t say I had any qualms with it, other than the fact I wanted another.

IMG_0468Ciaran’s Nonna’s home overlooking the sea is like a storybook cottage.  If I could wake up to that view every morning, I would in a heartbeat.

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Even our dog Rosie loves the Isle of Wight (had to throw this one in for good measure).

Our Wight Christmas consisted of a lot of eating, drinking copious amounts of champagne, playing card games, cozying up by the fire, taking long walks on the beach and sleeping. What could be better? We’ll be back again in a few week’s for Ciaran’s Nonna’s 90th birthday! So stay tuned for more IOW updates.

What’s your favourite part of the Isle of Wight? I’d love to hear any tips on where to visit or things to see!

Thanks for reading x

 

St. Ives, Cornwall – Part II

We woke up happy to see the sun shining – it was a beautiful day out. We walked over to St. Ives to grab lunch before hitting the beach for a few hours. We were both on the lookout for crab sandwiches and decided on the St. Ives Tea Room – and we were sure glad that we did! 

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We ordered fresh crab on fluffy white bread with a side of mayo. The crab had been caught earlier that morning and it was delicious – exactly what we were looking for. We demolished it in about 2 seconds.

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We also ordered the special, which was the real star of the show.  Cornish Mackerel Filets on grilled sourdough with heritage tomato and herb salad with salsa verde. Holy mackerel, it was good. It was hands down, one of the best dishes i’ve ever had. 

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After our lovely lunch, we hit the beach to chill out in the sun. There’s three different beaches in the area – Carbis Bay, Porthminster and St. Ives. All are within walking distance of each other and all are equally beautiful. St Ives was packed, so we found a spot at Porthminster Beach and fell asleep basking in the sun. Being from KC where the summers are hot and everybody hits the pool – it was so nice being able to relax in the sun.  

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Later in the afternoon when the sun began to hide behind the clouds, we decided to take a trip to Seal Island. We walked over to the harbour and waited for the boat to take us out there. Two seals popped their heads up out of the water to say hi – they had been rescued, nurtured and put back in the sea after they were rehabilitated. They loved being around people! 

We jumped on the ship and headed for the island. It takes about 45 minutes to sail out and the water was very choppy – our stomachs dipped with the boat. The scenery on the way out was incredible – it was crazy to think that we were sailing on the edge of England.

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We were freezing by the time we got back to shore. We warmed up in a little cafe with teas and I tried my very first Cornish Pasty – Apple & Blackberry and a mince meat and potato one. I love trying traditional English foods you can’t get in the U.S. We devoured both of them – they were so good. Hearty, filling, delicious – they’ll warm you right up and trust me, they’re worth the cals.

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After we were warm and toasty, we grabbed pre-dinner drinks at the Sloop Inn – Cornwall’s oldest pub dating back to 1312. It is packed in the summertime! It’s a classic fisherman’s hangout. Fun, lively and great music. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in St. Ives.

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Later that night, we grabbed dinner at the Porthminster Beach CafeIt’s an award winning seafood restaurant underneath the slope of Porthminster point, right on the beach with unbeatable views of the Bay.

The service couldn’t be beat and the food was outstanding. I ordered the Shaved Hand Dived Scallops with Vadouvan spice, radish, apple and tarragon to start, followed by the Baked Cornish Cod Fillet with Lobster Claw anglaise, crispy potato, tarragon and shaved mushrooms. The scallops were plump, made the way all scallops should be and melted in your mouth. The Cornish Cod filet was evidently fresh, moreish yet so filling. All the elements in each dish were methodically thought out and worked so well together. 

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We shared a bottle of wine and ate til our hearts were content. There were even fireworks from a wedding taking place at the hotel. It was truly one of the most memorable evenings to date and the ideal way to end our trip. Thank you Porthminster Beach Cafe for the fabulous hospitality! Next time we’re back, we’re picking up the cookbook. 

All in all, it was a trip I’ll never forget. We ate our weight in seafood, drank some amazing wine, saw seals, basked in the sun and enjoyed a new adventure. On to plotting the next one…

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St. Ives, Cornwall – Part I

Last weekend, we packed our bags and took a little getaway to St. Ives in Cornwall. I had always wanted to visit Cornwall and I absolutely fell in love with St. Ives – it is a quintessentially British seaside town with quaint cafes, award-winning restaurants with some of the best seafood I’ve ever had and beautiful white sand beaches.

We stayed at a little bed and breakfast called the Beechwood in Carbis Bay, just a short walk from St. Ives. We got really lucky with our B&B – it was one of the only hotels in St. Ives with a room left for that weekend – it was meant to be! The couple who own the Beechwood were lovely and gave some great suggestions for what to do while we were there. The room was small, but clean and perfect for a couple days. After checking in, we ventured off for lunch and ended up at the Beach Restaurant for a little fish & chips!

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We were famished after the drive down and the fish & chips did not disappoint – fresh cod with thick cut chips washed down with a Cornish Ale – hit the spot.

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We enjoyed the panoramic views of the beach and ordered fresh crab cakes and salt and pepper squid – which was some of the best i’ve ever had. We left happy, full and ready to explore…

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We walked all over the town and took in all of the scenery. St Ives is filled with galleries, shops, bakeries,  little beach alcoves and we had a blast exploring it. If you visit St Ives, definitely go see the Chapel on the Hill. The views from the top are breathtaking. (You’ll also feel like you’re in an episode of Poldark).

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On our walk back to our B&B, we stopped for a nightcap at the Carbis Bay Hotel Restaurant right on the beach.

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We relaxed with a bottle of wine as the sun was setting. We enjoyed the live music and views of the ocean. It was the perfect way to end the day. After a few drinks, we walked up (stumbled and laughed) up the hill and went to sleep excited for what the next day had in store..