With Love from Scotland, Nira Moments

Posted on: September 29, 2016

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Travel the world, seek and explore ……

If your looking for culture, something different and a a plethora of whiskey and scotch then go and travel to Scotland.  I traveled to the United Kingdom, specifically Edinburgh Scotland, Glasgow and St. Andrews. At first I was a little apprehensive in going to the UK outside of London, because I thought it seemed more of a “Man’s” trip. With Scotland being the main destination, there is so much to do there and it’s definitely not just for a “Man’s trip” I was simply impressed and enchanted.  Before any trip, I do my do diligence and research on the destination, i.e: where to go, what to see, where to eat etc.. I was definitely in for an adventure. Once I landed in Edinburgh, I soon learned that this trip would be one I’d absolutely love, enjoy and been in complete awe the entire time.

I landed in Edinburgh,  breezed thru customs and was greeted by a car service  to take me to my hotel. When I stepped outside of the airport, I was amazed by Edinburgh’s natural beauty. It was something out of a movie, that’s how beautiful this place was and this was just at the airport. So you could just imagine my surprise as I continued the journey. I was a like a kid in a toy story, wide-eyed and amazed. It was a complete snapchat and Instagram frenzy.  I was flashing my camera and iPhone as we drove through the quaint streets of Edinburgh. Cobblestones, old historic buildings, and Harry potter like homes. I was just in complete awe as every turn the car made.

History on Edinburgh: 

  • Capital City Of Scotland
  • Scotland’s second most populated cities
  • Seventh most populated city in all of the United Kingdom
  • Historic centre of Edinburgh is divided in two by the broad green swathe of Princes Street Gardens. To the south the view is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, built high on the castle rock, and the long sweep of the Old Town descending towards Holyrood Palace. To the north lie Princes Street and the New Town. (Wikipedia) 
  • The West End of center city is known as the Financial District and where the Edinburgh International Conference Centre is located
  • Edinburgh’s Old and New Town’s were noted at UNSECO World Heritage Sites in 1995 recognizing the unique character of the Old Town and its medieval streets and planned Georgian New Town, which connects to  Dean Village and Calton Hill areas.
  • There are over 4,500 listed buildings within the city,[10] a higher proportion relative to area than any other city in the United Kingdom. (Wikipedia)

We arrived at our hotel, and the entire staff was so friendly and welcoming. Even our car service driver, she too was so nice and warm. We stayed at the Nira Caledonia located in Stockbridge a surround village just outside of the city center. Known as one of Edinburghs Best Luxury Hotels, this posh, chic and ever so stylish hotel was the perfect setting for any occasion.  For me, this was a work/personal trip and I do hope to visit the country again and explore more of the magical place. I will admit I’m one who loves to indulge and enjoy all the amenities that many luxury hotels offer. Although Nira Caledonia  luxe and quaint as it is, it has its own charm that I offers overall. The entire establishment offers so much even as a boutique luxe hotel.  The Nira Caledonia is located in the village of Stockbridge, close to the city centre, about a 1.3 mile walk. It’s also a 4 minute walk from the Water of Leith river. Very close to many restaurants, shops and many tourist sights.The Nira Caledonia was once the home of renowned 19th century essayist, bon viveur and hedonist, Christopher North. Even to this day, they still carry on the traditions he set forth.  It comes to no surprise that Nira Caledonia makes the  Small Luxury Hotels of the World list.

I stayed in there spacious garden suite, that included a private terrace with the most amazing views of Edinburgh in the background. It was the perfect mix of zen and serenity all at the same time. Nira Caledonia offers different suites all with varying interior design and decor, but they offer spacious seating areas and bedrooms within the suite itself. The seating area was great to just sit and relax after a day of sightseeing.  The perfect area to take photos, enjoy some afternoon tea, even some of our meals too. I loved the interior design of the Garden terrace suite that I couldn’t help but take photos and take in every moment. If you know me, I’m a sucker for personal greetings and details. When I arrived to the suite, they had  champagne on ice with a welcome note and chocolates.  A nice touch and greetings after the long flight.  They really know how to give their guest the first class and red carpet service you deserve and that’s what I received from the moment I arrived and throughout the duration of my stay. I  couldn’t ask for anything more, excellent accommodations and hospitality. No complaints whatsoever. From day 1 I absolutely loved the location as it was a breeze getting around the city and the area. I usually like to stay right in the center of the city, but the Nira was literally a few blocks from the centre. It was nice and refreshing to stay in the beautiful and quaint area of Stockbridge. Stockbridge village and the surrounding villages were the perfect places to take photos. So perfect that we could just walk outside and start snapping. Seriously guys, you’ll get your fair share and opportunity to take the perfect photos. If “your photo” spot is taken, don’t fret, you’ll soon find another spot to capture your next best photo. Every inch of the area and beyond is so instagrammable. Edinburgh and the country of Scotland is not only breathtaking but absolutely stunning.

I loved starting the day in the hotels main restaurant Blackwood Bar & Grill. Every morning they offered a wide variety of fresh, organic selections that made for a delicious breakfast. The fuel was much needed to get me through the days of sightseeing and exploration. And returning each night to enjoy a night cap at the bar to end the day. All in all, I truly enjoyed my stay at Nira Caledonia. A place I hope to visit again in the future. I’d like to thank the staff at Nira Caledonia for making my stay nothing short from fantastic.

Book your next stay at the Nira Caledonia

Where to Eat: 

What’s great about Edinburgh, it literally has many cuisines from around the world. So you’ll have a a plethora of restaurants to try. Plenty of restaurants to choose from on just about every corner of the beautiful city. So, whatever you’re craving whether it be: Indian, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Seafood you name it they have it. But if your looking for more traditional Scottish fares here are a few place to try out.

The Doric: Address: 15-16 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DE, United Kingdom,  the-doric.com

The Dorie is a local Scottish fares and 17th century feels. They offer a wide selection of Real Ales and Whiskies to taste.  If your looking to try some Traditional and popular Scottish delights try there Haggis Bon Bons (popular dish all over Scotland), other dishes to try are their Homemade Shepard’s Pie and Lamb Shank, both delicious. On Tap,  try their Deuchars, Stewart Hollyrood and Edinburgh Castle. As far as their whiskies they have a superb collection so you can choose whatever your heart desires.

Amber Restaurant: Address: 354 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE, United Kingdom, scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk

The Amber restaurant offers traditional Scottish cuisine, with tasting menus and a whiskey bar. The menu choice is run-of-the-mill Scottish fine dining so if you haven’t sampled this kind of cuisine before then you will love trying the Scottish selection on offer. With it being part of the whisky experience it means there is loads of whisky on offer, a favorite for my husband and I. If you like whisky you’ll love it. Would be nice to see them do some whisky matching with the food. Be sure to try their tasting menus they have to offer, you won’t be disappoint especially while you sit and enjoy some fine whiskey.

Take a stroll down to Dean Village there you’ll find a row of cute cafes, shops and restaurants with a variety of cuisines to offer.  Our favorites were:

The Olive Branch: Address:  91 Broughton St, Edinburgh EH1 3RX, United Kingdom, theolivebranchscotland.co.uk 

This restaurant offers simple European food in a smart modern spot with large windows, brick walls, wood floors and tables. Great for brunch and lunch.

Blackwoods Bar and Grill: Address:  6 Gloucester Pl, Edinburgh EH3 6EF, United Kingdom,  niracaledonia.com 

Excellent restaurant and it was right at our luxury boutique hotel. This is definitely a must try restaurant and I’m not just saying this because it was at our hotel, it’s because it was that good. Amazing food, exceptional  service and a great, relaxed atmosphere. Blackwood’s has outstanding quality at very reasonable prices, no pretensions, just amazing food, excellent service in a small comfortable space. Only about a dozen tables, intimate and perfect for Dinner. Order their juicy steaks cooked to your desire and their lovely mussels as well as their Wild Boar Ravioli, all three are absolutely delicious.  Make sure to leave room for dessert, because you’ll want to try their Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch sauce and Banana ice cream, restaurant favorite and simply to die for!

If you looking for more variety head on over to George Street. On George Street you’ll find some cute boutique shops and a plethora of restaurants to choose from. Some of our favorites were:

Cafe Andaluz: Address: 77B George St, Edinburgh EH2 3EE, United Kingdom, http://www.cafeandaluz.com

Elegant Andalucian decor and intimate ambience in a tapas joint with set menus and kids’ options. Amazing ambiance with food to match. Best tapas in all of Edinburgh. Be sure to order the Pollo Marinade, Gambas Pil Pil, Patatas Bravas, Paella Valencia, and the Bomba Picante. Great to share and oh so delicious!

The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen: Address: printingpressedinburgh.co.uk

Elegant, modern bar & bistro serving seasonally changing, locally sourced rustic Scottish cuisine. Fun, vibrant restaurant with great food and drinks. Great for dinner or even just some appetizers and cocktails after a day of sightseeing.

Be sure to bring your walking shoes, because you’ll want to explore anything and everything around Edinburgh. Walk the streets of Edinburgh and you’ll soon notice how the entire capital is comprised of small villages. To me, Edinburgh reminded me of Boston. A city that’s fun, vibrant, cultural and simply breathtaking. A quaint city that encompasses the big city life but not too big and over powering. You can literally explore and see all the villages and cover the entire city during a weekend visit,  But we took our time and enjoyed every bit of this lovely city. If your anything like me, you’ll be flashing away. Because every inch of this magical place is photo worth. So get your camera and iPhone’s ready!!

Where to go/What to See:  

GrassMarket+ Victoria Street
Edinburgh Castle+ Castle Hill
The Scottish Whiskey Experience
The Real Mary King’s Close
National Galleries of Scotland
Palace of HolyroodHouse
The Queen’s Gallery
The Scottish Parliment
Jenners
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The Royal Yacht Britannia
Shopping on Princes Street
Shopping on Georges Street
Luxury Shopping at Multrees Walk
West End (Cafes, Shops, Bistros)
Scott Monument
Greyfriar Bobby
Lauriston Castle
Waverly Market
Stockbridge Market
StockBridge Village
Dean Village
High Street + CanonGate
The Royal Mile
Arthur’s Seat
Prince’s Street Garden
HolyRood Park
St. Giles Cathedral
Edinburgh Waverly Railroad Station
Union Canal
Church of Scotland
Blackford Hill
Dugald Steward Monument
Circus Lane
•Take a day trip to Glasgow from Waverly Station (45 mins to 1 hr train ride)
•Take a day trip to St. Andrews (1 hr train ride)
• Take a drive to Speyside and experience the Scotch Distilleries (Glenlivet, Macallan and Glenfidich) (3 1/2 Hr drive From Edinburgh and 1 hr from Aberdeen)
I hope you enjoyed my Travel Guide and Photo Diary. If you ever get the chance to visit Scotland and stay at the Nira Caledonia (highly recommend), please do share your travels using the hashtags: #SFBTravelDiaries
#NiraMoments #Sponsored #Collaboration
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YA MON! DISCOVER OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA

Posted on: May 12, 2016

I know these next few post are late, but hey better late than never, right…!?!?

Last February into early March,  I traveled to the Western Caribbean via Norwegian Cruises lines aboard the Norwegian Getaway. It was a 7 day cruise beginning and ending in Miami. Our first port that we sailed to was the island of Jamaica, specifically Ocho Rios.

Ocho Rios, in spanish means Eight Rivers a port town located on the north coast of Jamaica. Now a resorts port that was once a fisherman’s village that has a harbor for cruise ships to dock and where the resorts are surrounded by the beach waters. The closest town or Parish from the harbor is Saint Ann which is home of the infamous Dunn’s River.

Tourism Highlights: 

Dunn’s River

The number one tourism attraction on the island is Dunn’s river. Dunn’s River is a terraced, 180m mountain waterfall equipped with lagoon pools.  Simply breathtaking surrounded by so many trees and nature. Seeing all the lagoons and waterfalls in the Jamaican rainforest is absolutely breathtaking. If you haven’t checked out the falls it’s one stop you won’t want to miss!

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CHUKKA ZIPLINING
Another popular attraction for tourist is ziplining through the rainforest. This was one of our favorite things we did when we visited Ocho Rios. My husband, who has a slight fear of heights, needed a little nudge from me,  so we could experience this excursion. After the first line, we set aside our fears and enjoyed the experience fully. Our group and tour guides were absolutely the best, everyone was so friendly and helpful it made the overall experience so fun and enjoyable. Our excursion was with Chukka adventures and they gave us the best adventure and experience. All of our guides were so friendly, which made the entire experience even better.
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BOBSLEDDING
Do you guys remember the movie Cool Runnings? This was one of my favorite movies/comedies growing up. And our tourist guy said that some parts of the film were filmed in various areas of the island of Ocho Rios. But this experience I hear was super fun, I mean you’re one with nature and bobsledding in 90 degree climates. I mean who wouldn’t want to experience this attraction. You’ll enjoy stunning views of nature and the island during this bobsled ride. This is one excursion my husband and I didn’t get to try but we look forward to trying it on our next visit to Jamaica in the near future.

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WHERE TO EAT

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Whenever I travel anywhere I’d  like to try out local + authentic eats. I enjoy immersing myself  in the culture and getting to know the locals +natives of the countries I visit. The people in Jamaica were nice, welcoming and friendly.  Everyone I encountered were very approachable and willing to tell us where to eat and stay. Very resourceful and helpful. When visiting, eat like the locals and enjoy the countries favorites like: Curry chicken, jerk chicken, curry goat, plantains and much more.

Great local eateries are Scotchies and Mama Marleys.

Scotchies was also featured on the RHOA when they visited Ocho Rios. The cast enjoyed their famous jerk chicken after they  climbed the falls of Dunn’s River. Another local favorite is: Mama Marleys . Very close to the harbor/port. It’s conveniently located in a shopping mall where you can purchase a few souvenirs for yourself, family and friends. I recommend the Jerk Chicken and the curry goat, two island favorites. Prepared to perfection and tastes delicious!



WHERE TO STAY


The top 3 resorts to stay at  when you visit Ocho Rios:

Moon Palace Jamaica Grande
Hotel Sandals Royal Plantation
Sandals Grande Rivera Beach & Villa Golf Resort

These are the top hotels that tourist stay at when they visit the island. They’re all-inclusive beachfront hotels with so much to offer. All three hotels are luxury hotels all within minutes of the neighboring parishes (towns), close to local bars, shops and tourist attractions. Check them out today!!

Jamaica is truly a friendly and welcoming island. I will definitely be back to visit. I look forward to explore and discover more of this beautiful and happy island.

Again, thanks for stopping by, reading and following along. Enjoy the photos and I hope one day you’ll consider visiting this beautiful island and check out one or all of the attractions and places I’ve mentioned today.

For more of my TRAVEL + EXPLORE adventures stay tuned!