Hans & Gretel – Camden Town, London U.K.

Welcome back to my blog!

Today, I’m posting about one of the best dessert places I’ve ever come across… Hans & Gretel, in Camden Town – at the heart of Camden Market.

Now, I’m no stranger to a pre-diabetic’s supply of sugary treats… Trust ‘mii when I say, I am known for skipping the main course and going straight to dessert, because: I’m savoury like that!

Is this place which you’re going to read about a Candy-Man(sour)’s dream? Yes.

Were we the only adults not accompanied by kids at this establishment? Also yes.

After discovering this place on Instagram, we thought there’s no time like the present to pay it a visit (in lbs)!

Hans & Gretel, Camden Town
Queue outside Hans & Gretel, Camden Town

Upon arriving, there were two queues – one (pictured above), and another way, way further back towards the back of Camden Market!

It took us around 15 minutes to get from the back of the queue to the front. Which, in the grand scheme (and candy-floss) of things, is no time at all!

Hans & Gretel, Camden Town
Entrance of Hans & Gretel, Camden Town

When we finally made it into Hans & Gretel, we marvelled at the decorations, pick & mix station and sweets dispensers stuck to the walls… For a small shop, it packed a huge amount of goodies!

I mean, the first thing we saw was a mutant candy-floss on a stick! 😋

Hans & Gretel, Camden Town
*Jim Carrey’s jaw-drop in The Mask moment*

What did I order from Hans & Gretel, Camden Town?

Menu at Hansen & Gretel, Camden Town

Unfortunately, the infamous Chimney cake was sold-out at the time due to a faulty grill (all the more reason to go back, of course).

So, when it came to choosing what we wanted, I chose the Fantasy Candy-Floss Cone in blueberry cheesecake [ice cream] flavour. In terms of toppings, I asked them to surprise me! (…& boy was I surprised 😍!)

Hans & Gretel, Camden Town
You can’t even see the cone or the ice-cream, but they’re there!
Hans & Gretel, Camden Town
The size of it was bigger than my head. For context, my forehead is pretty sizeable!

The ‘Cotton Fantasy Cone’ was incredible. I loved everything from the candy-floss (which wrapped around the cone like a life-size halo), to the ice cream and toppings.

Special shout-out to the mini-cone on top of the ice-cream, you were a super cute touch!

Personally, I didn’t think there was enough ice-cream in the cone which, judging by the size of the entire dessert, I’m not surprised about. Although the ice-cream was sublime and I would’ve loved more of it, I feel like if there was any more of it, I’d probably need an insulin injection to keep me alive.

We also tried the bubble-waffle, which was nice as well! The ice-cream flavour of choice for that was Snickers, which in hindsight we regretted – for the sole reason that it tasted the same as the standard Snickers ice-cream we can get from the shops. But, it was delightful nonetheless.

Hans & Gretel, Camden Town
Ice cream flavours

How did I look after finishing my Fantasy Floss Cone?

I was delighted when I looked to see that I’d managed to keep the ice cream and candy floss off my white & floral dress. It was melting all over the place, so that’s a relief!

Hans & Gretel, Camden Town

What was it like inside Hans & Gretel, Camden Town?

It was magical! I felt like I was in a fairytale candy-land, with Christina Aguilera’s Candy-Man playing on repeat.

To be honest, I was half-expecting the staff to be dressed up like Oompa-Loompas and the manager to be dressed as Willie Wonka, as it was mad crazy and over-the-top (in the best sense)!

My favourite part of the store was the secret room – it’s relatively well hidden, although…it can’t have been too hidden, because I managed to find it!

The secret room seemed to be decorated for Christmas, so I’m planning to go back next year to meet Mr Santa Claus himself.

Hans & Gretel, Camden Town
The Secret Room

My review of Hans & Gretel, Camden Town

The prices aren’t cheap – £6.99 for pick & mix and over £7 for a bubble waffle or candy floss cone, but when they’re that good, it’s definitely worth thinking twice!

I recommend paying Hans & Gretel a visit, in £££. The pictures don’t do the taste and overall experience justice, I’m serious!

Please enjoy the gallery of images below, and let me know if you’ve been – or plan to go – in the comments (below-er).

Holland Park

I’m pretty sure you’re going to think I’m obsessed with Japanese gardens, because Holland Park (like Kew) has one.

Kyoto Garden is the best part of Holland Park. It has everything you’re looking for from a tranquil waterfall, Japanese maple trees, koi fish and a peacock.

Holland Park

I’ve always loved water features, Trafalgar Square is literally my favourite place, I spend a lot of time there in summer. But, waterfalls? Unbeatable!

A little fact about me regarding waterfalls, I got a job in Chiswick mainly because there was a faux waterfall in the business park. 🤣 “Picture or it didn’t happen”? I’ve gone one step further, and embedded a video below.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Miamii Mansour (@miamii.mansour)

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🚨 NEWSFLASH 🚨

Unfortunately, the Kyoto Garden will be closed between 19th and 21st April, to repair the pond, and improve the pond borders. The Koi fish have been moved to a holding pond and will be returned when the garden reopens.

Holland Park also includes a children’s play area, tennis court, football field, golf and cricket practice nets and netball facilities. If you get peckish, there’s also a cafeteria on the grounds.

As expected, the grounds are far-reaching, which means there are plenty of entrances to choose from:

  • North Abbotsbury Road entrance
  • Ilchester Place entrance
  • Duchess of Bedford entrance
  • High street Kensington entrance

Have you been or would like to? Let me know in the comments!

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

Happy Easter! To celebrate the start of spring, I went to London’s Kew Gardens!

The 330+ acre botanical garden is a must, especially when we’re still in some sort of lockdown.

We arrived before 1pm and hadn’t completed it, even by 5pm – to give you an idea of how huge the gardens are…

Kew Gardens was very socially distanced, there was enough space for everyone to be spaced out without worry.

Arriving at Kew Gardens

Upon arriving, we were greeted with a magnificent display of Cherry Blossom trees and the beginning of a Beano (Dennis the Menace-themed) Easter Hunt for kids.

Cherry Blossom Tree (and Beano’s Dennis the Menace-themed Hunt starting point)

Trees at Kew Gardens

In terms of our favourite trees, we loved the Japanese Cherry Blossom (a spring-time fave), the African Baobab and Redwood, as well as a variation of sweet chestnut trees.

Kew Gardens
Sweet Chestnut
Kew Gardens
Redwood

The Baobab trees, which I wish I’d taken a photo of (my phone was low battery, so I had to turn it off), looked like something out of The Lion King from afar, but up close, were tall enough ( when looking up) to make you dizzy.

Indoor excursions at Kew Gardens

We followed the trail along and came across a barn, some greenhouses, stately homes, a lake – and my favourite of all: a thatched cottage (pictured). All indoor enclosures were closed, obviously. But, there was still plenty to see & do outdoors.

Kew Gardens
My favourite thatched cottage

One thing we were looking forward to was the Badger Set (which I also couldn’t take a photo of). Unfortunately, that was also closed due to Covid. What I didn’t realise was that humans are able to crawl through the Badger Set when it’s open!

I found the whole idea of being inside a Badger Set unnerving as that’s pretty much like trespassing a badger’s property… What if a baby badger was squashed by accident?

Personally, I’d much rather see them burrowing and running around happily around their enclosure, as opposed to stepping into it.

Kew Gardens
Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

Another highlight of ours was visiting the Japanese Garden (pictured above) and Pagoda (below). In normal, non-Covid circumstances, you could climb up the tower – making you way all the way to the top for the views. But, that, like everything else which involved being indoors, was closed.

Kew Gardens
Pagoda
Kew Gardens
Tulip display

Flowers at Kew Gardens


In terms of flowers, we were thoroughly impressed with the tulip display (pictured above), the magnolias and the Japanese Camellia.

Kew Gardens
Japanese Camellia
Kew Gardens
Pink Magnolia
Kew Gardens
White Magnolia
Kew Gardens

Animals at Kew Gardens

Of all the animals we came across, the peacock stole the show. Everyone who came into contact with it was following them around as if they were some kind of celebrity (myself included)!

Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens

Other things to do at Kew Gardens

We had a picnic and enjoyed the sun (which came out at brief intervals). Overall, even though it was a grey day, didn’t rain, and wasn’t muddy. You can’t say great without ‘grey’. To conclude, it was an absolute blast of a day!

We’re planning to go there again to complete it, and hopefully check out the indoor parts post-Covid.

Before you go, check out my photo dump (below), featuring all of my favourite shots! Feel free to read my previous post here.

Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens

Parliament Hill Viewpoint

Parliament Hill Viewpoint

Parliament Hill Viewpoint is one of the best places to go if you want a shot of the London skyline.

There is a lot to be positive about right now! Groups of six can meet in public spaces across England from Monday, and Spring is pretty much here…

Visiting is a must after lockdown

If you’re in London and looking for places to go with your ‘bubble’ of six, make sure that you put this place on your list.

I am very lucky to have Parliament Hill Viewpoint in my neighbourhood… I spent pretty much all of last summer toing and froing between this park and Highgate Wood.

Parliament Hill Viewpoint

What you can expect from the viewpoint

Watching the sunset or sunrise on the skyline is a sight to beheld. Everything from The Shard to St Paul’s, The Gherkin and ‘Cheese Grater’. They’re all there!

Parliament Hill Viewpoint

Birdwatching at Parliament Hill Viewpoint

I love animals, particularly birds. I can watch and hear them for hours without getting bored. For ages my favourite breed was the magpie, especially when they flocked in groups – never alone (as I was very superstitious). However, nowadays I’m more of a Robin Redbreast gal! This spot is perfect for birdwatching.

Parliament Hill Viewpoint

The best part

The best part about Parliament Hill Viewpoint is that it links to Hampstead Heath, you can follow the trail round… You can pretty much do two iconic park trips in one (if you fancy a hike)! There’s even a running track if you want to practice your Usain Bolt or Mo Farah skills.

Have you been here, or planning to? Let me know in the comments.

While you’re here, you can read my previous post about Christmas at London Zoo.

The Magic of Christmas at London Zoo

Christmas at London Zoo

I’m excited to write this post, as it combines two of my favourite things: Christmas and London Zoo!

Prior to the latest lockdown, we got a chance to experience The Magic of Christmas at London Zoo, and it was nothing short of spectacular…

From the way the grounds were decorated, to the cuteness of the animals and hospitality of the zookeepers, it was perfect.

Since the Covid pandemic, London Zoo has tried its best to protect guests with its one-way routes around it, limiting number of visitors per day, and a limited amount of tickets sold online.

Upon arriving at the Zoo, we were greeted by huge giraffe shaped light fixtures. Walking along the path, we came across the life-sized nutcrackers, pictured below.

Christmas at London Zoo

Anyone for a quick Lion’s share?

Our first stop on the trail were the lions on the Hot Rocks… I have never, in my life been that close to a pride of lions! As expected, they were resting…

They spend up to 20 hours a day resting and sleeping.

Christmas at London Zoo

After our up-close and personal trip with the lions, we went in search of the reindeer. Unfortunately, they weren’t at their enclosure, but we did see Santa’s sleigh…

Christmas at London Zoo

Now for a ‘necks level’ visit to the giraffes…

I loved visiting the giraffe enclosure, because they’re my favourite animals. It was quite cold and rainy outside, so the giraffes stayed indoors – which didn’t bother us!

A giraffe’s spots are much like human fingerprints. No two individual giraffes have exactly the same pattern

Christmas at London Zoo

*insert Penguin wrapper joker here*

Another standout memory was the Penguin Beach. The penguins loved my umbrella – and were following it around, playing with it through the glass the whole time.

Many male penguins gift female penguins with rocks in order to woo them

Christmas at London Zoo

We continued our trail across the Zoo and saw all of the animals below. Sadly, we weren’t able to see the zebras, tigers or chimpanzees, but we did get a glimpse of most of the other animals.

I’ve put together a gallery of most below…

Have you been to London Zoo at Christmas? Are you planning to go there this year? Comment below for more information, or your thoughts.

Golden Tours: Christmas Lights London by Night Tour

London at Christmas

This is my well overdue review of Golden Tours.

I’ve deleted all my old content (my SEO’s going to suffer) because I want to go back to the original plan for this blog: travel and tourism. I am so excited about the content I have planned for you all… Roll on June 21!

I’m feeling pretty nostalgic about Christmas, and pre-lockdown particularly because that was the last time I went out to somewhere other than the supermarket…

Last December, we toured London on an open-top bus, to check out the Christmas lights.

We hopped on the Golden Tours bus, boarding from London Victoria Coach Station, for a 2-hour guided tour of London – stopping briefly at red lights to marvel at the lightworks.

Golden Tours’ ‘Christmas Lights London by Night Tour’ promised the best views of London’s Christmas lights, and let me tell you: it didn’t disappoint…

River Thames
Golden Tours Bus Route

It started at Victoria and drove past Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, the River Thames and following the trail all the way round to Central London, before returning to Victoria Coach Station for dropoff.

The guided tour was very educational. Now, I’m writing this post in March – so I’ve forgotten a lot of the stuff we learned… However, one thing I do remember very vividly was thinking “Harry Potter was filmed across the whole of London!”

Our tour-guide, Bruce, made reference to many buildings, including the real Diagon Alley and Gringottts Wizarding Bank, famous locations where Harry Potter scenes were filmed. Before you ask, nope – they didn’t look as magical IRL.

Although Golden Tours is most commonly a touristy thing to do, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Besides, it’s fun to be a tourist for the day…

We loved it so much that we’re planning to do it again this year, £24 per person well spent! Here’s a quick photo-dump highlighting some of the sights we saw…

Central London
Regent Street, London
ANNABEL’s Nutcracker Display
Bond Street, London

UK Staycations to Take in 2021

staycation

Unfortunately, Covid doesn’t just end when the clock strikes 12am on January 1st…

As much as we all can’t wait to travel again internationally, it might be too much of a risk again this year – so: staycation.

Although it’s still not advised to travel abroad, who says we can’t bring abroad to us!?

There are some great staycation places to discover right here in the UK, offering the exotic vibes we’re all seeking!

Consider a staycation at Lizard Point, Cornwall

lizard point

No, this isn’t the Caribbean – it’s Lizard Point and Kynance Cove, in Cornwall. This place is my number one because it truly is a sight to beheld.

What about A STAYCATION in Bournemouth, England?

bournemouth

Want to pretend you’re in Australia’s Bondi Beach? The golden sands of Bournemouth beach are waiting…

Consider A staycation at Windermere, Lake District

windermere

With views that look too good to be true, Cumbria’s Windermere reminds me of being back in Switzerland.

How about a staycation in the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales?

isle of anglesey

A place of unmatched beauty and endless adventure, Anglesey is a historic island that’s brimming with character.

Consider a staycation in the Isle of Skye, Scotland

isle of skye

The Isle of Skye is one of wonder. Being the largest of the Inner Hebrides, it’s home to some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes.

What about A staycation at St Ives, Cornwall?

st ives

You might think it’s St Lucia, judging by the picture, but it’s definitely St Ives… Famed for its sandy beaches and breathtaking scenery, St Ives is another place in Cornwall that’s worth a trip to.

How about a staycation in Bath, Somerset

bath

Bath, the wonders of BathAncient Roman vibes galore, just buy a slice of pizza and you’re practically there! Even though Thermae (pictured) might be closed during the lockdowns, there’s plenty of other stuff to see and do in Bath.

Consider a staycation at Jurassic Coast, Devon

jurassic coast

For those of you who don’t know, I’m Lebanese originally, and this really reminds me of Lebanon’s Raouche (Pigeon) RocksJurassic Coast screams all things Mediterranean!

What about a staycation at Cotswolds, England?

cotswolds

An area of natural beauty, there are fields and greenery for days!

Whatever it is that you’re looking for from a nature’s perspective – whether it’s to frolic in fields, or just explore quaint villages, Cotwolds has it.

Consider a staycation at The Eden Project, Cornwall

the eden project

Cornwall is obviously the place to be, this summer… In the space of one post, three different parts of it have come up.

The Eden Project is one unique place, with a rainforest cathedral, a garden filled with flowers of South Africa and a Rainforest Canopy Walkway… It’s not to be missed.

What about a staycation at The Aspinal Foundation, Port Lympne?

port lympne

With views that look like they could be from a Kenyan safari, they’re actually here in the Kent. You can pay to stay at lodges, where the animals come up to the window!

This post was inspired by Jojo’s Cup of Mocha.

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Lourdes, France

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Norte Dame Grotto at Lourdes, France

Welcome to my first ever travel post! Today, I will be reviewing one of the most peaceful and beautiful holiday destinations I have ever been to…

Last year was the first time I visited France (and Lourdes in particular). I loved it so much that I went three times, last year alone!

(My excuse – not that I need any: I’m strengthening my faith, Lourdes is quite close to London by plane, and the flight tickets aren’t very pricy)

I know what you’re thinking: “isn’t Lourdes just for Catholics and Christians?” The answer is ‘no’. You don’t need to be religious enjoy the sights…

The are some impeccable views in Lourdes, and Pic du Jer’s mountain can be seen from every part!

If you’re looking for some great excursions that don’t involve a trip to the extremely beautiful Grotto, below are a few ideas…

Funicular – Pic du Jer in Lourdes

Sorry for the bad quality video of my journey in the funicular… In it, I hope you can make out the great views!

The Funicular will take you to the top of the Pic du Jer.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2d_No3EKiV4

You might be pleased to know that I will be investing in a Canon camera, which will enable me to record some brilliant vlogs of my upcoming trips (not just in Lourdes).

Boat cruise in Lourdes

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Boat cruise, Lourdes

Another excursion I enjoyed was a boat cruise. A friend of mine has a boat, so he took us for a ride. It was beautiful! Luckily, we chose a great day to go, the weather was stunning and the views were spectacular.

Strolls / Hikes in Lourdes

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Evening strolls around the town and Grotto, Lourdes

Late evenings are very quiet in Lourdes, so – why not take a stroll (or a hike up the mountain) around the grotto?

It’s a great place to be to clear your head – getting some peace and quiet, which is what holidays are all about…

If you’re a stroller/hiker by nature, why not try morning/afternoon ones?

Chateau Fort in Lourdes

There’s a 1000 year-old Chateaux Fort close by too, just a short hike up a hill… The views from up there are extraordinary!

What’s inside the castle? Musée Pyrénéen, a museum showcasing both regional artifacts and art.

If historic architecture is not your thing, there is a shopping district a quick bus ride away… (I didn’t take any photos of this, whoops!)

Story of Lourdes

Okay, now- let’s discuss the story of Lourdes, and why I went there specifically…

Lourdes is the town where Bernadette Soubirous lived with her family. The Soubirous‘ were a poor, Catholic family that made their money from running a flour-mill. As a teenager, Bernadette would go (to what’s now the Grotto) with friends…

During one of her trips, Bernadette experienced her first apparition of Virgin Mary.

Obviously, she was quite shocked and couldn’t believe what she was seeing, so Virgin Mary came back a few times afterwards – proving to her that it was real.

Each time Virgin Mary visited Bernadette, she told her secrets about the town, and gave her insight into future – along with a few tasks. One of the tasks was to “dig until you find a fresh water spring, and drink from it”.

Bernadette didn’t think it was possible to find a water spring, as there was nothing but mud and concrete, but her faith and belief made her do it. After she kept digging and sure enough water started to flow- not just any water, Holy water (which may not have been blessed by the priest – who didn’t believe Bernadette’s apparitions – but by Virgin Mary herself).

After word got around of Bernadette’s apparitions, she fled to a convent in another part of France, where she later died in her early 30s.

Miraculously, her body has yet to decompose all these years later, and is being showcased in a museum. Apparently, all the staff have done is add a thin layer of wax on her hands and face, everything else is God’s miracle!

Since then, people have travelled from all over the world, for the Bath (in Holy water at Lourdes Sanctuary) and to experience miracles from the Grotto and Virgin Mary shrine.

Many people have experienced miracles and cures from their physical and mental ailments.

On one of my trips, I met a lovely lady who explained that she previously experienced symptoms of MS, and the doctors diagnosed her with the condition shortly after, as she began to deteriorate. However, she made a pact to visit Lourdes each year and bathe in the water… I am glad to announce that since visiting once a year for five years to-date, her condition did not worsen… Every hospital appointment saw her consultants telling her that her MS has not worsened or progressed. She very recently received the all-clear and was discharged.

Look, the main thing that all those who went to Lourdes and experienced miracles have in common is that they all believe, strongly. Their faith in God is unfailing and unwavering. Without it, they wouldn’t have experienced them.

Sanctuary of Lourdes

The image at the top of this post is of the Grotto, in the Notre Dame Sanctuary. The statue of Virgin Mary is positioned in the exact place where Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette. Also, the rock walls surrounding the Grotto (shrine) miraculously have the water pouring from them. That’s where people go to bless themselves, each other and their possessions.

Nighttime mass, Lourdes

Above, is the video of one of the greatest memories of my life. This was recorded on the day of Virgin Mary’s assumption, in 2019. I cannot get over the beauty, it has to be witnessed in real-life because the video doesn’t do it justice.

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Candle-lighting section in Sanctuary, Lourdes

If you know me, you know that I love candles… Fun fact: I used to be so scared of flames, naked (and clothed). I couldn’t even light a match until last year… Since then, it’s been candle-lighting galore!

I cannot confirm nor deny that all the candles in the picture were lit by me!

I love the Sanctuary! There are three basilicas on the grounds. One of which is underground (used for international mass), another called the Rosary Basilica and the third being Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

There is no denying that Lourdes is one of the greatest places on Earth. Every time I visit, I feel the most peaceful I’ve ever felt.

As someone with an admittedly short fuse, my fuse has never been burned in Lourdes. It’s just magical!

Want to visit? I recommend staying at the Alba.

Hotel Alba in Lourdes

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Views from Alba Hotel, Lourdes

Alba is a 4* hotel a short walk away from the hustle and bustle. It’s in the quiet part of Lourdes, overlooking the mountains. It’s breathtaking to say the least.

Le Bodegon Brasserie in Lourdes

Introducing one of my favourite restaurants in the entire world. Shout-out to one of the greatest chefs of all-time, Jean-Pierre.

I promise to update this post with a selfie of him & I next time I’m there!

Aside from being the best chef ever, Jean-Pierre also makes the most delectable hot sauce, also ever! He very kindly gave me two jars to take home with me!

Le Bodegon Brasserie is fine-dining at its best. For €50, you can enjoy a Michelin star three-course meal! I had the best steak I’ve ever had, here.

What’s more, the ambiance in this restaurant is amazing. “Tres romantique” as I’m sure the French won’t say (because in their accent, everything sounds better)!

I went with my mum (and she’s my Valentine this year – as she has been every year)! But, it’s worth going with your significant other!

Of course, there are other eateries around, but Le Bodegon is my favourite.

Rating of holidaying in Lourdes: 5*

We plan to go again this year!

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