Why I love travelling solo 

I’m sitting on a plane in my way to 4 child-free days in Marrakesh with my sister and her friend… can not wait!


I love travelling alone. 8 years ago I went backpacking by myself around South East Asia and Australia. It was such a big adventure. It seemed like a huge challenge at the time.
Nowadays as most of our travel is with the boys, and UK-based, a trip on a plane is a real treat… 
It’s the sense of anticipation. For your own journey… but also for everyone else’s. Where’s everyone going? What are their stories?
Always such a mix of people, I love wondering where the journey is taking them. For me, a plane ride usually involves a holiday… ideally a different culture to try out… delicious foods, thirst-quenching beers, amazing architecture, a chance to chill, take it all in…. breathe.
I feel like travel is a huge privilege that everyone should want to try. I’m always a bit baffled by people who don’t want to travel. Or who can’t travel on their own. 
But likewise plenty of people think I’m strange for having travelled by myself!


I love the feeling of independence that comes with flying/travelling on my own. I had some lonely days on my backpacking days but I also made some friends for life.
I love the excitement of new places, new cities to explore. 
I love airports, even when they’re rubbish and I hate them… I still love them…. again, it’s the people, the journeys. Oh the nights I’ve spent sleeping in airports… Kuala Lumpur… staying up all night drinking in airports waiting for early morning flights… Hong Kong… Bangkok.
I’m excited to have quality time with sis when I get to morocco but I’m enjoying these precious hours on the flight – very rarely do I have time to myself like this. Time for my book and a glass of prosecco 🙂

And now I’ve landed… and in the world’s longest queue… happy days 🙂

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Bluestone: what’s new for families with toddlers for 2017?

We just had an AMAZING weekend in Bluestone. It was our fourth holiday there, and our first holiday with another family….. and the sun shone all weekend…. we couldn’t have picked a better weekend weather-wise!

Bluestone lake
I just wanted to share some new things with you….

A new outdoor play area Continue reading “Bluestone: what’s new for families with toddlers for 2017?”

Center Parcs vs Bluestone: which is best for families with toddlers and babies?

We’ve just come back from a break in Center parcs, Longleat – our first time there with a toddler and baby. As we’ve been there twice, and Bluestone three times… I thought compare them both for you…

Center parcs vs Bluestone with toddler and baby
Location, terrain, getting around Continue reading “Center Parcs vs Bluestone: which is best for families with toddlers and babies?”

Bluestone: Our first holiday as a family of four and 5 more things for toddlers to do there!

We had our first holiday as a family of four to Bluestone a couple of weeks ago, it’s the third time we’ve been and we love it…. especially toddler W!

Sunset from our lodge

Continue reading “Bluestone: Our first holiday as a family of four and 5 more things for toddlers to do there!”

Making memories with W at Cardiff Bay and Forest Farm

A couple of weekends ago, I made some lovely memories with W, half thinking it might be our last weekend pre-baby. (It wasn’t!)

On the Friday morning we headed to Cardiff Bay, and as it was half term my sister (a teacher) was able to join us…

As we were there nice and early (9? 10?) it was lovely and quiet, felt like we had the place to ourselves in the sunny weather…

As soon as we got there W found an abandoned balloon, which created lots of fun for him chasing it and losing it (it didn’t have a stick/string) so was a challenge to keep hold of 😉 


We walked towards the play area on the Cardiff Bay barrage…. 

W enjoyed trying to climb over the fence at the Captain Scott memorial (PS when did they put a fence around this?! And why?!)

We stopped for a coffee at the very cool ‘Coffi co’ which has an outdoor seating area which is pretty much enclosed and full of benches and deckchairs. This was lovely…. Sis and I got to catch up over a nice coffee in the sun while W could safely play with his cars and transport them from one deckchair to the other… This is the life!

As it was taking us ages to walk anywhere with me being heavily pregnant, and W trying to carry his balloon, we gave up on the plan to walk down the barrage and took him to the little play area behind the Norwegian Church instead. 

We had fun playing with him, but the funniest bit was when he hid behind a bin. Sis thought he was playing hide and seek but I knew…. He was having a poo! 
(He’s not potty/toilet trained yet but for a while now he leaves the room/hides if we’re out when he needs a poo!)


On the way back meandering through the bay, he took lots of opportunities to climb up onto the railings (one of his fave sayings at the mo is ‘climbing trees’ whenever he’s climbing up/across something… No idea where he’s picked up that saying from!) 

He was as chuffed as always to see some ‘quack quacks’ on the water’s edge, so much so that he fed them all of his crisps bless him!

Then it was lunchtime, and we decided to try Bill’s as I’d heard it was child-friendly… As it was sunny we sat outside and luckily there was a water feature nearby that he could play in while we waited for the food. He was mostly well-behaved, ate some of his macaroni cheese and our sweet potato fries (must make these at home for him!) and enjoyed playing with the crayons/colouring in book they lent him 🙂

Then it was most definitely home/nap time (we won’t write about the tantrum he had ;)) 

That night, my OH was out at the cricket (sis and I watched ‘train wreck’.. V good!) so Saturday morning I gave his delicate head a lie-in and took W to a wildlife day at Forest farm

We were a teeny bit early for the event and so were busy throwing stones into the pond….


…then the event organisers (inc RSPB and Cardiff council park rangers) came to do some pond dipping (at which point I was worried that W had scared everything away with his stone throwing!!) 

This was cool, we saw lots of tadpoles which W called ‘fishies’ (I don’t think he understood the concept of them being baby frogs!) and watched a couple of those tadpoles get killed by insects! 


We then had a walk around the meadow looking at all the ‘yellow flowers’ and ‘daisies’ 


It was a lovely little event and I’d definitely take him again. From here we drove a couple of minutes up the road to see ‘quack quacks’ and kingfishers at the old Glamorgan canal but by then he was grouchy so we headed home.

It was nice to have some quality time with him. Since then I’ve had less energy as bump has grown, and the weather has been more naff!

He’ll always me my special, first-born, gorgeous, adventurous, fun-loving son. I love you W! Xxx 

Cardiff’s bluebell woods (Wenallt): an early morning walk with W

I meant to post this 2 weeks ago when we visited the Wenallt (a bit behind with blogging sorry!) But hopefully you can still catch the bluebells if you visit this week!

cardiffs bluebell  woods
cardiffs bluebell woods

Usually on weekends, I’m the one who gets up with W when he wakes up, around the 6-6.30 mark. I don’t really mind, especially now I’m heavily pregnant and struggling to sleep/lie-in!

Usually we’ll spend a couple of hours pottering in the living room, him watching cartoons, me half asleep playing on my phone, trying to stay quiet so dadda gets a good few hours lie-in.

What I prefer is being able to get out and about early… I’ve previously blogged about wanting things like soft play to be open earlier… But now the mornings are lighter and the weather’s much improved then what better than a walk in the woods!? 

toddler W exploring bluebell woods
toddler W exploring bluebell woods

So at 8am on a sunny morning we headed over to spot magical bluebells… Through Rhiwbina, turning off at the Deri Arms up Wenallt road until we came across a car park leading into the woods.

W headed straight into the bluebells which was great for some nice photos but I was a bit worried about him trampling all over them! It really was a lovely, magical sight… And at that time of the morning we pretty much had the place to ourselves

wenallt woods, rhiwbina, cardiff
wenallt woods, rhiwbina, cardiff

We then took a long walk around the woods and created some magical memories….

  • W stopping to play at every brook/stream we came across, dipping sticks into the water and wiping them on stones
  • Hearing woodpeckers!
  • W chatting to all the dogs (lots of dog walkers up there!) and one was so friendly that W could feed him biscuits and play fetch with him!
  • W picking up lots of sticks… All called ‘stick man’

Of course, it was soon back to reality… A heavily pregnant me had to carry him (uphill) back to the car when he got tired…. By then the car park was full and so our special moment of having the woods to ourselves was gone… He was grouchy for the 15 minute journey home… And when we got home past 10am dadda was still in bed!!!

Seriously… magical though, it’s so close to the city yet so peaceful…. So good for the soul… Especially on an early morning Sunday!

Oh and I forgot to mention… Parking is free: bonus! Huge thanks to colleague and fellow blogger twinmummyanddaddy for letting me know about the place months ago! Xx

The most beautiful house I’ve stayed in

We had a girly weekend in Amport, Hampshire, but it wasn’t just any girly weekend… It was a girly weekend in the most beautiful house I’ve ever stayed in.

We caught a glimpse into how the other half live, and we loved it! Vintage chic and stylish, but at the same time homely and cosy.

One of the girls found it on AirBnB for the bargain price of £800 for the weekend (worked out at £120 each) but even the AirBnB listing/photos didn’t do it justice. 

So I’m just going to leave you with these photos I took…. 

 white flowers  
shabby chic white chair blue cushion  white heart ornament  
shabby chic bedsite table blue lamp retro floral radio  french chic beach paintings  
blue shabby chic mirrors  blue white bedside lamp  
bathroom shells starfish  flowers in shades of green  
roses in a cool glass vase  old teddy bear on white shabby chic chair  
grey shabby chic desk in  childrens room  old teddy bear on childs bed  
pink flowers in floral vase  bright flowers and lantern  
shells and glass bottles in bathroom  large lounge diner   
large kitchen diner galley style  glass ornament  
daffodils in jug   shabby chic silver lampshade  
white sofa blue grey cushions  shabby chic chest of drawers  
flowers and candles on mantelpiece
  bathroom with beautiful wallpaper and tiles  
cricket paintings  shabby french chic mirror  
yellow green pink flowers  view from the floral teacups 

A girly weekend in Amport, Hampshire 

I love weekends away with the girls. I love how they’ve evolved from budget, drunken, youth hostelling to slightly more sedate and relaxing affairs as we’ve gotten older!

Anyway, on this occasion we rented a beautiful house (more on that in a separate post) in a quaint (think thatched roofs!) village called Amport, close to Andover, in Hampshire.

vintage teddy bear on a vintage chair
vintage teddy bear on a vintage chair

Pit stop at McArthur Glen Designer Shopping Outlet, Swindon

On the way there the Cardiff contingent stopped in McArthur Glen designer outlet in Swindon, and I was very impressed… We have one nearby at Bridgend but this one seemed a bit more upmarket… And warmer as it’s indoors! We had lovely lunch and juice at Wagamamas and then hit the shops where I bought my first ever leather jacket (biker) from Ted Baker for a bargain £130 (reduced from £345) and a top to go with it! (£35). I spend a lot more money shopping when I’m with these two ladies 😜

Once we finally found our home for the weekend, Friday night we stayed in with pizza, prosecco and rugby in front of the wood burner.

Breakfast at Thyme and Tides, Stockbridge

Saturday morning we all had a full English breakfast at Thyme and Tides in Stockbridge, about 15 mins away. Stockbridge was a very cute little place, one street of shops aimed at the well-heeled locals. Thyme and tides is a very cool deli/coffee shop, and we all really enjoyed their brekkie which tasted like it was all sourced locally. Most of us washed it down with delicious freshly squeezed orange juice… Saturday morning bliss!

Wish I’d gotten a photo for you but was too ravenous 😉

Afternoon shopping in Winchester 

From Stockbridge we drove on to Winchester (another 15 mins or so) and spent a lovely (albeit cold) few hours wandering around the shops. It’s a cute, compact cathedral city and seems quite affluent eg high street shops are Mint Velvet and The White Company.

Dinner at the Black Swan, Amport

Saturday night we’d booked a table for dinner at one of two pubs in Amport, the Black Swan.

Early impressions were good, and we all enjoyed our starters (baked Camembert/ beetroot smoked trout/ kedgeree with a Scotch egg) but the main course for a bizarre turn…

When you see chicken kiev with carbonara and wilted spinach on a menu you ignore your instinct that it’s an insane idea, and assume that it’s a gastronomic feast that you wish you’d thought of yourself as it could have made you famous. Unfortunately it was the former, and four of us had fallen for the poor-tasting trap. The other two who’d ordered cod were slightly happier with their meal (which also included the infamous side of spaghetti carbonara)

Still, we ploughed on for desserts and again four of us plumped for the apple and blackberry crumble… How can you get this wrong, right? Wrong! It was best described as ‘warm jam with crumbled biscuit on top’… They obviously hadn’t baked it together, and you had to dig through a deep layer of the ‘crumble’ to get to the fruit. Very bizarre. 

Still, the food gave us plenty of lolz and memories! 

Black Swan, where the games were better than the   food!
Black Swan, where the games were better than the food!

Sunday lunch at the Red Lion, Clanville

Luckily, Sunday dinner more than made up for our Saturday night dinner. We descended on the nearby Red Lion in Clanville. The dining room was beautiful and airy, it felt like a mix between a cool gastro-pub and nice restaurant. Our waitress was fantastic… And the food was awesome! The six of us all skipped starters and went for the Roast Beef dinner, and every element was faultless! I’ve stolen a picture off my mate for you…. 
 

roast beef at the red lion, clanville
roast beef at the red lion, clanville

 

A couple of the girls followed it with delicious-looking sticky toffee pudding, I opted for the white chocolate mousse which was to die for! 

And that was our weekend, mixed in with lots of chilling at our amazing house! Happy days, happy memories 😍

A week in Nerja, Spain with a toddler (and a bump and the in-laws!)

Just come back from a lovely week in Nerja, Costa del Sol, Spain that I thought I’d share with you…

Pre-travel and first few days!

As if travelling with toddlers isn’t stressful enough, the day before flying W was showing all the signs of teething (lots of teardrop!!) but also potential signs of an ear infection (rubbing his ear) so cue our first trip to the out-of-hours clinic, luckily to get an ok to fly (we didn’t want to burst his ear drums on the plane!!)

He did really well on the day of travelling, but the first few days there he wasn’t happy… Teething, constipated, away from home… And it was too hot!! We learnt in Minorca last year that he doesn’t like hot weather! But on day 2 the weather cooled a bit so…

What we got up to – what to do in Nerja with a toddler!

Nerja has about 4 or 5 beaches but our hotel also had its own private little beach, it was lovely watching W playing with the sand (pouring it over us!), dragging us into the sea and picking up sticks!

Fun on the beach in Nerja
Fun on the beach in Nerja

 

 

Our hotel (Balcon de Europa) was right on the front and in the centre of a pedestrian area which was great… We spent a lot of time just hanging outside the hotel with W chasing pigeons and scaring all the (friendly and well-fed) stray cats!

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And it meant we could mooch around the side streets, W kicking his new football around and inspecting all the drains! We did a lot of walking and mooching, lots of cute little shops and pretty houses to nose at! And the coastline of course.

 

On Tuesday we walked up to the weekly market, was worth a trip but it was a LONG walk from our hotel especially as it was a hot day!!

There was a park on the way, and a few dotted around town which was great for W. Oh we also took him to DinoPark soft play one day pre-dinner too… This was perfect for toddlers, and you pay when you leave based on how long you were there which I thought was a great idea!

Having the in-laws around was handy, for a few hours here and there they looked after W, so one day we were able to have a lovely lunch date… And another day we chilled at the hotel (rooftop) pool.

image

An added bonus of the trip was that an annual carnival was on while we were there… It meant some additional amusements for W (bouncy castles etc) and we stumbled upon the amazing carnival parade on our last night… Gutted I’d left my camera in the room as there were some amazing costumes and it was so cute to see whole families dressed up together, such an amazing sight!

Some recommendations

Hotel – as I said, we stayed at Balcon de Europa and I can’t recommend it highly enough, right on the beach so could see and hear the waves from our huge room, great location, good food and I’ve never met so many friendly, helpful staff… And of course they all doted on W (who was about 60 years younger than the rest of the guests ;))

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Hotel Balcon de Europa, on the right

Tapas – my other half and I had lunch together in Antica Roma, a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea. The location was so perfect that I thought it would be a tourist trap with non-descript food but I had the BEST tapas of my life! (I recommend the avocado salad, octopus, prawns and scallops… All cooked in different sauces etc… Amazing!)

Antico Roma, Nerja
Antico Roma, Nerja

 

Italian food – my in-laws stumbled across a fab Italian that was so good we went there twice! It’s called Gusto Italiano, it’s just round the corner from much busier restaurants but much cosier, family-run etc. and the pasta was all amazing!

Drinks at Marbellas – we had food here once which was good but we preferred just having drinks here – for me, it was more about the location and ambience – a beautiful, huge terrace overlooking the coast which would b perfect for a wedding!!

Overall
It’s always nice getting some mild winter sun, and great to see places in low season (so much cheaper too!). Nerja is a beautiful little town just an hour north of Malaga with none of the high-rise, English breakfast-signs-everywhere places like Benidorm.
We had a lovely week just mooching about the town and beach, but there’s also plenty to do if you want to stay busy… There are some famous caves to visit, and Granada is just an hour away.
Nerja was very toddler-friendly and the locals (and tourists) all fussed over W… He had a whale of a time!
We’ll be back!

I hope you enjoyed this and/or found this useful. I read this blog post from Zena’s suitcase when I was researching the trip which I also found handy – enjoy 🙂

3 nights in lovely, sunny Lisbon

A few weeks ago I had a lovely girly weekend in Lisbon, Portugal. Here’s a little montage and then I’ll give you some tips 🙂

  • We actually think our weekend in Lisbon was cheaper than a lot of UK breaks! Through the fab ‘flight-checker‘ tool we found flights for £50! (Easyjet, Bristol, Thurs-sun) and then via AirBnB found a gorgeous flat in a great location for £60 each… Bargain so far! (Oh and airport parking was £40)
  • I’m rubbish at working out exchange rates but all you need to know is that it’s good at the mo… So your British pound goes a long way against the Euro! That, combined with low prices for great food and drink, meant we could eat like Queens… Eg a full and fresh sea bass for lunch for 9euros (£6-7!)
  • As if low prices wasn’t enough of a temptation… Portugal is famous for its shoe making skills and there’s a shoe shop on every corner….
  • With that in mind, take a big enough piece of hand luggage with you otherwise you’ll have to do what I did and buy a new suitcase for the two pairs of boots that I bought!
  • What we loved most about Lisbon was the miles of mooching around the city centre and surrounding areas…. Soak in the pretty buildings and trams, stop for some shopping, stop for a pastry and drink… And repeat!
  • So don’t bother with the double-decker bus tours, you really won’t miss much… Our few hours in Belem was nice but prob much quicker to get a train there!
  • The views from the Skybar in hotel Tivoli are worth seeing… But don’t take a long walk there without making sure that it’s open (only open in the summer!) doh!
  • The Park bar is worth a visit to catch great views of the sunset… It’s a really cool open top bar on top of a car park, too busy for us to get a drink but worth it for the views!
  • If you can get into your appartment, try turning the key left instead of right 🙂
  • If you want to pick up some tacky souvenirs be sure to get them in the city… The airport has a cute shop and a McD’s… But no tat!
  • Enjoy… And have a nata pastry (or 10) for me….
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Nata nata nata nata… Batman!