My 2018 travel highlights…

I always love reading other bloggers yearly round ups and I always enjoy writing my own. It’s a great way to look back and see all the positives of the year gone, especially if I’m feeling a bit miserable on a cold and rainy day in England! This year I’ve struggled with keeping on top of my blog, I’ve had the work/life/keeping a child alive balance to contend with so writing regular blog posts has been a struggle. Although this might mot sound like a big thing to some, blogging is a huge passion of mine and I’ve made myself feel really guilty for not doing enough of it. But onwards and upwards and into the new year, so I guess my first New Years resolution will be to write more.
I’ve had some amazing opportunities this year from writing for travel companies and working with some very cool brands. I work part-time as cabin crew and have been lucky to explore some fantastic countries. I’ve been to four new destinations this year, Cape Town, Peru, Toronto and Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Read on for my travel round-up of 2018.
January: California and Edinburgh
Matt, Emily and I celebrated the start of the new year up in the air as we flew back from our Christmas trip in California on New Years Eve. We had the loveliest Christmas with family, combined with 10 days exploring the Californian coastline. Starting in San Francisco we embarked on a road trip with Jucy campers. This was Emily’s first experience in a camper van and she loved it. From San Francisco we headed north to Point Reyes National Seashore. It was our first time visiting this part of Marin County and I was blown away by the natural beauty of the area. We stayed right by Tomales Bay, I honestly have never spent time in such a tranquil spot. Waking up to watch the sunrise over the waters edge certainly made jet lag a little bit easier and exploring picturesque spots such as Point Reyes Lighthouse and the Cypress Tree Tunnel were two highlights of our time there. If you’ve not been before I totally recommend visiting. From there the next stop was Monterey, we stayed in the area for three nights. More than originally planned as wild fires shut the campsite we planned to stay at on the beach in Carpinteria. It all worked out fine though and Monterey is a gorgeous spot and has plenty to do with kids. Carmel, the Big Sur, Morro Bay, Santa Monica, Carlsbad and Lake Jennings were all on our hit list too. Read more on our adventures in California here:
Adventures in California with Jucy campers…
Road Tripping with a baby in California…
Back in the UK I got to spend a day in Edinburgh, I love Scotland in the winter. The Royal Mile is a popular tourist designation in Edinburgh, home to Edinburgh Castle and loads of tourist attractions. There are also plenty of coffee shops to keep warm in. Mrs Macintyre’s Coffee House is one of my favourites, views out onto the pavement make it a perfect spot for watching the world go by. The pretty tea cups and saucers add a touch of shabby chic too. I also sampled some Edinburgh gin in a cosy Scottish pub.

 

February: Gloucestershire and Mauritius
A trip to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire with friends was a lovely way to start February. We stayed in a log cabin with Forest Holidays. Nestled amongst tall trees, big enough for two families and complete with a hot tub, I can’t recommend it enough. There is so much to explore in the Forest of Dean and plenty of picturesque walks. Biblins Bridge and Symonds Yat Rock were two of my favourites. It snowed while we were there too, it was such a novelty to be sat in the hot tub while watching snow fall down between the trees. I loved getting cosy inside by the log burner in the evenings too. Here’s what I thought of our time there: A log cabin break in the Forest of Dean…
I had a work trip to Mauritius in February, being cabin crew I only had 48 hours to explore but boy did I have some awesome adventures! The first evening was spent on a sunset cruise out of the harbour in Port Louis. It was a great way to get a different view of Port Louis and I loved having a few beers while watching the sun go down. The next day some of the crew and I set off to find hidden waterfalls and to see a bit of the island. The highlights of the day were stopping off at Eau Bleu waterfall, hidden off the side of a road near Curepipe it was an adventure just getting to it. Enclosed footwear is definitely recommended for the steep climb down to it. We were clinging onto tree roots wondering what we had let ourselves in for, but it was totally worth it for the beautiful views! Jumping off of Rochester Falls was an experience I won’t forget, being blessed by a Hindu priest at Grand Bassin and a refreshing dip in the ocean on the beach at Le Morne made the day an incredible one. If you are planning your own adventures in Mauritius here’s what I got up to: Chasing waterfalls and other adventures in Mauritius…
March: South Africa
In March I went to Cape Town for the first time. I had an awesome time there and with only 48 hours I crammed in as much sightseeing as I could. On the first day I explored Cape Point and took in the dramatic views of the coastline from the lighthouse, followed by a trip to Boulders Beach to meet the penguins. I had read so much about Boulders Beach so it was amazing to finally visit it in person. There are around 2,200 African penguins living on the protected beach, it’s such a picturesque place and to see penguins on the beach felt like such a novelty. Lunch at Camps Bay, steak for dinner, a tour of the vineyards in Stellenbosch and taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain made this one of my most favourite trips of the year and has put Cape Town at the top of my list of my most loved places. For more on Cape Town head here: Things to do in Cape Town for first timers…

 

April: Jamaica and Cornwall
A quick 12 hours in Kingston, Jamaica gave me just enough time to take some photos of the gorgeous views from the air, have a beer before bed and get a spot of sunbathing in before flying home. A 12 hour stop over is often the reality of my job. Sometimes it’s so quick I often don’t get the chance to explore or leave the hotel.
Emily turned two in April so we marked her birthday with a trip to Bude in Cornwall. We stayed at Sandymouth Holiday Park in a static caravan, I have no shame in saying that I love a caravan holiday! It was brand new and with views of the sea was just perfect. We enjoyed blustery walks along the Cornish coast and lunch time beers on our terrace overlooking the sea. It even got warm enough for Emily to play in the outdoor splash zone at the holiday resort. It’s a great spot to head to with kids, there’s a soft play area, a pirate ship play park, an indoor pool, kids activities and  the beach is just down the road.

 

May: Peru
Another first for me in 2018 was a trip to Lima in Peru. I’ve yet to write anything up about my trip to South America but I had the best time. Lima is often overlooked as a must do destination as most be people fly into Lima and head straight to Machu Picchu. But there is so much on offer in the city, from the old town, to the markets and the food; there’s plenty to explore. I loved shopping in the Indian markets in Mira Flores, I came home with a gorgeous alpaca blanket and a few mini llamas for Emily! I explored the wonderful architecture of Lima’s old town, had my first pisco sour and also surfed. There is still so much of Peru I need to see, Cusco and Machu Picchu are at the top of my list along with sand boarding in the dunes at Huacachina…watch this space!
June: Menorca
It’s been years since I’ve been away with my parents so a family holiday to Menorca was so nice. I often feel like I need to go half way around the world but actually our trip to Menorca made me realise how accessible Europe is from the UK. The beaches and weather were amazing and we were there in two hours from London. Emily has got harder to ‘manage’ on an aircraft! Being two she wants to be on the move all the time. Even with new toys and books, there’s something about being on an aircraft that makes her want to investigate all the time rather than just chill out with an iPad in front her! So the shorter the flight the better right now for Matt and I!
Anyway it was the loveliest family holiday, we stayed in a four bedroom villa with a pool overlooking the Mediterranean in Punta Prima. Our ten days consisted of spending time by the pool, building sand castles at the beach, a few evening meals out and barbeques by the pool at our villa. Matt and I hired a car for a day while my parents looked after Emily so we could explore a bit more of the island. We had planned to go kayaking along the coast and explore the caves but due to bad weather the night before the sea conditions were too rough. Instead we spent the day leisurely stopping off at glorious beaches and strolled around quaint white washed towns. We stopped off at Cova D’En Xoroi, a bar in a cave, I discovered this place last year on a press trip in Menorca and knew Matt would love it. It’s a stunning place to watch the sunset and enjoy a glass of prosecco or a pomada. One very adventurous trip saw Matt and I along with my brother Chris and his girlfriend Sarah kayak a mile from the beach at Punta Prima to the tiny island opposite known as Black Lizard Island or Illa de l’Aire. There is nothing on the island apart from a lighthouse and black lizards. It was a brilliant little expedition and fun to walk around an uninhabited island.
July: Toronto
In July I got to tick Toronto off my list of must see places and with only 48 hours there I did a lot. On the first morning I went to Niagara Falls which was incredible. I did it in half a day and managed to squeeze in a boat tour going right up to the falls. I had dinner up above the city at the CN Tower, walked all over the city and got a boat over to Toronto Island. The views of the city skyline from there are beautiful.
August: Dorset and Mauritius
In August I turned 34, writing that makes me feel so old! To celebrate my birthday Matt booked at surprise trip for just the two of us to Dorset. I had no idea what we were staying in until we reached the door. Hidden in the Dorset countryside on the grounds of Warmwell House, amongst woodland and rolling hills was ‘Sika’ the shepherd’s hut. The weather was glorious and the trip was so relaxing. This was my first time staying in a shepherd’s hut and I loved every minute. It had a cosy double bed, a small kitchen area, a table and bench seat and a log burner. There was also a separate bathroom hut which I was really impressed with. Waking up in the morning with a cup of Dorset tea in such a tranquil setting was the perfect way to spend my birthday. We explored the Jurassic coast on a walk in between Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove and cooked under the stars on the fire pit by the hut at night. Glamping has alway been one of my passions and the shepherd’s hut really reminded me why. Check out what we got up to here: Glamping in Dorset
Not long after my birthday I had another work trip to Mauritius. This trip was spent relaxing by the pool, spending a bit of time at the spa with a massage, eating curry and watching the sunset on a boat trip. I often feel like I need to always be on the go and explore all the time but I realised on this trip that sometimes it’s ok just to slow down and also save the pennies a little!
September: Toronto and House buying
September saw me back in Toronto, I had so much planned but the weather was horrendous and it rained for the whole 48 hours I wasthere. I still got to see parts of the city I hadn’t already seen on my first trip though. A highlight was visiting the Distillery District. With its quirky cobbled streets it sits in complete contrast to the rest of the city. Dating back to the 19th century the gorgeous red brick buildings now house art galleries, boutique shops, bars, restaurants, micro breweries and tasting rooms. We stopped at Mill Street Brew Pub for lunch and to try their beers which are brewed on site. I also tried Japanese Sake for the first time at the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company.
Matt and I put an offer in on a house in the New Forest and had it accepted which we are over the moon about, we are hoping to complete in January. It needs some work doing to it so we can’t move in straight away but we are so excited!

 

October: New York, Lymington and a spa break in Winchester
On a quick 12 hours in New York I had brunch in Times Square, did a bit of shopping and visited Grand Central Terminal. I know it’s just a train station but it’s a pretty impressive one! I also discovered the Grand Central food market which I didn’t know existed. I love a local market and this one really impressed me, loads of cheese, fresh meat, coffee, some tasty looking cakes, you name it, it was there!
Grand Central Terminal, New York.

Grand Central Terminal, New York.

Back in the UK, Matt and I were very lucky to be the first people to stay in ‘The Snug‘ in Lymington. My lovely in-laws have refurbished a two bedroom town house at the top of the High Street in Lymington on the edge of the New Forest. It is a Grade II English Heritage listed building with a beautiful interior. From the open fire-place in the lounge and bedroom to the roll top bath and Belfast sink, it has bags of character and charm. I loved being able to walk down to the quay in Lymington and with the forest a short drive away it’s the perfect spot for a mini break. I’ve written all about it here: Unique Places to Stay in the UK…
I also spent two nights in Winchester on a spa break with my lovely Mum. We got a great deal through Spa Seekers and stayed at Norton Park. The package included three 25 minute spa treatments, use of the swimming pool and leisure facilities, breakfast and dinner for the stay and lunch on one day. Norton Park is set among 54 acres of Hampshire countryside, it was a beautiful spot for relaxing in and such a nice thing to do with my Mum.
November: Fort Lauderdale, Florida and East Sussex
I’ve been to Florida more times than I can remember with work. Orlando and Tampa pop up on my roster most months but normally only as night stop. I’ve never really had much time to explore apart from inside the shopping malls, so I was really excited when a layover in Fort Lauderdale appeared on my roster in November. I worked with a really lovely crew who were all up for going on an adventure. We chose to go on an air boat trip in the Everglades, although after booking it through at the hotel I realised it was the Everglades Holiday Park we were going to and not the Everglades National Park. I loved riding on an air boat, it was an exhilarating experience whizzing through the wetlands. We were lucky to spot three alligators which was a very cool. Although I enjoyed the experience I’m not sure I would recommend the holiday park, I usually research before I book a trip but on this occasion I only looked into it afterwards. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy buzzing about on the air boat but there were elements I did not enjoy. One was the ‘gator show, I knew this was part of the day so feel guilty that I contributed towards something that I didn’t feel was right. I may be getting myself into deep water by discussing things like this but I want to put my honest opinion out there to you all. I felt really sorry for the alligator who took part in the ‘show’, it clearly didn’t want to be there. I should explain that The Gator Boys who do the show rescue alligators that are found in residential areas, they would otherwise be ‘put down’. The whole thing just didn’t seem that respectful to me and their enclosure seemed pretty small. Perhaps I didn’t get the full picture on how these animals are cared for. Anyway I’m letting you know so you can make your own decision on visiting. Next time I would make a trip to the actual Everglades. Although I’ve moaned on a bit, I did really enjoy aspects of the day especially the air boat.
Back in the UK, Matt, Emily and I enjoyed the loveliest wintery break in Camber Sands. It was our first time exploring the East Sussex and Kent coast and we loved it. We played in the sand dunes on the beach at Camber, strolled the streets and ate cake in the beautiful old English town of Rye and visited Dungeness.
December: The Maldives and Mexico
My second to last trip of the year with work was a trip to the Maldives a few weeks before Christmas and oh my gosh what a trip it was. Two days on an island was absolute paradise. Snorkelling, sunbathing and stunning blue waters was such a treat! My beach bungalow had an outdoor shower which I totally fell in love with, showering while looking up at palm trees and blue skies was such a novelty. My last trip of the year is on New Years Eve, again with work, I’m off to Cancun in Mexico for two nights and will be taking Matt with me. It’s one of the perks of the job to be able to take someone with me. It doesn’t happen often so I’m really looking forward to having him with me while I’m working and I’m very excited to be in Mexico for the start of 2019.
What have been your highlights of the year? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below…
Happy New Year and happy travels for 2019!

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