A day out in Dorset: Sculpture by the Lakes…

Ad: Press visit

A Day out in Dorset: Sculpture by the Lakes

Hidden in the Dorset countryside this is an outdoor art venue with a difference. Sculptures and art installations are dotted amongst the lakes and woodland with nothing but birdsong and the relaxing sounds of the River Frome for company. Set in 26 acres Sculpture by the Lakes is such a peaceful place to escape to for a couple of hours. 

With current lockdown rules now lifting everything is well thought out for easy social distancing. It's the perfect escape from the great indoors! Tickets must be purchased online before arriving and there are anti-bacterial gels by the ticket office. The cafe offers a takeaway service and currently card only to maintain guidelines.

What to expect:

Owned by contemporary sculptor Simon Gudgeon, many of his beautiful pieces can be discovered along with other artists' work. On arrival give your surname to the staff at the ticket office and collect a guide map. This lists the sculptures and outlines a route around the four lakes. Feel free to wander and follow your own path, it's a lovely place to get lost! Allow plenty of time to take it all in, I loved stumbling across the secluded seating areas placed in picturesque spots throughout the walk. Choose to take a pew either facing the river or by one of the lakes. Pack your own picnic and find a secret spot, it was so nice to sit and take it all in.

As well as the lakes there is a kitchen garden with resident chickens and landscaped gardens all found via a tree tunnel walkway.

An image of the sculpture Oberon under trees

Planning for your day out:

Sculpture by the Lakes is currently open Wednesday to Sunday 10am - 5pm, book tickets online before you go. No children under 14 or dogs are allowed due to the deep water of the lakes.

This is a lovely walk with a difference and there is plenty of space to socially distance from others. The sculptures are beautiful and thought provoking. Discovering them in tranquil, natural surroundings rather than in a gallery gives a completely different interpretation of the artwork. Plan to spend at least an hour and a half there. We walked 2.5 miles on our visit and spent around 4 hours admiring the sculptures and lakes. 

Before leaving stop at The Gallery Cafe for a well-earned drink. The cafe is currently operating a takeaway service to allow for social distancing and contactless only payment. There is an outdoor seating area overlooking the lakes, a perfect spot to relax before going home. The cafe is fully licensed, I enjoyed a local cider while taking in the beautiful surroundings. Produce from the garden kitchen are used in the menu and the bread and cakes are all handmade.

Cider, Sculpture by the Lakes, Dorset

Where to stay:

If you want to make more of a trip of it now that lockdown guidelines have lifted, book a stay at one the shepherd's huts at Warmwell House. Not too far from Sculpture by the Lakes they can be found in a lovely, tranquil setting. Read all about my stay here: Glamping in Dorset. This might be useful when planning your stay: What to pack for a glamping trip in the UK

Thank you to Bournemouth Bloggers and Darren Northeast PR for inviting me, I had a great day out!

An image of the River Frome

Things to do with kids during lockdown…

Things to do with kids during lockdown

It’s strange and scary times we are living in right now, if you’ve got young kids, you’ll know how hard it is to keep them entertained all day while we’re all in lockdown during the Coronavirus outbreak. 

I am loving being able to spend so much time with Emily especially before baby number 2 arrives, but I’m not gonna lie some days are hard work. Some days I feel guilty for letting her watch too much tv because I’m feeling knackered or mentally, I’m just not having a good day. These are exceptional circumstances that none of us have been through before so it’s ok not to be ok all the time. It’s also ok if your little ones have watched Frozen twice in one day followed by a ton of crap on YouTube…that’s what I’m telling myself anyway!  At the end of the day they are safe, well and happy and that’s all that matters right now!

There are without a doubt good and bad days and of course every day in isolation isn’t going to be fun but I’ve found that having a bit of structure helps.

Finding things to do with kids during lockdown can be exhausting, you might be running out of ideas for daily activities so hopefully there’s a few things I’ve listed here that you’ve not tried yet..

 

Things to watch:

Although we all try our best not to let kids watch TV or their tablets for too long, it’s inevitable that there’s always going to be some screen time; especially during lockdown! For your own sanity and five minutes downtime with a cuppa it is necessary! There are lots of people out there doing some fun and creative things online, here are our favourites:

  • If you’ve not heard about him already, every day at 9am Joe Wicks, The Body Coach is doing live workout sessions aimed at families. We’ve done P.E with Joe a few times now and I’ve got to say my muscles have been aching for a few days afterwards. Emily loves joining in too although we never quite finish the full 30-minute session.
  • If your little ones attend Baby Ballet classes our local franchise have moved their classes online, so you can do ballet every day of the week if you like and join in with all the different classes. It’s so nice for Emily to still be able to see her teacher Miss Claire and maintain a little bit of normal in all this madness!
  • For five minutes of entertainment head to Google, search for an animal and click on ‘view in 3D’. It brings your camera up and thirty seconds later you have an animal in your room!
  • Over on their YouTube channel Jiggy Wrigglers have moved their fun classes online so your kids can dance and get active at home.

 

 

Fun things to do outside during lockdown:

If lockdown rules allow it there are so many fun things to do outside as a family, most of the time these are really simple too and don’t need many resources.

Scavenger hunt

This one is really simple and can be done in the garden or out on your daily walk from home. I found a gift bag and then came up with a list of things to find, a feather, a stick, a petal and a leaf. It kept Emily entertained for at least 15 minutes or so anyway!

Garden potions

My clever friend Sam, who is a teacher, came up with this lovely idea for the garden. All you need is some bottles or something to put your potion in, food colouring and things from the garden to chop up and add to your mix, grass, petals sticks etc. If you don’t have food colouring to add, then plain old water works fine and is just as fun.

Volcano experiment

This has to be purchased but is a lot of fun: Violent Volcano. Since writing this Galt aren’t currently taking on any online orders but I’m sure you can find something similar on Amazon.

It is recommended for ages 8 and above. Emily is three so I added most of the ingredients to the volcano while she watched and wore the safety goggles that were included, which she loved! Following the instructions once everything has been added in stand back and watch as it explodes into the air!

 

 

Online resources:

There are some great free downloadable resources out there, these are some of Emily’s favourite lockdown activities:

  • Orchard Toys have some nice activity sheets aimed at younger children.
  • If like me you are missing the sea The Wave Project have some great ocean themed activity books to download with a new one every week.
  • Twinkl is a huge educational resource, create an account for free during school closures and download worksheets. Everyone is catered for from pre-school to secondary.
  • The Sussex Wildlife Trust have a some lovely indoor activity sheets which I’ve just discovered.

 

Five Minute Mum book: Everybody going through lockdown with kids needs this book in their lives! It has an amazing collection of activities to do indoors and out. Our favourites are the restaurant game and the toy tombola game. Follow her Instagram handle too for more genius activities to do at home. There are tons of fun things to do with kids during lockdown in this book, I don’t know where I’d be without it!

 

 

Indoor fun:

There are so many fun things to do as a family inside while on lockdown. It can be hard to keep the momentum going, especially if it’s a rainy day and you can’t get outside. Hopefully this list will give you some inspiration to get through those potentially dull days!

Make a rainbow

Make a rainbow for your window: Orchard Toys who I mentioned above have a downloadable rainbow colouring sheet. You can of course just go free hand with your own design. We jazzed ours up by adding cotton wool clouds and stuck it in our lounge window.

Use household recycling to make something crafty

Save up toilet rolls, cardboard and egg boxes to make something fun, for example a crocodile. Paper plates are also an easy thing to get creative with, even if you just stick a load of glitter, beads and sequins on. We’ve also got a new addition to our cardboard family in the form of a rocket! It has captured Emily’s imagination about space and she now wants to be an astronaut…

Mask making

Emily’s favourite superhero character is Owlette from PJ Masks, so we designed and made her own mask. She loved running around the house in her superhero costume with it on!

Zip line

This is very entertaining and a bit educational too. All you need is some string, hangers with clips on and soft toys. Find a spot to fasten the string and turn it into a zip line. Attach the toys to the hangers and send them down the zip wire. I asked Emily which of the cuddly toys travelled faster and explained it was because that some of them were lighter than others.

Ice painting

Add food colouring to water in ice cube trays, pop some lolly sticks in and put in the freezer. When frozen you’ve got a new fun way to paint. 

Scavenger hunt

This is the indoor version and an opportunity to get creative with hunting for things around the house. It might even give you five minutes to grab a cuppa. I focused on things all over the house to give Emily a bit of variety and get her up and active. This one didn’t last for as long as I had hoped, Emily did it twice and then I was left with a huge pile of crap to tidy away! She had fun though!

 

Hope you found this list useful and I’ll update it with more activities as we do them. I would love some more suggestions if you have any? Let me know in the comments below….

 

 

 

 

Cruising the Baltic Sea…

A flat lay image of my travel must haves: Baltic Sea Ports Marco Polo Travel Guide, sunglasses and camera

Cruising the Baltic Sea:

Marco Polo travel guides have recently published a range of cruise guides offering insights into ports around the world which are very useful for deciding on what to do at each destination. The guides come with handy pull out maps, perfect for planning your adventures at sea. The range includes ports in the Baltic Sea, Canary Islands, Caribbean and Mediterranean. The lovely people at Marco Polo sent me a guide to help with my future cruise planning. I chose Baltic Sea cruise ports, as I’d love to explore this incredible area of Europe.

Ad: This post has been produced in collaboration with Marco Polo Travel Guides.

Here’s my dream itinerary:

  • Firstly I’d choose Southampton to depart and arrive back into as it’s near to where I live so would eliminate having to get flights anywhere. This would make cruising the Baltic Sea very relaxing from the word go!
  • Helsinki – Finland: The scenery is something that draws me to this part of the world and I’ve heard it’s a scenic journey into the port, past small islands and craggy coastline. I’d make sure I’d be up on deck to take it all in. I would jump on a vintage tram ride to see the city’s top sites and visit the Old Market Hall to buy some Finnish cakes.
  • Stockholm – Sweden: I love an old town and Stockholm’s Gamla Stan sounds like it ticks all the boxes for me; cobbled streets, quirky buildings and cool coffee shops to sit and watch the world go by in.
  • Gdansk – Poland: I’d love to stop in Gdansk to try out traditional Polish food and to take some photos of the picture perfect streets. I’d also like to climb to the top of St. Catherine’s Church Tower to take in the city views.
  • St. Petersburg – Russia: I have never been to Russia so a stop in St. Petersburg would be firmly on my itinerary. I’d love to see the historical buildings and beautiful architecture. The colourful domes of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ are something I’d like to see in person.
  • Tallinn – Estonia: The capital of Estonia, this lovely looking city has plenty of charm with Gothic landmarks and an old town full of cafes and cobbled streets. If I had time on my day there I’d head slightly out of the city to the Teletorn TV Tower. There is an outdoor viewing platform right at the top and on clear days you can see across to Finland.

Why you need to go on a cruise:

These days cruising isn’t just for the older generation it has become popular with younger people in a big way. Cruise companies have modernised their ships, upped their marketing and onboard itineraries to appeal to not only younger couples and singles but families too.

A cruise is certainly something on my travel wish list; Matt and I got a taste for the cruising lifestyle after we went on a mini-cruise to France last year. I can definitely see us enjoying a longer cruise at some point in the future.

 

In case you need some persuasion here are my reasons as to why you need to go on a cruise…

  • It’s such a fantastic way to see the world; you get to wake up in a new destination everyday.
  • Enjoy complete relaxation on sea days. While there’s nothing but blue horizons all around it’s the perfect opportunity to kick back and relax with a book, enjoy the entertainment onboard, go to a fitness class or enjoy all the food if you are on an all inclusive package.
  • A lot of cruise companies have removed formal dining in favour of a more relaxed experience, so while formal dining may still exist there are now other options such as buffets and fast food restaurants onboard. This means you won’t have to pack your bow tie and tux if you don’t want to.
  • This also applies to dress codes; whilst there are still opportunities to don your bow tie many cruise ships have a less formal dress code making cruises much more relaxed.
  • There is so much going on onboard that you’ll never want to get off! From cinemas to shows, casinos to coffee shops, spas, climbing walls and waterslides, not to mention kids clubs if you have children with you. It’s like a floating city!

 

I spent a day on MSC Preziosa as part of a press event, head over to my post: My Day on a Cruise Ship with MSC Cruises to read all about it. For more on planning a cruise, Cruise Critic is a great website to discover cruise itineraries, they have a section just for Baltic Sea Cruises. Cruise blogger, Emma writes all about life at sea over at Cruising Isn’t Just For Old People; check it out for all you need to know on cruising.

 

Planning a road trip on the East Coast of Australia…

Travelling the east coast of Australia in a campervan is the perfect way to get to know this vast and varied part of the country and an experience that I can’t recommend enough. The freedom to go where you want to go, when you want to go, to stop somewhere on a whim, change your plans and sleep where you want is a wonderful feeling! This is my guide to planning a road trip on the east coast of Australia…

Campervan hire:

Our three-week adventure started in Sydney and ended in Cairns, covering a total distance of 2629 kilometres. We landed in Sydney, jumped in a taxi to Jucy rentals and picked up what was to be our home for the next three weeks, a green and purple campervan. This little beauty looked like it had been well-loved which made me like it even more!  We got given a quick briefing and then handed the keys. Our Jucy Van was compact but had everything we needed for our three-week journey. Bedding, pillows and towels were provided with the van along with pots and pans, crockery, cutlery and a map. The van had a small kitchen area at the back, which consisted of a camping gas stove, a cool box (powered by a leisure battery) and a sink. It also had a DVD player, but with so much exploring to do we didn’t get round to using it. Awesome campervan and an awesome company!

 

 

Things I took with me on the trip:

  • When planning for a road trip on the east coast of Australia, my first tip would be to pack fairly lightly as living in a van means you have limited space.
  • Guide books: Lonely Planet East Coast Australia and Cool Camping Australia – East Coast – I don’t know what we would have done without these two books. We found places we may not otherwise have visited and they really helped us out especially at the beginning of our trip when everything felt a little bit daunting.
  • Driving licence: Don’t forget this! Check out the Australian Government website for more information on driving in Australia with an overseas licence.
  • LED lights and torch: These were much needed as we stayed in some very remote campsites which were pitch black at night.
  • Keypod: We use one when we surf in the UK and I thought it would be perfect for Australia. It’s a small box, big enough to fit your car key in with a combination lock and padlock on top. It can be attached to the underneath of your vehicle and is perfect if you want to go for a swim or surf and don’t want to leave valuables and car keys on the beach.
  • Washing tablets: Although we could have bought these out in Oz I decided it was one less thing to spend our pennies on once we were there.
  • Resealable bags: Handy to store food in and to stop any beasties or bugs finding it!
  • Tea bags and sugar: Again something we could have bought in Australia but I just thought I would be prepared, and there’s nothing like a decent cuppa in the morning!
  • Anti – bacterial wipes: To clean down food prep areas in the van once we picked it up. You don’t know whose grubby paws have been on it before you! (Although the rental company did a very thorough clean it was just something that made me feel better!) They are also perfect for cleaning up after cooking.
  • Mobile phone and Wi-Fi Dongle: We were very lucky as our lovely friends Olivia and Jamie who we stayed with in Sydney lent us these – great for calling campsites in advance and Google mapping if you don’t have data to use abroad included in your phone contract.
  • We bought a USB charger to go into the cigarette lighter when we got to Australia. This proved priceless for charging our phones and camera batteries on the road.
  • I’m a big flip-flops wearer but I was so pleased I packed a pair of converse ‘just in case’ I needed them.  They came in very handy for bush camping. When it gets dark you never know what creepy crawlies are wondering around!  So I would definitely recommend packing some closed-toe footwear.
  • We took fairy lights and bought candles when we were out there, it added extra light to our camp and also made it look nice.

 

 

Sleeping:

National Park campsites:

National park campsites are the way forward for cheaper camping and for going back to basics. My advice is don’t be scared of long drop toilets and having no showers! I overcame this and experiencing these beautiful places, which can be off the beaten track and often with hardly anyone else around is awesome. It felt to us like ‘real’ camping. One tip my friend Liv gave me was to check under long drop toilet seats for spiders before you sit down! This was a great bit of advice, especially when you consider that most of the wildlife we came across were discovered in the long drop area! Liv did well at practicing her own advice….One night as we sat around the campfire in the Blue Mountains we heard screams coming from the dunny – she had found a nasty looking spider under the lid!  

You need to take your own water for most national park campsites and also need to pre book, although Black Rocks campground (one of our favourite spots) in Bundjalung National Park had signposts with a phone number to book upon arrival. Lots of these campgrounds can be found along very bumpy and long unsealed roads, but this adds to the fun! 

One night we parked up and slept on the side of a road, funnily enough opposite a campsite! It was quite a nice spot on the harbour front at Hervey Bay; we chose it as the car park just in front of our parking spot had a half decent public toilet that wasn’t locked at night. We had been on a whale watching trip which meant we didn’t get back until early evening and we had a lot of driving planned for the next day and got up at around 5am. Due to this we decided there was no point in paying for a pitch. Lots of car parks have no camping signs clearly displayed so they are of course a no go. I am not entirely sure as to whether we were allowed to camp on the roadside, but hey sometimes you’ve got to be a rebel and just live on the edge!

Head here for campsites in New South Wales: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Private campsites:

More expensive campsites were fantastic after a few days of staying in a national park or roadside camping where showers are non-existent.  So to pay for a campsite with showers, flushing toilets and even a laundry room was a small slice of luxury!  Most private campsites we stayed at had camp kitchens that were really well equipped with gas barbeques, fridges, ovens, sometimes microwaves, washing up facilities and plug sockets for charging electronics. Some even had free Wi-Fi, which was a big bonus.

For more information I’ve written a guide with all my favourite campsites to help with planning a road trip on the East coast of Australia: Cool Campsites on the East Coast of Australia.

 

 

 

The drive:

Driving the east coast is such a great way to see experience all the countryside and its differences as you head further up or down the country. The climate changed quite a lot from Sydney where there was a bit of a chill in the air to Cairns with its humid and very hot rainforest feel. I got bitten by mosquitoes further up the coast too. The temperature of the water also felt warmer as we moved further up the country.

On the drive we passed over hundreds and hundreds of creeks, we also passed sugar cane fields, plantations, rainforest, and ocean. It was interesting to drive through so many different towns like Rockhampton, with its quaint Victorian buildings making it look like it had stood still in time. Within the sugar cane fields were train lines, I loved watching the cane trains pass, transporting sugar cane to the plantations. There were also lots of banana farms up near Cairns and we also witnessed a few wild fires in this area; they were pretty scary looking.

There are plenty of opportunities to deviate from the main highway as sometimes the long straight road can get boring. All the way along there were brown tourist signs indicating an alternative route through places of interest and how many kilometers it covered before bringing you back onto the highway. We did this a few times; my favourite was the drive through the Glass House Mountains. The scenery was just incredible with bright red soil and the mountains looming high above the otherwise flat landscape. We stopped off at a great viewpoint for lunch and took photos; it was a lovely scenic diversion.

One thing to know about when driving in Australia is toll roads. These can be avoided but we ended up going through some in Sydney and then in Brisbane. They don’t cost very much but you need to make sure you go online or phone up to pay the charges. For NSW I used this website: myrta and for QLD: govia.  Phone numbers and websites are signposted as you go on the toll roads and you pay the charges by giving your car registration number along with the date and times you would have been on the toll roads. It is then automatically deducted from your credit or debit card, easy!

Although it is quite an obvious thing to say I would definitely recommend keeping an eye on your fuel as sometimes fuel stations were very few and far between. We often drove for an hour or two without seeing one. We tried to make sure that our fuel gauge didn’t drop below a quarter, that way we felt safe. Something else I should mention is that the Aussies are pretty strict on speed limits, so make sure you stick to them.

 

 

 

Rest stops:

We experienced a mixture of good and bad rest stops while on the road. Many with the words ‘Stop, Revive, Survive’ were brilliant, with toilets, gas barbeques and picnic benches sheltered from the sun. Some even provided free tea and coffee. Although, nice service stops turned into sparse truck stops with awful long drops on the Bruce Highway, north of Brisbane. So be prepared for some horrendous dunnys; hold your nose and don’t look down!

Two refreshment stops that stood out for me were Frosty Mango, serving, you guessed it all things mango. This was recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide I mentioned earlier. We bought a mango smoothie for the road, it was so good! Tooloombah Creek Roadhhouse an hour north of Rockhampton was also a great little stop off. We were greeted by a lovely lady who fueled up the van and told us a joke at the same time… “What happened to the beans that were travelling in Australia?… They ended up in Cairns!”… It made me laugh anyway! After a chat with this lovely lady we purchased coffee, two slices of her delicious homemade cake and continued on our journey. I really loved chatting to locals, who more often than not were very welcoming. Some also passed on useful information to us such as a fuel attendant in Byron Bay. I told him we were heading to Mission Beach at some point in our journey, he told us how nice it was and recommended a great campsite. A bit of local knowledge sometimes goes a long way.

 

I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into planning a road trip on the east coast of Australia. If you have any of your own tips please feel free to add them in the comments below; I’d love to hear them. Writing this post has made me want to go back to the land of down under right now! With 1633 miles of the east cast of Australia explored I can’t wait to share the rest of my adventures with you all…

 

For more on Australia take a look at my other posts:

Five Things to do in Sydney

Whale Watching in Australia

Three weeks in three and a half minutes

 

 

Fuerteventura: A winter sun holiday destination…

If you are looking to get away from the cold weather, Fuerteventura is a great winter sun holiday destination. Fly there in just under four hours from London. Near the coast of North Africa this Spanish island is the second largest of the Canary Islands.

During the winter months temperatures remain in the high teens and low 20s; making it much warmer than most places in Europe. Day temperatures should feel warm enough to sunbathe, although the sea may feel a little refreshing. I recommend packing a light jacket or warmer top for the evenings as it can get a bit chilly once the sun goes in. There are often less tourists than the summer months so the beaches and beauty spots are quieter too. If you like to escape the crowds it’s a good time of year to go.

I hadn’t realised how diverse Fuerteventura’s landscape is, not only are there beautiful beaches, but mountains, volcanoes and the incredible ever shifting sand dunes of Corralejo’s Natural Park. It is easy to see why it was named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2009.

Here are a few ideas on what to do on your winter sun holiday…

 

Spend time on the beach:

For Europeans this is a novelty in itself as temperatures dip across most of Europe during the winter and daylight hours decrease. The beaches are stunning with crystal clear waters and golden sand; it’s hard not to be impressed. As long as the sun hasn’t dipped behind a cloud the temperatures are perfect for sunbathing. Fuerteventura is known for being windy, for this reason you’ll spot ‘Corralitos’ on many of the beaches on the island. These semi-circular stonewalls were created to keep the wind off when sunbathing and also give a bit of privacy. Fuerteventura’s beaches are popular with naturists; so don’t be surprised to see a naked body or two! Here’s the rundown on my favourite beach spots…

 

La Concha Beach, El Cotillo:

Much of the west coast is pretty rough and not suitable for swimming but La Concha Beach in the quiet town of El Cotillo is a great spot. Protected by reef and rocks this horseshoe shaped bay is perfect for a dip in the ocean and a popular spot with families. Found north of the town towards the lighthouse it has parking, toilets, showers and a bar/cafe right on the sand.

 

Playa Hoplaco, Corralejo:

I love this little beach, in the centre of Corralejo it has turquoise waters, white sand and is great for rock pooling when the tide is out. Views of Los Lobos and Lanzarote make a picture perfect backdrop and the promenade lined with cafes and restaurants is right next-door.

 

Playa Alzada, Corralejo:

Out by the dunes this is my absolute favourite beach. Heading south out of Corralejo take the road to the sand dunes past Grand Playas beaches and the Rui hotels. There are a few beaches on this stretch, Alzada is pretty much one of the last crescent shaped bays. There’s parking on the side of the road and lifeguards on patrol. The sand dunes behind make an incredible backdrop. The beach is just below the road, although I really didn’t find traffic noise a problem, the gentle waves and soapy blue water make this a dreamy spot.

 

Glass Beach, Corralejo:

Also known as El Burro Beach and located next door to Playa Alzada, it’s a popular location. There’s a small headland to the left with the Corralito stone circles, they make a great little shelter on windier days. Lifeguards are on duty here.

There are no facilities at Glass or Alzada Beach so bring your own picnic and supplies. If you’ve got children they will love exploring the rock pools when the tide is low.

 

 

Hire a car:

The best way to explore the island is to hire a car, especially if there is a grey day. We hired a car with Drive Emotion. To really admire Fuerteventura’s diverse landscape drive south from Corralejo to Betancuria, the old capital. This scenic route will take you past Volcanoes in La Oliva and up into the mountains where jaw dropping panoramic views of the island await. Stop at the view points to take in the sweeping terrain below and follow the winding mountain road down into a lush green valley. There are a few quaint towns to drive through; Betancuria is definitely worth a stop off. A beautiful church and the ruins of an old convent give a good insight into Fuerteventura’s past and are completely different to the tourist spots along the coast.

 

Explore the sand dunes at Corralejo Natural Park:

The sand dunes at Corralejo Natural Park are incredible. Ever changing due to the winds and a dramatic volcanic backdrop give a lunar feel. In front of the vast dunes is the turquoise ocean, making this protected area one like no other. Park up alongside the coastal road and cross over to explore the vast dunes. It’s a fantastic way to spend a few hours, a unique spot that you just have to see for yourself.

If you like hiking the volcanic Montana Roja is a popular trek in the dunes. It stands at 314 meters high and is around a 5 hour hike. This is a walk for the more experienced and it’s worth checking routes before you go.

 

 

Enjoy dinner and drinks with sea views:

There are plenty of lovely locations to enjoy drinks or food by the ocean in Fuerteventura, my favourites are:

Sunset Lounge: Head here for laid back beach vibes and sand between your toes. Right on the beach this is a cool bar to watch surfers and windsurfers from. Serving up cocktails, mocktails and whatever else takes your fancy. The Sunset Lounge is famous for its Sunday night beach parties. A barbecue and DJ sets keep the party going into the night.

Savannah Beach: Step right off the beach into this cool venue for food with ocean views, . A glass front keeps the wind off, making it a nice suntrap. Food is reasonably priced and it’s nice to sit and watch surfers go by to nearby beach breaks.

Waikiki: This is a bit of an institution in Corralejo, right on the beach and in the centre of town. The Hawaiian vibes fit in perfectly with the dreamy sea views. If it’s too windy sit indoors, if not secure a table on the sand. There’s a playhouse for kids and the cocktails and mocktails are a tasty and refreshing treat.

La Marina: On the beach promenade in Corralejo town centre. My favourite spot for food and views, the best steak and kebab skewers I have ever had, good wine, cocktails and gorgeous ocean views.

 

 

Go on a day trip:

Lanzarote and the small island of Los Lobos can both be seen from Corralejo. Lanzarote can be reached by boat in around 25 minutes. Los Lobos can be incorporated into a boat trip or catch a ferry across from the harbour in Corralejo in around 15 minutes. Part of the Corralejo Dunes Natural Park exploring is limited to marked paths and there is only one restaurant on the deserted island. This makes it the perfect place to visit to escape the buzz of Corralejo. Stroll to the lighthouse, watch for endangered birds and relax on the beach at Playa de la Concha.

Dune buggy trips are popular adventures with tons of companies providing daily excursions. Buzz around off road exploring volcanic areas and the sand dunes in a unique mode of transport. If I hadn’t been pregnant at the time of my trip I would definitely have done this as it looks like so much fun!

Surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing are all popular sports. If you want to learn to surf there are plenty of surf schools in and around Corralejo and ideal beginner waves. Rocky Point is a good beginner spot with easy right hand waves, wetsuits boots are recommended to clamber over the rocky reef.

 

Fuerteventura: A winter sun holiday destination

As a winter sun destination, Fuerteventura has so much to offer. The winter months excluding December are often a quieter time of year to visit with fewer tourists. It’s warm enough to sunbathe on the beach and there’s plenty of exploring to be done if the sun isn’t shining. Hire a car and explore the islands diverse landscapes. Head to the mountains for jaw dropping views and stroll around the quaint town of Betancuria. Walk in the sand dunes, have a cocktail at a beach bar and get that much need vitamin d from the winter sun! To help plan your trip Marco Polo have a Fuerteventura guide with a useful pull out map.

For another winter sun destination check out my blog post on Mallorca: Finding Winter Sunshine in Mallorca. Although it may not reach the same temperatures as Fuerteventura it’s a nice option for a winter break.

 

This is a sponsored post with Marco Polo Guides. As always all views and opinions are my own.

A Babymoon in Bermuda…

If you are planning a babymoon in Bermuda then look no further. Not only is it a beautiful destination, it’s only 6.5 hours flight from the UK, a couple of hours from the U.S and more importantly it’s Zika free.
Bermuda is a melting pot of culture; it’s a British Overseas Territory so there are plenty of British quirks to be spotted. From red post boxes to driving on the left hand side of the road they are easy to spot. What’s more there are British style pubs, serving up plenty of British grub. Along with Caribbean and American influences it’s a unique place to visit.
A string of islands connected by bridges, 181 to be precise there is plenty to explore. Bermuda is perfect if you want a laid back trip or an active holiday. Read on for more on a babymoon in Bermuda…

 

Beaches:
As it’s your babymoon you may be looking to get in as much relaxation time as possible before baby arrives, especially if it’s your first. You’ve chosen the right place, as Bermuda’s beaches are beautiful. Warwick Long Bay is one of Bermuda’s famous pink sand beaches. Tobacco Bay is unbelievable for snorkelling, while Horseshoe Bay is perfect for finding a sheltered spot if it’s a bit breezy. On my last visit in November, the beaches were empty and the temperature was a nice 23 degrees. Paddle boarding is a great watersport to do while you are pregnant and Bermuda’s clear waters are perfect for gliding over while catching some rays.

 

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse:
For panoramic views climb the 185 steps to the top. Built in 1846 it is the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the world and one of only two still standing. With views of Hamilton and the South Shore it’s a good way to blow away the cobwebs on a blustery day. If you are not feeling so energetic The Dining Room located in what was the lighthouse keepers cottage at the base serves lunch and dinner. Double check the website as opening hours are varied during the week.

 

Crystal Caves:
For something completely different visit the Crystal and Fantasy Caves. Admire the clear waters of the underground lake in the Crystal Cave from the floating walkways. The stalactite formations are incredible, discovered by two boys playing cricket in 1907; the caves are millions of years old. It’s worth noting that it’s pretty warm in these underground beauties, so dress accordingly and wear rubber-soled shoes. Located in the parish of Hamilton, there are daily tours and tickets can be purchased for one cave or both.

 

Bermuda Railway Trail:
The disused railway trail is a great way to explore. Cycle or walk along the 18 miles through tropical woodland and past turquoise waters. The trail is very well signposted and there are information boards dotted along the route describing the history of the railway. Here’s a little bit more information and images from my bike ride: Biking the Bermuda Railway Trail…

 

Hamilton:
Overlooking the water, capital of Bermuda is a picture perfect town full of pastel coloured buildings. On Front Street you’ll find restaurants, bars and shops, including the good old English store Marks and Spencer. There’s plenty of history to discover too, taking a walking tour or a self-guided tour is a great way to get immersed in the local culture. There are also food tours, although not cheap it looks like a cool thing to do. Sample and learn all about local cuisine while exploring the streets of Hamilton.

 

Getting about:
Tourists aren’t able to hire cars in Bermuda but there are plenty of other options to get around. Twizys are a really fun mode of transport, Current Vehicles rent out the tiny two man electric cars from their branches at the Hamilton Princess, Fairmont Southampton and The Loren at Pink Beach.  Buses are another good option for exploring, pastel pink in colour you can’t miss them. There are eleven routes covering the whole of the island, the main bus station is in Hamilton. Pay on the bus with cash, you’ll need the exact fair or use tickets, tokens or a day pass. These can be purchased at the bus and ferry terminals in Hamilton, information centres, some post offices and hotels. Day passes can also be used on the ferries so may be worth combining for a day out. This brings me onto the ferry service, running from Front Street in Hamilton there are four routes that make a nice alternative to exploring by road. Scooters are another option although if you are heavily pregnant than you might not feel that comfortable on one of these! Taxis are readily available throughout the island and easily picked up from hotels.

 

When to visit:
May to October is the best time of the year to go for beach weather, having said that I visited in November and spent time on the beach. It felt a little chilly when the sun went in and cooler in the evenings but there was still plenty of sunshine. November to February is generally a cooler time of the year with rainy days, the temperature can reach 17 – 18 degrees but you may need warmer clothes on damp days. April and early May is springtime in Bermuda and whilst it may not be warm enough to swim in the sea, if you are from the UK it will feel a lot warmer and sunnier than at home. Pack some light jumpers and jackets along with summer clothes and you’ll be fine. April and May are also cheaper months to visit in terms of accommodation.

 

Useful things to know:
  • The Bermudian Dollar is fixed to the U.S Dollar, which can also be spent in Bermuda.
  • Bermuda has the same voltage as America and Canada. If you are travelling from the UK or Europe pack a two-pronged plug adaptor.
  • Remember to pack your pregnancy notes and double check that your travel insurance covers medical problems during pregnancy.
  • Flight socks are a good idea to wear onboard an aircraft during pregnancy.

 

A babymoon in Bermuda is the perfect choice to get a bit of sunshine and relaxation in before your new arrival makes an appearance and being Zika free will give you a worry free holiday to remember.
For more information on pregnancy related travel I have a blog post all about it here: Planning a baby moon and flying during pregnancy…
Are you planning a babymoon? Any questions? Let me know in the comments below…

 

 

 

 

 

My 2019 travel highlights…

Apart from travelling with work, I hadn’t planned on actually doing much personal travel this year. Matt and I moved and renovated a house; I’m also expecting baby number two so I had intended to slow down. But writing up this post I’m surprised how much I’ve managed to squeeze in. I just get itchy feet and being grounded from my job as cabin crew while I’m pregnant has meant that I’ve been living a ‘normal’ life for a while. Whatever that is?! Anyway too much of normal and I get a little bit bored so I’ve been lucky to have a few opportunities to jump on a plane and fulfil my wanderlust!

 

January: Mexico 
2019 started off with a mini adventure in Mexico. I had a work trip to Cancun falling over New Years Eve, so it was the perfect opportunity for Matt to come away with me. One of the perks of my job is discounted flights and getting to take Matt along while I’m working is so nice. We arrived on New Years Eve, got some room service and gorged on enchiladas, guacamole, tortillas and all things Mexican. We were so tired that we didn’t make it to midnight in the end but it was still a great evening! The following day it was time for exploring so we jumped on a local bus to a nearby ferry terminal and boarded a boat to Isla Mujeres. If you are going to Cancun I really recommend a trip to this little island. We hired a golf buggy and whizzed around the island, you can cover the whole of it in a couple of hours. The main town has brightly coloured buildings and beachfront bars, there’s mangroves and secluded beaches to relax on as well as a small turtle sanctuary. Don’t miss the drive through garage, perfect for picking up Coronas to have on the beach. My favourite beach is Playa Norte, although it was really busy on New Years Day so not as peaceful as I’ve seen it in the past.

 

 

February and March: Dubai and Fort Lauderdale
In February Matt and I moved house it had been a long painful process so it was amazing to finally get the keys. Although it needed a lot of work so we stayed with my lovely in-laws while we did it up. A new boiler, radiators, bathroom, electrics, plastering, decorating and new carpets were amongst the many things that needed doing.
The day after completing on the house I went to Dubai with my Mum! I hadn’t planned it that way, as we should have initially completed in November 2018 so it all felt a little bit stressful but it was lovely to have a little getaway. Dubai isn’t somewhere that’s really appealed to me in the past but we wanted to go somewhere with a bit of sun that wasn’t too far to fly so it ticked those boxes. I can honestly say I loved it, we crammed so much into the three days we were there for and there’s still so much I want to see. My highlights were a desert safari, going to the top of the Burj Khalifa and strolling along ‘The Walk’ on the beachfront at JBR.
For more on my new favourite part of the world head here: A mini guide to Dubai…

 

 

A work trip to Fort Lauderdale in the middle of house renovations was a fun adventure. It was a layover, which meant two nights and whole day to explore. Famous for its waterways lined with million dollars houses, it only seemed right to jump on a water taxi and take in the views. The water taxis are really easy to use and you can jump on and off to spend time along the route. I loved the bars and restaurants that lined the waterfront, we enjoyed food and drinks overlooking the sparkling canals in between checking out the local area. It also happened to be Pride the weekend I was there so we had a walk around the festival on the beach. I also got some time to chill out by the pool and catch some sun before flying home.

 

 

April: Dominican Republic and the Isle of Wight
In April I had my first work trip to the Dominican Republic, staying in an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana it was a very relaxing experience! I had a day and a half to sunbathe, have a beer or two and swim in the warm, sparkling ocean.

 

 

My brother and his girlfriend bought Matt and I a voucher to walk with alpacas as a Christmas present so April saw us heading to Hensting Alpaca Farm in Ottterbourne  Hampshire. It was a really relaxing two-hour stroll through a meadow by the River Itchen. The alpacas were gorgeous and it was such a different thing to do. For more on this unique experience click here: Walking with alpacas in the Hampshire countryside…

 

 

On Emily’s 3rd birthday we went on a day trip to the Isle of Wight. We went as foot passengers on the Wightlink ferry from Lymington and used the open top buses to explore. It’s such a fun and easy way to see the island, there are different routes and regular buses so you can hop on and off at your leisure. We chose the route that went to the Needles and were treated to incredible views of Alum Bay and the mainland on the journey to The Needles Battery. After a few more stop offs we went back to Yarmouth for lunch at a pub and an ice cream and a walk along the pier before catching the ferry back to the mainland.

 

 

May: Toronto
I got to go to one of my favourite cities in May, Toronto. Another work trip, I had two nights and a day and a half to spend there. Having been a few times before it was nice to explore some new areas. I visited Graffiti Alley, which is a really cool spot to take photos. Kensington Market for brunch and my first proper experience of Poutine. Canadian comfort food at its best: chips, cheese curd and gravy. If you’ve not tried it before, you should. I also visited a pop up gallery called Eye Candy, the perfect place if you love taking photos for Instagram. It has small rooms all individually decorated in bright colours and different themes.
I’ve written a blog post all about things to do in my favourite Canadian city: Planning the perfect trip to Toronto… 

 

 

June: Yorkshire
Matt, Emily and I had a mini break to Yorkshire; Matt had some work there so Emily and I tagged along. We stayed at Woodland Lakes Lodges in Thirsk, our lodge had a hot tub, there were ponds full of friendly ducks and geese and it was a great base for exploring the local area.

 

Hot tub, Woodland Lakes Lodges, Yorkshire
Hot tub, Woodland Lakes Lodges, Yorkshire

 

Summer hit the UK so it was all about time at the beach in Milford on Sea and HIghcliffe, paddle boarding and barbecues.

 

 

July: UK
July saw us spending lots more time on the beach and Emily sitting on my paddle board with me for the first time.  We discovered the Cliff House in Barton on Sea. It’s the loveliest bar on the cliff top over looking the Solent, Isle Wight and Dorset. We also went on the hunt for pubs in the New forest with play parks for kids. The Rising Sun in Bashley is our new favourite, not only is it 10 minutes drive from our house, but it looks right out onto the forest and has an awesome kids play park. I feel like this should be a future blog post!

 

 

We moved into our house after 5 months of renovating, it was such an amazing feeling after all the work we put in and a couple of weeks later I found out I was pregnant with baby number two. So all in all a very exciting month!

 

 

August: Warmwell, Dorset
I love having my birthday in the summer; Matt took me on a surprise trip to Dorset. We stayed on the same glamping site as last year in a shepherds hut. We had typical British weather, one day full of rain and the next sunshine, but we didn’t let it stop us enjoying our mini break away and it inspired me to write this post: What to pack for a glamping trip in the UK. It was super cosy listening to the rain in the hut and the log burner was all it needed to keep it warm. Our glamping retreat consisted of three shepherds huts, the main one had a double bed, seating area and log burner, while the other two housed a kitchen and a bathroom. A fire pit and hammock completed the set up. Thankfully with the weather being nice on day two we sat out all evening by the fire. We went on some lovely walks and being just the two of us enjoyed a bit of quiet time reading magazines and having long lazy lie-ins, a rarity when you’ve got kids!

 

 

Back at home and being the height of the summer we spent a lot of time on the beach, paddleboarding and meeting up with friends from school.

 

 

September: West Bay, Dorset 
In September we crammed in our final beach visits and headed off for four nights in West Bay in Dorset. West Bay has an incredible cliff formation that has been made famous by the TV series Broadchurch. The imposing cliffs are found on East Cliff Beach. The tiny fishing town is full of quintessential British charm, fish and chip huts line the harbour front and seagulls keep a beady eye out for ice creams. The George is a good pub for a drink and Rise does the best poached eggs and smashed avocado on sourdough for breakfast. This coastline or Jurassic coast as it is known is famous for fossil hunting; Charmouth Beach is a popular spot for uncovering treasures. We spent hours on there hunting for fossils and sea glass. It’s such a fun thing to do even on a wintery day.

 

 

October and November: France and Bermuda
October and November were exciting months with a mini cruise to France with Brittany Ferries and a trip to Bermuda. First off France, two nights on the ferry and a whole day to explore France. We got on the ferry in Portsmouth and sailed to St Malo. The mini cruises run over the winter months and are really good value for money. What’s more you get to keep your cabin so you can leave your luggage onboard while you spend the day in France. Highlights of the trip were walking to Mont St Michel, lunch in the pretty town of Dinan and shopping in the huge supermarkets! The crossings were so much fun with evening entertainment, bars and restaurants. For more on this unique trip head here: A mini cruise with Brittany Ferries…

 

 

Next was Bermuda, while pregnant I am ‘grounded’ from my job as cabin crew, I was missing crew life so took the opportunity to join one of my good work friends on a trip she was rostered to Bermuda. It was lovely to catch up with work friends and spend time in one of my favourite parts of the world. My friend and I had the loveliest little break, being cold and rainy in the UK it was so nice to spend some time in the sun. We went to the beach, did some paddle boarding, ate good food and explored the pretty streets of the capital Hamilton.

 

 

December
No travels in December just getting into the festive spirit and enjoying lots of family time. We took Emily to see Father Christmas at Stewerts Garden Centre in Christchurch, every year they have a winter wonderland walkway and a really great Father Christmas. Matt and I hosted Christmas for my family in our new home, we enjoyed chilly beach walks and I’ve eaten far too much chocolate!

 

It’s been a year of highs and lows but the highs have definitely out weighed the lows and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the new year brings.
I’m not going to worry about resolutions for the year ahead, looking back through previous years one of my aims is always to write more blog posts…but I’m not going to put any pressure on myself for 2020 as I think I’ll be pretty busy with a new baby! I’ve worked on some cool brand campaigns this year and have worked with more companies on sponsored posts than last year, so if I can carry on building my freelance writing business then that would be my aim for 2020.
The first trip for 2020 is a holiday to Fuerteventura; this will be the last time I fly before having baby number two in April. We’ve got a trip to Center Parcs in Longleat booked for June and who knows after that but we’re definitely aiming to travel again more once we’ve settled into being a family of four.
Happy New Year to you all and happy travels for 2020!

 

Exploring Menorca from the water…

*This post is part of a paid campaign to promote the Balearic and Canary Islands, as part of their #SpanishIslands Campaign. Although all views are my own and I have not been instructed what to include.

 

Exploring Menorca from the water is a fantastic way to see this Spanish gem from a different viewpoint. UNESCO named Menorca a Biosphere Reserve in 1993 and with 160 km of pristine coastline to explore it’s easy to see why. There are more than 70 beaches on the island, white sand and crystal clear waters in the south and beautiful deep golden sandy beaches to the north. Not only that but there are many caves, gullies and secret beaches only accessible by the water, so jump in to gain a unique perspective of this popular holiday destination. From kayaking to snorkelling or just a gentle swim in the Mediterranean Ocean there are plenty of watersports in Menorca to be discovered.

 

Kayaking
If you’ve not kayaked before then Menorca is the place to give it a go, warm waters and sparkling ocean make it a very welcoming sport. Double kayaks are a fun way to explore with someone else. I recommend booking onto an organised tour, especially if you want to adventure into caves along the coastline. I went on a kayaking tour from Cala Galdana in the south of the island; the Atrium Audax Hotel has an exciting 3-hour trip along the dramatic coastline. Heading east there are some incredible caves to explore, Dragon’s Cave being one of them, this trip is definitely for the adventurous, you get to paddle right inside this incredible cave. Equipped with head torches you will kayak through the entrance and once inside get to turn off your torch. How often can you say you’ve kayaked into the eerie darkness of a cave? The other stop off on this tour included a very narrow cave, kayaking through Pont de n’Ali, a limestone tunnel and further along at the final stop we go the chance to moor up and swim out of for a spot of snorkelling. The tour guide provided us with beers and snacks too; it was such a novelty to be perched on a rock, towering cliff edges behind, a cave to my right and a beer in my hand! On this trip the scenery is just beautiful, hidden coves and beaches, imposing cliffs and a bit of cave exploration too; all of which are only accessible via the sea.
Another place I recommend hiring a kayak is Punta Prima in the southeast. SUPaire have kayaks, paddle boards and windsurfers for hire. Around a mile from the beach is Illa de l’Aire an uninhabited island just right for exploring. Also known as Black Lizard Island as its only inhabitants are, you guessed it black lizards. The lighthouse on Illa de l’Aire is the tallest in Menorca standing at 38 metres high. Once you’ve navigated over, park up and explore the footpath leading right to the lighthouse, keep an eye out for the lizards on your way. This stop is even better if you find yourself to be the only ones there, a proper Robinson Crusoe moment! Check the conditions before going out as it can be a bit of a struggle in strong winds; the guys at SUPaire are the best ones to chat to.

 

 

Snorkelling
The incredibly clear waters surrounding Menorca are ideal for discovering underwater life. Grab a mask and snorkel and explore a whole other world. Snorkelling has to be one of the most popular watersports in Menorca and it’s easy to see why. From octopus to starfish and barracuda, there are plenty of beautiful creatures to be discovered. Don’t forget to take a GoPro to capture those underwater memories.
S’Algar and Cala Alcaufar are nearby each other on the south coast; both have rocky shorelines with an abundance of marine life. There is a dive school at S’Algar who offer snorkelling boat excursions too.
The beach at Es Grau is part of the S’Albufera des Grau Nature Reserve; shallow waters make it a great spot for everyone including children to have a go at this very relaxing activity.
Fornells is another protected area with an abundance of under water life.
Cala Morell in the north has a rocky seabed home to all sorts of sea creatures, making it the perfect place to snorkel. The small beach is pebbly so take protective footwear.

 

 

Stand Up Paddle Boarding
I love paddle boarding, perfect for adventuring out onto the water on a calm day. It is one of my favourite watersports to do in Menorca; it’s also good exercise for engaging your core muscles! Menorca is the perfect place to learn to paddle board as well as taking organised tours to explore the coastline. WindFornells offer rental and combined paddle board and snorkelling trips from Fornells Bay. While SUPaire in Punta Prima have paddle boards to hire and excursions along the coastline to hidden caves.

 

 

Boat Trips
It’s not all about exploring the open seas, a boat trip around the harbour in the capital Mahon is a great opportunity to see this pretty city from a different viewpoint and learn more about the history of the island. Climb aboard Yellow Catamarans for a one- hour tour on a glass bottom boat. Cruise along the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean, past forts, hidden coves, islets and pretty architecture. Enjoy spotting the marine life from the glass bottom viewing area and hear all about Menorca’s rich history with the historical commentary. Out of all of the watersports in Menorca this is best for those who more keen on staying dry.
If history is your thing, another trip you shouldn’t miss is the short boat ride from the quaint fishing village of Cales Fonts in Es Castello to Lazareto. It was once used as a quarantine island; from 1817 to 1917 all ships entering Mahon and Europe were required to stop at Lazareto. Passengers were checked for diseases such as the plague and yellow fever and quarantined on the small island. Its buildings and heritage can now be discovered on a two hour guided tour. Tours run throughout the summer, choose an evening one to watch the sunset, it is magnificent from Lazareto.

 

 

Beaches
Watersports in Menorca aren’t the only way to enjoy the coastline; this blog post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the beaches. With more than 70 to choose from it would be a crime not to spend some time on at least one of them and take in this Balearic Island’s laid-back vibes.
Arenal d’en Castell is a huge crescent shaped bay with a sheltered shoreline. The sparkling, shallow waters are picture perfect and just right for a refreshing dip or a spot of sunbathing. Cafes and bars are dotted between the wooden raised walkway, which is nice for a stroll too.
Punta Prima, located right in the centre of the tiny town this is a lovely small beach with views out over towards the lighthouse on Illa de l’Aire. There are rock pools to explore and crystal clear waters to dive into.
Cala Alcaufar is a gorgeous spot, there isn’t much of a sandy beach as such but it is beautiful. White washed authentic buildings and fishing huts line the rugged shoreline of this tiny bay.
The beach at Calas Mitjana has shallow, turquoise water backed by cliff tops of pine forests and is very popular. There are no facilities at this spot so pack a picnic and supplies for the day. In the height of the summer the car park fills up quickly, plan to arrive early to beat the crowds or reach it by boat.
The beaches in the north are quite different from the white sand beaches of the south. Full of natural beauty the sand is darker and rugged green cliffs back the shoreline. Pregonda Beach is one of my favourites with golden sand and glistening waters. There aren’t any facilities here, which is nice if you want total relaxation.

 

 

From caves to beaches there are many hidden spots only reach via the sea, making watersports in Menorca an adventurous was to discover some incredible locations you might etherise miss out on. Even if you’ve not had a go at any of them before choose a qualified instructor to help you, there’s so much waiting to be discovered. So jump in a kayak or climb aboard a boat, you won’t be disappointed.

 

I’ve written some other posts that maybe helpful if you are planning a trip to Menorca, read them here:
9 Things to do in Menorca: From visiting a bar in a clifftop cave to exploring the capital Mahon, this post is all about the tings you should add to your Menorca bucket list.
Kayaking Adventures in Menorca: One of my favourite watersports in Menorca, read in more detail about my kayaking adventures. There’s also a short video of my experiences of paddling through caves and exploring the coastline.

A mini cruise with Brittany Ferries…

Me jumping in front of Mont Saint Michel
So what’s it all about?
I’ve just been on a mini cruise with Brittany Ferries and loved every minute of it. If you are looking for a different kind of weekend break then this is it.
Let me start by explaining a little bit about a mini cruise with Brittany Ferries
During the winter months Brittany Ferries do ‘mini cruises’, which means two nights on a ferry and a day in France. Our ferry left on a Friday night at 8pm from Portsmouth and arrived in St Malo at 8.15am local time on Saturday morning. We had all day to explore with boarding starting from 6.30pm that evening. The boat departed at 8.30pm local time and arrived in Portsmouth at 7.45am on Sunday morning. The mini-cruise package allows you to keep your cabin and leave luggage on board.

 

On board
Arriving in port pull up to the check in kiosk for your destination and hand over your passport and booking reference number. You’ll be given a boarding card to hang on your rear-view mirror and your cabin key. After that it’s all really straight forward, you’ll be told what lane you need to go in to board the boat and then directed from there onto the vehicle levels. We waited around an hour each time to board so make sure you’ve used the toilet before you get in line!
Once parked up a member of staff will greet you and give you a card with the door and level to access your car on arrival at the destination. Make sure you take everything you need for the crossing, as access to the vehicle decks during the crossing is not allowed.
GMT is used whilst on board and arrival and departure times are in local time and there’s a wake up around 1 hour 15 minutes before arrival.
We were on Pont Aven. It has two restaurants, two bars, a spa, 2 cinemas, a pool (it wasn’t open on our trip) a shop, a small amusement arcade and a children’s play area. There was Wi Fi in public areas on deck 6, 7 and 8.
Our 2 berth inside cabin with bunk beds and ensuite was compact but just what we needed. We didn’t mind not having a window as with two night crossings we figured we wouldn’t see much anyway. We spent pretty much all our time on board either in the restaurant, at the bar or strolling outside on the decks. There are larger cabins with windows and suite style cabins if you want a bit more luxury too.
The evening entertainment in the main bar was brilliant and something that I didn’t expect. It really added to the trip and made us feel like we were on a cruise! There was bingo, a quiz and a really great band. The atmosphere was fantastic with people dancing and enjoying themselves. Drinks were reasonable and being 5 months pregnant I was pleased to find non-alcoholic beer and mocktails on the bar menu.
We ate in the self-service restaurant on the first night; steak, chips and creme brûlée, yum! We bought our own food to eat on the return.  Breakfast was good, full English and continental were all available.

 

 

The day in France:

 

Mont Saint Michel
Arriving in St Malo early in the morning meant we had plenty of time to explore. We headed straight for Mont Saint Michel, around one hours drive from the ferry terminal. This area of Normandy is absolutely beautiful. The car parks are located quite a way back from the shoreline to help preserve the natural beauty of the area. Parking in low season costs 9 Euros, walk the 1.5 miles or use the free shuttle bus. It’s around a 30 -minute walk, you could walk there and jump on the bus back like Matt and I did.

 

Dinan
Straight out of the pages of a fairytale, timber fronted buildings line the cobbled streets of Dinan. There’s a creperie on every corner and a picturesque castle to set the scene. Located on the banks of the River Rance, there is so much to explore from the old city walls to Saint Malo Church and St Sauveur Basilica. As well as a top spot for history lovers, there are plenty of shops from shabby chic interior stores, art galleries and patisseries. Not to mention the food. For panoramic views of the town and Brittany, climb the 158 steps to the top of Tour de l’Horloge. The clock tower stands at 40 metres high, on a clear day you can see all the way to Mont Saint Michel.

 

Supermarket stop
A day trip to France wouldn’t be complete without a supermarket stop to stock up on alcohol, chocolate mousse, cheese and other French delights! Carrefour in St Malo is huge so be sure to allow enough time to browse. We also stopped at another Carrefour near Mont Saint Michel; it was smaller than the St Malo one but had some nice things in it.
The whole trip was so easy and it was so nice to try a different mode of transport to flying. Being able to take our car was a bonus and the distance between each of our planned stops was easily achievable in one day:
– St Malo ferry terminal to Mont Saint Michel: 55.4 km – roughly around a 1 hour drive
– Mont Saint Michel to Dinan: 58 km – around 1 hour
– Dinan to St Malo ferry terminal: 30 km  – about 35 minutes

 

If you are looking for more to do in Normandy I’ve blogged all about my trip to the fishing town of Port en Bessin: Exploring Port en Bessin, France.

 

7 things to do in Bali…

Bali is an incredible place with beautiful landscapes from lush, green rice fields, to blissful beaches, volcanoes and waterfalls. The Indonesian island is nestled in between Lombok and Java. Bali is easily reached, Singapore and Kula Lumpur being the most popular places to connect from. From London I flew to Kuala Lumpur with British Airways and jumped on another flight to Bali with Air Asia. This took around 3 hours, once in Bali we had a pre booked taxi waiting for us. I was blown away by Bali’s natural beauty, staying in three different areas over two weeks gave us a varied experience of this stunning island. I must admit I was surprised by how touristy parts of it felt which I will mention in more detail below but it is easy to escape to quieter spots even in busier areas.  In Sanur we stayed in the most gorgeous villa hidden down some tiny alleyways, wafts of burning incense and birds singing was pretty much all we were (nicely) disturbed by. Yet a 15 minute stroll along the narrow lanes past warungs and locals houses with offerings to the gods outside and we were on the bustling streets in the centre of Sanur.
Read on for seven not to be missed Balinese experiences…

 

See a temple
Temples are a part of everyday life for many living in Bali. Hinduism is the main religion and as I mentioned above outside most houses are offerings to the Gods. Delicate trays made from leaves are placed on the ground throughout the day and are filled with amongst other things, flowers, food and holy water. Named after the holy spring water found within its grounds, Tirta Empul is an important temple to the Balinese. The temple has pools of holy water for bathing which is only meant for Hindus. Spend a while wondering amongst the holy water and admire the intricate architecture, I loved the beautiful doorways. There is a small entrance fee to visit and remember to dress respectfully; shoulders and knees should be covered. Sarongs can be borrowed at the entrance if needed; and ladies if it’s the time of the month you are not permitted to enter.

 

 

Go glamping in Ubud
For a completely different adventure, glamping in Ubud is a unique experience. I spent a night in a safari tent nestled amongst jungle and rice terraces at Sandat Glamping Tents. Our tent was beautifully furnished and came with its own private plunge pool. Sandat has a restaurant located under a huge bamboo structure with gorgeous food; breakfast delivered to our tent was just perfect. I loved the secluded location and the little touches such as a musical instrument to call for room service. Being able to stroll out to the rice fields was an unforgettable thing to do. Located in a peaceful area away from the busy streets of Ubud it was a stay like no other. I blogged all about my dreamy stay here: The Ultimate Glamping Retreat in Bali…

 

 

Explore Tegalalang rice terraces
Visiting rice terraces is a must when in Bali. Tegalalang is beautiful, the setting surprised me a little as it felt a lot more touristy than I had expected. Apart from that it is an absolutely stunning place. Cafes and restaurants are dotted around the edge, great for a cooling coconut water or beer in the heat of the day. There are spots all along the roadside to get fantastic photos looking down onto the terraces. You can also go down into them. I didn’t get a chance to do this as Emily was only one at the time and very hot so we chose a lovely shady spot to cool down with fresh coconut water.

 

 

Hang out in Canggu
Canggu is a really cool spot on Bali’s west coast. Cute coffee shops, brunch spots and beaches perfect for surfing make Canggu a popular area. We stayed at Villa Berawa, in a private villa with its own pool. It was an awesome treat and not as expensive as you might think. With only a short walk to the beach and Finns Beach Club, (If you like a pool party this is the place to head to.) plus a local bakery and warung along the road made the stay even more perfect. I wouldn’t say it’s the best spot for families as the roads were quite busy and there were no pavements. We also struggled to find nappies, but fear not we did find a pharmacy that stocked them! We adapted just fine in the end as you do when travelling with kids and found the nicest spot: Cinta Cafe with a mini play park at the front and open views of rice fields at the back. Great spot for parents wanting a beer while the kids play!

 

 

See the monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud
In the heart of Ubud Monkey Forest is a popular tourist spot. I have to say this wasn’t my favourite place as I felt a bit on edge around the monkeys. The monkeys roam freely amongst the trees and temples here and it does make for a really nice stroll. I felt like I had to do it to tick it off my Bali list but I’m not sure I would visit it again. Don’t be put off visiting though, I got some great photos of the monkeys and it’s a really cool location.

 

 

Admire Tegnungan Waterfall
Around 20 minutes drive from Ubud this beauty spot is a must see, it can get very busy so go early to avoid the crowds. Steps lead up above the waterfall so you can admire the falls from different viewpoints. The entrance fee is 15,000 IDR, there’s a small extra fee to pay to climb higher up above the falls but it’s well worth it for the views. The markets nearby are nice for browsing and there are a few cafes for food and drink stops.

 

 

Chill on the beach in Sanur
Sanur had to make it onto my list of things to do as I spent the majority of my stay there. The beach is easily accessible with a long paved boardwalk winding for three miles along the beachfront. It’s really child friendly, many of the beach restaurants cater for kids even if they don’t have a children’s menu, just ask. A few also have toys and play parks right on the sand so you can enjoy your lunch and a beer while your little ones have fun. The town is just behind the beach and has tons of bars, shops and restaurants. For more on travelling to Bali with little ones click here: Bali with a baby…
There’s so much to explore in Bali it’s a destination that has everything, incredible sightseeing and stunning beaches. These suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg of activities and adventures to be had in this wonderful part of the world. Just writing it has made me want to go back!
Have you been to Bali? What did you enjoy the most? Let me know in the comments below…