Westbeach Clothing Review…

An image of myself sat in the sand dunes at Camber Sands wearing a grey hoodie from West Beach
When the lovely people at Westbeach got in contact about a collaboration I jumped at the chance to review their clothes. I chose to do it the only way I know how, on a trip to the beach. Westbeach are a Canadian clothing brand specialising in snowboarding and outdoor/active gear. I love outdoor adventures and cosy clothes for when I’m indoors so as soon as I took a look at the Westbeach website I knew I’d love their stuff.
If you are planning a winter adventure, looking for activewear or just a cosy hoodie then check them out. They often have some great offers on too. Here’s a the lowdown on my favourite items….

 

Downhill Jacket
I chose this jacket in Amethyst, it is light weight and has a water-repellent added to the outer fabric. It is a great option for me to pack on trips abroad as it folds up neatly. I love the colour and the fit too. Although not perfect for colder winter weather as it’s made of a thin material, it’s fine for layering up and great for keeping the wind off.
An image of me walking along the old railway line on Dungeness beach wearing West Beach Downhill jacket.
Walking along the old railway line on Dungeness beach wearing Westbeach Downhill jacket.

 

Nightshift cap
I love a cap, great for the beach, for keeping the sun out of my eyes on a paddle boarding adventure or to hide under on a bad hair day. This trucker style cap looks funky and has mesh back panels to help keep cool on sunny days.
An image of a cap from Westbeach
Westbeach cap

 

Montreal Backpack
I never used to be into backpacks, but since having Emily it has been so much easier to have my arms free to scoop up a toddler when needed. The Montreal backpack is 20 litres in capacity, has an internal laptop sleeve and a zipped front pocket. It’s a really good size with ample room to put everything in for a day at the beach. I really like the Westbeach logo on the front too, it gives it a cool look.
An image of myself walking past an old boat on the beach at Dungeness
Boat at Dungeness

 

Brampton Hoodie
This is by far my favourite item of clothing. It is a men’s hoodie in small so it’s oversized on me. Perfect for keeping warm post surf or for getting cosy with a cuppa at home. I love the bold design and I’m really into grey so the charcoal marl colour was the only choice for me.

 

I trialled my Westbeach gear at Dungeness in Kent, this place isn’t the typical british seaside spot. It has a unique character from the quirky homes on the beach to the eerie lighthouse and old dilapidated boats amongst the shingle. It’s a beautiful spot at sunset too. I also spent sometime exploring the sand dunes at Camber Sands in East Sussex. It was my first visit to this part of the UK and I was blown away by the beauty of the area. If you’ve not been before, book a trip immediately! There is so much to see and do and if you need some winter clothes Westbeach is your answer.

 

 

 

I was gifted the clothes from Westbeach in exchange for a review.

How to spend two weeks in Puglia, Italy…

Puglia is a dreamy region found at the bottom of Italy’s heel, fly into either Bari or Brindisi to reach it.  I’ve just spent two weeks in Puglia and loved every minute, our first week was all about relaxing in a Trullo with our own pool while the second was spent by the coast in Otranto.

 

Ostuni trullo:
Our trullo was hidden away and pretty hard to find! Needless to say it was well worth the hunt, and around a mile or so along a tiny and rather bumpy ‘country road’ we arrived at the most gorgeous little spot. ‘Trullo Tranquillo‘ (the name says it all) had its own pool and although in the middle of nowhere it was only around a 20 minute drive to the towns of Ostuni and Cisternino.
Trullo houses are traditional stone and white washed buildings with a dome-shaped roof, native to this area. They were originally used as temporary out buildings and dwellings which could be easily dismantled and moved to avoid paying taxes.
Surrounded by nothing but olive trees and almond groves and with our own pool the trullo gave us plenty of time to relax, sunbathe have some pool time and do nothing for a little while….or for at least as long as our 5 month old would snooze for anyway! Breakfasts consisted of freshly picked figs, almonds and prickly pears from trees around the trullo.  For lunch it was pasta or pizza out and about and evening meals were spent sat outside with caprese salads and meats cooked on the barbecue.  Staircases on the outside of the trullo led to a roof terrace which had fantastic views. Looking out over olive trees you could make out other trullis in the distance and Ostuni lit up and looking pretty at night.  It was also the perfect spot for watching the sunset and for stargazing, with hardly any light pollution around the night sky sparkled.  Inside, the trullo was connected to a newer extension, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a well equipped kitchen meant we had everything we needed. Matt and I were sleeping in the trullo part, our bed was in one of the smaller stone domes, it was nice and cool in the evenings and with no windows very dark too. The trullo came with a cot, which was great as we didn’t need to worry about bringing our own. We for obvious reasons didn’t pack a baby bath so used the kitchen sink for Emily’s bath time, which worked perfectly! It was such a novelty to live in this traditional stone building for a week.  Our water supply came from 320 meters below and an outdoor shower made for a unique morning wake up, there’s nothing quite like showering with views of neighbouring almond groves!

 

Exploring Puglia by car is an easy way to get about and see not only the delightful Italian countryside but also Puglian towns with their beautiful architecture and squares with coffee shops and gelato stops. My favourites were:
Alberobello: This trulli town is a must visit while in Puglia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1500 trullo buildings adorn the hillside and really are a sight like no other.  White washed stone and dome-shaped roofs with colourful flowers in hanging baskets make for a pretty picture.  Strolling the streets it’s clear to see why this is such a popular spot.  Souvenir shops, restaurants and wine bars are all waiting to be discovered inside but I just loved taking in the beautiful architecture. For more on my day in Alberobello click here: Exploring the trulli town of Alberobello.

 

 

Ostuni: Named ‘Citta Bianca’ or White City this divine town is full of white stone buildings, tiny cobbled streets, buildings with julitte balconies and a 15th century cathedral.  Puglia is well-known for its olive oil and there are plenty of shops selling it here, a nice souvenir to take home.  Ostuni has some lovely squares perfect for coffee and dining alfresco. A pizza and lunchtime beer were on the cards when we visited. On Saturdays a huge market lines the streets with stalls selling everything from clothes to kitchen crockery and a vast food section with fresh local produce, meats and cheeses.

 

 

Otranto:
After a week inland it was time to head to the coast, a 1 hour and 30 minute drive saw us arrive in Otranto, this gorgeous place has everything, beautiful beaches, an impressive old town, a port and more gelato stops than you could get round to trying in one week.  Crystal clear waters, perfect for swimming and snorkelling meant this week was very different to our trullo stay.  Our apartment was a short stroll from the town, the views of the harbour and the old town made for a pleasant walk in. Our favourite beaches were Lido Camillo right in the centre of Otranto, here we paid 25 Euros for two sunbeds and an umbrella. Although pricey you also get the use of changing rooms and toilets.  There are normal public beaches to use too, but it was nice for a treat to hire sunbeds.  The water was so calm, clear and shallow, it was just bliss to paddle or swim in.  Lido Atlantis, slightly out-of-town was a bit cheaper than the ones in the centre and was another favourite.  The ocean on this side was a little rougher and there were lots of rock pool for exploring, plus a very nice bar for a beer on the beach.  The old town is fortified by huge walls and has plenty of italian charm, shops, bars and restaurants line cobbled streets and the small streets meander up to the cathedral and castle.  The cathedral is a must visit, dating back to 1088 it has stunning mosaics on the floor and beautiful art work inside.  The cathedral holds a shrine with bones of the 813 Otranto Martyrs encased in glass.  Another must visit is Grotta della Poesia, 30 minutes drive north from Otranto near Roca this natural pool has crystal clear waters.  A thrilling way to get in is to take the plunge and jump 15 feet into the sinkhole or if like me you don’t feel brave enough there are steps carved into the rock for easier access!  Arrive early to avoid the crowds and have this incredible blue plunge pool all to yourself.  There are lots of beach restaurants and lovely lidos to stop off at along this stretch of the coast too along with some gorgeous rocky outcrops perfect for a dip.
From the countryside to the coast, this trip was a perfect mix of the two. Exploring quaint Puglian towns and relaxing on a calm coastline meant we had the best of both worlds.  If you are planning a trip to this part of Italy you will love Puglia!

 

Flying with a baby…

The time has come to take Emily our four month old on her first proper adventure. We are off to Italy tomorrow to the Puglia region for two weeks of sunshine, exploring and hopefully a little relaxation too. This will be our first time flying with her and although I’m not feeling anxious about it, it definitely isn’t as easy as just packing a suitcase for two, jumping in the car and then relaxing on the aircraft with a G&T and Lonely Planet guide! (Hopefully there might be a little of this as we are going with Emily’s grandparents so I’m sure they are looking forward to some quality Emily time on the aircraft and beyond!) Anyway I’ve been doing quite a bit of research about flying with a baby in the build up to our trip and have found all sorts of useful info and tips, which I thought I would share…
Here’s my Baby travel checklist:
  • Pre order baby formula to Boots stores airside in UK airports and pick it up after security. It is possible to take baby milk and food through airport security, although you maybe asked to open and taste it. You can of course take baby food and liquids but having not gone through airport security with a baby before I’m unsure how strict they are so this would be an easier option. When ordering on the Boots website you can pre-pay and choose the collection date.
  • For steralising bottles, dummies etc, I’ve just discovered these genius Steriliser bags, wash up your bits and bobs, fill the bag with 60ml of water and pop it in the microwave. There are also the Milton solo travel steriliser that doesn’t require a microwave. Just add water and one quarter of a Milton sterilising tablet to complete the process.
  • For a long time I’ve been looking for a small, lightweight stroller to travel with. I came across the Mothercare XSS Stroller and then discovered that it was no longer available to purchase due to Mothercare closing down. The original price was £129, which I was fully prepared to pay but after scouring the Internet for weeks in search of it I eventually found one on eBay. I was so pleased to have got it for £50. This stroller is brilliant, it only weighs 3.9kg, comes with a carry bag and folds up so small that it can be put into an overhead locker on an aircraft!
  • Many airlines will allow passengers with infants to check-in a car seat, buggy, travel cot or push chair at no extra charge, this takes the strain off wondering how you will pack all these extras. We are flying with easyJet to Italy, they allow two baby items for free, anything extra can be purchased as hold luggage. Children over the age of two are allowed the same baggage allowance as adults. With an infant under two a small changing bag is allowed. We have chosen to take a car seat and out stroller, as I mentioned the stroller has its own bag but I’ve purchased a bag to protect the car seat in the hold.
  • Families are often given the opportunity to board the aircraft first, great for getting sorted out and settled in your seats. AND relax!  We have also paid for upfront seats with easyJet, which allows you to board first and also take on a handbag or rucksack as well as a wheelie case.  Perfect when travelling with children, who knew such a small person could need so many things!! Not to mention her wardrobe, I’m sure Emily has more clothes than me!
  • Instead of taking our bulky changing bag I bought a compact changing mat and organizer that’s small enough to carry in my own bag, a great little invention if you are limited on space.
  • I’ve packed toys, bottles and dummies in my hand baggage to keep Emily entertained in the air, having something to suck is a good idea for babies during descent to help them equalize the pressure in their ears.
Useful websites:
  • Travel Mamas – This is a fantastic website with so much on family travel.
  • Taylor Hearts Travel and The Travel Hack both have fantastic blogs on travelling with a baby in tow, I’ve found them so helpful when planning this trip, check them out!
The last trip Matt and I took was a ‘babymoon’ in Iceland when I was 6 months pregnant, it was an exciting adventure, northern lights spotting, glacier walking and hunting out incredible waterfalls, it was a great last trip before I got too pregnant to fly and a really different trip, plus our final trip away as a two. This trip is going to be completely different and I’m looking forward to making new memories with our mini adventurer in tow!

A foodie weekend in London…

With a wedding to attend in London last Saturday it only seemed right to spend a few nights there and do a bit of exploring. The ceremony was held at Islington Town Hall followed by a trip on an old London Bus to the reception at the London Canal Museum. I love a cool, quirky wedding! We stayed at a Travelodge right near Kings Cross station making it super easy to get about town. I miss the buzz of living in London, day and night something is always a going on, there are always places open and it is so easy to get around by catching the tube or jumping on a bus. We used Uber a lot too, which again was so easy, download the app, select your location and your destination, it lets you know how close a car is from you and gives you the driver’s name and car details.  Really great service and cheap too. I also love walking around London, using transport is great but you often don’t realise how close everything is and you get to discover so much more on foot…
So Sunday saw us head for brunch with friends in Islington. I lived in London for three years while I was studying at Roehampton University, more than ten years ago now…I feel old! But apart from Camden I never really explored this part of the city.  Islington is full of lovely London mews and narrow cobbled streets such as Islington High Street, full of antique shops, art galleries, vintage shops, coffee shops and restaurants. If you continue along to Camden Passage you will find the well-known Breakfast Club, so well-known that people will happily queue around the block for brunch! I really wanted to try it out but being a hungry monster we walked a couple of hundred yards further along and came across The Elk in the Woods. It was also very busy but with room on a shared table we snuck in. Wooden clad walls and vintage lights bulbs give this cool venue a Scandinavian feel. Brunch was delicious! Freshly squeezed juice, good coffee and avocado on toasted coriander rye with fried duck egg and char-grilled asparagus dippers, yum! Their produce is locally sourced too. With bellies full Matt and I decided to take a stroll along Regents Canal, it was pretty peaceful and nice to see a quieter part of central London. Colourful houseboats line the canal; we also came across a floating bookshop. Wandering past locks and under bridges was perfect.
Starting to feel peckish again we decided to walk to Shoreditch for more food! Shoreditch has a cool, gritty and edgy vibe going on, vintage shops, and buskers jamming under bridges. Boxpark is worth a visit, a shipping container pop up mall, it is full of cool eateries and market style shopping. Next was onto Old Spitalfields Market, this market is indoors and full of vintage fashion and funky products. I wanted to buy everything in sight, so Matt prised me away and upstairs to have a drink overlooking the market. Ethos does some great mocktails I had a tasty ginger and coconut concoction served in a handled jam jar. It was a nice place to sit and watch the world go by from our elevated position. Tired after all our exploring we headed back to our hotel for some quiet time and to get ready for dinner. Steak and Lobster was our chosen spot for the evening, as the name suggests the menu is as simple as it sounds! Steak or Lobster with unlimited fries and salad, there was also a veggie option too. I had grilled lobster, Matt went for steak. While the mains were delicious and the service started off really well, disappointingly at the point where Matt fancied a second round of fries and salad we struggled to get any attention from the staff and after requesting more they took so long to arrive Matt was pretty much finished which was a bit a shame. After all how long does it take to fry some extra potatoes and throw a bit of salad in a bowl? Especially when the menu advertised the ‘unlimited’ part so invitingly. Moaning aside we still enjoyed our meal and would look to give it a second chance. The final treat of the night was a sweet one; I was just saying how I’d love to find a dessert parlour when as if by magic we stumbled across Candys & Cream. Sundaes, waffles, pancakes, cookie dough and ice cream, yes! This was exactly what I wanted! We chose salted caramel and chocolate fudge brownie ice cream with white chocolate flakes, it was the perfect end to a tasty day!

A Shiny New Website…

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog over the last few months and that’s because a lot of developments have been going on behind the scenes.  I am very excited to share that I am the proud owner of a shiny new website.  The blog has had a massive makeover and a sparkly new logo to boot!
A massive thank you goes out to Andrew at Fix8 for my fantastic logo design, I am so happy with it.  Luggage tag, campervan, surfboard and planes, Andrew has captured perfectly the essence of my blog and incorporated it all into one gorgeous logo!    The Polaroid style pictures are editable so I can easily create a new feel as and when the mood takes me and I think they serve as great snapshots into my latest and most memorable travels.  Also a huge thanks to Jo at Starboard Media for all the work on my website to make it look just awesome and for hosting it too.
It should now be easier to navigate through the website with the categories along the top and a search bar at the bottom of the homepage.  My Instagram and Twitter feeds are in the footer so you can see instantly what I’ve been blurbing on about through my other social media channels!  I hope you like it and I’d love to hear your thoughts on my new look.
Now for a bit of shameless plugging…I would also doubly love it if you could pop over to Facebook and give my page: Nicola’s Travels a like, I have just set it up and it’s looking pretty sad at the moment as I don’t have an awful lot of likes yet!
I’m looking forward to sharing all my latest updates and adventures on here, if you fancy following along sign up by popping your email address into the subscribe box at the bottom of the page and check out my Instagram and Twitter pages for more updates and travel related posts….

 

 

Dessert at The Dorchester…

On 25th May 2015 I attended a fantastic wedding in London, the ceremony took place in Westminster followed by a beautiful reception at The Dorchester.  Guests were transported between venues on an old London bus and arrived to a glittering welcome of champagne and canapés.  I’d not been to London for a very long time and loved being back in this beautiful city.  Getting to visit The Dorchester was so exciting and definitely not an everyday occurrence, so I just had to share it!  The food was divine and was complemented with impeccable service.  The menu went something like this…To start: oven baked tomato puff pastry, herb oil and goats’ cheese.  The main: pressed shoulder of lamb, black olive jus, mashed potato.  Dessert: chocolate caramel tart, salted caramel ice cream and honeycomb….

 

 

A weekend in Poole, Dorset…

I squealed with excitement as we opened the door to our very plush room at Hotel du Vin in Poole, I was definitely not expecting a freestanding roll top bath in the middle of the room!  I had booked a night away for Matt’s birthday (last year I organised a surprise weekend away in a beach hut in Shaldon, read more on this here: Beach Hut Living) and I’m pretty certain this room was an upgrade from our original, what a lovely surprise.  Huge sash windows, a king size bed, chez long, a very smart coffee maker (which kept Matt happy for hours) not to mention the lovely Miller Harris toiletries.  I’m a sucker for hotel toiletries and Hotel du Vin did not disappoint in this department!  Along with the freestanding bath there was also a monsoon shower, which by the way was huge plus a separate bathroom.  It was a very luxurious room and I just had to have a G & T in the bath while I was getting ready for dinner…it just felt right!  Anyway, enough about the bath!  We booked a dinner, bed and breakfast package, which came with a three course set meal.  I booked our table at the same time as the room, I’m glad I did as the restaurant was very busy on the Saturday night that we ate there.
The service throughout the hotel was fantastic, including the restaurant.  I loved the extra touches like the Sommelier who recommended wine to go with our meal.  On that note, although wines weren’t cheap, we chose a very tasty New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; you’ve got to treat yourself once in a while!  I had a gorgeous starter of Bayonne ham, salmon for my main and tarte au citron for dessert.  It was all deliciously French!  Breakfast was equally delicious, freshly squeezed orange juice, toast on demand, a continental spread to help yourself to and a menu to order cooked from, including a full English, crepes and eggs Benedict.  I went for the full English and was not disappointed.
Hotel Du Vin is located in the old town; the waterfront is literally a two-minute stroll along a tiny street past lovely old buildings.  The shops, bars and restaurants are also all within walking distance.  I absolutely loved the interior of the Georgian style building.  The grand staircase, with a very cool chandelier made from wine glasses gave a boutique feel and the bistro and bar with its cosy snug area all made for a wonderful stay.  It is worth mentioning that the hotel has very limited parking, we parked in a multi storey car park a few minutes walk away which was fine.  The hotel charges £10 for parking on site or at one of the car parks they recommend, we just kept our ticket and reception validated it for us.  We wanted to stay on in Poole after checking out so the staff kindly validated the ticket later on in the afternoon which meant we didn’t have to pay any extra for parking.
Poole is a picture perfect seaside harbour town in Dorset.  Famous for its pottery, Sunseeker motor yachts and Sandbanks, one of the most expensive places to live in the world.  Eager to make the most of Matt’s sunny birthday weekend we arrived a few hours before check in to explore.  After a stroll along the quay and a browse in the shops we were in need of some birthday refreshments.  A cool looking bar called Drift caught our eye; I loved the quirky vibe Alex the owner had created with such a tiny space.  The micro bar has its own cider ‘Devil’s Drift’ created with the help of Bournemouth Brewing Company and tables made from surfboards; right up my street and the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon!
On Sunday after checking out we jumped on a boat trip around Brownsea Island, it cost £10 for a one hour round trip.  It is possible to get off on Brownsea but there is a £6.50 charge to go on the island, a nature reserve owned by the National Trust. (If you are a member of the National Trust entry is free.) Brownsea Island is 1.5 miles long, 0.75 miles wide and famous for being home to the red squirrel.  Poole harbour is the second largest in the world stretching along the coast for around 99 miles, the largest is Sydney harbour.  It was such a sunny day to be on the water and having never really explored Poole it was interesting to see it from a different angle.
If you are planning a trip in the UK, don’t miss this beautiful part of the world.  The Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is just on the doorstep too.  There is so much to explore in the area, especially if you love the outdoors…I will definitely be heading there again soon.

Filthy Fox Camping Product Review…

Ad: I was gifted the products by Filthy Fox in exchange for this review.
I love camping, so when the lovely people at Filthy Fox, a very cool company specialising in festival gear and camping equipment asked me to review some of their products I jumped at the chance.  With a trip down to Cornwall on the cards I thought it would be the perfect place for test driving some camping essentials.
Here’s what I thought…
Neon headlight
A head torch is a very useful bit of kit when camping, if there is no source of light then this is my number one go to. It has a trusty little clip so can be attached to almost anything.  There is also a strap to wear around your head, useful when you don’t want to hold it.  The headlight has three different settings: bright, slightly dimmer and an intermittent flashing ‘SOS’ option.  (Or if you are at a festival perhaps a disco light!)  It comes in yellow or pink and is very practical.
Dry shampoo
This is my trusty go to when on the road and even when not camping for that matter.  It is perfect for giving your hair an extra days cleanliness before you need to wash it, something that is not always easy when camping.  It is great if like me you have a fringe, spray it on, give your hair a rub and then brush it out and hey presto your hair looks instantly fresher.  It gets a big thumbs up from me.
Anti bacterial wipes
These are brilliant for feeling fresh and are useful in lots of different situations.  One is to avoid washing up!  Of course it should only be used as a temporary measure but a quick wipe over of plates and mugs is much easier than washing up in the rain in a muddy campsite!
Enamel camping mugs
I love the classic look of these mugs, I always drink copious amounts of hot drinks when I’m camping, as you can see from the photo an afternoon coffee to warm up and a scrummy Viennese Whirl worked very well in the campervan.
 
Camping chair
I absolutely adore these chairs, functional, pretty and very comfy!  Complete with a handy cup holder, they fold down and fit neatly into their own carry bag.  Light weight and very reasonably priced the ‘raindrop’ camping chair is a must when camping or at a festival.
 
Rechargeable festival radio
These days it’s all about playing music on your phone but there is nothing quite like a good old radio especially if you want to save battery life on your phone.  What’s more the radio is solar powered, so as long as it’s light you will have music.  But fear not, if the sun isn’t shining then there is also a wind up handle.  One minute of winding equals twenty minutes of radio time.  It is easy to pack and store due to its small size and the speaker has a great sound output.  I love this tiny radio!

017_Filthy Fox

 
Emergency charger
Preserving phone life is very important and plug sockets don’t tend to be easily available if you are in the middle of a field, so this emergency charger is an absolute genius.  Small and compact it is easy to carry and will bring your phone back to life when you need it.  Don’t forget to charge it before you go away though.  It comes with a USB lead so it can charge not just phones, but all sorts of other gadgets too.

From tents, to wellies, to waterless shampoo Filthy Fox have got all sorts of goodies.  With spring time just around the corner make sure you check them out for your next festival or camping trip.

An alternative day out in Orlando…

I had a trip with work to Orlando last week, with two nights there and a lovely crew we planned an alternative day out to the usual shopping and theme parks that Orlando is associated with.  Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than shopping in America and Universal is one of my favourite theme parks but once you’ve done them it’s so nice to see what else this part of the world has to offer.  So, we hired a car through Alamo and picked it up from the airport.  Collecting our paperwork we were shown in the direction of the parking lot and told to pick a car from the style we had chosen, the keys were already in the ignition of the cars so we made our choice and jumped in!
It might not be everybody’s cup of tea but we headed to Orlando Gun Club to have a go on a shooting range.  This is something I had not done before and it was actually a lot of fun.  We were a bit apprehensive at first but we were looked after and had some tuition to start us off.  We chose our guns; bullets and targets were shown the ropes and then left to have a go ourselves.  It cost around $30 each including tuition.
Our next stop was Kissimmee, I had heard a lot about the area but never visited it.  I have to say Kissimmee is a lot smaller and sleepier than I expected it to be; it was so nice to see a different area of Florida.  We stopped off at the historic downtown area walked a short distance to the lakefront park and had a drink at the 3 Sisters Speakeasy bar.
We finished the day off with dinner at the Cheesecake Factory it is my favourite place to eat in America, and you guessed it they serve a lot of delicious cheesecake!  I had a seared tuna salad with a glass of wine, a tasty and tactical move so that I could fit in dessert!
Next time I visit I would love to go surfing at Cocoa Beach and take an air boat ride through the Everglades, I still have so much of Florida to explore!
If you have any other recommendations on things I should do in Florida I would love to hear them…

 

All aboard the big green bus: Glamping in East Sussex

Posing outside the Big Green Bus
As I mentioned in last weeks post Gone Glamping I turned 30 on Thursday!  It was a four-day celebration including a meal out with friends and family and a pub lunch the following day.  The main event was a stay on The Big Green Bus with Matt and our lovely friends Sam and Graham.
The bus is parked in an idyllic location in private woodland in East Sussex, complete with decking, bench and a fire pit plus a wood fired hot tub.  We had planned to light it on my birthday evening and toast marshmallows but unfortunately it rained!  (Nevermind, after all this is the British weather in August…it can’t always be sunny!)  Reached via its own gated footpath it is very private.  Surrounded by peaceful countryside with lots of walks, a pub within strolling distance and Brighton a 20 minute train journey from the nearby town of Lewes, it was all we needed.  Gilly and Jed who own the glamping site have some lovely dogs, Mollie, Poppy and Katie.  All three popped by the bus to say hi every now and then.  The bus is currently relocating, check back for an update on its new location soon.
A lovely welcome of prosecco and chocolate brownies awaited us.  Matt and I instantly felt at home in this unique and quirky space, it had such a fantastic light and airy feel to it.  I excitedly skipped around the bus exploring every nook and cranny and fell in love with it!
The bus started its life in 1982 (which makes it older than me!) and is now owned by Adam who has lovingly restored and turned it into the most amazing glamping retreat.  You can follow the build from start to finish on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.  I found out about the bus from this Channel 4 TV series last year and loved the quirkiness of it.  I also stayed in the beach hut featured on Amazing Spaces in April for Matt’s birthday.  Read about it here: Beach Hut Living.  Adam has done an amazing job and kept a lot of the original fixtures and fittings, from the drivers cab, the old seat cushions re-upholstered in a lovely bright green, railings, a stop button, and lots of the original signs.  It was strange to think while having a shower or laying in bed about all the people this bus must have transported over its many years in service!
So let me give you a guided tour…The galley kitchen had everything we needed including an oven, fridge, sink and plenty of storage cupboards full of utensils, pots and pans.  The area at the front of the bus that would have been used to store luggage has been turned into a cupboard/pantry which was full of not only all the kitchen utensils and crockery you could ever need but also all the essentials like tea, coffee, sugar, oil, pasta and much more.
The lounge area came complete with a log burner, due to the unpredictability of the British weather as I have already mentioned, it rained on and off and was slightly chilly in the morning, so lighting it up first thing just took the edge off until the sun decided to show up.  The back seat gave a whole new meaning to sitting at the back of the bus and the window seat above was very comfy.  Adam has used some ingenious space-saving ideas such as a wooden cover on the back window, which also doubled up as the table with the legs stored behind the seats.  This gave extra room to relax in between meals and also being able to put the ‘table’ over the back window at night made it more private.  Behind the stairs sits a very neat wet-room and toilet with ample space to have a good shower.
My favourite area was upstairs at the front of the bus, this ironically was my favourite place to sit when I used to catch the bus to school.  Adam has kept two of the original seats and turned this part of the bus into a very comfy corner to relax in.  It was the perfect place to sit with a morning cuppa or evening drinks and gaze out across the field and surrounding woodland.  I also loved the little touches such as the union jack cushions, collection of books, and the set of draws with all sorts of board games in.  Following the corridor round led to two bedrooms big enough to fit double beds in and at the end some very spacious looking bunk beds.  I had two cosy nights sleep in the very comfy beds.  There was plenty of room for the four of us to leave our bags upstairs on the bus too.  I should also mention that the bus has electric and hot water.
I woke up on the morning of my birthday to blueberry pancakes and Sam gave me thirty presents to open!  We then drove to Lewes and caught the train to Brighton, had lunch at Plateau and walked on the pier.  After a few hours we made our way back to the bus where there were more surprises for me!  Cupcakes and champagne followed by an amazing dinner, I have wonderful friends as well as a wonderful husband!  After dinner we got the log burner going and played some board games.
We had a fantastic stay in a lovely peaceful location, everything about the bus was perfect, it was immaculately presented and had a lot of thought involved from the décor to the comfort of guests.  It was such a brilliant way to celebrate… turning 30 hasn’t been so bad after all, I think this has quite possibly been my best birthday yet!