Bali, Cornwall & California, my 2017 travel roundup…

I’m writing this from a campervan in California overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I’m working with the lovely folks at Jucy campers and spending some time with Matt and Emily exploring a small part of the west coast of America.  2017 has been an exciting year for me in terms of blogging and travel.  I’ve collaborated with some awesome travel brands and taken on some new freelance clients.  I have also returned to my day job as a flight attendant after being on maternity leave.  Emily was born in 2016 and has become our mini travel buddy, she’s been away with Matt and I on a few trips and has already racked up quite a lot of airmiles in her 20 months of being on this planet.  From Cornwall to Bali she is lucky to have experienced some beautiful parts of the world so far.  Read on for my round-up of 2017 and travel plans for 2018….


January:  Cheddar, Somerset
Matt surprised me on Christmas day with a trip to Cheddar in Somerset for New Years Eve.  We stayed in a tiny chocolate box cottage with an open fire and lots of old worldy character.  Three days of exploring Cheddar including a trip to the famous gorge and caves, long scenic walks and a cosy evening in by fire the with a bottle of Champagne on New Years Eve made it the perfect way to see in 2017.  Read more on my Cheddar adventure here: A lovely long weekend in Cheddar, Somerset.


March: France
In March, Matt, Emily and I went to France with our lovely friends Sam and Graham and Emily’s bestest baby buddy Heidi.  We travelled by ferry from Portsmouth to Caen, I loved the ferry it made a nice change to flying.  Once in France we made our way to the gorgeous harbour town of Port en Bessin and stayed in a three-storey cottage right on the harbour front.  The 5 days saw us going on sunny strolls around the harbour and cliff tops and learning about the D-Day landings the beaches in this area are so famous for.  Eating fresh seafood from the local fish market, enjoying typical French breakfasts in traditional cafes and of course enjoying plenty of bread, wine and cheese; a must do when in this part of the world!  This trip was quite different as working around Emily and Heidi’s nap times often saw us spending time apart from Sam and Graham as the girls’ snoozing patterns didn’t always happen at the same time…but we would always come together in the evenings for a gin and tonic just outside on the harbour wall with the baby monitor by our side and dinner and wine while watching the tide come in from the lounge window.  I loved waking up in the morning to the sounds of the sea, you could view it from pretty much all the rooms in the house.


May: London and Menorca
A trip to London for two nights for the Traverse travel blogging conference was awesome.  I was a little nervous about attending by myself, although I needn’t have worried as I met some lovely people and had an amazing two days at the event.  I learnt so much and even got some work from it.  After pitching an idea to the Spanish tourist board I also got invited on a week-long press trip to Menorca, pretty exciting stuff!
A couple of weeks after Traverse, I attended a seven-day press trip in Menorca with a group of bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers.  It was organised by Traverse Events, the Spanish tourist board and Jet2 Holidays, I had the best week.  There was a one day conference with some really interesting sessions and workshops focussing on a whole range of skills from SEO to using a drone.  There were activities and evening events running all week with the opportunity to explore the island.  One of my favourites was a kayaking trip, we paddled along picture perfect coastline and explored caves, which was pretty cool.  The evening events were wonderful too, from tapas at a vineyard to drinks in a cave at sunset overlooking the ocean.  I had such a blast and met so many interesting people, some of which I’m still in contact with, it’s so nice to have friends in the blogging world!


June: Beach time and returning to work
June involved lots of sunny beach time and my maternity leave coming to an end.  I really loved being on maternity leave, getting to spend so much time with Emily and Matt and being able to go on some fantastic trips.  I was petrified of returning to my day job as a flight attendant but knowing I was going back on a part-time basis made it feel a little bit easier to handle and by the end of the 8 day training course I was ready to return to the skies!


July: Jersey, New York and Cornwall
My first flying roster consisted of a New York and a Jersey nightstop along with some other shorthaul flights.  In New York I explored the West side of Manhattan, took a stroll along the High Line and visited Chelsea Market.  In Jersey there was just enough time for a walk along the seafront and dinner with the crew.
Matt, Emily and I also went on a mini road trip down to Cornwall for a few nights as Matt had some work in Newquay.  We enjoyed a couple of pub lunches, breakfast at Fistral Beach, a walk at Watergate Bay, a bit of shopping in the town and I got to surf at Fistral too.


August: New York and Midhurst, West Sussex
I went back to New York twice again in August, which was definitely not a hardship!  On one of the trips I went to see the views from Top of the Rock, the viewing platforms on top of the Rockefeller Center.  I went up years ago but couldn’t resist another visit.  I love the views of the Manhattan skyline and from the Rockefeller Center you can see Central Park, the Empire State Building and pretty much all of Manhattan including the One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty.  It’s such a breathtaking view.  I also explored Central Park with a lovely crew and visited Times Square.  It’s been hard getting used to leaving Emily when I go away, some days I feel really emotional about it.  It’s so nice to be able to see her on FaceTime, it makes me feel not so far away.  Its been great working with other parents too, to know I’m not the only one who struggles with my emotions sometimes!
It was my birthday in August and to celebrate Matt surprised me with a night away while Emily spent the night with hr grandparents.  We stayed at the Spread Eagle Hotel in Midhurst, it has the most gorgeous spa and pool area which we loved relaxing in.  We also enjoyed a G & T or two in the cosy bar area and dinner was just divine.  We finished off our very relaxing 24 hours with a crab salad and a glass of rose at Seven Fish, just so tasty.


August & September: Bali
At the end of September we flew out to Bali, via Kuala Lumpur, Matt and I were pretty apprehensive about flying with Emily.  Although we had already done a fair few flights with her, this was the first one with her as a toddler who loves nothing more than running around and exploring!  The flights were full of ups and downs but in general she was such a good girl, after a traumatic beginning to our flight home we did decide we wouldn’t be flying again with her until she was about ten!  Having reflected on it we made a pact that we would only do night flights in the hope that she would sleep for some of it!  Anyway, Bali was just beautiful, we stayed in a private villa with Matt’s parents In Sanur where we enjoyed leisurely mornings by the pool, afternoon strolls along the beach and cocktails while Emily snoozed or played in the sand.  We had a night glamping in Ubud at Sandat Glamping Resort and then a few nights in Canggu.  Seeing the rice terraces and temples was a great experience but I was surprised at just how touristy some of these sights were.  Bali is such a family friendly place so if you are thinking about an adventurous family trip away, I would definitely recommend Indonesia.  For more check out my blog post: Bali with a Baby.


October: MSC Cruises and Mallorca
I got an invite to attend #BlogCampOnBoard in October, a blogging event onboard a cruise ship, I of course accepted the invite and found myself climbing aboard the very impressive MSC Preziosa.  The day consisted of a tour of the ship, some interesting blogging sessions, lunch and a Q and A with the MD of MSC UK and Ireland and the marketing team.  I throughly enjoyed exploring the ship and made some lovely new blogging friends, everyone was so friendly and it was great to meet others from different blogging niches from cruising to food and parent bloggers onboard.


November: Mallorca and London
I jetted of to Mallorca for some winter sun in November as part of the Spanish and Balearic tourist boards #betterinwinter campaign.  The Balearic Islands are well-known to the British as summer holiday destinations but they are just as lovely in the winter.  There was sunshine everyday in Mallorca while I was there, it was definitely warm enough to sit on the beach.  I spent four days exploring this gorgeous island with four lovely Instagrammers.  We enjoyed tapas in some delightful locations, visited some stunning hotels, strolled around Mallorca’s capital Palma and took in glorious views of the city from the top of Palma Cathedral.  One of my favourite things was a trip to Flor de Sal where salt is produced.  It was such a different thing to do and standing next to 10ft salt mountains was a unique experience.  I loved strolling around the market in Santanyi, it was hard to believe it was November with all the sunshine we had.
I landed from Mallorca and headed straight to London for a few days of sightseeing and shopping with my Mum.  We checked in to the Premier Inn Hub Hotel on Brick Lane in East London.  Our cosy and compact room was perfect for our two night stay and I loved exploring this very cool part of London.  We had breakfast at Spitalfields market, shopped on Oxford Street and took in the views of the city from the Shard.  Earlier on in the year I won tickets at Traverse to visit the Shard, so Mum and I made the most of it by going up at sunset and enjoying the views with a few glasses of champagne.  We also had the best curry back on Brick Lane, if you find yourself in that part of London head to The Monsoon for Thali, so, so good.


December: California
As I mentioned in the first few lines, Matt, Emily and I are currently in America.  We are here to spend Christmas with family, it’s so strange to celebrate Christmas in the sunshine compared to the cold, frosty December days in the UK.  I’m not complaining though it’s a very nice change and I also love seeing how Americans embrace Christmas, people definitely decorate the outside of their houses in a much more exciting way than in the UK!  We have also spent ten days roadtripping along the west coast of California within a very cool Jucy campervan.  Its been slightly different to normal as it’s the first road trip we’ve done with Emily.  Picking up our van in San Francisco we travelled up to Point Reyes National Sea Shore, followed by a few nights in Monterey, Morro Bay, Carpinteria and now Carlsbad near San Diego.  More blog posts to come on our adventures soon…It’s safe to say 2017 has been an awesome year and finishing up with Christmas in California is a wonderful way to round it all up.
Travel plans for 2018 so far include a break away with friends to The forest of Dean in February and a family holiday with my parents in Menorca in June.  Matt and I are hoping to explore somewhere far-flung at some point in the year while Emily holidays with her Grandparents…thanks in advance Nana, Grandad, Nanny and Pops!


Walking the High Line in New York…

For something a little less touristy in New York head to the west village area of Manhattan and explore a whole different side to the Big Apple.  The High Line is an elevated disused freight train line meandering for 1.45 miles in between buildings, over roads and past quirky apartment blocks.  Gorgeous views of the Hudson River, Empire State Building and the Statute of Liberty can all be seen from this cool part of town.  From West 34th Street between 10th and 12th Avenues to Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District, this is a lovely little stroll and a fantastic way to see New York from another angle, it’s also free.  11 access points with lifts make the High Line wheelchair accessible and there are also toilets on the walk; something i’m always looking for when I’m in a city!  Benches and seating areas along the route, plus a sundeck, loungers and water feature between West 14th and 15th Streets make for the perfect spots to relax.  What’s more food vendors are dotted along the High Line along with water fountains so you can get some resfreshments, take in the surroundings and watch the world go by. There are some interesting sculptures and art installations along the way and some parts of the path feature the original railroad tracks.  Various parts of the walkway are unique to one anther, one of my favourite areas is the section known as Chelsea Thicket, covered in a dense woodland, you almost forget you are in the middle of Manhattan.  Pause to take photos at one of the many viewpoints of the bustling Manhattan streets below and capture the Empire State Building with wild flowers and butterflies in the foreground.  While on the west side take a bit of time to clamber back down to street level, this is such a gorgeous area to stroll around.  On 10th Avenue, Chelsea Market is a must, visit it from the High Line exit at either 14th or 16th Street.  Full of quirky hipster shops and stalls, local art and plenty of cool places to grab a bite to eat or drink, I love it!  If you fancy a naughty treat the milkshakes at Creamline are to die for!  You can also make it boozy if you wish!
 For more on what to do on the west side of Manhattan check out my blog: New York – Upper vs Lower Manhattan







New York – Upper vs Lower Manhattan

I love nothing more than visiting New York in the winter.  It’s a great city to visit in any season but there is something about it in the winter that is just so magical.  I love the Rockefeller Christmas tree, along with all the glitzy decorations and twinkley window displays that adorn Fifth Avenue.
On my most recent trip I arrived on New Years day, what a great way to start 2013!  Having visited a few times before I wanted to spend sometime exploring other parts of the city that I hadn’t visited yet.  So here are my recommendations on different areas to explore in this wonderful metropolis:
Upper West Side:  I stayed at a great boutique hotel called Hotel Belleclaire, only ten minutes walk from Central Park it’s a really nice area.  There are some great grocery stores; I am a total foodie so exploring local produce stores is right up my street.  West Side Market, just around the corner from the hotel and Fairway a short stroll away, were my favourites.  Both had great deli counters, a huge selection of cheeses and a brilliant variety of fresh fruits lined up outside.  Of course this isn’t necessarily what you will have come to New York for but as I’ve mentioned in past blogs I love immersing myself in local cultures and discovering what people eat in other parts of the world.
There are plenty of options for breakfast or brunch in this part of town, my favourite being Viand Café.  With a classical American diner feel this was my favourite spot for a big hearty American breakfast.  A great menu with all your typical American style breakfasts such as buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, waffles, eggs any style or for a healthier option, granola.  All reasonably priced I can’t think of any other way to start the day in this wonderful city.
A cool place for a drink or meal is the Amsterdam Ale House, it had a really nice atmosphere and pub feel and being British I felt right at home!  The food was superb and reasonably priced with interesting mains such as tuna and bison burgers on the menu, I would describe it as posh pub food and a definite winter warmer.
From our hotel it was easy to walk to Central Park and down to Fifth Avenue.  On the edge of the park on the West Side sits the American Museum of Natural History, its well worth a visit.  Once in Central Park stroll past the lake and the popular Loeb Boathouse restaurant, a nice café to stop off for a coffee and a warm up.
Lower West Side: Greenwich Village, found on the Lower West Side of Manhattan has got to be my new favourite area of New York City. With its trendy village feel, I don’t know why I didn’t visit sooner!  Greenwich is about a ten minute cab journey from Times Square. Being a small suburb it has a slightly quieter feel than the hustle and bustle of central Manhattan.  With lots of boutique shops it kept me occupied for quite sometime, even if it was just window shopping…
Bleecker Street is a perfect place to start exploring, first things first you must head to Magnolia Bakery, their cupcakes have to be the best I have ever tasted!  This popular bakery can get very busy, but don’t be put off by the queue the cupcakes are definitely worth it.
Blind Tiger Ale House (You will notice there is a theme with me here!) is a short walk from the bakery.  With a list of twenty-eight draught beers and a cosy open fire it is the perfect retreat from the cold.  The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable and will happily let you try the beer before you buy.  The rustic dark wood interior and old school cash register give this place a very homely feel.
The beers we tried on our two afternoon visits were: (These may have changed since my visit)
No 28 – Lagunitas Pilsner from California
No 23 – Original Sin Cider from New York (My favourite, I love Cider!)
No 20 – Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA from California
If you fancy a bite to go with your beverages the bar snacks were marvellous and perfect for sharing.  Coconut curry squash ($7) and Cajun Mac & Cheese ($7) were our favourites.
This is clearly a popular drinking establishment with locals and tourists alike. One afternoon I overheard a great conversation between an English couple and a local New Yorker discussing Scotland. The local pronounced Edinburgh in a very funny way, as you can imagine this caused a lot of laughter at the bar!
Murray’s Cheese Bar is also worth a visit, this is a restaurant with a twist, cheese being you guessed it at the centre of the menu, Brilliant!
Brooklyn Bridge: Brooklyn Bridge is on the Lower East Side and connects Manhattan to Brooklyn.  Built in 1883 it stretches for just over a mile across the East River.  It is a lovely scenic walk with views of Central Manhattan; you can see the Empire State and Chrysler Building to name just a few.  Look the opposite side and you can see the Statue of Liberty.  If you like taking photos you can get some cracking shots from here, and the bridge is magnificent.  Wrap up warm though as it is very chilly in the winter.  I was fascinated to see all the ‘love locks’ attached to various parts of the bridge and took a bit of time to look at the initials and messages engraved on them.
The Highline: Located on the west side in Chelsea, just above Greenwich Village sits the Highline, an old railway line that is now a public walkway. Raised above the busy streets, the Highline weaves in between buildings and has wonderful views of the Empire State Building and the River Hudson. Along the walkway there are some interesting art installations, food vendors and benches to sit and watch the world go by. Stop off at Chelsea market for quirky shops and cool restaurants. The milkshakes at Creamline are the best! For more head to my blog post all about it: Walking the Highline in New York…
I have to say there is no competition between the Upper and Lower Sides of Manhattan. Both have so much to offer, if I was going to choose I think my favourite is the Lower West Side.  With its small village feel and boutique shops I would definitely like to stay in this area on my next visit to ‘The Big Apple.’