My 2018 travel highlights…

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


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


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


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


October: New York, Lymington and a spa break in Winchester
On a quick 12 hours in New York I had brunch in Times Square, did a bit of shopping and visited Grand Central Terminal. I know it’s just a train station but it’s a pretty impressive one! I also discovered the Grand Central food market which I didn’t know existed. I love a local market and this one really impressed me, loads of cheese, fresh meat, coffee, some tasty looking cakes, you name it, it was there!
Grand Central Terminal, New York.
Grand Central Terminal, New York.
Back in the UK, Matt and I were very lucky to be the first people to stay in ‘The Snug‘ in Lymington. My lovely in-laws have refurbished a two bedroom town house at the top of the High Street in Lymington on the edge of the New Forest. It is a Grade II English Heritage listed building with a beautiful interior. From the open fire-place in the lounge and bedroom to the roll top bath and Belfast sink, it has bags of character and charm. I loved being able to walk down to the quay in Lymington and with the forest a short drive away it’s the perfect spot for a mini break. I’ve written all about it here: Unique Places to Stay in the UK…
I also spent two nights in Winchester on a spa break with my lovely Mum. We got a great deal through Spa Seekers and stayed at Norton Park. The package included three 25 minute spa treatments, use of the swimming pool and leisure facilities, breakfast and dinner for the stay and lunch on one day. Norton Park is set among 54 acres of Hampshire countryside, it was a beautiful spot for relaxing in and such a nice thing to do with my Mum.
November: Fort Lauderdale, Florida and East Sussex
I’ve been to Florida more times than I can remember with work. Orlando and Tampa pop up on my roster most months but normally only as night stop. I’ve never really had much time to explore apart from inside the shopping malls, so I was really excited when a layover in Fort Lauderdale appeared on my roster in November. I worked with a really lovely crew who were all up for going on an adventure. We chose to go on an air boat trip in the Everglades, although after booking it through at the hotel I realised it was the Everglades Holiday Park we were going to and not the Everglades National Park. I loved riding on an air boat, it was an exhilarating experience whizzing through the wetlands. We were lucky to spot three alligators which was a very cool. Although I enjoyed the experience I’m not sure I would recommend the holiday park, I usually research before I book a trip but on this occasion I only looked into it afterwards. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy buzzing about on the air boat but there were elements I did not enjoy. One was the ‘gator show, I knew this was part of the day so feel guilty that I contributed towards something that I didn’t feel was right. I may be getting myself into deep water by discussing things like this but I want to put my honest opinion out there to you all. I felt really sorry for the alligator who took part in the ‘show’, it clearly didn’t want to be there. I should explain that The Gator Boys who do the show rescue alligators that are found in residential areas, they would otherwise be ‘put down’. The whole thing just didn’t seem that respectful to me and their enclosure seemed pretty small. Perhaps I didn’t get the full picture on how these animals are cared for. Anyway I’m letting you know so you can make your own decision on visiting. Next time I would make a trip to the actual Everglades. Although I’ve moaned on a bit, I did really enjoy aspects of the day especially the air boat.
Back in the UK, Matt, Emily and I enjoyed the loveliest wintery break in Camber Sands. It was our first time exploring the East Sussex and Kent coast and we loved it. We played in the sand dunes on the beach at Camber, strolled the streets and ate cake in the beautiful old English town of Rye and visited Dungeness.
December: The Maldives and Mexico
My second to last trip of the year with work was a trip to the Maldives a few weeks before Christmas and oh my gosh what a trip it was. Two days on an island was absolute paradise. Snorkelling, sunbathing and stunning blue waters was such a treat! My beach bungalow had an outdoor shower which I totally fell in love with, showering while looking up at palm trees and blue skies was such a novelty. My last trip of the year is on New Years Eve, again with work, I’m off to Cancun in Mexico for two nights and will be taking Matt with me. It’s one of the perks of the job to be able to take someone with me. It doesn’t happen often so I’m really looking forward to having him with me while I’m working and I’m very excited to be in Mexico for the start of 2019.
What have been your highlights of the year? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below…
Happy New Year and happy travels for 2019!

Traverse 17 Travel Blogging Conference…

Last weekend I attended the Traverse travel blogging conference in London, held in a fantastic location at Ravensbourne next door to the O2 and sponsored by some big travel brands, Jet2holidays, Cheapflights and Cathay Pacific to name just a few.  The two-day event consisted of sessions, workshops and pro bars with an opportunity to book a one on one appointment with the speakers, plus plenty of networking with other bloggers and travel brands.  In between chatting to the various travel brands and tourist boards I also picked up some great freebies, who doesn’t love a freebie?!  I attended the first Traverse event back in 2013 and although I’d been before I was a little apprehensive about going alone.  I needn’t have been though, I Tweeted a few days before to find out who else was attending and got a ton of responses from others going alone.  From that Tweet I met and bumped into pretty much all the people I spoke to, it just goes to show the power of social media.  If you are going alone don’t be nervous get chatting to people online, you will meet plenty of new bloggers and everyone is so friendly.
There were so many interesting sessions and workshops I struggled to choose which ones to attend.  I finally settled on the ones below, click on the links to see the slides and presentation notes.  For the talks you can’t make, a good plan is to swap notes with other bloggers who attended different sessions.  The speakers will often provide their notes afterwards on their blog as well or keep an eye out on Twitter or Traverse Events.  This year the #Traverse17 hashtag has been used for all things Traverse related, so take a look for information and updates from the weekend and from those who attended.  It was also used to order booze during the closing panel, a genius tradition that has been going since the first conference!
Sessions I attended:
PR yourself and your blog – How to stand out through content and connections – Susan Schwartz and Alexandra Delf
How to gain followers on Instagram without loosing yourself – Nicola Easterby
Work with Spain – Brand session
Money making game changers – Monica Stott
SEO – what you need to know in an increasingly visual world – Adrian Land
How to successfully pitch to editors – Lauretta Wright and Tania O’Donnell
How to work with brands and negotiate – Kylie Bawden
How to create successful professional partnerships based on the written word – Abi King
How to be prepared when pitching to an airline – Kerwin McKenzie
The other thing I should mention is that Traverse isn’t just about sessions and workshops, the social side is absolutely awesome!  The opening party was held at Altitude London’s Skyloft bar in partnership with Jet2holidays, stunning views of the city accompanied by complimentary alcohol and canapés made for a fantastic first evening.  Saturday night was hosted by City Cruises and sponsored by Cheapflights.  We boarded our boat for the evening at Greenwich Pier and cruised all the way along the Thames passing plenty of famous landmarks such as the Tower of London, London Eye and the highlight was passing under London Bridge.  The sparkling wine was flowing and the evening was a pretty magical one!  Finishing off at Westminster it was time for one last sneaky drink at St Stephen’s Tavern opposite the Houses of Parliament before bed.  Sunday’s conference was rounded off with a closing panel and party at Iberica in Canary Wharf for more drinks and food.  Lunch was also provided over the two days, so you definitely won’t go hungry!
What to wear:
This was a big question mark for me, I couldn’t decide between smart or casual, boots or flip-flops, I’m so indecisive! I struggled with my packing especially as the Saturday conference was followed by the boat trip, what would I wear?!  I eventually settled on a smart casual look and definitely packed more than I needed for the weekend!  From trainers to heels and dresses to jeans, the answer is dress how you feel comfortable as everyone certainly did at the event.
What to take:
I wasn’t sure if I should take my laptop to make notes on, in the end I opted for good old-fashioned pen and paper, which gave me the perfect excuse to buy a new notebook.  Take business cards with you and hand them out at every opportunity, especially when chatting to the travel brands, you never know where it could lead.  I took a copy of the timetable with the weekends talks on too so I could keep an eye on the different sessions going on and work out what to attend.
What I’ve learnt:
I learnt so much from the weekend but the main things I have taken away with me include the fact that your blog needs to have a niche.  It’s not enough to simply say you are a travel and lifestyle blogger you need to delve further! So my niche is: I’m travel and lifestyle blogger with a passion for road trips, surfing and outdoor adventures; as a first time Mum family travel is a focus too. There we go, I now have a niche…or a few!  Being yourself goes along way too and putting personality into your blog will make it a more interesting and personal read.  Less is more: this is definitely something I am taking on board when writing, don’t ramble just get to the point!
I met so many lovely people, it was great to talk travel with fellow travel bloggers and brands.  Shout out to Kerry from 9 – 5 Girl Escapes for the selfies and to Nicole from Lost In This Whole World, Claire from Saltwater, Gemma fromLittle Miss Gem Travels and Neil the Barefoot Backpacker. #Traverse18 is being held in Rotterdam and I’m looking forward to it already!  Huge thanks to Paul and Michael from Traverse Events for putting together another awesome conference!
If you are new to blogging and attending travel events for the first time fight those nerves and just go for it.  Learn, network, but most of all don’t forget to have fun, I certainly did!


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.



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!


Exploring the trulli town of Alberobello, Italy…

One of the highlights of my trip to Italy was a visit to Alberobello in Puglia, easily reached in around one hour from both Bari and Brindisi.  This region is well-known for its trulli buildings, which can be spotted throughout the countryside.  Dating back to the 14th century these dome-shaped buildings are constructed from dry stone masonry and a conical roof.  They were often used as out buildings or dwellings and were designed to be dismantled and moved for tax avoidance purposes.  In the pretty town of Alberobello 1500 trulli cover the hillside and are such a unique sight. Alberobello is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, trulli can be seen throughout the Valle d’Itria but this is the most to be found in one area. I loved exploring the quaint streets and couldn’t stop taking photos of this beautiful town. A viewpoint opposite the town was a fantastic place to capture images of tiny trullo rooftops, head for Piazza del Popolo to find it, look out for viewing areas on the trulli rooftops too. A lot of the trulli in Alberobello are residential, while in the more touristy parts they are wine bars, souvenirs shops and restaurants. The most photographed street has to be Monte Pertica Street, the trullo houses there have symbols painted on the cones these symbols are supposedly of religious or mystical connotations. I also loved looking up, the tips of the trulli and the blue skies made for picture perfect photos. Although busy it was easy to escape the crowds, arrive early to avoid the coach tours and be sure to stop off for an iced coffee, such a refreshing way to cool off from the midday sun!
For more on what to see and do in the Puglia region head to my post: How to spend two weeks in Puglia, Italy…

Exploring Iceland’s South Coast…

I visited Iceland in January and was a blown away by this beautiful place!  My favourite experience by far was visiting the south coast, I went on an organised trip but it is also easy to hire a car.  Although I chose not to do this as with limited daylight hours in the winter months (when I was there sunrise was at 11am and sunset 4pm) and having heard how bad the weather can get I thought I would leave the driving up to the experts!  If you do choose to hire a car a 4×4 is a must, there is also a great app: 112 Iceland.  Punch in your location and it can be used to help track your whereabouts in case of an emergency.  It can also be used to make emergency calls, a very nifty app.
I booked my tour through Sterna Travel; we had an excellent tour guide who was really informative.  He had so much knowledge of Iceland as well as telling us about local myths and giving us snippets of what it was like to grow up in this incredible country.  I never really thought that group tours were my thing but I actually really enjoyed this one, there was plenty of time at each location to go off and do your own thing and it also included a few other stops I wasn’t expecting.
If you are planning your own south coast adventure here are a few must-sees:


This very hard to pronounce word is the name of the volcano that erupted in 2010 cancelling over 1000,000 flights worldwide.  There is a farm right at the base of this incredible giant and a lay by to stop in for photo opportunities.  I was so excited to see Eyjafjallajökull, this was one of the unexpected stops on the trip that I mentioned.  It felt quite surreal to be so close to the volcano that caused so much trouble all over the world.  I had been on a nightstop at work in Orlando at the time.  What should have been just a 24 hour stopover turned into a six-day trip, it felt quite strange at the time not knowing how long I would be stuck there for.  There was apparently up to 30cm of ash on the ground and it was so dark during the eruption you couldn’t see your hands in front of your face!  It was hard to imagine all this on the beautiful morning that we were there.


Eyjafallajokull volcano



Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls, it has a 200ft drop and legend has it that there is buried treasure in the cave behind, unfortunately it was too cold that day for me to find out!  With temperatures of around -7°c taking a glove off to take photos meant an instantly frozen hand, although this waterfall was too beautiful to miss a photo opportunity.  The icicles formed around it were incredible too.



Reynisfjara beach
A trip to the south coast would not be complete without stopping at a black sand beach. Volcanic activity has created striking basalt stacks, known as Reynisdrangar.  The stacks along with the black sand give this beach its uniqueness and make it a striking place for photos.  Cape Dyrhólaey, a short drive from the beach is definitely worth the steep drive up to the view-point.  From the top of the peninsula there are incredible panoramic views, ocean in front and a huge arch cut out in the rocks, looking back towards Reynisfjara and the basalt stacks, glacier and mountains behind and then more beach in the opposite direction.  In the summer puffins nest in the cliff face too.



Sólheimajökull glacier
I flew over glaciers in a helicopter in New Zealand which was breathtaking, so being able to walk right up to one in Iceland was incredible.  We stopped at Sólheimajökull, an outlet of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.  I would loved to have gone on a glacier hike but being six months pregnant at the time I unfortunately wasn’t able to do this.  To just walk around the base of it was amazing, it is constantly moving and you could hear strange cracks and creaks from this.  The colours and edges of the ice were like nothing else I have seen before.



The pretty town of Vik is the most southerly village in Iceland, it is tiny and very picturesque so worth a stop if you get the chance.  There is accommodation in Vik, if you are looking to stay somewhere other than Reykjavík then this is a great area to be based, right on the coast by the black sand beaches, and all the beautiful southern waterfalls.


Crashed plane
If I had rented a car I would have loved to have gone looking for the famous ruins of a crashed DC 3 aircraft on a beach near Vik. I have read mixed opinions as to whether the plane is easy to find but there is plenty of information online of its whereabouts. TripAdvisor has a list of things to do and see on the south coast, the plane being one of them and there is lots of information on there of how to find the aircraft.


Seljalandsfoss waterfall
This well-known waterfall is a beauty, in warmer months you can walk right behind it, but being so cold the day I was there the staircase that leads behind the falls was totally encased in ice making it too dangerous to attempt.  There are also two viewpoints, one climbs up high above the waterfall.  I would love to visit it again in the summer; I’d imagine the landscape looks completely different.
For more on my adventures in Iceland head to: What to do with four days in Iceland and Northern Lights photography tips.


Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Views from 37,000 ft

I’ve worked in the skies as cabin crew for British Airways for nearly ten years now, I love nothing more than peering out of the windows and taking photos of the ever-changing world below me.  This is something I never get bored of, it can be quite addictive!  I love checking the moving map on long haul flights to see where we are flying over or if I spot an interesting landscape on a short-haul flight I’ll give the flight crew a call to find out where we’re flying over, this is all in between working of course!  Yes I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to peering out of the window at 37,000ft and I can recognise the south coast pretty well now, keeping a look out for my hometown and giving it a wave has become a bit of a ritual!  Seeing other aircraft in the sky and spotting the London skyline from a distance is fun too.  The northern lights was particularly exciting to see en route to London from Calgary, unfortunately the images were very faint so I decided not to share them but to watch them dancing against the blackness of the sky was incredible. Seeing Kilimanjaro from the air left me awestruck and put into perspective how huge it really is.  The islands and atolls of the Maldives are stunning to fly over, I could watch the powder white sands and sparkling turquoise waters of paradise all day from an aircraft window.  I love a snowy, mountainous landscape so staring at the edge of Greenland and icebergs dotted in the water before endless ocean on the way to America was incredible. There is so much untouched beauty out there!  Catching a glimpse of The Pitons coming into St Lucia was also an exciting moment, I felt like I could reach out and touch them.  Cityscapes are pretty magical too, flying over New York at sunset and being able to make out Manhattan and Central Park so clearly is definitely another highlight.  The other thing I love about working in the sky is that it doesn’t matter how grey and rainy it is in the UK as soon as the aircraft climbs above the clouds it’s always bright and sunny.
Over the years I have collected a ton images from the sky which I’ve not yet shared, from New York to Kilimanjaro, Antigua to the Alps and Greenland to Portugal and not forgetting the good old homeland, the south coast of the UK.  These are a few of my favourite views of the beautiful world below me which I’ve captured from 37,000 ft and inspired me to write this blog….



My 2015 Travel Highlights…

Wow, 2015 has really flown by!  I’m pretty sure I said this about 2014 as well in last years round-up: Cheers 2014…you’ve been a good’un!  So much has happened this year, I thought it would be fun to look back and to share with you some exciting new developments for the coming year…


I started the year off with a surf trip in Barbados, the sun was shining and the surf was pumping.  I surfed at Freights and hired a board through Zed’s Surfing Adventures.  Check them out of you are planning a surf trip out there.  This trip was the first time I used my GoPro on a board and I was pretty stoked to have some half decent images and video content.  With the help of my lovely filmmaker husband Mattwe put together a short video of my surf session.
For more reading on my trip head to: Barbados: A Surfers Paradise



A winter break away with a our very good friends Sam and Graham has become a bit of a tradition, last February we spent a long weekend in the quaint fishing village of Port Isaac.  This year I found a cottage through Helpful Holidays in the tiny village of Golant set on the River Fowey in Cornwall.  ‘Island House’ had river views on three sides, underfloor heating and a log burner making it a very cosy cottage.  We were greeted with a bottle of wine and a cake on arrival and spent the weekend on blustery coastal walks and visits to local harbour towns.  This mostly involved eating scrummy treats and drinking lots of cider!  Our favourite place for lunch was Sam’s in Fowey.  Fowey is such a sweet little place, set on the river and full of lovely pubs, quirky shops and art galleries, definitely worth a visit if you are planning a trip to the west country.
My March highlight was a trip to Antigua, it was very nice to have a clear day down route to be my own boss.  Working as cabin crew I am lucky to get to explore different countries on an almost weekly basis.   With a house move on the cards and feeling a bit tired I spent the day relaxing on the beach, catching some rays and swimming in the warm Caribbean sea.  It was bliss!
It was Matt’s birthday in April so we decided to do something a bit special and booked a night away at Hotel Du Vin in Poole.  Our room was very plush, with a freestanding bath right in the middle and a massive queen sized bed.  It was a fab weekend and nice to spend some time away together.  We enjoyed exploring Poole harbour by boat and had a very tasty meal at the restaurant in the hotel.  For more on this luxurious weekend click here: A weekend in Poole.
I was invited to quite a few weddings last year, my favourite was a wedding in Westminster, London followed by a beautiful reception at the Dorchester.  It is one of the world’s most expensive hotels, I was very excited to be there!  The champagne reception was just perfect and the food was incredible, I particularly loved dessert, hence the name of my blog: Dessert at the Dorchester.
May also saw the start of one of many trips with work to Mauritius.  With a fabulous crew who all wanted to do something exciting, we chose to go swimming with dolphins which I wrote about earlier on in the year: Swimming with dolphins in Mauritius.  The crew had already excitedly discussed the plans on the flight over so I knew it was going to be a good trip.  Waking up early we set off for the southern end of the island to Black River.  Jumping in a boat and cruising out to the open water just as the sun was rising we slowed down and sat in silence watching and waiting for the dolphins to appear.  All of sudden the flat water changed as a pod of dolphins broke to the surface cruising right past the boat.  With that we were instructed to jump in and swim…such an awesome experience and what made it even better was knowing that these dolphins had appeared of their own accord, wild dolphins who could stay or go as they pleased.


Back to Mauritius and this time I went on an adventure to Black River Gorges National Park, I explored rainforests and waterfalls, marvelled at the Seven Coloured Earths, took photos of some epic views and got blessed by a Hindu priest at the sacred lake Grand Bassin.  Topped off with a curry in the evening and a spa treatment the following day, it was a fantastic adventure!
In contrast to Mauritius I had an afternoon to explore Edinburgh in June too, it was a sunny afternoon with a fresh chill in the air.  I took a stroll along the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle taking in all the gorgeous architecture and having a nosey in all the touristy type shops.  On my way back down I stopped in a cosy coffee shop for cake and tea.  I didn’t do all that much but sometimes it’s the simple things that you can take pleasure from and it was a lovely, leisurely afternoon.


July saw Matt and I off to France, two hours drive from Toulouse we stayed in a Gite in a little village called Loudet.  The week was spent exploring the surroundings and a drive over the border to Spain for Tapas.  We took a gondola in Louchon to a mountain resort, it was strange being up so high without snow!  Exploring gorgeous towns set along alpine rivers, fields of sunflowers and indulging in red wine and cheese, it was just perfect!


August is my birthday month and I always like to have something exciting planned!  This year we combined a trip to see family in California with an awesome road trip.  We hired a campervan from Wicked campers and went on an eight day adventure.  Starting off in Sequoia National Park we camped under the stars and saw black bears followed by a few nights on the coast near San Francisco and then continued to drive down south along the Big Sur.  It was an unforgettable birthday trip. 
After coming back from California we had withdrawal symptoms from camping and living outdoors, so we went off for a few days in our own van to Dorset.  With plenty of coastal walks and chilling by the campfire it made us reminisce about our recent American adventure.  It was really nice to have a few days away not so far from home…read more here: A weekend in the Purbecks.


I started studying for the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism a few years ago as a self – study course but struggled to complete it due to working full-time and undertaking freelance writing work at the same time.  In October I made the decision to pick it up again and so far am really enjoying it.  I really have to be strict with myself as it is a self-study course but hopefully this time next year I will be a qualified journalist!  I am studying with the College of Media and Publishing who are so helpful and really quick over email if I have any questions.


A hen weekend in Brighton was my November highlight, on the Saturday a ‘Beyonce’ style dance class, afternoon tea and a good old night out were the main events of the weekend.  Staying in a house in central Brighton meant we also got to do some exploring in this quirky seaside town.  We had lunch on the North Laine on the Sunday and believe it or not it was warm enough to sit outside, great for people watching!  The lanes have some very cool, unique shops so went spent some time browsing and window shopping before heading to the seafront just as the sun was setting for a ride on the Brighton Wheel.  We had beautiful panoramic views of the coastline, city and pier; it was a lovely way to end the weekend.


December saw the launch of my new website which you will be reading this on right now!  I’ve wanted a re-brand for a while and I’m so pleased with how it has turned out.  Andrew at Fix8 designed my logo, he’s done a cracking job at capturing just what my blog is all about. 



It has been an action packed year of travel but most importantly, I’m so excited to share with you all that Matt and I found out in August that we have a baby Dunkinson cooking!  We had our 20 week scan on 14th December and it looks all good and healthy.  We chose not to find out the sex and are so excited for our new arrival in April!  On that note we have a babymoon planned for January to Iceland!  I wanted to do that this year but haven’t quite managed to fit it in, so January 2016 seemed the perfect time to go away as our last trip abroad as a two…I’m looking forward to letting you know all about our adventures in Iceland and our adventures with a baby in tow!
What has been you favourite trip of 2015?  What are your travel plans for 2016?  Let me know in the comments below and I’d love to hear any tips and things to do in and around Reykjavík and Iceland…Happy New Year and see you all in 2016!


Baubles, tinsel and travel…

It’s the season for sparkle, fairy lights and tinsel; one thing I love to collect from trips abroad is Christmas decorations.  I don’t often purchase many souvenirs from trips, as I am sometimes limited on luggage space so Christmas decorations are great as they are usually small and easy to pack.  I love getting them back out year after year, each one holds a different travel memory for me and I’m looking forward to adding to my collection on future travels…


Sequin bauble
This decoration came from a recent trip to Brighton, a reminder of a weekend I spent there on a hen party.  I loved the star sequins in the transparent bauble, very Christmassy…


Santa shell
This little beauty came from Barbados, near to Christmas time there is a stall in the airport full of decorations inspired by the Caribbean.  Every time I pass through the airport I want to buy more and more.  I love that this shell decoration came from a hot climate where Christmas has a totally different feel to a cold Christmas in the UK.


Santa and gingerbread man
Both of these tree decorations came from Macy’s in Orlando.  I love visiting America at Christmas time as the decorations are so grand and you can really get into the Christmas spirit.  Macy’s always have a fantastic Christmas department and I couldn’t resist buying these for my own Christmas collection.


Christmas candle and tea light holders
This candle and holders were also bought in America.  I try to buy a new candle each year and put it away for the following Christmas, I sometimes forget that I’ve bought one so it is a nice surprise when I open my decoration box in December.  This candle is called ‘Twisted Peppermint’ it’s from Bath and Body Works and smells amazing!  The peppermint lingers in the air for a long time and adds a touch of Christmas sparkle to cosy evenings in.


Father Christmas Russian doll set
I came across these gorgeous Santa figures in a shop in Warsaw, Poland.  It was full of Russian dolls from floor to ceiling!  I had so much fun exploring the old quarter, drinking coffee outside in a square watching the world go by and strolling around the cobbled streets.


Snow Globe
I got this snow globe in Breckenridge, Colorado.  It is such a lovely place, snow, ski slopes and cosy coffee shops.  I would love to spend Christmas in Breckenridge one day, but until then I will have to make do with remembering it by give the snow globe a good shake!


Do you have any Christmas decorations from around the globe or any other interesting travel souvenirs?  Let me know in the comments below…
Merry Christmas!

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….



9 Things To Do On The Big Sur…

The Big Sur stretches roughly from Carmel to San Simeon along California’s stunning coastline for around 85 miles.  It doesn’t have an official start or finish, so I thought this quote from the Lonely Planet guide to California summed it up perfectly: “Big Sur is more of a state of mind than a place.”  I had read so much about this beautiful stretch of coastline along Highway 1 before I arrived in California but I didn’t expect it to be so cut off from the rest of California, it is literally one winding road with ocean on one side and rocky cliff overhangs or forest on the other.  There was pretty much no phone signal on the entire route either.  This is something I actually love when I’m away, that feeling of being totally cut off from the rest of the world for a short time to just be able to completely focus on new surroundings, take it all in and relax.

Matt and I drove Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles, I would really recommend driving south along the Big Sur with the ocean on the right hand side.  All the lay-bys and viewpoints are on this side of the road so it makes it a lot easier to pull over and pull out again when it is busy.
There is so much to see and do on this part of the Pacific Coast Highway, it could be done in one day but the road is pretty small and slow with sharp corners at times.  Plus with plenty of viewpoints along the way you definitely don’t want to rush.  We stopped for the night at a campground, it really added to the experience.
Here are my 9 favourite things to do…


1. See elephant seals
Point Piedras Blancas is the place to stop to see an elephant seal rookery.  Elephant seals can spend up to 10 months at sea and are able to dive an incredible depth of 1000 – 3000 ft.  Males can grow up to 16ft in length and weigh as much as 2300kg.  These magnificent creatures are huge and very noisy!  Watch males tussling in the water for rights over females while the rest snooze and laze around on the sand.  Grunting, snorting and belching are to name just a few of the strange noises that can be heard coming from the beach!  For more information check out:


2. Have a glass of wine at Nepenthe
This lovely little spot has two options for eating and drinking, Nepenthe Restaurant or Café Kevah.  It is the perfect place or excuse to have a rest on your drive with an afternoon beverage and a chance to take in those stunning views.  Both eateries are situated high up with gorgeous views of the rugged coastline and Pacific Ocean.  Matt and I chose to visit the restaurant, as it was higher up, the only trouble was the sea mist had come in and through the fog we could see nothing!  Still, it was nice to stop off and have a glass of rosé.


3. Whale watch
There are plenty of opportunities to go on organised whale watching trips along the coastline, Monterey is a great place to book from.  We were lucky enough to spot whales all along the Big Sur.  If you want to save some money pull into a viewpoint and just watch the horizon.  To see whales breaching is an incredible sight, or even just a slight peek of a tail slipping gracefully under the water.  Whale Watchers Café at Gorda Springs Resort was a marvellous place for breakfast on the road.  With ocean views from the café we ate a hearty breakfast and got to spot whales too.


4. Bixby Bridge
This bridge is a very famous landmark on the Big Sur. Built in 1932, it is one of the world’s tallest single span concrete bridges standing proud at 280 ft high.  Driving south there is a lay-by on the right hand side just before the bridge, although usually very busy with tourists it is definitely worth stopping to take a photo of this very impressive structure.  Whilst I loved this bridge there are others very similar along the route so stop at one of those for views without lots of other people around!


5. Go for a walk
There are so many great areas to walk along Highway One; Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was one of my favourites.  Rugged coastline with kelp forests home to sea lions and sea otters make for an exciting walk.  The park has mapped out trails with plenty of history, hike to Whalers Cove where a whalers cabin still stands and is now a museum.  As well as walking, buy a permit to snorkel or dive amongst the kelp beds, awesome marine life and underwater caves await.  If you are camping in a state park keep hold of your permit as this can be used to park for free in other parks and reserves.


6. Pitch a tent (or park up in a van)
One of the cheapest ways to stay overnight on the Big Sur is to camp.  We hired a campervan through Wicked Campers and loved having the freedom to explore and stop where we wanted.  We stayed overnight at Plaskett Creek campground, just over the road from Sand Dollar Beach. Cooking on a campfire and stargazing was a brilliant experience.  The campsite cost a total of $34, a bargain compared to the hotels along the route.  There are quite a few campgrounds along the Big Sur, my advise would be to book in advance during peak seasons as pitches at the more popular sites can get reserved very quickly.  Having said that a few of the campsites do offer a limited number of pitches to simply turn up and pay for on the day.  Take plenty of layers if camping, as it gets quite cold when the fog comes in.


7. McWay Falls
This iconic waterfall is definitely worth stopping for, found in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park this beauty is 80ft high and cascades onto the beach below.  Park up and follow the half-mile trail to the coast, you can also spot whales at this picture perfect spot.  I saw so many images of this iconic beauty before the trip and loved seeing it in real life.  Benches along the trail allow you to sit and take in the beautiful views.


8. Watch the sunrise at Sand Dollar Beach
What could be better than watching the sunrise over the ocean with fog hanging over the hills behind and not another soul in sight?  Waking up early in our camper we strolled over the road from Plaskett Creek campground and straight onto the bluff overlooking this crescent-shaped bay.  The waves looked iridescent in the low light and the stillness of the early morning was incredible.  I wish I had, had a surfboard with me as there were some great little peelers breaking out there!


9. The drive
The Big Sur is an iconic route, remember don’t rush the drive, take your time and enjoy!  The road can get busy at times and often people behind us wanted to drive faster, so we just pulled over and let them carry on.  Whether you experience it in the sunshine or the fog it is an epic journey and a blanket of fog hanging just above the coastline made for awesome photo opportunities.  Pull over at every opportunity and take in the scenery.  There were fresh fruit stalls at a lot of lay-bys; one day we bought avocados, blueberries and figs.  It was so nice to have a picnic with local produce and stunning views.  Mustangs seemed to be a popular choice of ride all along this stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, cruising with the roof down looked like a very cool experience.