29 December, 2017

Happy New Year when it comes!

As the sun sets on another year, let's start 2018 on a positive note. I don't know about you, but I can't quite believe how quickly this year has flown. I will remember 2017 as the year I travelled to many special places, making the most of celebrating a big birthday! It's been full of highs and lows, as every year seems to be but I have wonderful memories to look back on, and am very excited about the year ahead.

Have a wonderful Hogmanay when it comes, and I hope you have plenty of travel plans to look forward to in 2018. If you haven't quite got round to that yet, then watch this space for more travel inspiration in the weeks and months to come! 

Happy New Year, and all the best to you and yours for 2018 xx

22 December, 2017

Festive scenes

Well as this is my last blog post before Christmas, I thought today's photo should be a wonderful wintery scene. You can almost imagine the snow crunching underneath your feet!
I want to wish everyone who has taken the time to read my travel blog this year a wonderful festive season, and I hope you have a fantastic Christmas when it comes. 

Spend it with your loved ones; spoil the kids, and most importantly....have lots and lots of fun! 
Merry Christmas everyone xx

15 December, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Lapping it up in Lapland

As this is my last travel photo before the end of the year, I thought it was fitting to feature a snowy scene that Santa would be very happy with! Many of my friends and family have visited Lapland this year, and I don't blame them - it's a stunning place, and the perfect way to build up to Christmas!

It's not long now until Santa and his reindeer will be getting the sleigh ready to deliver all the presents, so I hope you've all been good boys and girls this year! Stay cosy everyone.

08 December, 2017

Bologna and its nicknames

Bologna has a reputation of being the cultural capital of Italy, but the city has a lot more to offer alongside its wonderful food. It also has three interesting nicknames - la dotta - the educated; la grassa - the fat, and la rossa - the red.

Founded in 1088, it's Europe's oldest university town - hence the first nickname - and thousands of students are drawn to the city for their student exchange programme. The university is famed for its medical school and the anatomical theatre can still be visited today!

The fat nickname is probably easier for you to work out! Some of the traditional recipes from this region include the famous ragu tagliatelle, and mortadella - a large pork sausage which is typical of the city. There is even a theme park (Fico Eataly World) dedicated to food, and with so many wonderful restaurants, it's no surprise that it's hard not to put on weight when visiting Bologna! One thing you must visit are the food markets - they're among the best in Italy. 

There are different explanations for the third nickname, La rossa. Guidebooks say it's because of the red roofs, but locals will proudly tell you it comes from the city's political tendencies. Bologna was considered the anti-facist capital during the second world war. It was at the heart of the resistance movement and a stronghold for Italy's Communist Party. If you visit the student district, there is superb street art, and you can still see anti-establishment graffiti. There is so much art, music and architecture to enjoy in Bologna, it's a great destination for a city break - just a warning.....you might want to go on a diet before you go! 

01 December, 2017

Flashback Friday: A stunning Spanish convent

Today I'm flashing back to one of my favourite places in Europe. La Fresnada is a little village in the heart of Spain's Matarraña region, and the best place to stay is in the stunning 17th century converted convent, El Convent. 

If you want to get away from it all, then the location of this convent is just perfect - it has a pool if you do just want to chill out, but you can also hire bikes from the hotel to discover the beautiful nearby towns. I can't recommend this place highly enough, so to read my original post, and find out more about the convent - click here.

24 November, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Street Art

What's the difference between street art and graffiti? I believe graffiti has a bad reputation because it can be seen as destructive and a form of vandalism. Street artists want people to be engaged by their work, and to have an emotional response to it. 

I took this photo when travelling in Portugal, and love how it seems to totally transform a building that has seen better days. Have you photographed street art on your travels? If so why not share it with me. I'd love to see it!

17 November, 2017

Sculptures & ice cream in Cheshire

In 1986 ice cream was made in a Cheshire farmhouse kitchen, and today over 200,000 now visit Snugbury's ice cream shop in Nantwich each year. One of the reasons people visit is because of the amazing sculptures in the nearby field.

For over 10 years, the ice cream company has teamed up with a friend to build these incredible sculptures which can be a real distraction when you drive along the A51! 

2016 marked 150 years since the birth of Beatrix Potter, one of the world's best loved children's authors. To mark the occasion, who better to dedicate this years straw sculpture to than Peter Rabbit. He's 38 feet tall, and the carrot and his ears are both 10 feet!

Peter is a great excuse to visit, and before you wander over to see him - pick up an ice cream at the shop! I can highly recommend honeycomb and mint choc chip!

10 November, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: Santiago, Chile

For years, Santiago has been thought of by many as a place to catch a connecting flight to somewhere else, but there's much more to Chile's capital city than that. It was founded in 1541 by the Spanish, and is home to 40 per cent of Chileans.

There are plenty of things to see in the city, and the hub of it all is Plaza de Armas. The cathedral is in this square, and admission is free. If you love history, then the national history museum is worth a visit and if you're into dancing, then don't miss the live salsa shows!

As you can see by the photo below, Santiago is surrounded by mountains - the Andes to the east, and the Chilean Coastal Rage to the west, which makes it one of the world's most spectacular cities. You shouldn't miss the view from Cerro San Cristobal. It also has a wonderful climate, with almost no rain between October and May.

As I previously mentioned Santiago is a real travel hub, so this could be the perfect place from which to start your adventures, then discover more of Chile. There's so much to discover in this country - the Atacama Desert; stunning salt lakes, 36 national parks; and the wine tourism scene has also developed in a big way - something for everyone I'd say!

03 November, 2017

Get in the Christmas spirit!

I know, I know, it's only November, but I wanted to give those living in the North West of England a little heads up about an event taking place soon that will get you in the mood for food....and Christmas! For the very first time, Foodies Festival kicks off the festive season at Tatton Park on the 17-19th of November. 

If you're a food fan, you'll love picking up top tips from MasterChef winners and top local chefs who'll be cooking up their festive favourites in the Chef's Theatre. If you've got a sweet tooth, then what better than to watch Great British Bake Off winners and top patisserie chefs baking up treats in the Cakes and Desserts Theatre.

The festive season wouldn't be the same without a drinkypoo (or two!), and you can get merry with Craft Beer, Wine and Champagne masterclasses in the Drinks theatre, or enjoy a tipple at Gin Alley! There will also be an artisan market at the festival, so you can get your Christmas shopping done too. 
I've been to several Foodies Festival events before, and they're great fun - and if you fancy it this time round, then get 30% off tickets using code FB30 at foodiesfestival.com

27 October, 2017

Flashback Friday: Spooky Chapel of Bones

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it was the perfect time to flashback to an eerie place to visit. If you're going to the Algarve, then head to Alcantarilha for a spooky experience in the 15th century chapel which dominates the village. 

If you want to find out more, then read my original post by clicking here.

20 October, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Somewhere over the rainbow

As the saying goes, you can't have a rainbow without a little rain! Don't you love it when clouds clear after a rainstorm and a beautiful rainbow appears? That happened to me on a recent trip - and I was lucky enough to capture it on camera.

Rainbows don't stay around for long, so I had to get my camera out quickly and snap away! Sadly I didn't find the pot of gold at the end of it, but rainbows always make me smile anyway, so it was a lovely moment. Have you ever managed to get a photo of something beautiful in nature? If so why not send it to me - details on my contact page.

13 October, 2017

The Roosevelt Island Tramway

New York can be an expensive place to visit, but there are plenty of things to do on a budget, and here is one you may not have heard of before. The Roosevelt Island Tramway is an aerial tramway that connects Roosevelt Island to the Upper East side of Manhattan and if you look closely at the photo below, you can see the tram approaching!   

This is a great thing for adults and kids alike. You get great views of the river and a totally different perspective of the streets from height. You can either have a wander round Roosevelt Island, or just right the tram over and straight back again. If you do that, you have to change trams at the other side. 

This is not an official attraction, but for visitors it is a fun thing to do. It is transportation for the locals, so you're best to avoid taking the tram in the morning and evening rush hour. 

If you keep your eyes peeled when crossing, you can spot the Empire State Building, and my own favourite in New York - the Chrysler Building - sightseeing from a different angle! 

So where do you catch the tram, and how much does it cost? Head to 2nd Avenue between 59th & 60th Street, and it's the same price as a subway ticket, so if you already have a subway pass, then use that and if feels like a free trip!

06 October, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: Fairytale castle in Scotland

Today I'm featuring one of the most iconic places in Scotland and one of the most visited attractions in the Scottish Highlands. Eilean Donan castle is on an island surrounded by majestic scenery, and I'm sure most of you have seen it before. So why would I feature it on my blog, which is all about going off the beaten track?

Well I decided to feature it, because you may not know about the possibility of staying in this stunning location. Not in the castle itself, but in Eilean Donan Cottage or Eilean Donan Apartments. Can you imagine waking up, and seeing this view first thing in the morning - simply stunning! If you want more information, click here. A very big thanks to Fiona Ritchie for the photo - what a great dramatic shot of one of the most beautiful places in the world!

29 September, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Nosey parkers!

I love a silly travel photo every now and then, and this one really tickles me! I was wandering around a beautiful area of Rome, with gorgeous gated houses when I spotted these two nosey parkers!

 They weren't barking, they were just sniffing around but they did make me chuckle. A travel photo with a difference - look up, look down, and keep your eyes peeled when travelling..you never know what you'll see!

22 September, 2017

The Colosseum: The best way to visit

I believe you can't go to Rome without visiting the Colosseum; and having visited earlier this year, I have some insider tips to help you plan your visit and make it the best it can be. For the first time in history you can take a tour of the underground level, and combine it with a trip to the highest third tier level, which is open for the first time since the 1970s.

This way, you get to learn about ancient Roman civilization, and you see it how the gladiators saw it, as you make your way through the tunnels where lions and tigers roared while the gladiators prepared to fight. 

As they're trying to protect the areas below ground; access is limited to one tour per slot, so rather than fighting the crowds you'll be with a maximum of 24 people. It is so unbelievably atmospheric down there, you can let your imagination run wild as your guide tells you about the history of the underground areas. When you're taken to the third tier, that is equally as mind blowing. The view from up there is sensational, and again, you'll be the only group there - just fabulous! 

I booked my tickets online (for the official website click here) and printed them off before going. That way, you avoid the queues, and are guaranteed entry with no hassle. The tickets give you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well, and can be used for one entrance to each of the three sites over two consecutive days.

If you've never seen it before, you'll soon realise that you can't get enough of the Colosseum, and I highly recommend going to see it at night - it's a lovely walk from the main areas of the city, and the perfect thing to do after dinner to help you walk off that big bowl of pasta!

16 September, 2017

Flashback Friday: San Sebastian

The Concha beach in San Sebastian stands right in the centre of the city, and is considered to be one of the best city beaches in Europe. On one side, you'll find the Urgull mountain, and on the other is the Igueldo mountain. The beach is huge, and a great place for a lovely coastline walk. If you're going to visit, you'll need a place to stay....and why not make it a glamorous one?

The Astoria 7 is full of proper Hollywood glamour - why? Well why click here to flashback to to see my original post to find out!

15 September, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: San Francisco

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, when around 100,000 young people flocked to the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco in 1967. An underground alternative youth culture had been brewing in America and Europe for several year but for that summer, the focus was San Francisco.

Many events have been planned to mark the occasion, but it's such a fantastic city you'll have plenty to discover even if you don't make it to those events. While anyone can find the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz, there are plenty of hidden gems to discover.

Sutro Baths is one of those hidden gems. Designed by self-made millionaire Adolph Sutro in 1894, this used to be the world's largest indoor swimming pool. During high tide, the ocean could fill the pools in just an hour! The pools closed during the Great Depression, but the structure still exists as ruins in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The ornate Victorian homes in San Fran will blow you away. They're painted in beautiful colours and are well worth a visit. There's no time like the present to take a Flower Power tour to find out more about the Summer of Love. If you visit, just make sure you wear a flower in your hair!

08 September, 2017

Flashback Friday: Sunny Seville

If you've never been to Seville, then what are you waiting for? You simply have to go! It's one of the most vibrant cities in the world, with so much to do you could easily spend two weeks there and not see everything. To help you plan any potential trip, I compiled a list of the top 3 things I like to do in the city. 

That's where I'm flashing back to today, so if you want to read my original post, then please click here.

01 September, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Turtles crossing

Regular readers of my blog will know I love taking photos of amusing road signs. On a recent trip to the Caribbean I saw one of the best signs I've ever seen. You've heard the one about the chicken crossing the road? Well what about the sea turtles?

If you've spotted an amusing road sign on your travels, why not get in touch and share it!

25 August, 2017

The cost of a day on the beach

Having spent most of the summer on the beach myself (yes, I'm a lucky girl!), I found some new research about the costs of beaches very interesting. TravelBird's Beach price index ranks over 300 beaches around the world on the cost of spending one day at each. 

After pricing five essentials (sun cream; water; beer; lunch, and an ice cream) they ranked them to give holidaymakers the information they may want before booking a holiday. The most affordable beaches in the world are in Vietnam, while the most expensive were found in Norway. 

The bit that interested me most about the research though, was the beaches in the UK. I sometimes feel for families who stay at home to holiday in the British Isles, but end up spending more money than if they'd gone out of the country to holiday. For instance, the research revealed that the UK's most expensive beach is Priory Bay on the Isle of Wight. 

Priory Bay, Isle of Wight
So where is the cheapest beach in the UK I hear you ask? It's Botany Bay in Kent. It's the northernmost of seven bays in Broadstairs, with safe swimming, and spectacular chalk cliffs and stacks. Not only is it beautiful, but it's relatively secluded too. 

Botany Bay, Kent
 For me, that seclusion can be the key to the perfect day at the beach. Some of the best beaches I've come across in the world are those that are hard to get to, and therefore more often that not, deserted. I often take a picnic with me, meaning costs are kept down anyway, and while it's nice to enjoy lunch at a beach bar, there's also something lovely about not moving from your spot on the beach and enjoying a little homemade snack!If you want to see the full list of beaches, then click here to see the research in full.

18 August, 2017

Friday's review: Don't be a tourist in Paris

I started my travel blog to bring some of the wonderful off the beaten track places I've discovered on my travels to other people, and I've recently found someone else who loves doing a similar thing! Vanessa Grail is a London girl who moved to Paris, and has written a book, 'Don't be a tourist in Paris'. The book gives readers some brilliant insider tips, and Vanessa shares her ideas of how to avoid the tourist traps and uncover the real Paris. Below are just a few of my favourite ideas from the book.

Old artist studio in Musée de Montmartre
 Montmartre is one of my favourite places to visit in Paris, but I had never heard of the Musée de Montmartre. It's inside the oldest building in the area and one of the old artists studios as been restored so you can imagine how it felt for the likes of Renoir to sit and paint in the French capital. 

Le Refuge de Fondues, restaurant 
So what about eating off the beaten track? Vanessa writes about Le Refuge des Fondues - a dining experience which involves drinking wine from a baby bottle. It's not just a gimmick - it's the owners way to avoid French tax on wine glasses!

The book doesn't just focus on the centre of Paris - and has several ideas for those of you who want to explore a little further afield. Less than an hour's drive from Paris, Barbizon is on the edge of the Fontainebleau Forest. If you're into art, then you'll be interested to know that this picturesque quaint French village is where Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir came as young Parisian art students in the 1800s. 

Port des Champs-Élysées on the banks of the Seine
Sometimes the best things in Paris are not the expensive touristy sights, but taking time to enjoy a bit of wine and cheese with a great view of the Eiffel Tower, as Vanessa did in the photo above!
I've visited Paris many times over the years, but this book has so many wonderful tips and ideas for places I've never heard of that I am already thinking about when I can head back to the French city again. Well done Vanessa - your book is a delight for those of us who want to find those hidden gems!

All images courtesy of Vanessa Grall, ‘Don’t Be A Tourist In Paris’, 2017

11 August, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: Charming Cefalù

I know plenty of people who love Italy with its stunning scenery and delicious food, but many of them have never ventured to Sicily, and that's the place I'm featuring on my blog today. Cefalù is a charming fishing town on the northern coast of Sicily, just a forty five minute drive from the island's capital, Palermo. 

It's set against a dramatic backdrop of craggy mountains, and is the perfect size to wander round for a week or two and not get bored. If you're looking for the glamour of the Amalfi Coast, then this might not be for you, as it's wonderfully rustic. However if you fancy a change from that glamour, which almost always comes at a cost, then I can't recommend Cefalù highly enough.

As well as having a fabulous beach (a great place to watch the fabulous sunsets); the town has lovely little winding medieval streets, a beautiful cathedral and some superb restaurants. The cathedral has some lovely little cafes around it and it's a great place to end your evening, sitting outside enjoying the last of the day's heat.

If you like all things Italy, but want to avoid the crowds, then give this wonderful little town a go - it's so good I've been twice, and can't wait to return one day!

04 August, 2017

Edinburgh - Get the festivities underway!

As a proud Edinburgher, it wouldn't be right to blog today without mentioning the fabulous festivals that get underway in Scotland's capital city. The Edinburgh International Festival celebrates its 70th birthday in 2017, and was founded to foster a "flowering of the human spirit" after the second world war.  I don't think anyone realised just how successful it would go on to become.

To mark the anniversary, this year's events are expected to be bigger and better than ever, with a grand opening party, and ending with the usual fireworks spectacular over the castle. It's not just the International Festival that runs this month, the hugely popular festival fringe is also on during August, as is the book festival.

While you need tickets for the main events, the city is awash with entertainment during August, and you can watch plenty of fantastic street acts running the length of the Royal Mile, and by the city's art galleries on The Mound. 
Top tip: Accommodation can be hugely expensive during August, so if you haven't already booked, consider staying on the outskirts, and travelling into the city each day. 

28 July, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: American attitude

I think New Yorkers would forgive me for saying they don't mess with their words - I mean that in the nicest possible way, and it's sometimes a refreshing attitude that they say what they mean rather than skirting around things as many British people do! This attitude even extends to their street signs. 

In the UK, it would probably say "No Parking"....but in New York, it's "Don't even think of parking here"! I love it!

21 July, 2017

Brexit making Brits more adventurous

It was perhaps inevitable that the UK's Brexit negotiations would have an impact on the way British people would change the way they travel. With so much uncertainty over how the talks will play out, and with the pound still weak, a new poll has revealed that more than half of Brits are looking to travel long-haul, rather than to European destinations.

A poll of 2000 Brits carried out by Holiday Hypermarket suggests that Brexit is encouraging Brits to be more adventurous in their choice of holiday destinations. Searches to destinations such as Goa and Phuket are up, while bookings to the Dominican Republic and Mexico have also seen an increase.

I am totally against Brexit and love being part of the EU, but perhaps the uncertain future is encouraging people to get out there and explore a little more when they go on their travels. Maybe it's one positive to take from a situation many Brits I know feel is a very depressing one!