Outings · travel

Day out in Brighton!

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We had a voucher for Christmas for something we didn’t want to do, so we exchanged it!

I chose a tour for the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, with a cream tea included.

So my boyfriend and I drove down, and spent an hour or two in there. I have been to Brighton plenty of times throughout my childhood and as an a adult but have never been to there or inside!

You get given a headset, which you click once inside each room, and then gives you information. It reminded me of a mini Buckingham Palace.

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The exterior has indian influences and the interior has Chinese influences. The palace was used as a pleasure palace for royals. So was essentially a getaway from London and other palaces! Some of them loved it, others hated it as too gaudy for them. its quite a big palace, bigger than I was expecting.

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It is now all been preserved, and some pieces are on loan from the Queen!

One of my favourite’s was in a bedroom, the bathroom door was disguised in the wall!

The cream tea you could have when you liked/preferred. We had in the middle of the tour as the tea room is in the middle of the tour! But you can have at the beginning or the end etc. Was the usual tea – scone with clotted cream and jam with a pot of tea.

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After our tour, we headed to Brighton Pier, I hadn’t walked along this in years! The wind and the salty air was so refreshing. Its such a cheesy place, but feels like a proper English tradition.

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I love being by the sea, living in a town, its always so nice to get away for a little bit. The sea always calms and relaxes me. I could watch it for hours!

We had a nice August day too, so the sun was out and we was in tshirts. We did some window shopping and browsed some of the smaller lanes.

I always find it mind boggling too, how much water there is on earth!

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What about you guys, what have you been up to? Do you love the sea?

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travel

Flashback Friday – Route 101 Road Trip, West Coast USA

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So this was the trip that kick started it all. Once I was back from this trip, I was hooked on travelling and holidays. I mean, I always was before – but this ignited some kind of fire!

This was one of my favourite holiday’s ever. It’s actually been 4 years next month that we did this amazing adventure.

Road trips and cruises are the way forward – you see so much!

We drove over 1000 miles, across 3 states and stayed in 7 hotels over 15 nights. We even got matching Route 101 signs tattooed during the trip!

I honestly don’t even know how it came about, one minute it was being discussed and joked about, then I got serious and started looking and planning!

I’m not going to lie, it was costly. The flights was about £750 each as we flew in and out of different airports. The car hire was also a big amount, they charge a flat non refundable fee of $300 just to drop the car off at a different state. That was on top of the car hire amount!

The hotels we stayed in, with the exception of one wasn’t too expensive or luxurious.

We flew into Seattle, and flew out of LAX. I did want to do the whole route of 101, but struggled to find a flight out of San Diego, so our trip ended in LA. I also booked all the hotels before we left, so I knew we always had a destination to put in the sat nav and a warm bed for the night.

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We did and saw and experienced too much for this one blog post, so I’m just going to stick to the highlights.

We stayed in Seattle 3 nights before moving on. We went to Pike Place Market, and went into the original Starbucks, (I bought a mug!), we went on the Seattle monorail and up the space needle. We walked all round the city and explored. It wasn’t my favourite place, and I probably wouldn’t go back here.

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We headed to a hotel on the coast for one night, still in the Washington State. We drove through the town where Kurt Cobain was from. After we drove to Oregon, we stayed at a few hotels along this state.

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I also ended up buying a jacket from Wal Mart as it was so chilly, windy and rainy! The weather was awful in parts, and we was driving metres from the water at some points. It really was scary, we missed a tree being blown down across a road by minutes.

We drove to and stayed in a cute little town called Seaside, and had a lunch in Tsunami café! There was signs everywhere pointing to safe sites, and with the weather the way it was – it was a bit worrying!

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We drove through the Red Forest, which was amazing. They are tallest trees in the world! We parked up the car, and got out to take photos. We didn’t see anyone else the whole time. We also stopped and paid to do the SkyTrail – which is a gondola ride through part of the forest. Its meant to offer amazing views, but sadly the weather stopped our views at the top! We also was now in California!

We stayed in a family run hotel where they put up a notice where people are from each evening, and we sat with a cool older couple who was doing a road trip on a motorbike.

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We then stayed 3 nights in San Francisco – I drove across the Golden Gate bridge! I felt a little let down by San fran, I know we didn’t have much time, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

The biggest disappointment  was at the time, there was polictical issues happening and all national parks was shut, this included Alcatraz! Which we had tickets for. So we swapped to a boat ride under the bridge, and around the Alcatraz island.

But we did ride a cable car, we went to Fisherman’s Wharf – saw the Seals (got the tattoo), had an ice cream at the original Ghiradelli’s and went to The Walt Disney Family Museum! I loved this place , and we spent a few hours one afternoon there. Any Walt / Disney fan should go see it.

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After San Francisco, I had a request to stay at The Madonna inn – I had wanted to for years since I read Belinda Jones book – The California Club.

Take a look at the rooms – each one is individual and themed! We stayed in one of the famous rock fall shower rooms – Bridal Falls. Its a very pink hotel – the exterior, all the finishing touches, even the sugar for your coffee!

http://www.madonnainn.com/features.php

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After our stay here, we headed further south in California, where we had 3 nights in Anaheim. That’s right we managed to squeeze in two days at Disneyland! I was desperate to see the newly opened Carsland, which fitted in perfectly with our road trip! I was not let down by that! Sheer genius and amazing Imagineering at work there.

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But the day before that we had a spare day in California with no plans. So an impromptu whale watching boat trip was booked up. And OH MY GOD we saw a blue whale! It was incredible, I got all choked up. Dolphins swam along and played with the boat. It was an amazing 2 hours. (I was also in t-shirt and shorts by this time in our trip!). Also later that night we had dinner at Medieval Times where our blue team won – woo!).

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I mean, just wow, there’s probably loads I’ve missed out, but honestly such an amazing eye opening experience. Being on the open road, not knowing what each day would bring.

I would LOVE to do another road trip again, and definitely different states. I loved the planning and researching, and when it all came together so well, I felt so proud of myself.

Have you ever taken a road trip? Would you want to?

 

Outings · travel

Flashback Friday – Cumbria, UK

 

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A few years ago, my boyfriend and I stayed in one of the most unique hotels ever! We stayed three nights.

It was a castle! A couple had bought, and then converted an actual castle. They then converted into a hotel, and also live there. It’s located in Cumbria, which for us is quite a drive, but I’m glad we went.

Each room is completely different, when we stayed – there was only 12. They have added some addition’s / changed a few more rooms since. We stayed in the Middlesmoor – which they describe as ‘ Elegantly decorated in blue & gold with a leaded bay window extending the entire width of the room. The bed is dated the same year as the castle was built. The bathroom is delicately decorated in blue & white with an original nineteenth century corner basin’.

What I truly loved about this place was the open door policy. On your room key, is also the front door key to the castle. So you can come and go as you please, and let yourself in. They also had a honesty bar (I had never heard of this until this stay!). They had a whole bar with a big selection of drinks, you go helpful yourself, then just write in the book left in there – your room number and what you had! That then gets added to your bill, no miniatures here!

There was rooms – Drawing Room, Great Hall, Dining Room, Music Room and Library all over the castle in which you could explore, and just chill out in. The family also had their own dog and cat which roamed the castle.

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The food was lovely, we pre-booked a dinner one night, which is held with the rest of the guests in the dining hall and the breakfast was so good! So many different option’s.

Whilst we was in that area of UK, we drove to the Lake District, had an afternoon there – had an afternoon tea, went out on a boat ride, bought some fudge (one of my favourite’s is clotted cream fudge!).

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We also visited The World of Beatrix Potter attraction. That was a little cute hour!

 

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But the main attraction for me, was the Castle. I really loved it, and even though we stayed over four years ago, I still talk about it! They also offer afternoon tea and weddings now!

Sadly I don’t have many photos!

Highly recommended, here is the website link to have a nosey! http://stayinacastle.com/

 

 

 

Outings · travel

Flashback Friday – Hampshire, United Kingdom (Forest Holidays)

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A few weeks ago, my fiancé and I, his brother and girlfriend hired a cabin at Forest Holidays. we chose the Blackwood Forest location, as that is the nearest one to us. I have previously stayed here, and also been to another site.

It had been booked for a good few months as they go quick! We did the three night stay – Friday to Monday. You can also do the Monday to Friday, or week long stays etc.

It really is such a lovely cabin, there are spacious, we had a 2 bedroom one which also has two bathrooms, space for two cars and the hot tub!

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There is decking out the back with a table, and a rack for disposable BBQ’s. You have a TV, on which you can add a internet package – which would then include wifi and sky movies.

There was 62 cabins at this site, but it doesn’t feel like it! They are all spread out and you have your own space. They encourage you go to for walks, there is lots of activities you can book, and there is also dog friendly cabins.

At the centre is the Forest Retreat – which is reception, a restaurant, bar and shop! This has tables inside and out, and is open all day.

Whilst we there, I organised a trip to the Bombay Sapphire Gin distillery, as we had booked with Forest Holidays, we actually got a discount on our ticket! This was a nice few hours out. It was quite a big site, and is actually one of the only distillery’s to win a BREAM award. You are given a map which has a chip in – this is then interactive with points all round where you listen to a spoken recording. You go inside the botanical gardens. A fun part was the Aroma card room – you smell lots of ingredients, whole punch a card and from that, it gives you an idea of what gin cocktail to choose at the end!

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I chose the orange and black peppercorn twist. Yum!

During the weekend, we ate lots (we did a foodshop before), drank and just relaxed. We chilled in the hot tub during the day and the evening.  There is scrabble and jenga left in the cabin for your use. we also went to the Forest retreat on the Sunday afternoon, and sat in the sun with a cider.

It was just a nice chilled out weekend, I highly recommend Forest Holidays if you ever wish to have a cabin getaway in the UK! They do have smaller cabins available for just two people, and there is also a treehouse with a cabin for up to twelve people!

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travel

Flashback Friday – Montreal & Toronto, Canada

 

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So late last year (about Mid October) we flew to Montreal in Canada. We was looking at another European break, but I found some crazy cheap flights to Canada, so we went with that option!

We stayed three nights in Montreal. On the first day we wondered all round the old town (which is by far the prettiest). We also went through all the underground malls, as the winters get so bad there, there is basically underground towns which are connected all over. To save people braving the weather up top!

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We also tried Poutine for the first time that evening (not one of my favourite’s!). We also visited the Botanical Gardens, where at the time the Gardens of Light was on. Was really pretty with all the light up animals and displays, but it was chilly!

The next day we took an Uber to Mont Royal – a massive park with a cool look out point. For the rest of the day, again just grabbed a lunch and took in more of the city. We had a very early start the next morning, so had an early night!

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We got a train from Montreal to Toronto, I think it took about four and half hours, also because it was the earliest one, it was the cheapest option! We was going to stay in Toronto four nights before flying home from there.

 

We dropped our cases off as the room wasn’t ready and walked into the city. We saw lots of people wearing Blue Jays tops, so went to a Starbucks for some free wifi! There my fiancé found out a game was being played that night, and the stadium was a ten minute walk away! So he booked tickets! We didn’t realise until we was there, how big of a deal the game was! So we went to our first baseball game in Canada – we both did enjoy it, but such a long game!

The next day was another early start as we had a tour booked to go to Niagara Falls! Another bucket list item! The driver was really good and informative, gave us loads of interesting facts about Canada during the drive.

It was chilly that day, but you were given a poncho to wear, as the wind made the water go everywhere! The boat ride was about twenty minutes and takes you right up to the falls. You can’t believe how powerful it is! The noise and the spray, was a really cool experience. After the boat ride, you had a free hour and a half, so everyone had lunch.

We was then driven to this cute town called Niagara on the Lake, it’s been used in films and tvs. And you cant have a chain shop / restaurant there (but we did see a Starbucks so I’m not sure how it got through!). It was just just such a nice place, we went into a lovely café/coffee shop and I had a Maple tea. The last stop was a Canadian winery, where you were given samples of ice wine (yuk!) and the opportunity to buy some. This part really wasn’t needed on the tour, and at this point I just wanted to lie down and rest!

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The next day we had a lie in and relaxing morning, then we walked all the way back into town again to go up the CN tower. On most of our trips, we go to the towers/view points etc, and I think this was one of the worst!

As we was in the same area, we also went to the Steamwhistle brewery. A little tour and a beer included. It had a lovely wedding venue, that had over a two year waiting list for a Saturday!

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The next day, was our last full day. We visited the Distillery District – it was pretty with old building and cobblestones etc, but it was very small! We then walked to the famous food market – St Lawrence. It was huge! Stupidly, we didn’t get anything to eat or try here!

We also walked through the Yonge-Dundas Square – which is Toronto’s version of Times Square. We also had a quick walk through of the mall there. Since it was the last day, and we had already done so much in one week, we headed back to the hotel, watched a film and packed!

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I did like Canada, but I don’t think it was the parts I wanted to see. They were both busy built up areas, so was almost two city breaks. We both agreed we wanted to see more rural and country sides. But most of that seemed to be on the Western side – which then knocks flight prices up. I also was disappointed with the lack of maple flavoured things – I thought there would be loads!!

Has anyone ever visited Canada, where did you go? Did you like it? I  know this year is a big year for Canada, as its their 150th birthday!

 

Outings · travel

Flashback Friday – Oxford, United Kingdom

 

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Last year a friend treated me to a two night UK break. It was a special birthday for me (the big 30!), and so she had booked it as a present.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE hotels! This one was amazing – it was a converted prison! Well it was a castle, into a prison, into a hotel!

I took way too many photos of the room, as you can see! But all the little details was amazing – the carpet, the drawers, even the keepsake toiletries was amusing. (Forgot to take photo sadly). There was several different room options. We stayed in the main block, we think they had knocked down three cells and made one room.

 

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It really was a unique hotel, very boutique and also quiet! We went on a Thursday and Friday last June. The lobby was pretty, there was restaurants and bars.

You could also wonder round the grounds, and see more of the history and castle. On the bottom floor, was even a replica of an old cell room! There was also restaurants and bars right in the shadow of the hotel. Highly recommend the wine bar just out the front – 1855 Oxford.

The location was great, right in the middle of the city. We walked everywhere. Whilst we was there we visited the Ashmolean Museum, had a pub lunch along the river,  lots of nice food, went into the one of the smallest pubs and also managed to go on a punting boat! We hired one just for half hour, with one guy doing the punting. It’s cliché and touristy – but we enjoyed it! It was surprisingly calming and relaxing, but we wasn’t there in high season.

 

 

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I know I love holidays abroad, and I’m addicted to looking and planning future trips. But sometimes to break the year up, its nice to explore other parts of our country! Oxford was pretty, and felt very historic with all the university’s over town.

But the hotel was just amazing, a real find on my friends behalf! Even if you could stay one night, it’s well worth it! Look up Malmaison Oxford.

 

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travel

Flashback Friday – Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

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A few years ago, my fiancé and I went to Amsterdam for three nights. We had so many people that had already visited and wanted to see the city for ourselves.

One of the best parts was the short flight, from London Gatwick – it was 45 minutes!     We stayed in a hotel a little on the edge of the city, and chose a basement room for a cheaper price.

The first day we walked, and walked. Just all over the town, taking it all in. Its a very picturesque place with the towering town houses and endless canals. Plus I have never seen so many bikes in one place – everyone owns one!

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I wasn’t too keen on the food there, I know it would have been us as well – but felt like a lot of fast food restaurants and not many independent cute places.

On one of the days, we visited the Heineken Experience, a good brewery experience – but they don’t brew there anymore, so its more of a tour.

On the same day, we also took a boat ride on the canals over a lot of the city, was nice to see the views from a different prospective, and a few interesting facts on the recorded audio guide.

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We did visit the Red light district of an evening too – everyone does – its the tourist thing to do! Felt very surreal to see – just lots of girls in their windows and you just walk past!

On one of the other days, I had pre booked a tour – it was a half day. the tour was to see Zaanse Schans windmills and a traditional clog maker, and then to Volendam – a little village where you also saw cheese making. The time on the tour, you was transported by bus (with commentary) and also for a small part – a boat.

 

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We visited a working windmill – we actually went inside and the owner let us walk all around. The whole village was very pretty and smelled amazing, as there was a nearby chocolate factory!

Out of all the city breaks I have taken the last few years, Amsterdam is a place I wouldn’t return to. I just think there is too much hype, and there is other new places to explore. Of course, most people are shocked when I say this – but hey everyone has their own favourite’s!