Monthly Archives

February 2017

England Trips

A few ideas to have free or cheap days out with your family in the West Midlands


As soon as half-term kicks in, for many of us parents, the question of “where to go with the kids?” starts to be an issue.

That’s either because we haven’t planned anything yet or the budget is really tight.

During my few years spent in this country, I can tell you that the most expensive locations are not necessarily the best ones.

Let’s go with the free stuff!

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

I know many people born in Birmingham have never seen the Birmingham Museum&Art Gallery, situated in the heart of the city centre. It’s such a kid-friendly museum and full of interesting things. We’ve been so many times, especially in the cold days when you can’t really spend too much time outside. But the reason we visit often is that my son is really passionate about Ancient Egypt. This Museum has a wonderful  Egyptian collection to admire. It includes daily life items, pottery and as well as illustrations pf Egyptian gods, amulets and mummies that attitudes to death and the afterlife.

Discover Birmingham Museum

Having the children with you will make your visit a bit longer, as they love to stop at the interactive bits and the museum is abundant in them (different puzzles, a model village with buttons waiting to be pressed and many more).  So, I would say between 2 and 3 hours depending on the children’s age. If you want to keep them more engaged, try to put all you see in a story. It will make them curious to ask for more.egipt

For children under 5, they’ve created a kids section called the Mini Museum. The place is filled with storybooks, games and dress up. What more can you ask for?! Get them out of the house. If you don’t drive, the public transport fare is usually cheaper around school holidays. Or you can buy a network ticket allowing you to use the same ticket for train, bus or/and tram. Westmidlands tickets

No lunch? No problem.

If you haven’t brought lunch with you, do not worry! Birmingham city centre is the place for multicultural taste. You might want to go to Chinatown, just five minutes away from the city centre. There are so many restaurants and cafés offering authentic menus from Northern China all the way to Malaysia. The food is delicious and you can try the noodle bar or have a go at an “all you can eat” restaurant, they are usually very cheap around lunch time. It can vary from £7 to £10 for an adult and is usually half or even less for children. The good part is that if you have fussy children they can try it all until they find something they like. After that, let them go crazy with the ice cream machine as almost all of these places have one of these and they’re self-service…yummy.

Best Chinese Restaurants

No budget for restaurants?! Try one of the nicest fresh baguettes for less than a pound! Or a panini for about £2 pounds. Have a look at this link as it will give you more options and ideas. Where to eat New Street Birmingham

Birmingham Canals – Bigger than Venice

Your family had a wonderful day by now and there is still light outside. You don’t want to go home and neither do the kids. What else? What’s next? There are many choices, I’ll tell you a few so you can give it a go.

Nothing is better than a good walk( or a nap) after lunch. More so if you’re taking in the spectacular scenery, nature and history to be found along Birmingham canals. Don’t forget to get some seeds with you as children love feeding the birds.

Get your maps and start walking!


If walking is not your kind of activity but you love the beauty of the canals, try a water-bus. With a short route, you can keep your family excited. We enjoyed it so much, having a ride with Ariel. The maximum you would pay is £4 for the round trip or £1 per stop. Not bad, isn’t it?   Waterbus Ariel

Walking with the children by the canals makes your blood boil? I’ve been there. Every time my son was getting closer to the water, my heart was beating out of my chest. In that case, a visit to the library of Birmingham will make you feel safe and keep your family entertained at the same time.

Take a tour of the Library of Birmingham – Europe’s largest public library

From simply visiting this impressive building to many different activities, you can easily spend another few hours here. On certain days they organise a playgroup for toddlers. Children activities half term

I love their space dedicated to children and young people, so welcoming and full of life. It makes you grab a book, curl with your little one and travel into a fairy tale. The Library has been described by its architect Francine Houben as a ‘people’s palace’ and I find it to be true. It’s a good place for you and your children, to meet mates and join different activities.

Royal Air Force Museum Cosford – free entrance, just 30 min away from Birmingham

Placed next to an active airfield, this is the only place in the Midlands where you can get close to so many breathtaking aircraft for free. The museum site is vast and it is almost impossible to see everything in just one visit.  You can easily make a day out of it, no matter if you have boys or girls. So have a go and visit the hangars, we found it fascinating.

If your kids want to spend some of their pocket money and want to discover what it takes to be a pilot, they have a flight simulator and it cost about £10 for the whole family.  For more things to see do check below.

RAF Museum What’s on

Stratford-upon-Avon – the birthplace of William Shakespeare

Welcome to a market town with more than 800 years of history, situated on the River Avon. Stratford is the birthplace of the most famous writer in the English language, William Shakespeare. He is known for his sonnets and plays such as ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Hamlet’. I can’t figure out why but this town is having a particular charm, so quaint, it’s like romance floats in the air. I’ve visited so many times and every time it has left me with this sweet-bitter taste. I wonder if Shakespeare was inspired by the beauty of this town.


Get ready for a wonderful day in Stratford, because there is so much to see and do. I’m sure I’ll miss a lot of things and if so feel free to let me know! Anyway, I’ll do my best to showcase some of them.

The Holy Trinity 

Placed on the banks of the River Avon, which is probably England’s most visited parish church and home to the grave of William Shakespeare. Free entrance, they ask for a small donation when visiting Shakespeare’s grave. Holy Trinity Church

Henley Street

Famous for Shakespeare’s Birthplace (house) with a rich mix of gift shops, clothes shops and lifestyle shops, this street is a must for any shopper. I could spend hours here as I love looking at all those handcrafted items, from lavender to soap, toys, cakes to tea towels and all kinds of accessories. Once you are here please don’t miss The Nutcracker, a Christmas themed shop, open all year round. Nutcracker Christmas Shop


The Mechanical Art & Design Museum

You can find it on the same Henley Street and we thought it is quite cheap to get in. It’s around 20 pounds for the whole family.

If your child ever smashed a clock to see what’s inside and what makes it tick( pun intended), this is the place where you want to take them. MAD Museum

Stratford Canal Basin

Surrounded by beautiful riverside gardens, which are public open spaces to relax and enjoy. Walk around the canals or take a boat tour for less than £20 for a family. Winter or summer, this is a lovely place to stop for their famous ice cream and baguettes, have a picnic or maybe feed the birds. Canal Basin

Usually, late in spring, you can see Magnolia trees bloom. Making the view simply unforgettable.


The Butterfly Farm

Visiting this butterfly haven will be the cherry on top for the little ones and parents alike. Inside, they managed to simulate a tropical environment and hundreds of beautifully coloured butterflies will try to find a place to rest on your shoulders or your head! It’s quite random but lovely at the same time.

Visit Butterfly Farm

Awesome free playground for all ages – Climbing walls, ropes, zip wire, sandpit and more!

This playground has everything you and your children wish for. It’s next to a car park, so when the children get tired you’ll have them straight in the car. It has clean toilets with baby changing facilities. Also, if the weather allows they sell ice cream, drinks and coffee to keep you energized. I can’t stress enough, the playground is really well equipped. You’ll find sand pits and little plastic spades(my son loved it) and the best part is that it’s separated, toddlers from older children.

There are many more attractions in Stratford, worthy to visit but I hope I’ve made you a little bit curious to go and see for yourself. Also, if anyone has any other wonderful ideas about a day out in Stratford is welcomed to leave a comment with their suggestion.

Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses

As far as I know, these houses carved straight into the rock are unique in the UK. People lived here until the 1960s. The houses have been restored and they show a bit of what life was like in the Victorian era.

It’s free to get in for National Trust members, if you’re not a member it will be close to £13 for the whole family. The reason I like it so much as a day out is that ten minutes away(uphill) from the Rock Houses you can find the site of an impressive Iron Age Hill Fort. Up there you get spectacular views of the surrounding counties, and from there you can carry on the marked trails into the woodland down the lower slopes. It’s a wonderful place for picnics, to explore, take pictures and to tire down kids.


There are many other places around to go and see with the kids but not limited to. Considering the time of the year I find them to be great options.

Give them a try and let me know how it went. See you soon!


England Trips

Do you feel the need to escape too? Blakeney National Reserve


Have you ever felt like you don’t belong to this world? That time goes too fast?! That people are not who you thought they were? Have you ever woke up and had the feeling you want to run away, far from your worries, your troubles and your anguish?!
The only place, I believe, that is free of these is eternity. God promises us a place like that. But what do we do until then? Where do we escape?!

Norfolk does have it all

Norfolk County, the east side of England is abundant in unspoiled nature. Begging at every corner to be admired, asking for your attention. Sandy beaches, woodlands, beautiful houses and gardens, it’s up to you to decide.
As soon as you are getting closer to Fakenham, allow yourself to go in “relax mode”. Yes, you heard me, leave the hustle and bustle of the modern life behind and enjoy this gorgeous woodland area. This place is home to amazing wildlife. We were lucky enough to spot many a deer and these two baby deer having lunch along a stream. No matter where you look, there’s something to catch the corner of your eye. Many species of trees mixed all together makes the view even more surreal.
It’s not summer, still a bit chilly, so we haven’t stopped to explore this area like we wanted to.

It’s still that time of the year where the old, scruffy and jealous Mrs Winter argues with shy Miss Spring, trying to persuade her to cover her natural beauty.

Blakeney  National Nature Reserve

Therefore, we decided to visit Blakeney National Nature Reserve, to see the grey seals in their natural habitat.
We first stopped at Morston Quay, here we got our boat trip tickets from a very welcoming tourist point. They also serve coffee/tea and other refreshments here, which is nice.

From this gorgeous harbour, you can start adventurous coastal walks with your family.  Admire the vastness of the landscape and fall in love with this beautiful little place in our world. You definitely need some wellies, not necessarily for you but at least for the little ones. You don’t want to ruin their pleasure of jumping in puddles, left behind by the low tide.beach
The Beans Boat Trips, the ones we navigate with are really organised and very kind to reveal the story of Blakeney, proved to be an important port between the 15th-16th century. As we start our journey, we spot lots of different birds, this place being famous for having rare birds as it’s acting like a magnet. That’s why it wouldn’t be bad having some binoculars. It is also a heaven for people in love with photography. Blakeney Point Photos

Common and grey seals are living in these waters. Though they look quite clumsy on the sand, they are very good swimmers. Depending on the low or high tide, they got to move so they can reach deep water whenever it’s needed.

Isn’t it wonderful how pure nature makes you contemplate what life is about?

What are your favourite places to escape? What about your oasis of tranquility? I hope you enjoy travelling with me, even if it’s only through my articles.


As a little surprise for the fans of Homeland series, I’ve posted a picture with Damian Lewis. If you’re familiar with the show, it was actually Nicholas Brody who was in the boat with us today. I’m sorry, I was too shy to ask for a better photo so I kind of stole that photo from him. Besides that, he looked like he was enjoying some quality time with his beautiful family. It was nice to see him. He left me with a good impression being so modest and well,  normal. Well done Damian! Continue to be an example for other actors that go crazy after getting famous.


As I am looking forward to our new adventure, my mind is filled with silence. The silence of the wilderness.

Cuisine Recipes

Too much travelling?! Have a rest in the kitchen – duck breast fillets

duck breast

Travelling doesn’t enrich just children’s lives but also opens your mind to understanding different cultures. Many of the people I know, see travelling as something supposed to make you relax and give you comfort and rest.

Of course, there are such trips but what I aim to have with my family is the kind of travelling that’s making us a little bit tired and fills us with energy at the same time. And I say tired because there is so much to learn from travelling. From history, geography, biology, psychology to how to dress, what to eat and even learning a new language. I’ve read today about a Swedish study that demonstrates learning a new language increases the size of your brain. And the list of benefits you get when travelling is long indeed.

Let’s stop at the eating bit.

What’s on the menu today?

Because I know many of us struggle with the question: ” What should I cook today?” I promise to try posting more in this section.

Today I used my magic wand and transformed a somewhat posh dish into a family meal. It’s about cooking duck breast fillets. I know it’s often seen together with a sweet sauce like plum, cherry or orange sauce. It’s not bad at all but children usually don’t like this kind of combination. Do they?!
duck breast
So, how about duck breast with homemade fries and cornmeal bread? Maybe add some pickles too. Well, let’s start!

Prepare the meat…

All you have to do is to make sure you remove the fatty skin and put some nice spices on your meat. Make sure you don’t pierce the actual meat as it will lose all the juices and flavours when cooking. Spices can be just salt and black pepper. I’ve used them both plus thyme and paprika. Weird mix, isn’t it? I can’t help it… too many influences from everywhere I’ve been plus a Romanian heart beating so hard that the Latin blood is coming through.

If the meat is frozen make sure you defrost it first. It really makes the difference. If you want it to be tender, put the meat in the cold frying pan, no need to preheat. Reason being that the meat starts releasing fat slowly and gradually. Make sure you don’t add any other oil or fats. Cook the fillets until the skin is golden and crispy, this shouldn’t take more than 7-9 breast

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180°C and place the fillets inside for another 5-7 min depending on how you prefer it, medium/rare or well done. You might want to keep the fat left in the pan for your roasted potatoes.

Making your own chips will beat any famous brand ones.

Fries, everyone knows how to peel potatoes. Cut them as you wish, any shape will do. We like the Maris Piper potatoes but the Red ones are really good too.

Mămăligă – yummy

Now, cornmeal bread or how we call it “mămăligă”. Or, even Italians love it and they call it ” polenta “. Let’s make it clear… the recipe for “mămăligă” is not just for Romanians.

mamaligaAnd there are no ready meals or a ready-made version of it. You must make it yourself. So, make sure you got some corn flour in your house, if not you can find it in any big store that has an international food section. Attention, it’s not the corn flour you use to thicken up soups and sauces but a proper cornmeal flour. It should be the one with larger particles, don’t try with the fine ground one as it won’t work.

If you decide you want to try it but the sides don’t sound that good to your family… Don’t panic! Just add your personal touch. Use your imagination as it works easily with rice, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables, grilled mushrooms, red wine sauce and list goes on.

I wish you “Bon appétit!” as the French say and see you soon!


Enjoy more trips with less money

Money money money…

Everywhere you go, whatever you do, it’s all about the money. But today I want to challenge you and to make you see it is possible. Yes, it’s possible to enjoy more trips this year without breaking the bank. You don’t have to start making more money, instead just start to travel more and discover more with fewer expenses. It can be done!
We all spend money on something. Whether it is on clothes, gadgets or different treats. The point is, we do have some money. Now, it only matters how we use it to our advantage.

1. Memberships? Yes, please.

In the past few years, we have visited so many castles, historic houses and just some unbelievable places, just by having a membership.
We cannot recommend the National Trust and English Heritage enough. The monthly payment is between £8.75-£10.50 for the whole family. Considering that an average entrance fee is around £25-£30 for a family, you do the maths.

2. Get a picnic basket and go crazy!

I was told…”OK, OK, you get free entrance but you are a long way far from home. You must make a stop at a restaurant or a pub for food.”. No, not necessarily. If we’re on a tight budget, we won’t. Almost everywhere we have been so far, we have found a picnic area, outdoor or indoor.
You should consider getting a picnic basket. Very important, I suggest you buy some vacuum bottles and jars, good quality ones. We got Stanley and they save our meals on every trip. This Stanley bottle gave us 32 hours of hot water. That guarantees you tea and coffee throughout the day when you don’t have a kettle nearby. Also, you might want to pack some soup sachets or noodle pots. Having some powdered milk for young children, milkshake powder or any other instant stuff that you like to give them will help.

3. Make sure you pack enough clothes for the kids

Even if it’s a one day trip, bear this in mind. We’ve ended up having to buy all kinds of clothing because our little one got dirty or wet. Or even worse, one time we have left our waterproof coats, wellies and such at home. Double check you have everything you need before you leave. Make a list and revise it! That is the best way not to spend what you might have saved for tickets and other kinds of entertainment.

4. Have a last minute holiday

You get the chance to visit exotic places by looking out for last minute deals on sites like  . Every single travel agent has a list with late deals. So why not take your family somewhere nice and warm for less than £500, all inclusive?!

Also, many travel agents offer you the possibility to pay monthly when you book in advance. As a result, you don’t have to purchase your tickets outright, making it easier to buy.

We’ve done this a few times and for whoever is interested I can suggest you some agents that do work this way. It’s a real possibility for families that don’t have a hard time saving. If you think about it as just another bill that you have to pay, it can work.

And before you know it, the day to go on your holiday comes and you’ll get your reward instantly as you look at your excited, happy little family, ready for another adventure.

5. Use Skyscanner for cheap city breaks.

They search and compare prices on flights, hotels and car hire around the world. You might get a deal for an exciting weekend in Germany, Brussels or France and so many other beautiful cities. Flying with less than £50 per person gives you the possibility to go on such trips more often.

Of course, there is more to life than travelling but what better way to see the world and meet new people? Just open your eyes and discover the wonders God left on Earth for us. He want us to be happy and to enjoy His creation.

England Trips

A cold, magical view from the heart of Devon

I don’t want to write a technical post with “do’s and don’ts ” but instead to make you wonder what a family trip in different places on this beautiful Earth would look like. Let’s go to Devon people!

The inner beauty of Devon

There is so much to say about it but I will try to make a summary of it, though it’s very hard. Because it is still very cold outside I realised it is impossible to get you to see the bright sunny days of Devon. So instead I want to let you discover another side of Devon…the inside.

We have been so many times in this area, it’s a three-hour drive from our home. I remember the first time we’ve been there, it was on a very cold winters day (November) and it really was love at first sight. Of course, you want to get the best out of a trip to Devon. Therefore, I suggest you give yourself a long weekend or quite a few days instead of a one day trip.

A place to stay, please ?!…

There are many beautiful farms in the area, offering bed and breakfast. We had a very pleasant stay at Twitchen Farm. It’s a lovely bed and breakfast located in The Exmoor National Park. It is hosted by two lovely and friendly sisters Helen and Jaye.

They were really happy to help us with maps and to direct us on finding different footpaths available in the area. If you want to stay within your budget and if it isn’t raining, there are gorgeous footpaths along the Coast. The famous South West Coast Path and The Tarka Trail. Just let the farmers around know what you want to do and they’ll tell you where to go. The good part is that you won’t be charged for guidance (wink/wink). Breakfast is something that is worthy to mention. The reason being is that they use local and organic produce to make your breakfast. Almost everything on your plate has been carefully grown or reared in the village or nearby… my mouth is watering.

As a plus, children will be delighted to get closer to the animals around the farm, like dogs, sheep and horses.

Have a look at our pictures here.

A lovely Medieval Village

If you believe a walk on the coastline is not really a good idea for your family then welcome to Dunster!  You are stepping into a Medieval Village with well preserved historic buildings. Once you get here, make sure to try one of the loveliest cream teas I ever had. Warm, freshly baked scones, rich clotted cream and delicious tea, cheeseboard with homemade chutneys and local vegetables.

In Dunster, there is so much to do. You might want to visit the castle, The Dunster Castle. Try and see how much you can fit into one day from 1000 years of history. It has many stories to tell, for both children and adults. Also, they organize all kind of trails for children, all the time. That keeps them busy so you can enjoy the different collections inside.

Even if it’s a bit chilly, don’t miss the subtropical gardens. Especially this time of year, everything is ready to blossom. Also, visit the restored 18th-century working watermill located in the area of the River Gardens. We have even left with wholemeal flour made from organic grain, which is available to buy on your visit.

Devon Doll Museum

Regardless if you have girls or boys, your children will be excited to see one of the largest collections of dolls in the country. There are thousands of dolls from different eras and different cultures. I have even found some from Romania, which is my native country. The museum is on the High Street of Dunster, so it’s close by.


If your kids still have enough energy after that, get them in the car and take them on the award-winning beach, Woolacombe. The beach is known and recognized for the three-mile-long golden stretch, clear water and beautiful scenery. I found it to be very safe for children. I know, it’s somewhere between winter and springtime, still a bit cold. So we don’t yet use words like “swimming”. But children can have a lot of fun with a pair of binoculars and a magnifying glass, as the place is rich in wildlife. Let them explore! If they’re old enough, they can create their own journey, where they can draw or write about all the things they spot (animals, insects, plants).

Lynton – Lynmouth, inseparable and unique

Another stop on your journey has to be Lynton and Lynmouth. If you don’t like the countryside, you have plenty of classy places where you can stay here. At this time of the year, you might want to check which one of the Guest Houses are opened. As many of them close around this season and reopen in March – April. We enjoyed quality accommodation at Orchard House in Lynmouth. It’s managed by a lovely couple, genuine and friendly. I remember the lady was so kind to our son. So we can enjoy our breakfast after my son had his, the lady took him and played with him. Even gave him a gift, pencils and a colouring book, as we left. We had some beautiful moments there.

Lynton is quite a small village situated on the cliffs above Lynmouth. But, please don’t rush in Lynton & Lynmouth as you might miss a unique experience. In the heart of Exmoor National Park, the twin villages are far from industry and commerce. So, take time to look closer, for Lynton -Lynmouth boasts an impressive history. You get the chance to visit historic houses, to see the red deer and the wild Exmoor ponies.

Make the first step and start planning

Even if it’s hard to believe it sometimes, there are still beautiful places to discover and wonderful people to meet…just get out of the house, they’re waiting for you.

See you in the next post!