Browsing Category

Trips

England Trips

When is the best time to visit Cornwall?

alt=Readymoney cove

Cornwall again…I keep coming back to this place for countless reasons. We are at the end of April, when the weather is everything but summer. Still, a friend asked me: “Hey Andrea, when is the best time to visit Cornwall?”. I smile and so would you if you have lived long enough in England. This guy has only been to London a few times and he seems delighted by my Devon and Cornwall pictures. He obviously never experienced four seasons in one day before. You got to laugh as only now I understand why English people spend so much time talking about the weather. British weather is distinct and I’m tempted to say “unique”. And it’s not just me saying that. Being an island, positioned between the Atlantic Ocean and a large mass, continental Europe, says it all.


Back to our story ...Cornwall

I’d like to start by describing how our first day in the Cornish Land went. But not before mentioning that Cornwall is something you can explore for years and still be able to discover something new. If you ever imagined hundreds of sandy beaches, wild moorland, extremely beautiful coast paths and picturesque harbour villages, it’s not just a dream, it’s Cornwall.

Fowey…view from the ferry

Today after breakfast we decide to visit Fowey, a 20-minute drive from where we’re staying. Fowey is a small but busy port town. Its harbour is flanked by fourteenth-century blockhouses, one in Fowey and one on the opposite side of the river in Polruan. We park at the top of the hill before entering the town centre as access is limited. I know many of you absolutely hate walking but believe me, the proper way to discover this area of outstanding natural beauty is by foot. Besides, it’s cloudy and I love the unique combination of sea and clouds.

alt= Fowey view
on our way to the fort…

As soon as we leave the car park behind, I am fascinated by the charm of this little town. Its narrow and steep streets, pretty cottages, busy port buzzing with yachts and boats, well-maintained gardens, tea rooms, bistros and waterfront cafes serving their best local produce.

Best things to try: crab sandwiches, Fowey River mussels and the freshest catch of the day fish and chips.

Fowey Aquarium – Cornwall

simple as it is, no fancy advertising…

We have children in tow( as per usual, haha), not just our son but one of his friends too. That’s why we decide to pop into Fowey Aquarium, on the Town Quay. On the outside, it reminds me of my childhood, quite old fashioned and no trace of modern advertising. Keeping it old school!

petting a crab is an absolute delight…

A small aquarium, more suitable for younger children but it has something particular, something that gets even the silly adults involved. And that is why this little aquarium is worth a visit. Did I mention they have a petting pool? I never held a starfish before. There’s always a first, I guess.

star fish

The children loved it and so did we. As a bonus, it’s quite affordable if you consider the prices of other aquariums. I believe we have paid 10 pounds for the family. Barg alert!

St. Catherine’s Castle

practicing my climbing skills

Immediately after that, because it’s still the middle of the day when the energy level is at its highest, we are heading to a fort built by Henry VIII in the 1530s to defend Fowey Harbour. It’s called St Catherine’s Castle. It takes its name from the rocky headland on which it stands. To me, its position is the cherry on top. This artillery fort stays high above the entrance to the Fowey estuary. You get a spectacular view across the town and harbour. However, for history lovers there is quite a good read in Morley B, Henry VIII and the Development of Coastal Defence (HMSO, London, 1976).

The main highlight is that after it was kept in repair around the Tudor period it was later used in the Crimean War. During World War II, the fort was modified again to form part of a more extensive battery.

To me, it looks amazingly well preserved. Looking at it, you can tell where the gun ports are and also where the spiral staircase used to be.

I love it because kids are fascinated about the Medieval period, for the gorgeous views across the town and even for the workout to get there (20 min walk from the Town Quay through steep narrow streets). Not to mention it’s free entry.

A short break in Cornwall

Here we are, going back to the harbour, to recharge our batteries in a little cosy café, chatting with other friendly tourists and tasting the local specialties.

The LifeBuoy Cafe

After stuffing our mouths with crab sandwiches, we go back on the Quay. Here we take one of their local ferries. There’s one every 10 – 15 minutes. It is a short ride (less than 10 minutes), it is used as part of the local transport and it only costs 2 pounds. Therefore, if you have toddlers that can’t be too long on a boat, this is the perfect experience.

our ferry ride

The reason behind taking the ferry is that we want to see what it’s like across the harbour from Fowey. Adventure awaits!

Polruan

captured by beauty

We soon find out that this village, called Polruan, is an ancient shipbuilding community. It has such an interesting history but I fall in love with their narrow streets and the beautiful silence.

Polruan

And you can visit Polruan Blockhouse, a roofless ruin that has been stabilised and the best part, it’s free entry. You can see the remains of the stairs and where the gunports used to be. Great place to hang around for another hour or so.

This is just a small fragment from our trip to Cornwall. In order to clarify with my friend about when is the best time to visit Cornwall… I can loudly say it’s anytime you have time. In other words, it’s when you aren’t rushing when, you’re able to stop and notice the little details. When you can afford to make your way through the coastal paths to find a hidden beach.

That is the best time to visit Cornwall.

See you in my next adventure!

Trips

The traditions of Zakynthos

Winter is here but on some days my thoughts embark on a direct flight to Zakynthos…its people and their traditions.

Many of you have asked me what I got from visiting Zakynthos. My heart melts when I realise these hardworking people never cease to care about their traditions and their culture. From olive mills, bee-keepers, weaving and sewing rugs, winemakers and fishermen, they all continue to tell a story, which started centuries ago on this island.

Poseidon’s profile

Therefore, when you go to Zakynthos, try to get closer to know them and their occupations. The Zakynthians are wonderful people, friendly and with no issues in welcoming you in their everyday life.

Definitely pay a visit to:

Aristeon Olive Oil Factory

You do find them in Lithakia Zakynthos, Greece.

This family business dates from the 18th century with the traditional animal movement press, part of which survives until today. You have to get a closer look and wonder at the magic of making olive oil. Also, you might like to know that’s one of the island’s oldest tradition.

Aristeon olive oil factory

You can also see the old tools and machines they used to harvest.

Times are changing and so do traditions

Years passed and the world has evolved. That’s why since 2008, they use a new eco-drive technology to process olives. It’s impressive to see an ancient olive tree, like 1500 years old. Just asking myself how many stories will this tree tell? Only if it could speak… and this is not the only ancient olive tree you’ll find on Zakynthos.

Traditional clothing

The museum is quite small and it’s free entry. But it’s a good tour to help better understand the process of making olive oil. We arrive here on a very hot day at lunchtime, you know, that part of the day when no matter how much you’ve missed the sun, you need to hide. It’s almost like playing hide and seek with a toddler, you being the toddler. As soon as we get close to the car park, we are welcomed and the host tells us a short story about the mill and what we can find inside. We have wandered around and at the end we are offered a free tasting session of the local olive oils, which they’re producing here in the mill, accompanied by their traditional bread. Yum!

We are delighted to taste some beautiful olive oil produced by grinding olives with garlic, with fresh oranges, fresh lemons or their organic olive oil.

Tasting session

They have a shop here where they sell their olive oil, homemade olive oil soap and body creams. I didn’t know what to pick first as I liked them all.

Olive oil shop

Callinico winery

This is the place where I start again to realize how much do these people have. And how willing they are to use the island’s resources.

Callinico winery

Even if Zante is not a big island, more than 110 different varieties of grapes do grow here. Therefore this winery produces different types of wine: Retsina, Verde, a very sweet dessert wine ( red and white) and many others that we’ve been offered to try inside the winery.  It’s great to know they do free wine-tasting sessions, anywhere else you pay for it. It’s free entry.

So, it’s a must while you are here.

Wine cellar

Great Ionian Earthquake

While still at the winery, we’re welcomed by a beautiful girl, who happens to be the fourth generation owning this traditional family business. This particularly winery has a very interesting history. They started producing wine in 1918 but the family got their actual business after 1960. Because in 1953  Zakynthos has been hit by the Great Ionian Earthquake which was actually a series of hundreds of tremors, shocks, and aftershocks, striking the region between the islands of Kefalonia and Zakynthos. Many people fled the island after that: some people temporarily moved to the capital, however, the majority emigrated out of Greece entirely to countries such as Canada, USA or the UK, leaving both the islands and their economy in ruins. The islands were reconstructed from the ground up over the following years under a strict building code.

A traditional welcome at Callinico!

I wonder, reflecting at this family…what kind of strong character does it take to want to stay here and to rebuild such a wonderful business after a disaster like that?! Despite everything that happened to these people, they carried on with their traditions and to this day, they make good quality wine.

Fresh grape harvest

Of course, if you are in full harvest season, you get the chance to see a lot of the winemaking process and all the equipment they use today.  Otherwise, just get yourself to the wine-cellar where the wine is aged and stored.  It’s small but it’s got history and also a story to tell.

Volimes, a Zakynthos signature

Volimes is located in the mountainous part of the island. I love this countryside area for representing so well what Zakynthos really is. A united community of hard-working people, strong-minded and nevertheless wonderful hearts.

The village’s economy is based on farming and agricultural products.

There are many gift shops and souvenirs with a wide variety of artefacts, beautifully handcrafted carpets, leather goods, bags, miniature turtles, ceramics, and even desserts made with honey and almond nougat (pasteli and mantolato). Even you can find local products such as cheese (graviera, myzithra), bread, honey, oregano, and many others. People here are making all of these over the winter and sell them to tourists in the summer.

The spirit of the Zakynthos community

We have just arrived in Volimes and we’re trying to find a car park when this woman is waving at us as if she knows us. She speaks English and she’s welcoming us in her village, offering us some traditional honey roasted almonds, made by her father.

Volimes village

While chatting she’s inviting us into her house, where one of the rooms is kept as a shop. They hung up all over the place all these wonderful handmade textiles, like some amazing carpets, tablecloths, runners, napkins, and all sorts.

We got to meet her parents, beautiful people with a great sense of hospitality. They couldn’t speak a word of English but their faces were taking us back in time. That time where it was considered normal to offer a glass of cold water to a stranger on a hot day. Volimes was a real occasion to get to know the authentic Zakynthians.

If you’re dreaming of summer like I do and start making plans for your holiday, please consider this island as it’s a wonderful place, ready to be explored.

Until next time!

Trips

The food of Zante

Shipwreck

Zante is the third biggest of the islands in the Ionian Sea. It’s been called the island of love and poetry…but what about Zante’s food?

Keep reading!

Andreea_Greece

Me being greedy…

When it comes to Greece, especially Zante, please don’t make the mistake to opt in for an all-inclusive resort. Because nothing brings you closer to knowing their traditions better than the quirky tavernas and the amazing street food stalls.

Octopus_Grill

No matter what kind of dietary requirements you have, there is something to suit you and your needs.

On the majority of the Greek islands, the house speciality is seafood, fresh grilled fish (swordfish is amazing), fried calamari and the most authentic one is the whole grilled octopus, which I loved from the very first bite.

Calamari

Fried calamari as a starter or on its own…

Do you fancy salads?

Because of the Mediterranean weather, salads are a beautiful option in this area. Most of the vegetables are grown by the locals in their own gardens. You will know straight away because they taste quite different, I  think much better. They have all kinds of gorgeous salads like the classic Greek Salad (horiatiki) that consists of tomato slices, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, black olives and feta cheese. All of that sprinkled with their splendid island made olive oil and oregano. It’s impossible not to like! I personally prefer a richer salad with ham and their local yellow cheese.

Greek_Salad

One of my favourite salad

Gyros and Souvlaki,  family’s favourite.

Gyros is a fantastic Greek dish made of meat.
It is a sort of rolled pitta bread stuffed with meat, traditionally pork, chicken, or lamb, cooked on a vertical rotisserie, tomatoes, onions, fried potatoes and the typical tzatziki. It also can be served on a plate, not rolled. But I prefer the one you get on the street… One of these gyros usually costs only 2 euros. That’s a bargain if I’ve ever seen one.

Grill_plate

A mix grill plate (souvlaki, chicken gyros, Greek sausage), pitta bread, salad and tzatziki.

Souvlaki is pretty much the same as gyros only that the meat is grilled on a skewer. You can eat it the way it is or in grilled pitta bread. I’ve noticed they have a vegetarian option too. Yummy!

Christian_Pita

My son waiting for his gyros.

Zante, a Heaven for vegetarians

If you are vegetarian, then Zante is the right place for you. Unlike other holiday destinations, you won’t starve here but in fact, you won’t be able to decide what to grab first.

The variety is massive, their speciality when it comes to veggie are these wonderful meatballs( no actual meat in them) made of courgette or aubergines. Suitable for vegans too. Also, the vegetarian mousaka is a must, you have to try it!

Almost all of the starters are suitable for vegetarians. Like the fresh bread and tzatziki, aubergine salad and buns, olives and fresh bread, hummus and many different kinds of salsa dip too.

Because they do love growing their vegetables here, a lot of the main dishes are pure vegetarian. Like stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes or aubergines. Also, let’s not forget about the stuffed wine leaves. The stuffing is made of rice, spices and fresh herbs.

This is the kind of trip that might make you want to turn vegetarian or even vegan, in that case, you have to be willing to explore their local cuisine and traditional dishes.

Zante, the land of pastries and cakes

I suggest you try some of their pastries as they are just as good as Greggs, if not better. It’s mostly puff pastry filled with different kinds of local cheese, spinach, ham or meat.

Also, their sweet pastries are delicious. I like the ones filled with sweet vanilla cream and powdered with icing sugar on top. They’re just mouthwatering! You find them early in the morning in almost any shop as the local bakery delivers them everywhere on the island. They are huge and they cost less than 2 euros.

And let’s not forget about the sweet baklavas. Either with walnuts or pistachios, they are a good way to finish your meal. As a particularity that makes them different from the Turkish ones is having cinnamon in their composition.

kataif

Kataif is another greek dessert, made in the shape of a birds’ nest from a shredded crispy dough. I’m not entirely sure about the recipe but I can taste a lemon syrup, loads of honey and walnuts.

In almost every taverna, they offer you a local digestive drink, it’s like a sorbet made of limoncello ( an alcoholic drink made of freshly squeezed lemons).

Digestive_Drink

Kitsch style…

I have to mention that while most of the places in the food industry here kept their traditions and originality, others( not too many but still painful to watch) turned out to be a complete kitsch or fiasco( call it how you like). I believe that the economic crisis they went through has pushed them to desperate solutions.

What can be worse than a greek kitchen serving and advertising English fast food?! (baked beans, sausages and nuggets..basically things you’re trying to get away from on holiday). I know many of you would say they are doing that just to welcome the English tourists. But with such a fabulous cuisine that they have, the fresh ingredients they use, how can you go for all that frozen or canned food? A big no from me…it doesn’t convey what Zante really is about.

Zante, a river of wellness…

rodie

Another blessing of this island is its olive trees, as they produce a lot of olive honey.

I am amazed by Zante’s treasure. A 24/7 all-natural spa, no wonder the locals are so beautiful. Inside and out.

Everywhere you look, lemon and orange trees are smiling in the sun. Loaded pomegranate trees and golden, juicy figs are waiting to be plucked. And last but not least, the vineyards that produce one of the sweetest wine I’ve ever tried.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about this Greek haven. Until next time!

Trips

All on board!!!…a family experience

Jet2_getin

Get ready for an amazing family experience!

As you might have guessed so far, I’m not a fan of writing reviews nor do I try to promote companies or businesses.

But after yesterday’s experience, I’ve decided I must rethink my ways. The reason behind that is not just so you get inspired by my posts but actually to able to make better choices when it comes to travelling. Because, oh boy, I know how painful it is and how stupid one can feel after having a bad experience.

What does it mean to fly “low cost”?

Let’s see what Wikipedia defines as being “low cost”…”A low-cost carrier or low-cost airline (also known as no-frills, discount or budget carrier or airline, or LCC) is an airline without most of the traditional services provided in the fare, resulting in lower fares and fewer comforts.”

I thought exactly the same thing, no fuss, no such thing as big expectations and you’d probably expect poor customer service too.

Let me tell you that yesterday I was surprised and completely over the moon with Jet2.

 

Family oriented…” please take me on board!”

First and foremost, the planes seem to have more leg room than other low-cost airlines. I could actually feel my legs after landing, so that’s a first.

Let’s start with the beginning. As soon as the gate number was announced, we went there expecting it to be a long and boring process. To our surprise, we were met by some very friendly faces. Everything happened so quickly that we started to wonder if maybe we have priority boarding. I did actually check, we didn’t haha! Then my son insisted to get loads of pictures for one of his friends, who’s passionate about planes. I was actually scared of this, thinking of how many sour faces ( as we Romanians call them) I’ll have to deal with. Guess what? I couldn’t see one sour face for the entire flight, what with everyone in holiday mode.

Did you say “cockpit”?

I was so impressed to see that they have given my son permission to visit the cockpit and have a chat with the captain. Any child’s dream, right? C’mon now! How would you feel to be a 7 – 8-year-old kid and to have many dreams, one of them being that you and your friend would pilot a huge drone one day and then someone brings you closer to that for a minute?

Thank you Jet2, thank you, Captain Dan, for being so kind and patient.

Jet2_pilots

And that’s not all…every single member of staff have been friendly, helpful and welcoming. It might be cause of their bright red uniform? I don’t know. All I know is that we had the greatest start to our holiday and I’m completely grateful. I would definitely fly with them again.

What about before that?

Before we get on the plane, we find ourselves at the Birmingham airport, looking for a place to have breakfast. The choice is overwhelming, believe me! But as soon as we have passed the security checks, we find a friendly place to be in Pret a Manger . Very chatty and friendly staff, good and fresh food and a feeling of ” we do understand you have a long way to go”. Yes, this is how I would describe it best. If you do go in, ask for the charming Victor…lovely character. Massive thank you to him.

As always, see you in my next post!

 

Trips

Where to? In the name of love

love-in-sand

Love, love, love…

Everywhere you look it’s full of hearts, pink stuff, flowers, candles and lots of chocolates. It’s that time of the year when we get intoxicated with so much so-called passion. Wait a minute, don’t get me wrong…I have nothing against all of this. I just don’t like how commercial Valentines Day has become.

Who is to decide that all this stuff equates to love? And why if this is how love gets to be celebrated, it’s only once a year? I’m the least entitled to talk about the subject. That’s why I’ll better stop here.

But what do you do if you let yourself get carried away by all the commercials and the soapy dramas around you this time of the year?

And what if you decide you would like to surprise your other half? You haven’t had the chance to plan it or to budget for this.

Don’t panic! There are still plenty of things you can do. I would like to share some of them with you.

tea-room

(Ready for a surprise tea party at the castle)

Home sweet home

I wasn’t thinking about staying at home but I wanted to see what’s around you that’s worth exploring.

England isn’t doing bad at all when it comes to romantic places. It’s true that the weather doesn’t help but no storm will stop two birds like you two.

London

I know many people born here, in Birmingham, that have never been to London? What?!…

I love London. It can be very sweet even if you go for a one day trip. Trains can be quite expensive but even so, you can find plenty of deals. At one point, Virgin had this offer for 5£/ticket to London. Of course, that’s not something you find every day. We have used National Express coaches a couple of times. They’re very comfortable, they have wifi, pretty cheap ( £20 return) and easy to book.

What to do?

  • Of course, pay a visit to Her Majesty at the Buckingham Palace. It was cool to see the Changing of the Guard. The garden in front of the Palace is prettier than any bunch of flowers you can buy for your sweetheart.

love-at-palace

(What did I say? It’s the magic of the flowers)

  • Get lost in the Westminster Abbey. Actually, what is more romantic than being where seventeen royal weddings have taken place?
  • London Eye. You might not get to see everything in one day but from the top of this wheel, you can see most of the city’s landmarks. Situated on the South Bank of River Thames it guarantees you a nice walk and beautiful views.

There’s so much to see in London. The list is quite long and open to your preferences. Perhaps you’ll choose to take pictures next to your favourite Hollywood celebrities at the Madam Tussaud’s wax museum. Also, you might want to meet the old Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster (called Houses of Parliament). You’ll find many tourist points, ready to feed your hunger for more.

Cotswolds

When I say Cotswolds is actually a very big area, I mean it. It stretches from the border regions of South Warwickshire and Worcestershire, through West Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, and takes in parts of Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset in the south.

pink-tree

(I love the colours, it’s like therapy to me…)

Bourton on Water

I especially like Bourton on Water which is called the “Venice of the Cotswolds,” due to the fact that the River Windrush flows right through the centre of town. I love the old artisan village bakery here. Their cakes and pastries are delicious and you can have a seat in their riverside garden and relax with your loved one.

Stratford upon Avon

I have said it before but Stratford upon Avon is part of the Cotswolds too. What can be more appropriate for celebrating love than to spend a day in the home town of Romeo and Juliet‘s writer? It’s a beautiful drama. After all, Juliet wasn’t meant to die. She only drank that potion in order to avoid an arranged wedding. The potion only made her fall in a deep sleep and everybody thought she was dead. But the one who made the potion, Friar John was unable to deliver the letter to Romeo informing him of the plan. So, when Romeo’s servant brought him the news of Juliet’s death, Romeo was heart-broken. If you want to know more, you’ll have to read it yourselves, I don’t want to spoil it any more.

Still, Stratford remains one of my favourite places when it comes to romanticism. It’s got all the secret ingredients for a stunning day out. And one of the ingredients I’m talking about are the rowing boats. You can row past the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Holy Trinity church and enjoy uninterrupted and unique views from the Avon river. Or simply take a peaceful trip to the countryside. If you can’t afford a fancy dinner, I suggest to get a picnic basket, stop along the river and fall in love again…and again.

Also, a very good thing is that you can come by train to Stratford and it’s quite cheap. So here you are, stop making excuses and go for it!

More about Stratford

Wales

The next one I’ll tell you about might be quite popular among you guys as a seaside holiday destination.

Even if it’s still winter according to the calendar, Barmouth remains as beautiful for me as it’s in the summer.

love-in-sand

Why this place? Because the majority of accommodation places are practically on the beach. You can get a cosy room with a sea-view in a lovely cottage. Who cares if it rains? All you need is the one you love, a cuppa and very large windows from where you feel like you’re on top of this world. With it being winter, not many people dare to adventure to the beach. But trust me, it’s worth it.

On a clear day, the view across the Lleyn Peninsula is breathtaking. I do recommend walking over the Barmouth Bridge to get a different view of Barmouth.

Again, it’s possible to get here by train. The train station is in the heart of Barmouth. You can walk to most of the hotels and cottages from there.

Thinking of escaping abroad?

Paris

luvre

For years it’s been described as “the city of love”, as the best place to impress and the place to be when you are deeply in love. Right…

It is a beautiful city indeed but it might be too much for some of us. Who knows how bad you want to escape, maybe you barely found somebody to babysit the kids and you dream for an oasis of peace and relaxation. Paris is nothing close to that. It’s very crowded, it’s unnecessarily expensive and you need time and patience to get the most out of it. Therefore, a weekend in Paris is not something you might be keen to do. You could leave it for a bit later in life when the kids start going to camps and you have more time. The reason being that there is so much to do and see and you might regret that you had to queue for most of your time there.

champ

Champs-Élysées

arc-de-triumph

Paris on a rainy day…feat. L’Arc de Triomphe

Italy

No matter where you choose to go in Italy, you’ll probably find it to be one of the most romantic countries you’ve ever been to.

Venice

Maybe you decide to join the Venice Carnival, which is the biggest party of the year and it’s happening now in February. Don’t forget to dress up! The most popular outfits are traditional costumes of 18th-century lords and ladies. But Venetian masks have an extensive history and were once worn throughout the year to hide people’s identities. The amazing food they cook, the language…aww, sweet language. Italian is the most beautiful language I’ve ever known.

Of all the major Romance languages, Italian retains the closest resemblance to Latin. The struggle between the written but dead language and the various forms of the living speech, most of which were derived from Vulgar Latin, was nowhere near as intense or protracted as in Italy.

Bologna

If you ever wondered where does Pasta Bolognese come from, this is the place. The authentic recipe is far from what people are cooking here in England. I lived here for a year when I was a student. I had the chance to meet an 87 years old local who was cooking Pasta Bolognese at least once a week. It was something like a ritual. Every morning he was going to the local market to choose his favourite beef, not mince and then he did everything at home( chopping the meat, the herbs). After that, everything was slow cooked for a couple of hours. The smell of it was absolutely gorgeous.

Piazza Maggiore

One of my favourite places in Bologna is Piazza Maggiore, a place where people used to gather in the 15th century, where they used to hold markets and also Giardini Margherita. Why? I like Piazza Maggiore because it is surrounded by the most important buildings of the medieval city and its history at every corner. Giardini Margherita because it is the most romantic city park I have ever seen. The garden has a surface of 26 hectares and many exotic trees (cedars, pines, horse chestnuts, sycamores, bald cypresses, English oaks, a Sequoia). Both of them are free to visit. Therefore, you’ll only have to worry about where to stay (you can find cheap accommodation for about 50 euros per night). And recently, I’ve searched the web and have seen really low price flights. Also, you don’t have to worry too much about food. Everywhere you look you can find amazing woodfire cooked pizza. A huge one is between €5-€7, so let’s say £5. My favourite one is Pizza ala Salsiccia ( Italian sausage). It’s really really good, trust me.

Now, I can tell you about more places I’ve been to in Italy as we managed to visit a big part of it. My conclusion is that you can’t fail with Italy, no matter what area you’re going to.

More and more…

We lived in Turin for a year, when Christian was a baby. I find it to be amazing. It gives you a chance to get really close to the true Italian taste.

kid

Christian in Turin (Parco Valentino)

We were by the Italian seaside in Rimini and Ravenna. Or try “la dolce vita” of the Tuscany Region. This part of the world really left a mark on me. Everything is pure beauty. Their culture is to celebrate and appreciate life. It’s all about art, love, music and wine. What’s not to love about that?!

If you decide that just being at home in your garden is the right place for you to be in, that’s wonderful. Just don’t forget love is in you and it can be everywhere and anywhere. Also keep bringing joy, smiles and blessings in your other half’s life. It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind.

As always, see you in my next post!

wedding

England Scotland Trips Wales

Camping, outdoor adventures and a lot of fun

sea camping

Why camping?

Let’s get this straight! This post is not for veteran backpackers or for people who have been born into camping.

If you’re still here, this is certainly for you.

As many of you already know we’re a family of three. We’re sharing the same struggles as any other family that is trying to strike the right balance between time and money. Our son is 7 years old now and we usually go camping or glamping 2-3 times a year.

You probably noticed by now, we love camping. But that is what makes it possible for us to afford to see so many places. Also for many other reasons.

Even if you have already decided that camping or glamping is not for you, try to hang around for the next couple of minutes. It will be worth it.

water

We weren’t born experienced parents and we never had any survival training. Everything we know, we have learned it ourselves and we want to share it with you. Our goal is to give you wings, in order to enjoy the so-called “simple” things in life.

tent

( our little home in Scotland)

looking_for_seals

( Christian at the beach, doing what he knows best: playing with stones )

Why?… just a little story

I remember ( with a big grin on my face) the first time we went camping with our son.

He was 3 years old at the time. The sun was burning and it was unusually hot weather for England. We couldn’t find any available rooms and being on the road far from home, we quickly decided to get a tent.

That being said, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We went around the shops nearby and spent a bit over £200 just to get the minimum necessities for camping. It was far from luxurious. But we were so happy, being for the first time in the middle of nature with our kiddo. That’s easily one of the best experiences we ever had. We only had a cheap but good enough tent, 3 sleeping bags and a kettle…pretty basic ha?!

The first day we got there, the campsite seemed abandoned. It was just us and another tent. The heat wave came unexpectedly. I guess not many people have thought of this possibility. I remember Christian, our boy, running naked in the field. He was part of the picture…sunny day, green grass, sheep on the hill and a small inflatable pool ( that explains why he was naked). Also, the reason for our back pains for carrying so many buckets of water to fill it up.
It is very funny and just now I realize the way we as adults, see things completely differently.

zipline camping

Let it go!

From chatting with other people, I concluded that we often refuse this option of accommodation for one big reason. Guess what it is?! We are worried and we fear for our children. Worried that they might fall sick or get bored or be outside their comfort zone( Have a look at how many free or cheap activities you can do in Cornwall).
There is undeniable proof that we as humans are incredibly adaptable. Kids, even more so. In addition to that, children seem to enjoy more being outside once they break out of their shell( if they have one). It’s hard to believe they’re going to enjoy playing with water, sticks, mud, climbing on a tree, building a den or spotting wildlife more than living in a cosy hotel room. Yeah, right? Who would believe that?

fabian

(Christian’s cousin enjoying his first day ever camping …)

I can’t recommend it enough, leave any fears behind and get the whole gang out at least once a year. They’ll be ok, I promise you that. I believe it will make you see life completely differently.

friends

( Christian making friends and exploring a stream nearby the campsite)

boats

(Try doing this in a hotel’s posh fountain…let the dog go in too…)

Camping or glamping?

I have to tell you that we are the wild camping type. But we have been glamping a couple of times and our stay was absolutely luxurious. You get a proper bed, heating, rugs, cupboards and wardrobe…like for example a gipsy wagon. They call it glamping, I call it a mini flat…as sometimes you have everything. Why choose it over regular camping? Probably because you haven’t been in a tent before and you wouldn’t like to try it just yet.

If the thought of waking up somewhere in a forest, where deer are licking your windows and birds are giving you a free ticket to their concert sounds endearing, then follow my posts as I’ll try my best to give you the whole “know-how”.

wood

(Our favourite way to cook …Smoky!)

The set-up!

looking_at_me

A very beautiful campsite in the UK that I would like to recommend,  is this one in Devon Ashbourne Woods

This campsite has it all. From a wild and wide forest where the kids can run, play hide and seek, lovely and friendly owners( they allow campfire), close to the beach to the cosiest little houses they use for glamping.

Initially, I wanted to make a list with our camping equipment but I’ve decided to make a video for you so you can have a proper peek. That’s exactly what you should take it as, a peek, inspiration and not a must. You can start with the basics, probably cheap gear and then slowly try to invest in a better one over the years. That’s one of the reasons why I chose winter to write about this. That is cause it’s a brilliant opportunity to buy these stuff on sale. I can tell you there are loads of shops having all their camping section on sale with massive discounts. And this is why you don’t get it in the summer.

Tips & tricks

Another tip, I suggest you use some of your old kitchenware as cooking equipment. Things like metal garden mugs, picnic plates and utensils, old frying pans ( preferably iron ones without plastic handles), your nana’s kettle (vintage ones are the best). This way you can save a lot of money. All you have to buy are some matches and yes…almost forgot, send your little ones to find kindling wood, as most sites allow this.

cooking

As you can see I’m always multitasking: singing, cooking, praying…and the list goes on!

If you prefer something more like a holiday park, I suggest you do your homework before. And one of the things to start with is to go on a camping show.

It’s generally cheap, it’s fun and it can be a day out for the family as they are humongous and it does open up your mind. It’s basically the place where you meet with the right person face to face. Either the owners of different campsites or people that manage different holiday parks. You can get discounts, book in advance, find out what facilities they have, how well equipped are they for kids( playgrounds and different activities to keep your little ones entertained). Also, it’s the place to meet representatives of campsites from abroad ( Spain or France) whereas normally it would be a lot harder to have a chat with.

Join us!

There is one coming soon in Birmingham UK this February. So, click the link and book your tickets. We’ll be there!

Caravan and Camping Show here

If you don’t manage to go to one near you, don’t worry! We will make a summary for you, get the best tips and the best places for a family.

Please share with us your camping experiences. If you have any! Also, feel free to ask any questions. There are no silly questions. So, if we catch your interest and you want to find out more, we’re here. Just a few clicks away.

See you soon!

England Scotland Trips Wales

Some of the best places to visit in 2019 – the beautiful U.K.

travel

Here are some of the best places I visited the last couple of years.

Another year has passed, quicker than I ever imagined. I don’t know about you but I personally don’t like looking back. I always say that the lessons I’ve learned in the past I got them with me, they’re part of me. Therefore, I don’t have to look back. Only this is different, this time I’ll stop and share with you some amazing places I have seen in 2017/18. So maybe you’ll decide to give them a go in 2019.

Some of them are easy to visit. Other ones require a bit of a feel for adventure and the want to escape the ordinary…

My favourite places are…

Highlands of Scotland

Without a doubt, Scotland is at the top of the list. This wild land, still not entirely discovered by me, remains the gem of the United Kingdom.

The summer just gone, we’ve been camping in the small village of Contin. This is very close to both Inverness and Ullapool. From this point, anywhere you head to in the Highlands of Scotland it’s pure beauty and a great variety of landscapes. We so loved this little place as you didn’t need to walk far to be amazed. As part of the village are Tor Achilty Forest and Rogie Falls.

The Rogie falls are well seen from an impressive suspension bridge and during August and September, there’s an excellent chance of seeing wild salmon leaping upstream. We are lucky to have seen it! Yay!

By the way, the surrounding rivers (Blackwater & Conon) are filled with trout and salmon. So, make sure you sneak in your fishing rods (of course without the wife knowing haha!…she might decide that space you’re “wasting” is perfect for some more spare clothes for the kids instead.

I love Scotland for its beautiful beaches, and there are so many that you have the chance of being the only person on the beach for the entire day. We even started giving them names and pretended they’re our family hiding place. Because that is what they are, places where you are wrapped in a bubble of beautiful creation. Sometimes you see boats passing by and that’s one of those moments when you realize you’re not the only humans around.

scotland

I cherish Scotland because of its small villages, where the community is extremely friendly and open to show you the surroundings and their values. Because you get to buy delicious homemade berry jam from almost any household nearby.

Not to mention there are over 31,000 lochs (lakes) to choose from and to make one of them the closest to your heart. For us, Loch Ness is one of our favourites, not for its beauty alone but for the mystery that’s floating in the air…or on the water?!

lochness

Wildlife…

I’m in love with Scotland for its wildlife. When you choose the right spot, you get to watch dolphins dance, seals waving at you, whales and puffins. Some of the best places we have tried to spot these sweet animals are:

  • Chanonry Point, in Cromarty ( The dolphins are often visible off Chanonry point, particularly on an incoming tide when they play and fish in the strong currents). Of course, we didn’t know they’re coming with the tide, so we waited a very long time. If you want an entire day at the beach it doesn’t matter but when you’re with a bunch of noisy little humans asking every second where the dolphins are…you might want to go there just on time.
  • John O’Groats, where you can spot Atlantic Puffins during their breeding season which runs from late spring to early summer, generally May to July. Also, you can watch the grey seals all year round. I wouldn`t want to miss the Orcas (killer whales), which are regularly seen off the coast.
  • The Isle of Skye is another great destination for wildlife watchers.
  • Ullapool, I was so surprised to see how close the seals get to the beach here. They seem to be so used with the people and you don’t have to wait long until you notice their heads popping-out the water like skittles.

I admire Scotland for its history and for the castles that seem untouched by time, for the whispers of its legends and myths.

adventure

And there are many more reasons to add Scotland on your list of places to visit this year.

I suggest you try the Highlands in the summertime because the weather isn’t as scary and camping gives you the opportunity to truly explore this land (cheaper than any other form of accommodation and less sophisticated). You can find plenty of campsites on www.pitchup.com.

Cornwall, my tropical peninsula

Cornwall England

Next on my list is Cornwall. Again, I don’t think I can stop writing about this south-west region of England as it’s inexhaustible.

What I can do instead is mention a few places that have moved me deeply.

Kynance Cove, famous for its white sands, turquoise sea and the gorgeous cliffs surrounding the cove. Kynance has been on the tourist map since the early Victorian era when it became fashionable to go on excursions. It’s on my list because of the serpentine walk along the South West Coast Path, which links Kynance with Lizard to the south, and Mullion to the north. This walk has some gorgeous wild scenery to offer.

kynance

Porthcurno

I don’t know what Paradise looks like but if it’s anything like Porthcurno, I’m happy with that.

Apart from its natural beauty (white sparkly sands and turquoise water), there is something more that attracts me to this place. Porthcurno used to be the telecommunication centre of the world and it’s occupying an important place in history. It incorporates tunnels used to house top secret equipment during the Second World War. If you are curious to find out more and the waves are not calling for you, then visit Porthcurno Telegraph Museum instead.

On the cliffs to the west of Porthcurno is the world famous Minack Theatre. It was built in the 1930s by theatrical visionary Rowena Cade (who lived in the house just behind the theatre), and her faithful gardener; which you can visit all year round (summer being the best season).

Why is it so famous?… First of all the location alone is incredible. Perched high on the cliffs above the turquoise sea. Next, the view you get to see from here might distract you from the actual play. Then, the hard work behind the scenes and the ambition of this lady to leave something behind.

The epic Snowdonia, Wales

Of course, it’s not my intention to diminish any other splendid places in Wales, as there are plenty. But Snowdonia ( a region in northwest Wales concentrated around the mountains forms the massive Snowdonia National Park), seems to impress me at every corner. You might want to climb the highest mountain in Wales and England. Or you would like to experience the world’s fastest zip wire. All of this is up to you…and other over 100 attractions. For me, it’s the pure mountain, fresh air and amazing natural beauty. If you decide to give it a go, try to organize it well as you need adequate equipment.

Why not?…

With the risk of repeating myself, I suggest visiting these places in the summer.

First of all, because the weather allows you to explore your surroundings much more easily and gives you more attractions to choose from.

Second of all, we all know how expensive accommodation is in the UK, maybe one of the most expensive in and around Europe (in my opinion and from my travel experiences). Therefore, summer offers the possibility of being almost as comfy in your own tent( for free). I never used to be a camping person because I wasn’t prepared and always ended up being wet and cold. But since I started doing my homework related to what’s the best and the essential gear for a family when camping, things took a completely different turn.

Now I can simply say I love camping…nothing compares with the return to a simple nomadic life, your bed, a cuppa and a clear starry sky in front of a fire.

camping

France Trips

Cote d’Azur, land of rich and famous people

Cannes

Cote d’Azur

Being there…

I love every single facet of the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur) experience. now I can’t say this enough, it’s a must see for everyone, especially families with children. Also, I realized that some experiences are simply a matter of being in the right headspace.

So, let’s start!… it’s half term again and it’s been a long winter. We missed the sun so much and the thought of swimming in the warm sea sounds endearing. After searching the web we decide there are not many options suitable for us. That’s because we are looking for something more than to lay on the beach all day. So, here we go and we spin the globe to find our next adventure.

Parlez vous français ?!

Ever since I started studying French I’ve always been intrigued by the name Cote d’Azur, which means the Blue Coast. I was dreaming of a mild Mediterranean climate, blue turquoise sea, lots of orange and olive trees and a beautiful sparkling world. It turned out to be very close to what I imagined. Actually, my expectations were exceeded when I met amazingly friendly people, ready to walk with you for a mile or two if they had to; delicious food that would satisfy any taste or preference and several medieval villages.

Cannes

Here we are, we have chosen our destination. “Good! “, we said, let’s look at flights! The only airport that’s close to this area is in Nice. In fact, it’s the third biggest airport in France after Charles de Gaulle and Paris airport. Because we’ve done it again by looking at flights just a couple of days before the holiday( I know, I know), we can’t find anything affordable. After combining all kinds of flights, airports and dates, we decided that driving is the best option.

A “how to” guide will be nice (or Nice, get it?)

According to Google Maps, it was meant to be a 12-hour drive to Cannes. In retrospect, it was a good thing that Google Maps kind of lied to us because we weren’t scared of such a long drive.

tent

On the contrary, we started to look for accommodation. And we found Club Maintenon which I can highly recommend for a relaxing and quiet stay. We had a beautiful apartment, fully equipped and with quite a large kitchen fitted with a hob, oven, fridge and a dishwasher. The apartments are situated right in the centre of Cannes. Very close from the shopping street of Rue d’Antibes and about 0.2 miles from the famous Boulevard La Croisette. Also, it was just 5 minutes away from the beach (Plage de la Croisette), the port, Palais des Festivals and the station. Club Maintenon

Hit the road Jack!

After a full day at work, school and other activities, we are at the door in no time. Passports ready, luggage check and a sat-nav of course. We bought ferry tickets for Dover to Calais (France), just one day before departure and we found it to be very convenient. ferry

We’ve been on board of Pride of Canterbury on a Friday night. I’m sure you’ve seen a formicary (ant’s nest) before. Because that is exactly what it looked like. With babies crawling on the floor, groups of schoolmates telling horror tales and love stories. My son’s current passion is Titanic( not the movie, but the actual story). We’ve watched so many documentaries about it and found out so much about the Titanic’s passengers and their lives. Honestly, for a second there, I got chills on my spine because it made me think it must’ve been something similar, different stages of life, different backgrounds and different aspirations…all on one boat.

While crossing, it takes about 90 minutes, you get to enjoy a nice coffee in their restaurants and brasseries. Maybe you’d like to have a look around the shops. Or maybe if there’s still light outside, just enjoy the magical beauty of the sea from the panoramic windows or even from the deck.

You may never see Dijon but you’ve certainly tasted it

We drove all night and as soon as the Sun made an appearance, all we wanted was to explore beautiful France.

So, long before we reach our destination, we made a stop in Dijon…Which is the capital city of the historical Burgundy region in eastern France, one of the country’s main producer of wine. This city has conquered me almost instantly and not because of their world famous mustard but for being packed with impressive medieval, Gothic and Renaissance buildings. For anyone that is passionate about history, Dijon is a must on your list.

With all things considered, this city doesn’t have a pragmatic air to it but rather a very romantic aura. We only spent a few hours here but we’ll definitely come back as there is a lot left to discover.

As I previously said, what I find to be awesome is that many of the gastronomic specialities that originated here are known worldwide. Among them are the Escargots de Bourgogne (not my favourite but…), Crème de cassis( a black-currant liqueur) and the Dijon mustard of course (named after the city because it used to be the centre of mustard making in the early Middle Ages, in France).

Food

Speaking about food, we enjoyed a nice brunch at Tartin’art. It’s kind of a boulangerie but with coffee and tables. It’s near the covered market and you will find a wide choice of amazing food (the best quiche ever, baguettes with tasty jambon and warm croissants need to be added to your to-do list). They have such friendly staff there and if you don’t speak French, don’t worry, they do speak English.

We said goodbye to the lovely Dijon and headed to our home for a week…Cannes.

Cannes – limousines, paparazzi, red carpet, celebrities

As soon as we entered the city, something strange was happening to us. We found ourselves trying to adjust to a new rhythm. Everything and everyone was on the move. Police car columns passing by, motorcycle columns, limousines with tinted windows, a lot of security, paparazzi and a lot of press everywhere. That was the moment when we realized the film festival is the reason for all of this.

Cannes

The locals don’t seem to make much fuss about it. Actually try to avoid the event as much as possible. We might be impressed with this atmosphere but not the people of Cannes. I haven’t figured it out yet if it’s because this is the 70th consecutive year of the film festival or they simply don’t like their lives to be disturbed by anyone, including celebrities.

Klaus

Anyway, we didn’t come all this way for this, no, no, no!

Cannes

Le Suquet, which is an old quarter of Cannes is the kind of stuff I’m looking for. Away from the glitz and glamour of the busy marina and above the promenades of Cannes.

family

Old narrow streets, small coffee shops and local restaurants, then at the top… You get a 360° view of Cannes, a gorgeous clock tower and an old church, ready to be explored. As soon as I’ve seen Le Suquet, I said, there must be more. I love how well preserved their medieval villages are. There are a couple to visit in the area but what you want to add to your list is Eze.

Eze, the eagle’s nest

Èze has been described as an “eagle’s nest” because of its location overlooking a high cliff 427 metres (1,401 ft) above sea level on the French Mediterranean.

There is a connection with Britain too. Some very old silver coins that have been found in Eze, dating hundreds of years BC are now on display at the British Museum. The village is not just amazingly gorgeous but also has a lot of interesting history behind it.

We loved the botanical garden (Jardin Exotique), at the top of the hill. It’s a real gem not just for the tropical and beautiful plants you get to enjoy but also for the pretty views above the sea. The region is famous for the many flowers that grow here. I shouldn’t forget, there are a number of perfumeries to be visited, including the famous Fragonard perfume factory.

monaco

MonteCarlo

And I can write about it all day long but I feel like I’ll spoil the surprise. So, you have to go and make your own experience. Now I know Cote d’Azur is not just for wealthy people or for the ones that look like they’re coming from a fashion show and just stepped down the catwalk.

We often find ourselves copying other people stories or experiences, that might not even suit us. Why don’t you dare to be creative and allow yourself to be you?!… Walking in flip-flops on the famous Boulevard, wearing the fancy hat that you keep hidden in the wardrobe thinking everyone is going to laugh at you, yeah…why not?

Until next time!

Scotland Trips

Isle of Skye, the land of fairies – and why I would come back

The Isle of Skye has been voted 4th best island in the world by National Geographic.

And the story begins…

It’s summer, that means time off work for us and we decide to do something different. We quickly search for affordable flights but everything seems to be unrealistic and no, we are not looking for a private jet. It’s just another school holiday here in England.

We’ve heard so many times of Scotland’s beauty and that alone made us say yes, let’s do this. I personally don’t know where I am heading to, but we love discovering new places. We were expecting mountains, valleys and very rich flora and fauna. What I wasn’t expecting was for this island to become etched in my heart forever.

We’re packing some clothes, I throw the tent in and some sleeping bags in the back of the car and off we go. Of course, we didn’t go straight to Scotland. More often than not we choose the longest( scenic) route. But that’s mainly because we can’t help stopping at anything that looks worthy to visit. So, a trip that was meant to be an 8 – 10 hours drive, took 4 wonderful days.

Somerset County – Cheddar Gorge

The weather is really hot so we stop in Cheddar Gorge, a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills, near the village of Cheddar. The Gorge is absolutely beautiful, it reminds me a bit of Romania with goats climbing as high as possible and the pretty flowers sprinkled all around the cliffs. Cheddar on its own is a great destination for a day out in the summer when there is still light until late. It is really famous for its caves and of course for the tradition of making cheddar cheese. About half a mile from the Gorge, back into the village of Cheddar, you can visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company. Fun fact, the first mention of cheddar cheese in written history was in 1170. The caves of Cheddar Gorge keep dairy products cool enough for an industry to develop. The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is the only cheesemaker left in Cheddar.tent

We spent about two days here, exploring the surroundings and taking advantage of the brilliant weather. There’s a lot to do in Somerset County, therefore I’ll have to talk about it in another post.

Everywhere we looked in the village, the “sorry, no vacancy” sign hit us right in the face. Clearly we are in full season, it’s time for a strategy as it’s getting late. Soon enough, we pass by a campsite with a big sign in front that says: ” fire allowed”…Yay! Exactly what we wanted. Placed right next to a forest, it felt like a real life saver. What a cosy end to a beautiful day!

A different route…

After two amazing days of living in a tent, we decide to stick to the goal of visiting the Scottish Highlands. Well, as much as we can because we left Somerset and in a couple of hours here we are, breathing the Welsh air. For whoever knows United Kingdom’s map, you can tell it’s the most tangled, topsy-turvy, scattered route we can follow. We don’t regret it even a bit because the Welsh landscapes in the summer are wonderful.

But we gotta do what we gotta do. Therefore…towards Scotland!

The dry stone walls of Scotland

As soon as we step in Scotland, we notice something apart like the dry stone walls. The walls are a common thing for rural Scotland, to us they look beautiful, something close to art. They still serve as boundary markers and as fences to keep the sheep in. Originally, the land was cleared of stones for better grazing and to grow crops. The stones were then piled up around the margins to contain the livestock. The history of Scottish dry stone walls is profoundly linked to the clan system (which was the main political system in Scotland) Some of them date back to the 1600s.

lake

After a long drive, we stop in Perth, to visit a friend. He and his family are not just friends but they’re also passionate travellers like us. Exactly the kind of people you want to talk to when time is short and you want to see the best spots. Because he knows us well enough, he is giving us a route to follow. He would love to give us more climbing routes and long paths to follow but when you have small children you can’t do much of that.

ocean

Bye Perth!

Next day in the morning, we leave Perth behind, heading towards Crieff. Then, sure enough, we reach another beautiful side of Scotland named Lochearnhead.

The views start to get more and more impressive and we are wondering how have we not been here before in all these years. Finally, Fort William lies in front of us, the outdoor capital of the UK. It’s pretty crowded, looking like an anthill, everyone with their own point of interest. Some of the people look ready to go hiking while others are keen to practice some water sports.  It looks really promising, but we only stop here to have lunch.

Discover Fort William

Isle of Skye – pure island happiness

Once we cross the Skye Bridge, we suddenly get a strange feeling that this land is from another world, so full of mystery and beauty. Some call the island “Land of fairies” because of its mysticism. We are so happy we’re on a road trip, this way we can stop as many times as we want to. So many waterfalls coming from unexpected places, beautiful cliffs and mountains. We want to call our friend from Perth to thank him but unfortunately, on this island reception is really poor. To be fair, I think it’s part of its beauty, anyone stepping in kind of gets lost in time and space. So, if you want to explore the island don’t count on your phone as it won’t work. Take maps with you or a sat-nav( anything offline will do), more so because the Isle of Skye isn’t abundant in road signs either.

map

Portree

It’s already evening and we are in Portree, the main town on the Isle of Skye. The town is only about 200 years old and was created as a fishing village, at the beginning of the 19th century by Lord MacDonald. I find Portree to be very pretty with narrow streets and surrounded by hills. It’s a good place to come back after you’ve seen the island as it’s a good shopping experience. You can find loads of handcrafted items. Although there is a campsite nearby, we pick a B&B that proves to be a good choice as we get the chance to taste their traditional food like black pudding and haggis. Have you had them before? What do you think of it? Portree is a good place for accommodation, not to mention it has some really nice pubs with wooden beams and a fireplace.
island portree

Dunvegan Castle

I must say we felt Scotland has so much to offer after we have seen Dunvegan, thought to be the oldest occupied castle in northern Scotland. We did enjoy our visit here and that’s mainly because it’s a strange blend between the past and the present. On one hand, we see a family (Clan MacLeod) that has lived in the castle for more than 30 generations and on the other hand the stories about the fairies, that seem to be part of their life here.
In the castle, they have on display one of the most controversial possessions of Clan MacLeod – the Fairy Flag. This is one of the Highlands myths and fantastic tales seem to come alive at every corner. Despite the different legends, the Fairy Flag is indeed something special.

Worthy to mention is the boat trip you can get here to see the seals. It was absolutely amazing to see them so close to us, some of them getting so close to the boat that you could even touch them. It was very cute and touching to see a mommy seal breastfeeding her baby. Absolutely adorable!

seals

Kilt Rock

We left all these wonders behind and at one point we got near Staffin, where you can find the famous cliffs called “Kilt Rock”. These cliffs look a bit like a tartan kilt. There is also an impressive waterfall by the lookout point that goes straight into the sea. The pictures we show here are not the best ones as it is quite difficult unless you have a drone.

Duntulm Castle – the ruins above the sea

A special place to see on the Isle is definitely Duntulm Castle. There isn’t much left of this castle, that’s why it isn’t mentioned in any flyers or magazines. You’ll find the ruins of Duntulm, standing on the cliff of basalt (cliffs of Totterish) looking across The Minch (known as Scotland’s fjord) to the Isle of Lewis.

As I said before, due to poor reception and no sat-nav, we’ve had to follow the signs and any other clues that we could find. At one point, we met a local man and we asked him about the Castle. He start laughing and said there’s no castle here just some very old stones. Now, maybe to him, they were just some stones but these ruins have a lot of history behind.  One of the earliest written records of Duntulm is from when King James V visited in 1540 and said that he was impressed by the castle’s strength and the hospitality he was shown here.

duntulm

We were lucky to enjoy such a beautiful sunset here. The scenery is absolutely superb. The dramatic view, especially when you get near the cliff edge will leave you speechless. Now, I know exactly why according to a European Environment Agency, Scotland is one of the quietest destinations in Europe. There’s no more to add, just simply enjoy the silence.

The End is not here…

When it comes to the best places to visit on the Isle of Skye, there are many worthy to mention. But I think discovering it all by yourself will make your journey unforgettable. We are coming back to this Isle, as I feel like we haven’t finished exploring it. This time we’ll try to travel via ferry from Glenelg to Kylerhea, the route that promises even more beauty and more wildlife.

I love that you can stop on any rock and take it all in, the spectacular views, everything. We are so delighted and lucky to have spotted a whale in this place. We need to come back for the Coral Beach, to swim in the sea that on a sunny day looks as blue as a tropical beach.

Have a look at some more pictures

See you on my next adventure!

England Trips

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

butterfly

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!

canal

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.

house

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

nutcracker

 
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.

pigeon

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.

kinver

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!