Browsing Tag



Where to? In the name of love


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.


(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.


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.


(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.


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.


(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


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.


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?



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.




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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!