It’s been quite a while since Belle and I took a trip to London. We never quite got round to going to look at the Christmas lights and now that Bee has graduated and moved out of London we have even less reason to visit.

We were very much looking forward then to our weekend stay at the Royal Garden Hotel on Kensington High Street, London.

Can you see how excited we are? 

review Royal Garden Hotel London

We set off after school on Friday, catching the train from Taunton. To get to London Paddington takes less than two hours and the Royal Garden Hotel is not far at all from the station. As well as being handy for Paddington, The Royal Garden Hotel is in a prime spot for family sightseeing. You’ve got Kensington Palace for a bit of casual royal baby spotting, a huge park for kids to run around, and then loads of fantastic museums all within walking distance. The Science Museum is a must if you’ve never been before, and is less than 20 minutes walk away from the hotel.

This should give you an idea of exactly where we were and what was close by:

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Disclosure - we stayed at the Royal Garden Hotel as guests for the weekend for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

We’ve teamed up with Villa Plus today to get you excited about booking your summer holiday!

They say that anticipation is half the fun, but I disagree. I actually think it’s more like 80% of the fun.

I absolutely love the build-up to stuff, often more than the event itself. Take Christmas for instance. From early September I’m getting excited, humming Christmas tunes to myself, eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine. I love the planning – buying presents, putting up the tree – it’s all ACE. You’ve got to enjoy that bit haven’t you, otherwise it’s just a big stress of shopping and overspending, and no one wants to think about that. 

I’m the same with holidays. 

I love spending time thinking about where I want to go and what I might do there. I like imagining what adventures we are going to have, shopping for those adorable mini bottles of shampoo, and generally getting everyone in a holiday frame of mind. I even like the actual travelling part, as that’s all part of the adventure for me.

My favourite type of holidays are the sort where you have plenty of freedom and flexibility. I guess that’s why we always end up self-catering on long breaks – I can’t bear the idea of a whole week spent living to someone else’s schedule. I want to have my breakfast when I’m good and ready thank you very much. The great thing about using a company like Villa Plus is that you get that freedom, but don’t have to compromise on security or reliability – you’re not renting a villa from an ad in the back of a magazine, you’re going to someone you can trust.

(Thinking about holidays got me reminiscing about holidays when the children were little and so I *may* have just spent half an hour or so looking at old photos…)

Villa Plus family holidays

Isn’t Bee a cutie?

Villa Plus family holidays

I think we are looking at a wasp in this picture.

One of our very favourite holidays was with a friend and her son, Ashley, staying in their villa in Spain. It had a pool, and Belle and Ashley spent pretty much the whole holiday in it, while we lay on loungers, sipping cocktails and reading trashy novels. It was absolute bliss – our own little private haven and everyone was happy. 

Belle goes on and on about that villa and the pool as her absolute dream holiday. She loves swimming and is desperate for us to go somewhere sunny where she can recreate our Spanish villa experience. Now that Christmas is almost at an end, I wanted to get her excited about the idea of a summer holiday, so we spent some time looking at the Villa Plus website. 

Villa Plus are a great option if you like that freedom and privacy that comes from a villa holiday. They have over 30 years experience, and hand pick villas from the very best locations across Europe. They really appreciate what’s important to families when it comes to holidays and most villas come with things like wifi, a private pool and a barbecue. 

That’s all our holiday essentials right there. Villa Plus are all about making sure you’ll love your holiday more and nothing is guaranteed to make Belle love her holiday more than a pool and a strong wifi connection.

Please do have a watch of our video and see what you think:

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On Wednesday Belle and I went for a day out in Exeter. 

Even though we live relatively close, we hardly ever go to Exeter. I’ve no idea why. It seems crazy really that our city of choice is Bristol, even though it’s further away. I think it’s just because we don’t know Exeter as well, so we don’t know about things like good parking spots. The last time we went we ended up spending as much on parking as on the petrol to get us there and back in the first place. We don’t tend to go on the train because the main station in Exeter is a bit far out of the city and the station in Taunton is about a 25 minute walk from us, which makes it a bit of a trek.

When we decided then that we fancied a day out in Exeter, we thought that a coach might be the way to go. The bus station is pretty central and it would mean we wouldn’t have to worry at all about where to park. It would also mean that Belle and I got to chat properly on the coach, rather than her just sitting there in silence while I stare straight ahead. (Who am I kidding? She played Minecraft all the way.)

We used the GoEuro website to do some research. It compares times and prices across different methods of transport to find you the best option. There’s even a box to tick to tie in your search with Airbnb if you are going on a longer trip and need accommodation too.

GoEuro book coach to Exeter

Funnily enough, flying to Exeter wasn’t an option for us. View Post

As you know from my rather bizarre cemetery story, I was in Paris a couple of weeks ago. When I have a bit of spare time in a new city I like to try to find more unusual things to do, rather than the obvious tourist stuff. Anyone can visit the Eiffel Tower – I wanted something a bit more off the beaten track.

I’ve always been a big fan of graffiti, so I decided to see if I could find some cool graffiti in Paris to take pictures of. I know that technically it’s vandalism, sure, but when it’s done well, it’s amazing – the skill that goes into good graffiti is incredible. 

First up, I went to have a look at a little bit of the Petite Ceinture. The Petite Ceinture is a 20 mile loop of railway, built about 150 years ago and abandoned in the 1930s. It’s an incredible phenomena – this vast expanse of neglected land running through the heart of the city, that has become a much needed home to animals and humans alike. I accessed it through a little open door in a side street, and had to walk past some makeshift shelters and tents and climb some old stone steps to get up to the track.

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Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Raphael, a 63 year old Parisian man, took my phone from my hand. ‘Go on,’ he said, waving me towards the grave of Victor Noir, a French journalist shot dead in 1870.

‘Rub him there – that’s right!’ he said, taking a series of photos. ‘Now you will have twins!’

No, that’s not a line from a novel, that’s my life.

I’m not sure how, for an afternoon at the end of November, it became my life, but it was quite good fun. View Post

Belle has been invited to a sleepover this weekend. She’s pretty excited about it. I’m excited too as it happens to be the night that Fiancé and I have tickets to see Reef at Glastonbury Town Hall, so that all fits together very nicely thank you very much.

Last night she gave me her friend’s mum’s phone number so I could text and check the details.

‘Hello!’ I text. ‘It’s Belle’s mum here! What time would you like me to drop Belle off? Does she need to bring anything? We have a roll out bed if that would be useful?’

Damn, I felt like such a grown up. I’ve never been in the position to offer a roll out bed before and I felt super fancy.

The bed in question is a Bundle Bed and we have had it for a few months now. It has been very useful, and we’ve used it quite a few times already for sleepovers and camping trips. It’s basically a whole bed that you can pop away into a handy roll. They do some really lovely colour combinations – we have this one:

Bundle Bed review View Post

I was going to start by saying something like ‘I love Cornwall’, but then I realised that’s probably about the most obvious statement ever. I mean, have you ever heard anyone say ‘Oh God no, I hate Cornwall. All that beautiful coastline and those picturesque fishing villages? Not my thing at all.’

Nope.

So let’s take it as a given that Cornwall rocks, and I’ll just tell you about the hotels we stayed in. 

Our first night was spent at the Royal Duchy Hotel in Falmouth. We were very pleased to have been invited to Falmouth actually, as my Dad and step-mum moved there last year, plus my step-sister and her family live down there, so we could get to hang out with them for a bit, which is always nice. I have a rather adorable two year old niece down there, who is just about the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen, so most of our hanging out time was really just me gazing at her.

Anyway, the hotel.

Safe to say it was FANCY with a capital FAN.

It felt like a cross between one of those classic seafront hotels, with the big picture windows overlooking the sea, and a luxury city hotel, with sleek furnishing and top notch finishes. But the right bits of both. The communal areas were cosy and friendly, and the service was impeccable. The staff made a real effort to chat and to make sure you had everything you needed, and we spotted quite a few older people dining on their own in the evening. I always think that if you have regulars who are happy to come back again and again, on their own, then that says a lot about the quality of the service.

First things first though, we went up to our room and I did a little tour. I have to remember to take photos and make my videos as soon as we arrive at a hotel, as we are so messy when we’re away – within about five minutes it looks like six suitcases have exploded in the room, and that’s not aspirational for anyone.

I made fiancé wait outside in the corridor, hid our bags in the wardrobe, and made this for you:

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