I have always wanted to live in Bristol. I’m not sure when the feeling started, but it has been there as long as I can remember – a sort of tingle of excitement, mixed with a happy contentment from knowing a place is just right for you.

The move was a long time coming – Bee started using air quotes whenever she said ‘when we move to Bristol’ – but I had to wait for the right moment. It happened though, and although it wasn’t easy moving to a new place, especially with the Chuckle Brothers as our moving team, I never doubted my decision.

Circumstances conspired unfortunately to make living in Bristol difficult for me last year, and so we moved back to Somerset. It sucked at first. I’m adjusting, but I still miss Bristol and hopefully one day I will go back.

While I don’t want to sound negative about Somerset – it has plenty of good points – Bristol is, I’m fairly certain, the city I love most in the world.

Here’s why: View Post

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This is a two part review.

First off I’m going to tell you a little bit about Bluestone National Park Resort and what they’ve got going on over Christmas, then Bee is going to add her two pennies’ worth as a pay-off, as she mentions, for getting the double bed for a night. I thought this might give you a nice perspective on what teenagers are really thinking when they are made to go on family mini-breaks. (It’s not what you might be expecting, although Bee may not be a typical teenager.)

My bit first then, as I am the tallest. (Bee once said she just always thought of me as being in charge of the family as I am the tallest. God help us when Belle grows.)

Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire was to my mind a kind of mini Centre Parcs without the forest. (I don’t know if every Centre Parcs has a forest, but the one I have been to did.) I’m not sure if this is a comparison Bluestone like, but given that Centre Parcs is rather lovely, I hope they would take it as a compliment.

The general format is similar in that you stay in self-catering lodges and chalets in beautiful surroundings, get to enjoy a well-equipped water park, and then can book extra activities on top depending on your own interests. There is also a rather luxurious spa. In the middle of the park is the ‘village’, a small cluster of shops and restaurants, plus a play area. The Christmas lights are up now, so in the evening it’s very pretty and has a nice festive feel to it. The benefit of it being smaller is that everything is within a sensible walking distance so you aren’t forced to hire bikes, although bikes and golf buggies are available should you want a little extra help getting around.

As well as lights to get you into the Christmas spirit, Bluestone are also running the ‘Kingdom of the Elves Elf Workshop‘, an interactive festive journey, where children get to meet different Christmas characters, take part in mini challenges and games and collect items for their elf aprons. I have to be honest and say that there was a certain amount of reluctance on Belle’s part to don her elf pinny but she is 12 and the average age of the other elves was about 6, so perhaps it’s to be expected. The experience was really well thought out though and the small children definitely enjoyed being spun around on a giant penny, collecting coloured snowballs and getting squirted with bubbles. View Post

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I love a good Christmas market.

I’ve been to a fair few – Bristol, Bath, Edinburgh, Bruges even – and one of the things I love is that actually, wherever you go, you get vaguely the same loop of bratwurst, Russian dolls, furry hats, handcrafted wooden candlesticks and weird wine bottle holders made out of metal. There’s something comforting in the familiar, like visiting a National Trust property anywhere in the country and knowing you can bank on a nice cup of tea and lavender soaps in the gift shop.

Bruges Christmas market

Bruges Christmas market

In 2010 I went to Birmingham Christmas market. I had only recently met my boyfriend at the time – he was a student there – and we (or me at least, I’m not sure it’s something everyone does…) were in that exciting yet awkward phase of trying to do and say everything you think the other person would like, meaning that neither of you ever make a decision about anything.*

“Shall we go to the Christmas market?”

“I don’t mind. Do you want to?”

“Sure, if you do?”

That sort of thing.

We did eventually get there and it was really lovely. There is always something magical about being out in the dark, Christmas lights twinkling everywhere you look, crowds of people laughing, scoffing their bratwurst and chugging back the mulled wine. The smells of a Christmas market are glorious – food cooking, festive spices brewing – it captures the very essence of Christmas.

TOP TIP: If you do fancy a trip to Birmingham Christmas market I would recommend treating yourself to a nice Birmingham hotel rather than staying in a student house in Selly Oak where central heating is considered an unnecessary luxury.

The downside of Birmingham, in my experience at least, is that it can get very busy. We did end up in one of those shoulder to shoulder situations at times, where you can’t really look at anything as you are just trying to walk upright and not slosh your tepid mulled wine over anyone. If you fancy a bit of a quieter location for your Christmas shopping, you could try staying in Coventry instead.

Same bratwurst, shorter queues.

Do you have a favourite Christmas market?

Bee in Bruges at Christmas

Bee in Bruges

*I have to confess that I probably don’t grow out of this as a relationship grows. Something to talk to the therapist about.

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Visit all the counties in England.

Tick.

See the Dark Hedges.

Tick.

I made some pretty good progress on my list of 40 things to do before 40 over the summer, so I’ve been thinking about what I can do next to keep the ball rolling.

One of my favourite items on the list is ‘Hang out in a 19th century Ottoman mansion and take a cruise up the Bosphorus’, so with work deadlines looming and a pile of dirty washing festering in the basket on the landing I decided that the best thing to do with my time would be to look at pretty pictures of Turkey on the internet. Pinterest obviously is lovely for pictures, travel blogs for personal recommendations, and travel companies like First Choice can be useful for information about flights, accommodation and places of interest.

The list item was inspired by this newspaper cutting, so obviously I have to stay here, but what should I do when I’m not chillaxing in the rainforest shower, tucking into the Godiva chocolates and admiring the statement lamps? View Post

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Do you remember that Homebase ad where they build a house out of containers?

Homebase container

I always thought it looked pretty cool. It reminded me of playing Sylvanian Families when I was little* and spending ages organising the furniture in the little box shaped houses. I never imagined that one day I would get to sleep in a real actual container.

Well, you know what’s coming don’t you?

A couple of weeks ago Belle and I did spend the night in a container, and not because we were trying to sneak across any borders, but as part of a visit to Thorpe Park and the new Shark Hotel.

“The hotel is made of containers,” I told everyone.

“Seriously though,” they said, “what was it like?”

“Like sleeping in a container,” I said, and showed them the pictures: View Post

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