I arrived at the Cary Arms in Devon at about 5pm on a Sunday evening and was shown up to my room. We walked through a door, and I could see a few different rooms leading off the hallway. ‘That’s odd,’ I thought to myself, ‘that the doors to the other bedrooms are open. Perhaps there’s just no one staying in them, and they like to show them off.’

I dropped by bags down on the floor of my bedroom, and opened the window. The view out to the sea was amazing. They don’t call The Cary Arms ‘the inn on the beach’ for nothing. It literally is. 

I also took a moment to admire the pillow treats. I like a treat at the best of times, but a stick of rock on your pillow when you’re by the sea? Such a clever idea! (Plus it meant I didn’t have to buy Belle a gift.) View Post

Thinking about all the cars I’ve ever had (which must be in double figures by now), I don’t think I’ve ever owned a Volvo (and especially not a Volvo V40). I did have a rather natty 21-year-old Metro that I bought from eBay for £87, and named Little Mo, but never a Volvo

In my mind, Volvos have always been the sort of car that your sensible middle-aged neighbour might have. That neighbour that cuts his grass religiously every Sunday afternoon and oils his hedge clippers regularly. You know, the sort of person who actually takes care of things, and is concerned about rust and safety and what not. 

Not so.

NEWSFLASH – the Volvo V40 is cool!

Who knew?!

Volvo V40

(That’s me in there, driving! It was rather disconcerting, as the photographer was hanging out of what looked like the driver’s window of another car.)

The Volvo V40 is definitely not your stereotypical box-shaped Volvo, with a tartan rug and pair of sturdy binoculars in the boot. Nope. The Volvo V40 is a cool, funky, hi-tech, girl about town sort of a car, with technology to match, as I discovered when I spent 24 hours in Stockholm, Sweden, reviewing the V40 by driving it around and testing out all of its super cool functionality.

(Can I just say – I was very brave indeed driving in Stockholm. It’s not easy to suddenly drive a brand new car – even a car as safe and cool as the Volvo V40 – around a large city, on the wrong side of the road, especially when a photographer is crouched in the passenger foot well and you are trying to look casual yet engaging at all times.) View Post

Did you read my alternative fashion shoot post a little while ago? It was the one where Bee was my photographer and director, and got me to do things like stand next to a wheelie bin, and pretend that I was a contestant on Countdown. It was very funny, so you should definitely read it. And so fun, that we had to do something similar when we holidayed at the National Trust’s Vineyard Farm Cottage in Dorset. 

In fact, it proved so popular that I thought to myself, ‘What better way to showcase the National Trust Vineyard Farm Cottage than to have Belle and I pose in and around it in interesting ways?’ I can see you’re already excited about where this is going.

We went off for the weekend to stay in Vineyard Farm Cottage, a National Trust cottage that you can rent out for holidays, and that sits at the foot of Corfe Castle in Dorset. It has everything you would expect from a holiday cottage, including two spacious bedrooms, a wood-burning stove, well-equipped kitchen, great bathroom, National Trust cookies on arrival – the works.

National Trust Vineyard Farm Cottage Corfe Castle review

National Trust Vineyard Farm Cottage Corfe Castle review

National Trust Vineyard Farm Cottage Corfe Castle review View Post

A couple of weeks ago Belle and I went to stay at Glamping West Midlands. As the very informative name suggests, it was glamping, in the West Midlands. Dur. It’s part of a smallholding, and has a very relaxed, homely feel.

We’ve done quite a few glamping style holidays, in yurts and vintage caravans and whatnot, so we’d consider ourselves seasoned glampers. Glamping West Midlands, as I’m sure owner Chris won’t mind us saying, is probably slightly further down the ‘glam’ end of the spectrum, but the lack of fancy vintage touches or local pork sausages for sale is balanced out by a very real, unforced connection with nature and the surroundings. If you love the idea of being woken every morning by a persistent cockerel, (sniggers), or have children who love the outdoors and getting hands on with animals, then Glamping West Midlands is definitely the place for you.

Glamping West Midlands

Glamping West Midlands View Post

I’ve always had a bit of a thing for old-fashioned caravans. Not the modern ones that are basically like tiny houses, (although I do like those too), but the little ones, where you have to clear away the dinner things before you can turn the table into a bed, and a night time wee involves getting dressed and walking across a field.

I’ve always felt that a retro caravan held a promise of adventure, and an air of mystery. I can remember being quite small and going to play with a friend one weekend. I can’t remember who the friend was, or what the context of the visit might have been, but I do remember that said friend had an old caravan at the bottom of their garden. You could only get to it by what, at the time, felt like a trek through miles of undergrowth, but I suspect that in reality was just having to push a few branches out of the way and then, as if by magic, there it was.

The caravan wasn’t used anymore for holidays, and instead had become a sort of secret play room.* You could sit down around the wobbly formica table top to plan adventures, Secret Seven style, and all of a sudden I wanted, more than anything, to have an abandoned caravan of my very own. I would decorate it exactly how I wanted, and fill it with spy equipment. Nobody would be allowed in unless they knew the top secret password, and from my caravan of mystery I would solve crimes that had kept the police baffled for decades.

It’s no wonder then that I loved our weekend at Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans, in the beautiful Wye Valley. View Post

Written by my daughter Bee about her experiences travelling in Europe

travelling in Europe

I haven’t been to that many places, but I am trying to expand my list of countries that I have been to. I am going to Spain in June and I find it hard to believe that I haven’t been there before, considering I will be almost 21 by the time I finally get round to it. Pretty much all the times that I have been travelling in Europe, something has gone wrong, usually in regards to transport. I have been stranded in Greece for two weeks due to strikes, almost missed Christmas because of my passport and almost accidentally stayed in Ireland for over a month instead of three days.

Oops.

So if I’ve learnt anything, it’s that you have to be prepared for any possibility. Here are four things that are really important to remember when travelling in Europe. Europe forever. Yay to the EU.

Do I need a passport?

You need to check with your airline, but in most instances, you will need a passport to go to places in Europe. However, I went on the ferry to Dublin without being IDed once, and then flew to Belfast and only got IDed on the way back. You can fly to Northern Ireland with just a valid driver’s license, but I would recommend taking a passport anyway if you have one. Don’t forget as well that you will need your boarding passes printed out or available to scan from your phone. You will also need your EHIC (European health insurance card) so that you are covered if anything happens to you health wise while you are on holiday. You can apply for one free online, and it only takes a few minutes, so why would you not?

travelling in Europe

Do I have the right insurance?

I fly all the time without insurance but I don’t think this is the right thing to do. I’m pretty sure you need to get some travel insurance. Shop around though, because the one that your airline suggests when booking might not be the cheapest or have the best cover. When we got stranded in Greece, my dad ended up getting more money back from the insurance people than he actually spent on the holiday, so he clearly got a good deal. You never know what could happen when travelling in Europe. 

Alongside your travel insurance, don’t forget that you should have your EHIC . Your EHIC gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 28 EU countries, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.

travelling in Europe

Do I have the right stuff?

I always like to be really prepared before I go to the airport because I find them very stressful. I always like to make sure that I am packed the night before with all of my travel documents in an easy to access place for when I need them. I make sure that I put all of my little toiletries into a ziplock bag before I go to save time at the airport. As it is usual to travel with just hand luggage for short getaways to Europe, make sure that you’re following the airline guidelines for hand luggage to save you stress further down the line. No one wants to have to throw away a bottle of favourite shampoo that may have cost more than the flight in the first place.

travelling in Europe

Am I organised?

I love love love my iPhone, so if there are any apps out there to help me with my travels then I will use them. I have the EasyJet app, which is amazing when you fly with them because you can use it as your boarding pass and it will tell you when and where to go to the gate to catch your flight.

EHIC also have a really useful app which guides you on how to use the card in any European country, should you need to. It’s multilingual and it can be downloaded from Itunes, Google Playstore, and Windows Phone Store.

travelling in Europe

Always be prepared when you’re travelling in Europe because if you’re anything like me, anything could happen! And make sure you vote for us to stay in the EU so we can all have a lovely time in Europe forever.

Sponsored post. Image credits Lisa Kolbasa/shutterstock, Images By Kenny/shutterstock, Stephan Morris/shutterstock and Nevada31/shutterstock

Have you ever found yourself away for the weekend in a lovely self-catering cottage, snuggled up in front of a roaring fire, or maybe even at home, tucked under a blanket, and thought to yourself, ‘what would make this perfect right now would be if someone were to bring me a tray of tea; some sort of friendly, discreet butler would be lovely.’ Well, that’s what happened when we visited Weeke Barton for the weekend, anyway. 

*Cue Sam, half of the couple who run Weeke Barton guesthouse in Devon, arriving with a tray of tea and offering to add another log to the fire in the huge living room, full of squishy leather sofas.*

Often when we go away for one of our weekend mini-breaks, we end up doing that thing of tiptoeing around our unfamiliar surroundings, unsure of where you’re allowed to go or what you’re allowed to touch. Come dinner time, you loiter in your room, nervous about how to strike the right balance of smart / casual, and concerned about the embarrassment of a child refusing everything on the menu.

Weeke Barton is exactly the opposite of this. 

From the moment we arrived, we were made to feel as welcome as if we were old family friends. A converted long house, Weeke Barton has a wonderful mix of cosy fires and character features alongside spacious rooms and wide windows. Inside, you feel cocooned and yet free, both at the same time. It’s jolly clever.

Review Weeke Barton hotel B&B Dartmoor Devon View Post