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.

Petite Ceinture Paris View Post

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

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:

View Post

stress free family holidays

What makes family holidays stressful for you?

I remember one holiday I had about ten years ago that was pretty stressful in the grand scheme of things. It was with an ex-partner, with whom I had a rather difficult relationship. I told him I didn’t love him anymore and wanted us to break up. He told me the only friends I had were on Facebook because I was such a shallow human being.

Fun times!

For most (normal) families, I think holiday stress normally comes from things like booking the holiday in the first place. Or that’s what Villa Plus found when then did some research recently at least. Funnily enough, respondents didn’t mention ‘dysfunctional relationship with partner’ as a factor. Instead, 73% of UK holidaymakers are worried about terrorism when booking a holiday, and nearly half of us get stressed out reading negative reviews after we’ve made our booking.

It’s even been given a new name. ‘Fearcation’. Leading Psychologist Dr David Lewis says it’s what happens when “the stress of booking a holiday is outweighed by the benefit of going.”

“They say knowledge conquers fear,” says Dr Lewis, “but, especially when booking a holiday, concerns over how reliable that information is can result in paralysing ‘Fearcation’ with high levels of stress and anxiety that can ruin your enjoyment and spoil your plans.”

Sound familiar?

Fear not!

I’ve put together seven top tips to help make family holidays less stressful.

You’re welcome.

1 – Choose your partner wisely

If the thought of going on holiday with them makes you feel a bit squeamish then are they really the one for you? Come on, you can do better than that. 

2 – Keep your holiday paperwork organised

One of my main holiday stresses is worrying about tickets. I have this paranoia that I will turn up somewhere and have forgotten my tickets, or I’ll have my booking but the hotel will have no record of it.

Luckily I have this to keep all my documents in. I actually won it in a competition that I entered three times – once as me, once as Belle and once as fiancé. I forgot to tell them, (obviously), and when fiancé won he nearly deleted the email as he didn’t know what it was about. When he casually told me about this spam competition email he’d got I properly shrieked. I think he was a bit taken aback. I really wanted it though. True story.

3 – Get your information from trusted sources

I’m sure if you look for long enough you can find a negative review about anything. You could read negative comments about even someone as lovely as me I expect, if you tried hard enough. (And I didn’t send them straight to spam.) Rather than getting yourself all in a panic because one person three years ago had a problem with their room at your chosen hotel, stick to recommendations and opinions from people you trust who have first hand experience. Asking friends and family, like the good old days before all your friends existed only on Facebook, is normally the best way.

4 – Leave the children at home

Only kidding! It wouldn’t be fun without them would it? Okay, it might be, but they have their perks. Like you can legitimately go to the ‘kids attractions’, which we all know are the best bits really. 

5 – Book your holiday with Villa Plus

Well, I would say that in this post wouldn’t I? But seriously, Villa Plus are worth a look. They’ve got over 7,250 independent reviews on TrustPilot and lots of photos of each villa, Google maps and floor plans. 360 degree videos are being introduced too, and more will be rolled out over time, so you can have a good nose before you book. Most of their villas include things like wifi and private pools as standard. 

6 – Brush up on your language skills

Feeling confident about the local language will make you feel far less stressed about all the things that might go wrong. The Google Translate app will come in handy here, but you might want to learn a few key phrases in advance. I’d suggest:

‘Can you please point me in the direction of the hotel kids’ club?’

‘A large gin and tonic please.’

7 – Become a man

If you’re not one already. A little drastic perhaps, but the Villa Plus research showed that women are the ones that get most stressed out by the holiday booking process. ‘Women are much more likely’, the study shows, ‘to shoulder the burden of choosing where to go.’ 

On the plus side, that does mean we normally get to choose where to go, so you know, pros and cons.

What do you find most stressful about family holidays?

stress free family holidays

Ice cream – the recipe for any stress free family holiday

Produced in association with Villa Plus. Header image – Sunny studio/shutterstock.

About the research – The research was carried out by onepoll between 02/09/2016 and 06/09/2016 amongst a panel resulting in number respondents type of respondents. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. onepoll is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

Half term is coming up and as you know, I’m a big fan of a UK mini break. Well, to be honest I’m a fan of any sort of mini break, but going away for a few days within the UK is a little bit more feasible and affordable during half term than whizzing off to Monte Carlo or Verona or anywhere fancy like that.

I’m really looking forward to this half term. Belle is exhausted and in need of a good rest, and Fiance has the week off work. I’m imagining lots of cosy lie ins and afternoon outings to admire the autumn leaves before coming home to snuggle up on the sofa with a stack of blankets and some festive films. 

Oh, and I have to do a spot of work. Probably.

If you fancy getting away for a few days this half term, I’ve got a few suggestions for you here. They are recommendations from LateRooms.com, and there’s something to suit everyone, whether you like paddling in the freezing October sea or making an early start on your Christmas shopping. (I like both. But not at the same time.)

The beach break – Brighton

Here’s a little known fact for you – the sea here in October is actually warmer for paddling than the whole of the summer. Honestly. That’s what LateRooms.com told me anyway.  You’ve got the famous Brighton Pier too of course, which is open year round, with seaside stalls, fairground rides and plenty of tasty seaside snacks. Personally I don’t think you can go wrong with an hour on the 2p slot machines and a bag of salty chips.

Stay – The King’s Hotel, 3*

Located right on the sea front and close to the West Pier, this hotel makes for easy navigating of the beach and town. Double, triple and family rooms are all available and lots have sea views to make the most of your beach break.

shutterstock_304559015

The city stayGlasgow

I’ve ashamed to say I’ve only ever been to Scotland once. I feel bad about it. When American friends come to England they ‘pop’ to places like Berlin and Paris, as though it’s just around the road, yet I’ve lived in the UK all my life and barely been to a huge chunk of it. Sorry Scotland.

The time I did visit, I went to Edinburgh, so Glasgow definitely needs to be on my list. It feels a bit like Edinburgh’s quieter, less popular cousin, but is a bit of a hidden gem for a UK break. You’ll find live music, street entertainers, vibrant shopping and dining, and of plenty of interesting child friendly activities. Try the Glasgow Science Centre and Planetarium where the kids can get involved with experiments, or explore the riverside’s tall ships (for free).

Stay – The Hallmark Hotel, 4*

The Hallmark Glasgow is in the heart of the city and has 12 family apartments which give you space to spread out. There’s an indoor pool, to keep the kids entertained along with a health club and spa (if you’re looking to wind down). The hotel’s own brasserie restaurant means you can always dine in at the end of a day’s sightseeing.

View Post