I was offered the chance to review the new Aparthotels Adagio Brentford, so I sent my daughter Bee for a cheeky babymoon. The night’s stay was a gift – all opinions are Bee’s.

Adagio London Brentford A697

The one baby magazine that I read about 4 months ago told me to go on a babymoon with my ‘partner’, (he’s my boyfriend because I’m 23 years old), before the baby comes so we could appreciate having some nice quiet alone time together before our lives are filled with eternal screaming and we lose all feelings we ever had for one another. Or something like that.

Now I don’t really have a job, and the spare time my boyfriend has I basically force him to spend with me anyway, so I didn’t really feel like a romance needed to be rekindled, but it is always nice to have a change of scenery. The place I mainly always wish I was rather than here in dreary old Bath is London, so we decided to go there for the night.

It was actually sheer coincidence that we were then invited to stay in Aparthotels Adagio Brentford for the night to test out their accommodation! View Post

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You know how sometimes life is feeling a bit like too much hard work, and you really just need a couple of days to take some deep breaths and have a break from home? I’ve felt like this for the last few months, and so our weekend at Bruern Cottages in the Cotswolds could not come soon enough.

Sometimes with a mini-break you go away and it’s nice but also you feel like you could have had the same experience just having a bit of a tidy up at home and watching a film.

Bruern Cottages was NOT like this.

Bruern Cottages review

Bruern cottages reviews

There are a few standalone cottages in the grounds I think, but the main area is this sweeping courtyard, with joined cottages forming three sides of a square around the edges.

I find the term ‘cottage’ a bit misleading really. I think of a cottage as generally being small, maybe a bit gloomy, but the cottage we stayed in, which you can see in the second picture above and was called Wychwood, was bright and spacious and basically bigger than my house. View Post

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Post in association with On the Beach

I’ve got this thing with my nose.

When it gets cold, it goes red – a shiny, bright red, Rudolph style. I would like to say it’s kind of sexy and adorable, but it’s not, it’s just RED. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, now Grannyhood is looming, before I start walking around with drips on the end of it. I may also grow warts on my chin.

What I really need is to be out of this cold, miserable weather and lying on a warm beach somewhere, living my best body-confident bikini life. Any nose redness then can be passed off as me being ‘sun-kissed’, which is a much better look.

family beach holidays

Perfect timing then for a 2019 Family Beach Index from holiday experts On the Beach.
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I’ve always wanted the chance to stay in a vintage VW camper. In fact, it’s on my list of 50 things to do before 50 – the new, vaguely anxiety-inducing list I’ve created since turning 40. (50? I will surely never be 50 years old?)

I’ve done a couple of longer road trips in big, modern motorhomes and absolutely loved them – the simplification of life, minimal stuff, and that feeling of being away from the real world is magical. There’s something very relaxing about it taking half an hour and a trip to an outdoors tap to make a cup of tea.

I’ve always wondered though how I’d get on in something a little less luxurious. It hardly counts as roughing it in a van if your double bed comes down from the ceiling at the press of a button does it?

Cue Happy Days Campervan Hire.

Happy Days is a family run business near Falmouth. They’ve been doing campervan hire in Cornwall for less than a year, but their two 1970s Volkswagen Westfalia Campervans are already proving very popular for weekend breaks and longer holidays. Both vans feature beautiful vintage interiors and are small but perfectly formed. They have full width double beds, space in the roof for a small one, and in good weather you could sleep another couple of people in a drive-away awning.

Now what I probably should have said when Happy Days got in touch, asking if I wanted to have a play with one of their vans for the weekend, is ‘that sounds amazing! How about doing something in the spring?’

What actually happened was that I was so over-excited that I looked at the calendar to find the nearest possible date I could feasibly do and said ‘Yes please! How about December 15th?’

I don’t know if you remember, but the weekend of December 15th was the one with the incredibly high winds and torrential rain. Couple this with a remote campsite on the most southerly coastline in the UK and it would be fair to say that it wasn’t exactly what you’d call optimal camping conditions.

Pah!

The sound of rain on a camper van while you’re tucked up inside is ace isn’t it? We packed our blankets, downloaded some films onto the laptop, filled a bag with ginger biscuits, hot chocolate and jumbo salted peanuts, and off we went.

We picked up Olive, the aptly named green VW campervan of the pair at Happy Days, at teatime on Friday. At a sensible time of the year it would have been still light of course, but we managed a pretty smooth handover by torchlight, and I took the wheel confidently, putting Belle in charge of directions to our campsite, half an hour away.

VW campervan hire UK

The ‘taking the wheel confidently’ bit is important. I’ve found over the years in these sort of situations that with Belle, the best thing to do is not let any nerves show at all, but to just assume the role of ‘person in charge who absolutely knows what they’re doing and definitely doesn’t have any doubts at all about how to change gear.’ View Post

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PROMOTION

With the daylight barely lasting until 5pm these days, it can be difficult to imagine that just a few months ago we were sat outside in the balmy summer air at 10pm with a light jacket. The cold weather and long nights can be really depressing, even with the Christmas spirit pouring in thick and fast as we make our way through December.

It’s never too early to start thinking about a summer holiday, and even though Christmas is expensive, with teletext cheap holidays starting deposits from just £49 what’s stopping you spending your cosy evenings indoors planning the perfect affordable summer holiday?

I’ve been having a look online for some inspiration of places to visit. If you fancy it, start a little Pinterest board of cool and fun places you’d like to go so you definitely remember them for the summer. Here are some of my favourite destinations at the moment.

Barcelona

I’ve been to Barcelona before, but there’s so much to see and do there that you always need more time than you think you will. A lot of people travelling go to Barcelona for a day trip while visiting other parts of Spain, but I’d fancy turning it into a holiday in itself. If you love the beaches more than anything you could go for an all inclusive resort and spend most of your time relaxing, or if soaking up culture is more your thing then you could head into the city and try loads of local restaurants. Maybe I could put into practice those weeks I spent learning Spanish to go on a date?

holidays in barcelona View Post

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In association with National Express

Picture the scene…

It’s November 1st, I’m wearing my Christmas pyjamas, and I’ve cracked open a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream. There might be a mince pie warming in the oven and it’s all I can do not to watch the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special. Even better, I don’t care a jot about all those people who are HUMBUGGING all over the place, telling me November is too early for Christmas.

IT’S NOT.

If it was, then how do you explain the fact that there are currently over 50 wood cabins in Bristol city centre selling Christmas gifts, mulled wine and oversized sausages?

(Seriously, what is it with the bratwurst? Why do they not design them to fit in the buns, or buy buns big enough to hold them?)

Bristol Christmas market

Bristol Christmas market even has CURLING, which feels pretty festive to me, and a Jäger Barn Bar, which feels slightly less so, but I guess it’s drinking, so that counts. Of course the downside to visiting a Christmas market is that often you’ve driven there, which means you can’t really do the mulled drinks offering justice. Ironically, the stress of finding somewhere to park, and then realising it is going to cost you £2 PER HOUR, means you really need a mulled wine more than ever.

Fortunately I have a solution: National Express.

Ta-dah! View Post

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In partnership with On the Beach

A few years ago I was chatting to Bee about something or other, I can’t remember what. I think perhaps I was feeling a bit overworked at the time because I started going into this daydream.

‘Wouldn’t it be lovely,’ I said to Bee, gazing into the distance, ‘to be somewhere really warm right not, where you didn’t have to do anything?’

She looked at me.

‘There would probably be relaxing noises in the background,’ I continued, ‘maybe the noise of the sea? And someone would bring me a cocktail.’

She looked at me again, like I was actually quite stupid.

‘That’s a beach holiday mum,’ she said.

‘A beach holiday?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘it’s what everyone in the world wants. You’ve not just invented it.’

‘Oh,’ I said, disappointed. I imagined I’d just created a personal paradise that no one had thought of before. Since then ‘beach holidays’ has become a bit of a family saying that we use if someone is stating the obvious. Like if Bee is complaining about work, telling me how what she’d really like is a flexible job that’s well paid, but also creative and worthwhile and good for the environment and what not.

‘Dur,’ I’ll say, ‘beach holidays.’

When On the Beach got in touch then, to ask me if I wanted to write something about our family beach holidays, this was the first thing I thought about. THEN I started picturing all of those happy times we’ve spent on the beach together, enjoying the sand and the sea, relaxing in each other’s company.

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I’ve only been to visit Edinburgh once, to stay with friends, but I really loved my trip there and I’d definitely want to go back. Edinburgh is supposed to be amazing at Christmas but any kind of trip around that time is usually overshadowed by visiting my sister’s family for actual Christmas, in Dublin. We did talk this year about going somewhere in the UK but decided against it so maybe Edinburgh Christmas 2019 will be a thing. And then Cardiff 2020. Etc etc.

If I WAS planning a cool trip to Edinburgh, I’d definitely fill it with loads of unusual stuff to do. I’ve never really thought of Scotland as being the most hipster of locations but in the capital, there are lots of unusual, cool and Instagrammable things to do. If you’re looking for somewhere lovely to stay while you’re there, why not give serviced apartments a go? Staying in serviced apartments in Edinburgh gives you lots of flexibility, plus everything you need to make you feel right at home after a fun day of exploring the city.

So, as the kids say on YouTube, let’s dive right into it.

fun things to do in Edinburgh View Post

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In association with Attraction Tickets Direct

Last month Belle and I went to Orlando. It was Belle’s first time in the States and my first time taking Belle on a flight longer than four hours. She was very well-behaved and didn’t cry or ask to go to the toilet all the time, which is what I was worried about, what with all the ‘travelling with kids’ posts I read beforehand. I actually didn’t have to get out a single colouring sheet.

We’d been sent there by Attraction Tickets Direct, which makes it sound like a punishment, which it really wasn’t as it turns out there are quite a lot of things to do in Orlando.

WHO KNEW??

The first thing to spring to mind when you think of Orlando is ROLLER COASTERS, and justifiably so. I’ve been on a lot of roller coasters in the UK and every single one I went on in Orlando was WAY better. In the UK I normally just spend the time trying not to get my head bashed about, but in Florida the roller coasters just seemed so much more comfortable, so much smoother. Probably a weird thing to say about a roller coaster, but it means you can enjoy the ride rather than just concentrating on keeping your head still. They are much longer too, so you can really get into the twists and turns.

It isn’t all about roller coasters in Orlando though.

Here are some of the other things WE did, in case you want to copy us, because we are very cool. Regular readers will know this already – visitors who just happened to have Googled ‘things to do in Orlando’ will have to take my word for it.

(Don’t forget you can buy tickets to all of the parks mentioned in this post from Attraction Tickets Direct. I wrote more about buying tickets with Attraction Tickets Direct recently, so you can always check out that post to find out more about exactly why it’s worth doing.)

Ride the rapids at Aquatica

The river rapids were one of our absolute favourite things. If ever Belle seemed to be getting a bit hot and tired I just dunked her back in and she was back on track.

Aquatica has two rivers – Loggerhead Lane, the lazy river, and Roa’s Rapids, which are a little more adventurous. Roa’s Rapids were out favourites. Belle’s top thing to do in Roa’s Rapids was to try to shove me against the jets in the walls so I’d get my thighs pummelled, or to ride on my back while I tried to throw her off, rodeo style. (You may notice that her best bits tend to be at my expense.)

rapids aquatica Orlando

If you’re a fan of watery thrills, (ooer), do NOT leave Aquatica without a go on their brand new family raft ride, Ray Rush, which involves you swooping up and down a giant manta ray half-pipe. Worth noting here that Attraction Tickets Direct do a 3 for 2 SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens ticket, including free parking.

(Also I seem to have developed a new hobby – watching rollercoaster and water slide videos on YouTube. I really need a boyfriend.) View Post

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In association with Attraction Tickets Direct

A few weeks ago on social media I teased you with a picture and news of an upcoming trip with Attraction Tickets Direct.

Cheap attraction tickets Orlando Attraction Tickets Direct

Somewhere abroad, where I would need sunglasses and would possibly be required to dress up as a giraffe?

If you saw any of my tweets or Instagram posts the following week you will have seen that Belle and I were actually in Orlando, riding rollercoasters, visiting penguins in the coolest place in the whole of Florida, (quite literally, which was a welcome relief from the sweating), and hand feeding giraffes.

Busch gardens save money booking orlando attraction tickets Attraction Tickets Direct

Aha!

So THAT was the clue. No dressing up required. View Post

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Camp Bestival was a bit of an odd one for me this year.

It’s been one of our favourite festivals since we went the very first year it opened and it was pretty much contained in two fields, but this year was the first time we’ve been where Belle has been old enough to hang out on her own. We took her friend Ella with us and basically I got to see them first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and the rest of the time I was forbidden for looking like I knew them outside the tent.

We kept in touch by phone and at intervals during the day I was allowed to meet up with them briefly to do things like bring them jumpers, but the rest of the time I was on my own. I did have ‘go to a festival on my own’ on my list of 40 things I wanted to do before I was 40, but given the amount of time I spent at Camp Bestival trying not to cry when I looked at babies, it’s probably not something I’d be in a rush to repeat.

That said, I did have a good time overall. It was nice being able to do things like have a gong bath without someone complaining about being bored, and I was grateful for not having to watch Mr Tumble. I got to listen to quite a few talks in the literary tent, which I wouldn’t be allowed near with Belle in tow, and it was there that I watched Rick Astley doing some impromptu karaoke.

I also spotted Mary Berry eating some chops.

I know Belle and Ella had a brilliant time too, even though they DID watch Mr Tumble. Fortunately all of the acts they really wanted to see were on the Saturday evening, so it didn’t even matter that Sunday was cancelled due to the bad weather. They were proper fans, standing at the barrier of the main stage from about 5pm through until the end – around 11pm. By this point I think their bladders were teetering on the brink and Ella was shivering quite hard, but they stuck it out.

I on the other hand made myself a little camp on a blanket slightly further back, alone with my thoughts and a plastic bottle of wine. It was pretty classy.

Declan McKenna was really the guy that Belle went to see, and he was really very good live indeed. Clean Bandit were ace too and I really enjoyed Dodie, although she made me feel old as I kept getting muddled up and referring to her in my head as Dido who, according to Wikipedia, is now 46 and had her debut album in the previous century. God.

I even surprised myself by enjoying Max and Harvey, who are probably a little young for my musical tastes, but this is what happens when you let your 15 year old be in charge of in car music choices. They were such sweethearts – full of positive energy and enthusiasm. The highlight there though may have been Belle’s face a couple of days ago when I showed her that they had followed me on Twitter.

You see Belle? You see how COOL I AM??

Camp Bestival may have been a slightly different experience for me this year but I still rate it massively as a family festival. If you’ve never been to a festival before and want to try something kid friendly then Camp Bestival would be a great place to start.

Camp Bestival review View Post

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Over the last few years I’ve started doing this thing whenever I travel anywhere of bringing Bee back some local currency as a present. (I buy myself tasteless fridge magnets, but that’s probably a whole post in of itself – a treat for another day.) Not only does this tradition mean I have a useful thing to do with leftover holiday money, but it also means that I am technically giving her cash, which she always likes.

(She has from time to time, when things have got desperate, thought about exchanging it all for pounds, but I think she’s been disappointed by the value of her Vietnamese Dong.)

compare foreign exchange rates

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Although this is a very lovely and thoughtful gift, it’s undermined by the fact that my approach to travel money generally is a bit backwards. In my head, people who order foreign currency in advance for trips are OLD PEOPLE who are just overthinking things. ‘Look at me,’ I think to myself, ‘getting cash out at an ATM and casually paying for things like souvenirs or fun times abroad on my card like a pro-traveller.’ Then I get home and realise that my bank charges me a fee AND a percentage on all non-sterling transactions and I realise what a doofus I am.

And then I forget about it until the next time I go abroad and the VERY SAME THING happens all over again.  If I ever do think to buy foreign currency in advance then I just go into the post office because I really don’t know how it works otherwise. Thinking about it I really don’t know where the cocky attitude has come from as I am clearly RUBBISH at the whole thing. View Post

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