Some people jump out of planes or bungee jump from tall bridges to feel alive. Others have to race motorbikes at high speed to feel that buzz of adrenalin, or maybe they cheat on their wives or accidentally gamble away the kids’ college fund at a Las Vegas blackjack table.

Whatever.

Our family is way cooler (and more wholesome) than that. We get our kicks from solving puzzles. We get a thrill out of cracking a particularly tricksy code, or unscrambling an anagram, ideally with the added buzz of having someone at the end to tell us how clever we are. In fact I love it so much that one of the items on my 50 things before 50 list is to complete 100 escape rooms.

A dream day out for my family isn’t track racing and high stakes poker, it’s a morning stroll along the seafront, brunch with a nicely cooked poached egg and getting locked in a room full of puzzles. Which is exactly what I did for my birthday this week. We even rammed the poached egg point home by going to a café called Oeuf. (Very nice, would recommend, definitely get a latte.)

Oeuf Brighton latte art

The escape rooms I chose to celebrate my birthday with were two of the rooms at Pier Pressure Escape Rooms in Brighton – Modropehnia and Loot The Lanes – both amongst the most highly rated escape rooms in the UK. In fact, Loot The Lanes is currently THE top room. Needless to say, expectations were high. View Post

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At the beginning of the month Belle and I ticked off one more item of my list of 50 things to do before 50 when we spent the night on Burgh Island.

That makes it sound a bit like we are Famous Five wannabees, and rowed over to a deserted island to sleep in a cave and watch for smugglers, but it was about as far away from cave camping as you can get. Burgh Island is cut off from the mainland at high tide, but it’s also home to a luxury hotel. Less ginger beer, ham and tomatoes and more champagne on arrival and smoked salmon open sandwiches.

Staying at the Burgh Island Hotel was on my list for multiple reasons. Firstly, it’s a gorgeous art deco building, with lots of original features and furnishings, and that’s one of my favourite periods for architecture.

Burgh Island Hotel

Burgh Island

More exciting though is the Agatha Christie connection. Christie came to Burgh Island regularly to write, and two of her most famous crime novels are set here – And Then There Were None and Evil Under The Sun. The ITV version of Evil Under The Sun is filmed here too, so you can wander around saying things like ‘Oooh this is where they met on the stairs’ and ‘this is the restaurant where Poirot and Hastings have dinner’. It doesn’t get much more exciting than that. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Jet2 Holidays

This weekend I took a train up to Bristol to make some tapas. It might feel like quite a way to go when I have a perfectly good kitchen at home, but this was a special event being hosted by Jet2 Holidays to promote the fact that they are expanding their range of flights from Bristol airport. Plus I was promised free wine. I’ll go a long way for free wine.

The event was a tapas cooking class at Little Kitchen, which is a really lovely space in Totterdown, within walking distance of the station. They do a lot of private events, but loads of open cookery classes too, so if you like trying new things then definitely have a look. I’m seriously considering a scotch egg masterclass.

Jet2 holidays from Bristol

The aim of our cookery lesson was to recreate some of the Jet2 Holidays winter sun vibe that you would normally get by flying off to the Canary Islands. I have never been to the Canary Islands or had a winter sun holiday or even been on any kind of package holiday at all. I’m not sure why exactly – I guess money, as a young, single parent, and possibly just never having done it before, not being sure how it would work with kids on my own? That said, a week in a caravan in Cornwall is probably MORE expensive nowadays. Plus travelling abroad is so much simpler and more affordable, and there are places like Sims Direct to make sure you’ve got your phone prepared to travel too.

Lately though, now that Belle is older and I don’t have ‘children’ anymore, I’ve quite often found myself browsing package holiday sites like Jet2 Holidays and imagining how wonderful it might actually be to just lie in the sun and drink cocktails and not have to pack all the self-catering paraphernalia like tea towels and tea bags. Does any holiday ever feel like a real break when you have to pack tea towels??

There I am then, browsing the all inclusives, and into my inbox drops this event invitation, with the promise of wine and cooking and a quiz, where the winner would get a Canary Islands mini-break. Food, drink and competition – all of my favourite things.

The universe had provided. I had to say yes.

Jet2 Holidays Canary islands

Yes please manchego cheese

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Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

We’ve just come back from a few days in Looe on the Cornish coast, and honestly, it was just beautiful. You could see the sea from our AirBnB garden, and what better way to spend an evening than looking at the waves, listening to the seagulls, and drinking a glass of wine?

We had the dog with us, so we spent a lot of the time on walks (or eating – like here at the River Shack), and many of our walks were on the beaches or coastal paths. I must admit that before I got a dog, I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to do a coastal walk, which is surprising given the stunning and diverse coastline we have in the UK.

So why are coastal walks so underrated? One reason could be that people just aren’t sure which are the best coastal walks to choose, or perhaps they’re worried that it will involve climbing or don’t know what to expect in terms of difficulty. With the internet, though, there are plenty of opportunities to research precisely what a walk involves, and as long as you have a good pair of walking boots, a decent coat, and a well-thought-out tech survival kit, you shouldn’t have any problems.

To get you feeling inspired about the potential of coastal walks in the UK, I’ve picked out a few ideas to get you started:

The South West Coast Path

Living in the South West I am biassed, but I think the coastal walks around Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset are some of the most spectacular in the UK. The South West Coast Path is the longest waymarked footpath in the UK and stretches for 630 miles. You can dip in and out along the path wherever it takes your fancy. I recommend walking around Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast – one of my favourite coastal spots.

Burg on the Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, just off Scotland’s west coast. This walk isn’t for beginners, but if you like a hike that rewards you with spectacular views and a real sense of perspective, then this is well worth a go.

Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland

It’s hard to conjure up a coastal walk quite as unique as the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. The National Trust looks after this stunning stretch of coastline and manages several walking trails of varying difficulty levels, or you can take part in a five-mile guided cliff hike.

Formby Point in Merseyside

When we think of Liverpool, your first thought probably isn’t coastal walks. Yet not far from Liverpool sits Formby point, part of the Liverpool Bay area. Formby Point is a glorious expanse of open beaches and dunes – as much fresh air as you could wish for and all within reach of the city.

Whitehaven in Cumbria

Cumbria is famous for its lakes, but would you consider exploring the coast of Cumbria? One of the most stunning stretches of the Cumbrian coastline is the walk between Whitehaven and St Bees, both beautiful places in their own right. Look out for wildlife – you may be lucky enough to see puffins!

If these coastal walk ideas have excited you about your next holiday, why not take a look at them in more detail and start planning your next break now?

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When I put ‘complete all three crazy golf courses in Hastings, the spiritual home of crazy golf’ on my list of 50 things to do before I’m 50, I didn’t realise I was carrying on a family tradition. Little did I know that my mother and grandparents before me had, in the mid 1960s, stood on the slopes of East Hill in Hastings, playing the 9 hole, council run, pitch and putt.

Hastings pitch and putt East Hill

That’s my mum on the left, my uncle Pete in the middle, and my Grandad on the right. My Grandad was rarely seen without a suit and tie, although we did find some other Hastings pitch and putt photos where he appears with his short sleeves rolled up! The scandal.

The pitch and putt closed in the 1980s, but Hastings hasn’t lost its love of mini golf. In fact, Hastings now plays host to the World Crazy Golf Championships, which I’m sure is something a lot of you had never even imagined existed. Hastings Adventure Golf, which you can see in the picture below, taken from the cliffs above, has three courses – ‘Adventure’, ‘Crazy’ and ‘Pirate’ – and last week we took a Southern train along the south coast to Hastings and did ALL THREE.

Hastings crazy golf

Crazy golf, crazy lady

Now you might be thinking ‘THREE courses of crazy golf is a lot of crazy golf Jo, are you sure you’re not the crazy one?’ and you would be right, it IS a lot. In fact, by the time we finished it was dark, and I was feeling a little bit like I might never want to see a golf ball again, but that’s the whole point isn’t it? Life is fairly meaningless at the best of times, so if you’ve challenged yourself to complete three crazy golf courses back to back then damn it, you’re going to complete them, even if it is past your bedtime. (We were visiting mid heat wave and were very pleased that the golf was open until 10pm so we could go in the evening when it was a bit cooler. By the end of it I was wishing I’d brought a golf stand bag though, or at least a child who was willing to hold things for me.)

Seriously though, we had a lot of fun, and there was a WINDMILL and everything. You know your crazy golf course is properly crazy when there’s a windmill. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Zip World – all views my own

What are you really scared of?

I like to think that generally I’m pretty confident. I’m not scared of a lot of big stuff like being a single parent, being self-employed and the only breadwinner, driving massive motorhomes by myself, going on stage in front of hundreds of people and trying to be funny, zip wiring off the end of a pier across the sea – all of these I’m good with.

Stepping out onto a bridge made of planks though, high above the ground, with just a couple of carabiner clips to reassure me – THAT I am scared of.

It’s probably not surprising then that the weeks leading up to visiting Zip World in the Rhigos mountains in South Wales were a little on the anxious side. Especially not when you consider their brand new family attraction – Tower Climber.

Tower Climber Zip World

Umm…

Right??

Tower Climber is the newest addition to Zip World in South Wales, joining Tower Flyer, Tower Coaster and Phoenix – the fastest seated zip wire in the whole world. (We did this while we were there and LOVED it – definitely recommend.)

While I can get on board with zip wires, as you really just have to sit there, there is something about the high ropes and having to physically make yourself step out onto an obstacle that I find really tough. Still, I’m always up for a challenge, so I engaged the ‘act now think later’ part of my brain, said YES and off we went to the site of the old Tower Colliery for some wholesome family fun. View Post

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Things to do in Bristol

Bristol is a fantastic, vibrant city with so much on. It’s a blessing and a curse – there’s always something exciting to get stuck into, but so much on you might not even know where to begin.

If you’ve been wondering what’s on in Bristol, especially with the holidays coming up, you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find thrilling, educational, and exciting family events. But also events for those moments when you need to let your hair down and indulge in some well-deserved me-time. Let’s have a look…

The Outdoor Cinema in Clifton Downs

When: Friday 5th – Sunday 7th August

Where: Clifton Downs, BS9 1FG, Bristol

As the sun sets on the stunning Clifton Downs, leaving the sky a pastel pink, nothing will beat the feeling of a great film starting as you tuck into a hot snack, sip a glass of wine, and cuddle with the kids under a blanket. Or you could go alone, your shout.

This August, The Downs will see showings of classic films such as Encanto, Rocketman, Mamma Mia!, Pulp Fiction, and West Side Story. Complete with a food and drinks bar, camping chairs, and a specially curated playlist of songs to get you pumped for the film, this outdoor cinema experience will naturally go down a treat.

The Henge Family Show

When: Sunday 30th October

Where: Lost Horizon HQ, BS2 9EH, Bristol

Stick a sieve on your littluns head, paint them green and wrap them in tin foil, because alien fancy dress is essential at The Henge Family Show. Amusing and fun in equal measures, this alien electronic/rock crossover band have extensive experience touring and has captivated audiences far and wide on many festival stages. Running from 2 ‘til 4 pm, it’s a superb afternoon out that’ll get you home in time for bathtime and your favourite show.

The Gin To My Tonic Festival

When: Saturday 3rd September

Where: St George’s Hall, Great George St, BS1 5RR, Bristol

Here’s one for when the kids are with a friend. In September, St George’s Hall will be filled with over 120 gins, including classic G&T, and luscious berry and perky citrus infusions. Drinks will be served in measures of 35ml (more than the standard 25ml) because… well, you deserve it!

Your ticket will also include a gin glass, a stainless steel straw, a gin guide, Fever-Tree mixers, live entertainment, access to rum and vodka, and so much more – a cracking deal. And with two types of tickets – one for the afternoon and the other for the evening – it’s flexible and perfect for busy mums!

Funderworld Theme Park 

When: Friday 8th – Sunday 31st July

Where: Hengrove Park, BS14 0BZ, Bristol

You just can’t go wrong with a theme park, can you? Expect the classics, such as bungee trampolines, dodgems, waltzers, and a funhouse. And what would a theme park be without staple snacks such as hot dogs, slush puppies, and doughnuts? We’ve barely even touched on half the rides that’ll be coming to Hengrove Park, and as UK’s largest mobile theme park, there’s enough to keep you and the kids busy for hours.

Bristol Harbour Festival

When: Friday 15th – Sunday 17th July

Where: Bristol Harbourside

Back for its 50th anniversary, the Bristol Harbour Festival has lots on over three days and is completely free! The range of entertainment on offer that weekend includes live music from a huge range of genres, dance, poetry, activism and more. Celebrating the various cultures of the city, the Bristol Harbour Festival is a cracking day out and a great way to celebrate our differences and learn more about each other.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

When: Thursday 11th – Sunday 14th August

Where: Ashton Court, Bristol

“What’s on in Bristol”, you wonder. Well, only Europe’s largest annual meeting of hot air balloons! If you think watching hot air balloons drift through the sky isn’t your idea of fun, we get it, it’s somewhat of an acquired taste. But don’t let that put you off because there will also be five bars, over 100 street food stalls and trader stands, live entertainment and family activities to get stuck into. And in the evening, there’ll be fireworks! It’s a solid weekend full of fun for you and the family. Oh, and it’s completely free!

Waste Not Want Not! Future Leap’s Sustainable Food and Drink Evening

When: Tuesday 19th July

Where: Future Leap Bishopston, Gloucester Road, BS7 8AA, Bristol

It’s never a bad time to learn how to be more sustainable and taste test a few delicious foods and drinks! This early evening event opens with drinks, music, and some product testing before moving on to a panel discussion and ending on a high with more drinks, music and product testing.

Answering questions such as “how can bread make chocolate?” and “how can local community groups and food stores work together?”, this event will not only leave your stomach full of tasty treats but teach you how to live more sustainably.

Peppa Pig: My First Concert

When: Monday 25th – Tuesday 26th July

Where: St George’s Hall, Great George St, BS1 5RR, Bristol

What better way to kick off the holidays than with an interactive concert that both you and the kids can enjoy? This Peppa-themed concert will feature songs from the show as well as pieces by Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Educational too, the concert will teach the littluns about different instruments and how they sound. Finally, the kiddos will be encouraged to join in and make their own music. You might find out you have a little virtuoso on your hands!

Bristol Comedy Cabaret

When: Multiple dates spanning Saturday 9th July – Saturday 24th September

Where: Pryzm, Bristol

If you’re in need of a relaxing night out alone, with your other half, or with the girls, the Bristol Comedy Cabaret is a brilliant choice. Laughter is the best medicine, as they say! At least three top comedians will take to the stage, leaving you laughing so hard you’ll be clapping your hands like an excited seal. As you leave with a new six-pack from constant laughter, you’ll wonder why you didn’t give it a go sooner. And with multiple Saturday dates to choose from, it’s easy to fit into your schedule.

Velociraptor Show

When: Monday 8th August

Where: Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol

Can you go wrong with dinosaurs? (The answer’s “no”, by the way.) Effortlessly combining entertainment and education, The Velociraptor Show teaches audiences about the lives of dinosaurs, one of Earth’s most fascinating creatures. With effects, music, a dino booklet, and a dino meet and greet, learning has never been more fun or engaging. Whatsmore, the show has proven to be popular among adults who often leave having learned a thing or two! And thanks to multiple showtimes, you can choose the slot that best suits you.

As always, Bristol is overflowing with cracking events that are perfect for that all-important “me time” but also for fun days out with the family.

Visit Skiddle for more Bristol events, event guides, and inspiration for how to spend that precious free time.

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paper plane

When travelling, whether it’s individually or as a group, there will be times when unexpected costs or excursions will burn a hole in your budget, causing you to cut back more than you had expected.

Fortunately, there are some small changes you can make to help reduce your expenditure and ensure you’re able to travel more comfortably rather than having to scrape by.

Choose your destinations carefully 

As with anywhere you go, you could be in the UK or Thailand, there will be some locations that are more expensive than others, especially if you go to the tourist spots.

One of the easiest ways to save some additional money is to choose the less popular areas. However, you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere when you’re travelling, so do some research before you go. You might be able to find a happy medium where things aren’t as expensive but there are other travellers about.

Keep track 

If budgeting is required – which will be the case for most who are travelling – you need to ensure you stay on track. You will need to keep tabs on your spending so you don’t go over your budget on anything, be that food, travel or accommodation. One really simple way to do this is to get a budgeting app and set up categories for your spending so that you can track it and see where you’re going over budget. There are loads of budgeting apps available in the UK, including plenty of free ones.

Get the right cover 

It will cost some additional money upfront, but travel insurance is an absolute must because it will protect you if anything goes wrong and you have to pay for something like medical treatment or to replace lost, stolen or damaged items.

Before you go, make sure you research the different types of travel insurance available and pick the one that is best for you. Don’t go cheap and cheerful as it usually means they cover a lot less and the excess is a lot more!

Work when available 

What you can also do if you’re travelling on a budget is look at getting a job or working when you need to. If you don’t need to work all year round, try to pick the times that work best for you. There are plenty of jobs available once you get travelling, whether it’s working in a hostel, behind a bar or at a restaurant.

If you’d rather not work for someone else, you could look into ways to make some additional money via the internet.

Trading is becoming increasingly popular among travellers as some of the tools that make it easier to track and follow trades, such as MT4 web, have become much more accessible. If you’d rather not spend time learning something new, you could use the skills you already have and teach online, complete surveys or blog. There are plenty of ways to make money, so find what’s best for you!

Make sure you research and come up with a plan before travelling so your budget goes as far as possible and you get the most out of your experience.

 

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Do you remember back in January when I wrote about five things I wanted to do after lockdown?

No me neither to be honest, but one of them was apparently to go to the theatre, (which does sound like something I’d say), and I was reminded of it recently when I was invited to make the theatre dream come true with a trip to London to see The Prince of Egypt at the Dominion Theatre.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to see a proper musical, and needless to say I was excited. I was excited more generally too for going to London and doing fun things like having lunch in a restaurant in Covent Garden that I’d seen in a magazine. I wouldn’t want to live in London, but there is something magical about a day out there. I really felt that last weekend. People travel hundreds and thousands of miles to visit London, and here I am able to pop there for the day on the train. I really am very lucky.

It was particularly magical visiting at Christmas and getting to see all of the Christmas lights and soak up some ‘Christmas in the capital’ vibes with a trip to see The Prince of Egypt.

Here I am, posing for a not at all awkward selfie before the start of the show: View Post

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It’s been two weeks now since we got the new puppy and honestly time has warped into this sort of new baby speed, where individual days seem to take weeks to pass but you’re not sure what day it is or when you last ate. What I do know is that it’s three weeks now since we went away for the weekend in a motorhome from Goboony and it’s about time I told you about it.

Our motorhome weekend was designed to be a last hoorah before the puppy arrived, a final slurp at the cup of freedom, before we realised exactly what we’d done to our lives i.e. changed them completely forever.

It was brilliant, as we expected it to be, because we love motorhome holidays – they make me want to sell the house and train the cats to sleep in bunk beds and take to the road. We’ve done two motorhome holidays before, both longer trips and both with loans from Bailey. For the first one we went around the UK ticking off all the counties I’ve never visited before and the second was a tour of Ireland. (Some parts more interesting than others.)

This was only a short break – three nights – but it still felt like an adventure. I was nervous beforehand as the motorhome we’d chosen was seven metres long, but I also knew that once I got behind the wheel I’d feel like a badass bitch and want to become a truck driver. Honestly, driving anything sizable makes me feel so powerful. I especially love it when you get surprised looks from men. ‘A woman? Driving something larger than a Fiat Punto? Whatever is the world coming to?’

Goboony motorhome hire

What is Goboony?

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In case you don’t follow me on Instagram, we are getting a puppy at the end of the month. It will be Belle’s puppy, so I’m under strict instructions about the use of things like the term ‘pupdate’ in Instagram captions, much to my regret.

Before the puppy arrives and takes over our lives in the best, fluffiest possible way, we’ve been making the most of our freedom by having days out and weekends away and going to IKEA. One such outing recently was an overnight stay in Windsor.

I think I may have been to Windsor once before, but I’ve never been to Windsor Castle, and to be honest if you go to Windsor and don’t go to the castle, have you even been? It would be like going to Cheddar and not eating some cheese. (I think I’ve done this too to be honest.) During our 24 hours in Windsor then I was definitely going to visit the castle, just to prove I existed. I think that’s how it works.

Windsor Castle

Our accommodation in Windsor

We were put up for the night in Windsor, very generously, by the aptly named Accommodation Windsor.

Accommodation Windsor has a wide range of self catering accommodation throughout the town – 45 properties in fact – ranging from small. serviced apartments through to a 5-bedroom guest house right in the town centre. They’re nearly all walking distance into Windsor, and their vibe is clean, modern home away from home. View Post

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In collaboration with Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

Cornwall hotels

What are your holiday plans for 2021? With international travel still complicated and expensive, chances are you’re staying in the UK this year. We certainly won’t be doing anything exotic. No American road trips or cruising the Caribbean for us. We have already had a fabulous few days in Pembrokeshire in May, and we have some time mid-July set aside for a weekend in a hired motorhome, but aside from that we will be keeping things pretty relaxed. Partly this is also because we’re planning on getting a dog this year – puppy training and settling in is going to be taking precedent in 2021.

One thing I would really like to do though, before our lives are taken over by pets, is to take a trip down to Cornwall to see my Dad and family there. We were lucky enough to see each other in January last year, before everything went pear shaped, but that’s still nearly a year and a half ago now – an awfully long time to not see people.

We live in Somerset, so we can just about get to Cornwall in a (very long) day, but we much prefer to make a mini break out of it and find a hotel in Cornwall for a night or two. Let’s be honest, we’ll make a mini break out of literally anything given half the chance. I bloody love a mini break.

Catching up with family is the perfect excuse for a bit of time away though, whether that’s a hotel, camping or airbeds on the floor. They say a change is as good as a rest after all don’t they? (Although I’m not convinced an airbed ever counts as a rest.)

It’s lovely just have a change of scene, to see the sea, to eat in new places – simple pleasures like fish and chips on the beach can be so joyous when we really appreciate them. We’ve all been stuck in our own homes for so long now, any opportunity to regain that sense of freedom, to gain a different perspective, has to be a good thing.

If you have family that you haven’t seen for a while then I really hope you get to see them this summer. Fingers crossed for some summer sunshine too.

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