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How to Spend a Day in Bath, Somerset

Umbrella Street installation, Bath

Let me just start by saying that the way to spend a day in Bath is by booking the correct train tickets, so that you don't have to depart London at 6am like I did. On the plus side, it meant we arrived before the crowds did, but also meant that by about 4pm we were so tired, we had to go and have a nap in our hotel in a nearby town.

The Beginner's Guide of Where to Shop in London's West End

How to Spend a Day in London's West End

I know the streets of the West End pretty well after almost seven years of living in London; so it is super rare that I actually spend a day in the area, rather than powering through it with my earphones in whilst I snarl at tourists. But as I've said so many times before, you don't have to go off the beaten track to have a great travel experience, so I set out to explore my own city, embracing the West End's 'London is Open' message, and had a full day of hitting actual shops rather than just adding to my never-ending ASOS order. 

If it's your first time to this area, here's where you should head to:

A Weekend in Poole, Dorset

Travel blogger eating ice cream in Poole, Dorset

My childhood holidays were 99% UK based, which means I've seen a lot more this fair isle than most. But, as with some places I visited before I truly valued my travels (Berlin, I'm looking at you), I want to start going back and appreciating them as an adult. So, in the face of adversity (re. RAIN), I went adventuring in the Dorset town of Poole.

Three Delicious Places to Eat on the Isle of Wight

View from ferry port on isle of wight

We are lucky to have some beautiful food heritage here in the UK, from Cheddar cheese to Yorkshire puddings, you can find fresh produce and tried and tested recipes that are staples of the nation in every county. I knew very little about the Isle of Wight before my recent trip; my previous visits being in my childhood or a few weekends at Bestival.

A Day in Margate

Kiss Me Quick sign at Dreamland Margate

I know I'm not alone in having an Instagram feed full of photos of Margate. The seaside town in Kent has suddenly become the place to head to for a weekend getaway, being only an hour or so on the train from London. It's undergone renovation and gentrification to such an extent that it's breeding hipster inhabitants at a rate of knots, but I was still skeptical that it would have much to offer.

Why I Loved My Family's Caravan Camping Holidays

Static caravan

I've never been to Disneyland and it's something that my mum still laments to this day. It's the epitome of a kid's dream holiday (although let's not pretend that I wouldn't pass out from happiness if I went as a 27 year old), but we couldn't go and it was never an issue for me. My childhood certainly wasn't short of holidays, it's just that they weren't all-inclusive beach resorts abroad - instead we headed to UK seasisde towns, where we stayed in static caravans and had the best time.

A Day on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas cruise ship

I am well versed with planes. I know the protocol; I know where the life jacket is stored and to handle turbulence. I'm good with planes.
Um. Not exactly.

The Greyhound on the Test Hotel, Hampshire

greyhound on the test hotel hampshire review

I'm constantly saying that I should do weekends away in the UK more often. It's no secret that London has been driving me a bit nuts recently, so before heading off on my Big Trip, I spent a weekend in Hampshire, checking in at The Greyhound on the Test.

A Long Weekend in Aberdeenshire, Pt 2

cairngorms scotland

When I envisaged a long weekend in Aberdeenshire I could never have imagined how utterly blown away I would be by the scenery. After our fishing fun on the Friday, we hit the local pub quiz and were feeling a little sore-headed the following day (celebrating coming third involves a lot of whisky), so we needed fresh air. We settled into our hire car with a decent stash of Mini Eggs and headed up, up, up into the mountains.

Learning How to Fly Fish in Scotland

river dee scotland cairnton estate

Don't worry, this isn't spam and I haven't been hacked. The heading of this post isn't an SEO ruse to get traffic from fans of leisurely aquatic pursuits; I did in fact go fly fishing during my recent trip to Scotland.

A Long Weekend in Aberdeenshire, Pt 1

st cyrus beach scotland

I've spoken before about how you don't have to go very far to see beautiful parts of the world. The stunning fjords of Norway are only a two hour flight away and my road trip around Ireland introduced me to the eye-popping greenery of the Emerald Isle. When it comes to Scotland, I've only ever been to Edinburgh and Glasgow, but never to the more rural areas. We flew into Aberdeen late on a Wednesday night, just as it started snowing and drove 40 minutes to the little village of Fettercairn in near pitch black.

The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London

top london bloggers

For 18 months I lived close to the Tower of London, being lucky enough to have to walk past it every day to and from work. It is a beautiful building and one of the few major tourist attractions that I'd genuinely recommend visitors to go and see; it's actually worthy of the long queues and massive tickets prices.

A Weekend in Liverpool: Part 2

liverpool albert dock

Our weekend in Liverpool had been choc-a-bloc full of food and shopping and neon Christmas trees; on our last day we felt like we should take in a bit of culture. Our Travelodge looked over the Albert Dock - home to a number of museums, gorgeous views across the Mersey and a selection of tourist-trap shops selling the best cheap tat you could ever hope for.

A Weekend in Liverpool: Part 1

museum of liverpool

I'm no stranger to the north-west of the UK, but I'll admit that that's basically been limited to the Greater Manchester area. I went to Liverpool once, four years ago, but it was summer and it was hot and I was basically just there to go drinking with my friend (I don't regret a thing). It is, of course, a world famous city, primarily down to four specific men but I genuinely had no idea what else the city had to offer.

A Night at Clevedon Hall, Somerset

clevedon hall wedding venue

It's very rare that I'll do a weekend trip away in the UK. I'm all for a full blown staycation; a week in Cornwall or the Lake District, but one night away has always seemed like too much of an effort. My recent trip to Clevedon Hall* completely changed my opinion - I can't begin to tell you how lovely it was to escape the city for 24 hours.

Lunch at Bundobust, Leeds

best uk food blogger

Thank goodness for Twitter. When I took a recent work trip to Leeds, I asked local blogger Rihanna for recommendations on where to eat. A couple of others waded in and everyone seemed to rate Bundobust, a little Indian street kitchen a stone's throw from the main train station. As I was with a vegetarian colleague, and Bundobust is completely meat-free, we headed down pre-meeting for a spot of lunch.

A Day Trip to Morecambe Bay

I had every intention of visiting my little sister in Lancaster and writing a nice post about my trip to the city and taking pictures of quaint buildings and shops, but this didn't work out for two reasons:
1) My sister hasn't lived there long enough to know where all the good stuff is;
2) The city is tiny and needs some expert knowledge to hunt out the gems
The only photos are took were of a fireworks display and a menu in a cafe where a full English breakfast was advertised for only £2.95 (for those of you who don't live in London, this is OBSCENELY cheap). Only 15 minutes drive from Lancaster though is Morecambe, a small seaside town best known for its most famous son, Eric Morecambe (whose stage name gave a salute to his home).

My family and I are no strangers to English seaside resorts, with the majority of my childhood holidays being in a caravan on some coast somewhere. MargateBognorBournemouthBridlingtonPoole - we've seen them all, and never struggled to find something to do or felt bored (travel Scrabble always helps with the latter anyway). But Morecambe defeated us. Expecting quaint tea shops, a promenade with fish and chips or at the very least somewhere to sit and look at the sea, we were pretty disappointed. Morecambe is a very strange place with not very much to see, save for a giant tube of Polos that has no explanation to it that I can find online! It lacks the charm of a stereotypical British seaside and instead feels incredibly industrial and bleak. I don't mind being cold at the seaside, but when there's nothing else to do there isn't much to take your mind off of being FREEZING.

The one thing that drew us to Morecambe was the opportunity to see the statue of Eric Morecambe, however when we arrived we found out it had been vandalised and removed for repair. Cue more disappointment. Luckily, the statue (or where it should stand) is surrounded by famous quotes from Morecambe himself, and lists of the famous people that appeared on Morecambe and Wise over the years. We were very excited to find my family's favourite quote; it's from a sketch where Eric looks out of the bedroom window and sees an ambulance drive past. Quick as a flash he says, "He'll never sell any ice creams going at that speed!" As the statue itself was missing, we did our own recreation, and hopefully we'll be able to see it once it is reinstated. The steps up to the statue have the lyrics from 'Bring Me Sunshine' engraved on them too which obviously led to an impromptu singing performance!

The views looking to the Lake District are stunning and the town's comedic history is strong enough to pull me there, but Morecambe really is dull. It might be much more appealing in the sunshine when you can sit on the beach, but I'll be trying to get to know Lancaster better next time I'm in the area instead! For your enjoyment (and education if you've never seen it), here is the quote I mentioned above. I think that even after all these decades, it's still absolutely hilarious!

Lunchtime in Manchester's Northern Quarter

Visiting any city is always better when you know a local. I wouldn't have tried fermented snake whisky without the guidance of a native Beijinger, or had ridiculously good Thai food in Sydney if it wasn't for the help of a local Bondi friend. And it's not just abroad that I look for recommendations; wherever I go I like to know where residents prefer to eat and drink. 

One of my best friends lives in Manchester, and my boyfriend grew up just outside the city, so I'm pretty familiar with it. I can find my way reasonably easily and I have roamed the shops of the Northern Quarter many time. I bought my favourite weekend bag from a vintage store there and the record stores can absorb me for hours at a time, but my most recent visit was a fleeting one so my friend led me to a place for lunch on Edge Street.

Home Sweet Home looks like a mix between an American diner and your nan's house. Next to the burgers and shakes sit the huge slabs of cake, all being watched over by the cat prints and art deco lampshades. The menu is summed up as 'comfort food', but we're not talking about shepherd's pie or sausage and mash. It's more deep fried stuff, eggs of all sorts and big ol' breakfasts. I went for the Waffle Fried Chicken which really is as obscene as it sounds: two homemade waffles, fried chicken, crispy bacon and maple syrup. Whoever doubts that maple syrup doesn't work on savoury food is WRONG. The waffles are pretty thin, so it's not as overwhelming as you originally might think, but I still couldn't finish it all. Although that might have been because of the Nutella Toasted Marshmallow milkshake I had to go with it...I don't regret a thing.

Falling deep into a food coma, we made the very sensible and distinctly British decision to find somewhere to have a cup of tea. We tried Teacup (the tea shop owned by Mr Scruff), but the queue was out of the door so we kept wandering and ended up in Oklahoma. Predominantly a shop, Oklahoma also has a tiny tea space at the back where you can start planning everything you want in the shop, mainly the AMAZING version of  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland I spotted with gold leaf pages and neon pink cover. Places always seem to be on a mission to find a new way of serving tea, and I love how they did it here. The enamel cup and pot for one was cute, but it was inspired to provide a timer so I knew when my leaves were properly brewed.

I must make time to properly visit Manchester soon. If you know somewhere I should head for lunch next time I'm up north, please do share!

<a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Click to add a blog post for Home Sweet Home on Zomato" src="" style="border:none;width:104px;height:34px;padding:0px;" /></a> 

Click to add a blog post for Home Sweet Home on Zomato

Visiting Magical Portmeirion

After a day of speeding down zip lines and screaming myself hoarse on underground trampolines, we'd arranged something a bit calmer for our friend's hen do, and drove down to the self-enclosed picturesque town of Portmeirion.

Stepping into Portmeirion is like emerging from Dorothy's house in Oz, or peeking out behind the fur coats in the wardrobe to see you're in Narnia. It looks like an illustrated children's book; the home of imaginary creatures and quaint villagers that make their own dairy products and quilts. The town is a mosaic of pastel colours and winding streets, all surrounding the main town square, all individual and all gorgeous.

Portmeirion is rather like a British version of Park Guell in Barcelona in that it's self contained and designed to stand out from traditional architecture. You do have to pay to get in but you can wander for hours through the woods, along the seafront, and around the buildings. Take a picnic or buy lunch in one of the cafes, and definitely grab an ice cream.

We visited the famous Unicorn House, which is essentially every little girl's dream, and sat on the grass and listened to the brass band play in the surprisingly warm Welsh sunshine. It is the ultimate in picture postcard beauty, and all of us were completely enamoured with it.

Portmeirion is open all year round and entry costs £10. They also have a range of events and festivals on so make sure you check before you make a trip.

I am wearing:
Coat - Uniqlo
Scarf - Vintage
Sunglasses - Miu Miu
Handbag - Alexander McQueen (black version here)
Polka dot shirt - Urban Outfitters
Jeans - Miss Selfridge
Shoes: Converse

Ziplining and Underground Trampolining in Wales

Recently, I became part of a crack duo of hen party organisers extraordinaire. I've never thrown a hen party before, and this one was not just important because it was for one of my best friends, but because she lives in Australia and this was the last weekend she would be spending in the UK with her closest of close friends before she becomes a Mrs. My partner-in-crime and I threw around a number of ideas of what we could do; from afternoon tea, penis pottery (I'm dreading the amount of spam I get through typing this one phrase!), and theatre performances, but none of them felt quite right. It was then that I stumbled across Bounce Below on the awesome site Design Milk. What is Bounce Below? It's a trampoline experience IN A CAVERN, suspended over a 600ft drop UNDERGROUND.

We booked it. And realised that in the same complex is the ZipWorld Titan ziplining experience that would keep the adrenaline pumping in our thrill-seeking hen. We headed up to Snowdonia the Friday of the Bank Holiday weekend, four hens squished into a Mini Cooper with a karaoke machine and a chocolate fountain, awaiting the arrival of four others including the bride-to-be. Our rented apartment was in the tiny town of Dolgellau and we used it as our base for cake and gin based activities for the weekend (more on this to come). 

The Saturday began with revealing the surprise activities to the hen and, thankfully, she was extremely excited about heading up a big ol' hill to propel herself down a wire. I however, was shitting myself (there is no eloquent way of describing the feeling of thinking you are going to die, sorry). I decided to just get on the zip line and get it over and done with. I screamed A LOT, but once I'd done the first one I realised it was actually really fun and gleefully trekked onto the next two - the wires getting longer and faster as we progressed.

Obligatory 'Bride to Be' sash on the hen!

After lunch in a little cafe in Blaenau Ffestiniog, we went down to Bounce Below. Now, I'm not the world's biggest fan of closed in spaces, so the trip down in the old mine cart was not a happy time for me. I gripped my friend's hand and she sang the Indiana Jones theme tune with me while I closed my eyes and persuaded myself that I would make it through to another day. But once you're down there, the cavern opens up and is absolutely huge. Voices echo, condensation occasionally drips from the ceiling as excited breath hits the 8 degree slate, colours jump around as bodies bounce on the netted tiered trampolines above and below.

It turns out that this scared me even more than the zip lining. The trampolines are huge, and as 30 people all bounce on it at the same time it is near on impossible to keep your balance. Knowing that when you fall you'll be looking straight down a 600ft drop certainly makes you feel a bit wobbly on your feet! I spent a good ten minutes frantically clinging on to the rope walls before I gave in and followed another screaming friend across the trampoline to prove that hey! We wouldn't die!

The rope ladders that take you up are a bloody good workout for the arms and thighs, especially when you look down and the trampolines suddenly feel a lot more stable then dangling in a rope tunnel BETWEEN the trampolines. Makes my legs feel wobbly just typing about it. But then you have to get back down again, and it turns out that is even MORE terrifying. How would you feel about plummeting down a rope tunnel, fully enclosed, clutching your nose so it doesn't catch on the material? I don't feel great about it. Cue: more screaming. I was practically hoarse by the time I came out, and we were all sweating buckets. They tell you to dress warmly because of the cold temperature in the cavern, but that is some serious aerobic exercise you'll be doing down there, so a vest top under your flattering standard issue boiler suit is really the best idea.

Luckily this is blurry enough that you can't see how terrified I am!

Could we have done something slightly less dramatic for the hen do? I imagine so. But this was such a new and unique idea that we couldn't resist. The Snowdonia countryside had us all enchanted, and the activities were so much more fun then anything we could have done back home in London. Head down there if you dare, and don't wimp out! If I can do it, then you definitely can! 
As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review