Merriscourt, Oxfordshire

Dipping my Toe into Wedding Planning

Guides for Brides Wedding Fair, Heythrop Park - 21st January 2018

I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while and I was going to write it, get it scheduled and forget about it. This was back when I was feeling a bit disheartened though, so in a way I guess I’m glad I waited.

How We Started Planning

We’ve been engaged since November but we decided we wanted to enjoy being engaged for a bit before starting to plan. We did however know that we didn’t want a long engagement and that it would be full-steam ahead once we did start planning. So once January got here, that’s how it was. We had appointments booked in before Christmas for every weekend apart from one this month, making sure we saw a range of places and getting our head around the fact that with 130 guests (hopefully not actually that many) it’s going to be £££.

I was in charge of the calendar and booking the venue viewings but there could probably have been a better way to organise ourselves rather than cramming in as many as possible and skipping precious Saturday lie-ins. The latter was probably a contributing factor to the dread and stress I felt after our first weekend.

Please don’t be a rip-off…

Calendar cramming aside, the main contributing factor to wedding stress for me was easily the prices. It’s not the fact that weddings are expensive that causes the stress, it’s the general feeling that you’re basically being ripped off around every corner. Hardly a romantic feeling for the ‘most special day of your life’. I know it’s just as easy to pop down to the registry office etc, but we’ve been together 12 years and I want the chance to celebrate in style and that kind of wedding isn’t what I want to do.

With that being said, I am also not up for paying close to £100 a head for food that comes with the promise of being the best but probably won’t be. I don’t think, in fact I know, I’ve never spent close to that for any meals out I’ve had at some of the best places I’ve eaten (even in Iceland) and I don’t see why I should be expected to compromise on that ‘just because it’s my wedding day’.

I’ve found that it’s very easy to get swept up in this weird mentality but it’s also pretty important to snap out of that and put some elements of your wedding back into the real world. I think it’s especially important to pay no mind to the nutters who think it’s cool for you to pay £11,000 for your day food (true life and ‘no nasty surprises’ 🙄) or £1000 for a cake…

I guess what I’m trying to say is, my wedding day is most definitely not going to be as special as it could be if I feel ripped off, whether that’s on the food or on something else.

Everywhere is nice… but that doesn’t mean it’s for you

As I said, we looked at a range of different places, from actual barns with gaps in the doors to fancy barns with huge windows, and then there were the mid-range barns decorated in fairy lights and filled with history… Ok, we looked at a lot of barns, but they were all different. They all had things about them that on paper and even when we went to see them in real life, we could take things we liked from and think about things that might not work so well for us.

After the first weekend, we had looked at five and while I felt like I was all venue’d out, I also knew we hadn’t found what we were looking for. Well, we had found one but that’s the one that came with the £11k food bill and after sleeping on it, something that’s also pretty important to do, it was back to square one. Which put me on a downer for the rest of the week – that we should elope, that we should just give up, that maybe we should just settle for the registry office wedding that we didn’t want…

The best advice we’ve received so far is that it’s important to take a day off from it. All this planning takes work, so naturally you need to take a step back. Doing this the day before the viewings we had last weekend was a great idea and it meant we were looking at everything again with fresh eyes. We knew the ones we’d seen the previous weekend weren’t for us so it was basically time to start again.

Well, as I said, it was good, because we’ve now found a venue, and we’ve booked it, and we’ve booked our registrar and we’re bloody actually getting married next year!

A lot can happen in a week, this time last week I was moping about what we were going to do and now, I’m ready to do the fun stuff, and I can’t tell you how pumped I am for crafting!

Öxarárfoss, Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

We Got Engaged!

Engaged, betrothed, future husband! 💍

Back in November, in front of a frozen waterfall in Iceland, at sunset, my boyfriend of 11 years, 4 months and 25 days, asked me to be his wife. So now we’re engaged and that’s pretty cool.

It seems silly because of the age we live in but we wanted to make sure everyone important found out face-to-face so we kept it quiet on Social Media for the longest time. Then, our usual New Year’s Eve with our pals happened and now the cat’s out of the bag! 🐱

Iceland is a country that we’d planned to visit for a long time and we really went all out for it. It was one of the best trips we’ve been on and getting engaged just topped it off! Despite it being our ‘dream holiday’, Moon has always done things his own way so us getting engaged was kind of at the back of my mind. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of romantic moments and places and I have wanted to get married for a while (11 years together is long enough…) but I never wanted him to ask me because I told him to or because I’d been ‘subtly dropping hints’, so I guess I had to wait.

A lot of people have asked me whether I knew. I mean, despite the lack of ‘pressure’, I didn’t exactly make it a secret that Iceland would be a nice place to get engaged… but I honestly knew nothing! There were a few weird things that happened beforehand over the course of the trip but I just kind of brushed them off. If I’ve ever been taught anything, it’s not to assume.

Getting Engaged in Iceland

Don’t go in the backpack!

The first strange part was sending me up to our room at the Travelodge we stayed in the night before we left. We had just finished our ‘holiday mode’ drinks at the bar and were ready for bed before our early start the next day. Rather than coming up to the room with me, he said he needed to call his dad and wouldn’t be able to in the room (he would have). It was at this point that he told his dad his plans for the holiday, I guess because he wanted to tell someone. He had actually already asked my mum’s permission earlier that day (quite the traditionalist 💓).

Moon had the ring on him nearly the entire time, not wanting to put it in the hotel safe for fear of me finding it or it potentially getting pick-pocketed by the cleaners (there was almost zero chance of that happening, our hotel was so nice). Sometimes it was in his backpack, sometimes it was in the front pocket of his coat – the former meant that if I wanted to quickly grab some water, he’d snatch the bag back from me. I’m not sure why I didn’t think much of it, I guess because he likes to do things for me a lot of the time so I thought it was just a slightly more aggressive form of that rather than him hiding anything from me.

Getting Engaged in Iceland
Getting Engaged in Iceland

Bright Blue Winter Skies

After a late drive back in a snowstorm the night before (Iceland does not do weather by halves) set us back for a few other things we had wanted to do that day, we decided renting the car for an extra day would be the best idea to make the most of our trip. The office wasn’t open until 8am but Moon was up from 6:30 ready to go (still no idea at this point).

This actually ended up being one of the best days of the trip. Weather-wise, we (Moon) didn’t have to contend with any blizzards and we had glorious sunshine all day – that bright, light, winter weather that I love 💕 ❄️. It was still our coldest day, -6°C at some points. We started the day with a visit to The Secret Lagoon and it was that cold that our hair froze if our heads were out of the water for too long.

Getting Engaged in Iceland
Getting Engaged in Iceland

After the Secret Lagoon – I actually can’t get over how incredible Icelandic hot springs made my skin feel btw – we went to Friðheimar tomato farm for lunch before heading back to Þingvellir National Park to finish up the day. We has already visited Þingvellir on the Golden Circle tour we had included in our trip but felt like we got barely any time there. The tour was great but everyone got out of the bus, took a picture and got back on, so even when we had over an hour, we were always last back on the bus! Little did I know the return-trip was a slightly elaborate back-up plan…

Getting Engaged in Iceland
Getting Engaged in Iceland

“No way! You’re so stupid!*”

*an actual quote from me

Due to the rushing with the tour, Öxarárfoss was kind of off-limits and as we were back at the park, it seemed like the perfect chance to see it and tick it off our ‘must-sees’.

It was only around 4pm but the sun was already setting and it was -5°C. I had taken plenty of photos and appreciated the waterfall so as far as I was concerned, it was definitely time to go back to the car. Moon had other ideas… After jumping about on the rocks (in the frozen river beneath the frozen waterfall), pacing up and down the viewing boardwalk and talking a selfie (on his own), he invited me to take one last look.

Getting Engaged in Iceland Getting Engaged in Iceland
Getting Engaged in Iceland

What he was trying to do, while I was whining about going back to the car, was buy time to try and make sure we were on our own, and he succeeded! And suddenly, his annoyance at the couple who were taking photos using a timer, the pacing, and the insistence that we ‘wait’, all made sense.

Getting Engaged in Iceland

Now we’re engaged… and it comes with spreadsheets! 💒

He chose the ring and it is perfect, everything I could have wanted. It changes in the light and looks different every other time I look at it. Ideal for someone who often can’t stick to the same nail varnish in the same day.

We wanted to tell as many as people in-person as possible so once we got home, we staggered our announcements for around six weeks. It was actually a really fun way to do it in the end, aside from keeping my left hand out of photos for that amount of time ✌️. All the reactions we’ve had have been so, so lovely but announcing it out of the blue never got any easier (how do you casually bring it up in conversation?!).

We aren’t planning on a long engagement so most of this month so far has been spent looking at venues and we’re very much in the full throws of planning. So far, it’s been both fun and stressful in equal measures. I have promised myself to try and be as laid back as possible but only time will tell. Even with the wedding-stressing, being engaged to my best friend (lol 💕) mainly has me really excited and happy!

The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace, London - 1st July

Farewell to The Maccabees

The Maccabees Last Ever Show, Alexandra Palace, Saturday 1st July 2017.

I’ve been thinking about that gig for the last few days now. In the lead up to it, I knew seeing The Maccabees for the last time would be emotional, but I hadn’t anticipated it would have quite this effect. They’re like old friends. Standing next to fellow-fans on Saturday night who have seen them upwards of 50 times, I began to feel a little fraudulent, but this is a band that mean so, so much to me.

The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace

Trying to totter up how many times I’ve seen them myself, I reckon we’re at more than 10 but less than 20 but, that’s at least once a year since I first heard about them. I’m not quite as emotionally connected as some of the other fans I’ve seen who have had the band see them through heartache and upheaval – thankfully my life hasn’t had too much of that in recent years. That said, they have always been there. Some how two or three of their songs always manage to make it on to any new playlist, and they’re still my ‘most played’ on Last FM.

The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace
The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace

The Maccabees have always been good. Better than the record, and reliable. I’ve never seen them on bad form, and Saturday night was no exception. I just felt like I needed to note down these feelings that I’m feeling for prosperity. Despite it being the final show, it still didn’t feel like the end. Maybe they’ll all go on to do cool things that I’ll enjoy too, and it’s not like I’m now banned from adding their songs to my playlists – that would be cause for true heartbreak 💔.

We were only kids then…

It feels like a chapter of my life is over, and whether it’s symbolically through this final concert, or because I’m turning 28 this year, that’s weird. They’ve been a constant, it’s not that my music tastes have changed much anyway but I felt like I really invested in them; buying t-shirts and EPs, following their obscure side projects – and hanging those projects up in my living room – not to mention the fluttering at a particular way a live vocal has been arranged and making sure I catch them live even if it’s just on TV and not actually live.

The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace

I wasn’t the girl bursting any eardrums on Saturday night but I sung along as loud as I always have and got sweatier than I ever have done. It felt so bittersweet when it all finished and echos of ‘Something Like Happiness’ came in and out as we walked back to the car.

If you love them, go ahead and tell them…

I surprised myself, I cry at everything these days; cute old people, sad dogs, the weight of existence… So when no tears came during my favourite songs, as they have done a couple of times before, I thought I might have overcome this. Seeing them all well-up on stage after the final song though, I felt it. I wanted to know why they’re leaving when it makes them so sad… But then, all good things come to an end I suppose and it makes being there that night all the more special and allows my relationship with The Maccabees to continue to be as special as it always has been.

The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace
The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace
The Maccabees at Alexandra Palace

They made 17 year old me’s dreams come true by bringing out Jamie T, because of course they did, because they’re the best! And Jack Peñate, of ‘best friend of Adele and for some reason a recluse’ fame. After seeing a snap of the previous night’s performance with Marcus Mumford on stage, I kind of just expected a repeat and kicked myself for allowing spoilers, but they surprised and they didn’t allow it to take away from it being their night.

It’s actually pretty difficult to put into words how it feels to be glad that you were somewhere. I’ve had those moments at Glastonbury and even other Maccabees gigs (Hey, 2009 rise of Mumford & Sons) but these songs, and these guys, they really, really mean something to me and I can’t quite put that part into words, but I’m still going to keep putting their stuff on my walls.

Plus, you know, I’ll be front-row-centre if they ever change their mind. 💓

Saving Money without Trying

Saving Coin Without Trying 💰

Mo’ money, mo’ money! 💸

Saving money has been at the forefront of my mind a lot in the last year. Switching jobs around, and quitting one with not much of back up plan (good for mental health, bad for bank balance) has meant I’ve spent the last 9 months or so being a bit more careful.

Main monthly savings

I’ve managed to build myself up a little nest egg using the ‘Days of the Month’ method, which I saw floating around Pinterest a while ago; this is where I put away £100 a month plus an additional £1 for each day in the month, e.g. February was £128, January was £131 etc. In addition to the money I had put away before adding that element to it, it’s pretty satisfying to see it tick along and is definitely something I would recommend. I do have this on direct debit but it’s essentially saving an extra £1 a day, which is certainly do-able for me when put like that. It also means that at that current rate, I’ll have over £1,500 by January 2018, though I also plan on adding to it more once I’m a little more settled in this new job, which I only started last month.

Saving Money Without Trying

Spending/Savings Spreadsheet

I must admit, I have become a little obsessed with my ‘Outgoings’ spreadsheet and find myself tinkering with it a few times a week to ensure it’s accurate. In terms of bigger payments and making sure I know how much is going out, it’s been really useful to see everything all in one place. Knowing exactly how much I have leftover, even when it comes to one-off emergency or luxury payments has been key to keeping on top of my savings goals.

My inner nerd really, really enjoyed putting in the formulas that allow it to know what’s carried over and what to add up and take away. It’s a pretty simple spreadsheet but I’ve made a template that you can download here and have a play with if you’re that way inclined. Make sure to check out the formulas beforehand so that it all runs smoothly. 😉

Saving in the background

I’ve seen a few personal finance apps floating around for a while now, in fact, around the same sort of time that I discovered Plum, I was browsing The Dainty Squid and saw Kaylah had posted about her saving experiences with Digit.

Plum is an automated savings chatbot that monitors your spending habits and adjusts your savings accordingly. Securely linked to your bank account, it learns as you spend and so far I couldn’t be happier with it. On top of all that, it’s also pretty cute in that it sends you Facebook messages when you reach certain milestones.

Since I started using it back in the middle of January, I’ve managed to squirrel away just over £30. Totally not a big deal but I kind of like that it’s taking extra money that I don’t have to think about. I guess I was a little sceptical at first but learning about their encryption policies and the fact I have access to that money any time I need to puts my mind at ease and makes me feel like it’s just a regular savings account – albeit a much more futuristic, talkative one.

I don’t think I’d be down for using every app like this going but Plum is a nice, gentle introduction and it’s really easy to get started right away. 💰

Inspiration and Motivation 🙇

As I said before, I don’t have a particular motivation for saving other than generally wanting to be a slightly more responsible grown up but, as with other lifestyle changes, the very beginning did feel like a bit of a slog. However, in this instance, I’ve felt that it’s nothing a quick browse of Refinery29’s Money Diaries can’t fix.

Comparing the spends of different ladies from a variety of industries in a range of pay brackets, it’s really interesting to see how people prioritise things and has allowed me to reflect on myself a bit. The most recent post from a Junior Doctor based in Stoke-on-Trent had me really thinking. So many of these girls seem to be spending almost £10 a day on lunch and lattes and then wonder why there’s little left in the pot, so I can’t say I wasn’t surprised at reading about someone who earns almost triple what I do who spends a fraction of the amount, and is saving for a house and who gives her fiancé money for his petrol. What a smart cookie. 🍪

Silly Buzzfeed listicles like their 15 Charts For Anyone Trying to Be a Better Adult also help.

Like, honestly, spend your money on whatever you like, but as this is something that’s been on my mind and I had a spark of inspiration to write about it, I figured now was as good a time as any to share what’s been going on. I know money can be a bit of a funny subject but if you’re in a similar situation where you’d like to build up more of a rainy day fund, I hope these ideas might allow you to consider ways in which you can change your spending habits to achieve whatever goal you have in mind.

[*]This post contains referral links relating to Plum’s ‘Refer a Friend’ scheme. All views are unrelated to this and my own.

Meat-Free January

Meat-Free January

Our Meat-Free January came to an end with a delicious date-night at Byron 🍔, followed by a screening of the new Trainspotting film. And, just to be corny here, as T2 places itself firmly in 2017 as its prequel dates itself to 1996, I kind of also feel a bit like this marks a point in my life too.

I must admit, being vegetarian for January was never really about being vegetarian for good. It was more about breaking the habit of having meat for every meal, something that I know, having discussed with my friends over the course of this month, is something quite a few people feel like they should do.

Last year, we definitely changed up our diet a lot, as well as generally eating more balanced, healthy meals, we were also having more vegetarian meals. I guess the focus of January 2017 was to put that part of it to the extreme by cutting out meat entirely.

No Veganuary for us, we love eggs!

With the popularity of Veganuary, I feel like it’s been more accessible than before to read about the reasons behind being full-time veganism. We educated ourselves in diet with documentaries about clean eating and the vegan diet.

I do feel as though by not sticking with it, we’re being a bit selfish but from a realistic perspective, I don’t particularly feel like I need this extra guilt in my life. Denying myself meat forever when I enjoy it isn’t going to make a huge dent in the vast environmental impact that the meat industry has – and that definitely is a problem. However, if making a small change to my diet is achievable and enjoyable, then I don’t see why I can’t. I know that it isn’t necessarily the right view to take but I still see it as a step in the right direction.

Meat-Free January

Meat-Free January, start as I mean to go on…

With all of that said, I guess it could all sound rather negative but I’m certainly not continuing 2017 on the back foot. Up until the anticipation for Byron set in the previous weekend, I didn’t miss meat at all. Pretty much every meal we had was tasty, filling and left us without that unidentifiable sluggish feeling that you can’t quite put your finger on until it’s gone.

Meat-Free January

Menu choices are smaller when you leave the house

I think the most limiting thing was probably going out to eat, and despite there being a much wider choice than I would have expected, there was far less choice than being able to eat everything.

We didn’t really have too much to worry about when it came to cooking meals for guests. Generally that was probably because we’re pretty good at cooking but also because, as I said before, we aren’t really friends with anyone who would turn their nose up just because the food features some kind of greenery. That said, Moon has sworn off chillis for a little while was they became a bit of a ‘go to’ for ease and flavour.

Meat-Free January

I think January and winter generally is a good time to take on this kind of ‘diet’ as it felt like much less of a shock to the system. We tended to still make the one-pot winter dishes we always have but with added beans or lentils and taking away the meat. Roasted corn soup was a firm favourite.

If it had been summer and we were suddenly eating just salad forever (I know it wouldn’t have been quite that extreme), I don’t think we would have been able to stick it out for the whole month.

Meat-Free January

I shared quite a few photos throughout January and was met with a lot of encouragement from friends and acquaintances for recipes and suggestions, which I think was another element of helping me stick to it. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it put pressure on me, but posting successes definitely made me feel good about the direction I was going in.

So, what’s next?

I’m entering February with some tasty new recipes in my repertoire, so reckon I’ll be cracking on, sans restriction. I did hear word of ‘Sugar-Free February’ but I think I’ve had enough of restricting myself for a little while – at least to the point where I’m cutting out entire food groups.

I know a month isn’t long but if the aim is to eat a bit less meat, I feel like that is definitely going to happen, and we’ve had a fair few vegetarian meals since the 1st February rolled around.

I was so looking forward to eating chicken again though and I’m so happy to have it back. 🐔

Food Highlights: 😍

Food Lowlights: 😞

  • Nut Roast – Maybe it was the specific recipe (you let me down, Jamie) but if you told me that I wasn’t allowed to have it again, I’d probably be cool with it. For the length of time it took to prepare and cook, it wasn’t worth it.
Happy New Year 2016

Welcome to 2017

Happy New Year!

2017 was welcomed in much more elegantly than 2016 – which with the benefit of hindsight kind of summed up the cruddiness of 2016 – I vomited in my own hand and was up in my friend’s bathroom at the stroke of midnight, wonderful I know… 💁

“Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.”

I saw in this new year in the same friend’s home, only this time in their new house. It’s been a busy year, not without amazing things but I know Moon and I were certainly ready to start a-fresh. I’m so glad we all made the effort to come together to see in the New Year, I think it had been over 18 months since everyone had been in the same room – what with a couple of us living in Australia and the rest of us scattered far and wide across the South of the UK. I’m sure I get mushier and mushier as I get older but 2017 marks 10 years since most of us first met and that’s pretty special if you ask me.

New Year, New Me! (Not Really)

I gave up on the idea of resolutions a few years ago, but I’ve been feeling pretty goal-orientated for the last few months. I do find that winter is the worst season for keeping myself motivated so setting tasks that I know are pretty achievable helps quite a lot with making sure my mood doesn’t drop. I guess now is as good a time as any to share those New Year goals with you…

Eat more vegetarian meals

I set myself the challenge of going vegetarian for the whole of January. I would definitely say, with the exception of the Christmas period, my diet improved considerably in 2016. Moon and I have found ourselves having more vegetarian meals throughout the week anyway so figured it would be pretty easy to push that a little further. We both agreed that we probably wouldn’t have the stamina to do Veganuary, but on Day 5, it’s still pretty easy.

I guess I wanted to do it to do a little bit more to help the planet, I’m also pretty excited to see what kinds of meals we can prepare. The idea is that once January is over we will continue to eat more vegetarian meals during the week, hopefully more than half. The bonus of the whole change will be that it will ultimately make me a little healthier too. I do feel like a bit of a hypocrite for already saying I’ll go back to meat once the 31 days are over but I don’t want to deny myself meat forever because I do like it and feel like I should be allowed to have it if I want to. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Save, save, save

Another challenge I’ve set myself is to save £1 for the number of days in each month, plus at least £100. There’s not really any specific target in mind, it’s just something I started doing last year and then stopped when I quit my job. I’m 28 this year so it definitely feels like a proper nest egg, whether it’s for rainy days or fun things, is more necessary than ever.

Take more photos

Aside from my holidays – of which I recognise there were quite few in 2016 – Photography is something that was kind of neglected. I feel like the problem might be that I’m tied to my phone a lot of the time. In fact, my (now incomplete) Project 365 was based all on my phone so I didn’t really manage to remain as inspired as I had hoped so it’s definitely something I’d like to bring back to the forefront for this year.

Frame EVERYTHING!

This is a small and silly but time-consuming one. Despite it coming up to two years since we moved into our own home, we still have a whole box of prints and artwork that is yet to find a home. It’s been on our list for ages and it’s something we may as well get done – especially since painting will ~finally~ be over and done within the next few months – as I type Moon is spending the last day of his Christmas break painting our hallway, just the kitchen to go. I tell you, this homeowner thing is certainly a marathon not a sprint.

Have a revamp

Since migrating over to WordPress, I haven’t been completely happy with my theme in the same way it was easier to be with Blogger. I guess it comes down to neglecting this space of mine generally but I think a facelift by the end of the year is certainly achievable.


So, here’s the seeing a little more of each other… 🍸 🍾

Times Square, New York City - September 2016

New York, New York

New York via Toronto

I’ve been back from North America for almost two weeks now and am just starting to settle back into post-holiday life. I had an action-packed couple of weeks with my mum and sister. The relatives we stayed with were so good and ferried us around to see so many different sights around Ontario. As well as spending a lot of time in Toronto, my sister and I decided to squeeze in a trip to New York too. It looks pretty close on the map but it was 12 hours on a coach so quite intense. That said, the coach dropped us right in the middle of Chelsea so we were ~in the city~ as soon as we arrived, which was a bit more appealing than a 45 minute taxi ride from the airport.

New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016

New York is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for the longest time and finally getting to go conjured up so much romance taken from seeing it in films for so many years. It’s not like any other city I’ve visited. I thought there was a pretty high chance it would be like Hong Kong, but the skyscrapers is just about the only similarity I can think of.

New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016

So nice they named it twice!

I can definitely see myself going back and can see why so many people get the bug for it. So here are a few thoughts from New York that I took away from my trip. I’ll certainly be bearing them in mind for when I do make a return trip, even if it was with someone who was a first-timer.

New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016

Perfect for people watching.

New Yorkers are not as rude as everyone says but they do love to overshare on the phone or walking along in conversation, they are loud and it’s a great place for people watching.

New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016 New York - September 2016

My personal highlight was the lady who was munching on a packet of crisps willing her ‘lover’ to return to her.

New York is not the muggers paradise we were warned about either but it’s just all about being careful as with any city. Being two women, I did feel a little on edge compared to if I had been with Moon but there really wasn’t much to worry about and I relaxed pretty quickly.

New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016

Top Tourist Spots!

New York’s skyscraper viewpoints are tourist spots for a reason, they do offer some incredible sights of the city. That said, I did enjoy just strolling around the city and taking it in from the ground, as well as obviously the less busy areas. The High Line was easily my favourite spot – the way the history has been taken into account alongside how sympathetic the gardeners have been to it so nice. The High Line also felt much less busy than other places we had been in the evenings, and as a result was much more chilled.

New York - September 2016 New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016

By contrast, while also beautiful the Top of the Rock at sunset was way too crowded. We lucked out getting a great tour when we first arrived and it ended up lining up with being to go up at sunset. I’d ask for Pete if you can, he was great. Unfortunately even though we were only in a small group, the rest of New York’s tourists appeared to have the same fab idea to go up at this time, go figure. It was far too crowded, with queues for that famous view of the Empire State building being almost 10 people deep. It kind of ruined the experience for me but the view was still worth it.

New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016

Walk, walk, walk…

Central Park is MASSIVE! Even seeing it from different aerial platforms it’s difficult to comprehend. From walking in at the American Museum of Natural History entrance we walked around the reservoir towards the Belvadere fountain before I made my way to Strawberry Fields and met my sister again by the carousel, in the end that took around 3 hours. New York generally does involve a lot of walking though and even though we used the subway, we covered over 12km on most days with our record being almost 20km.

New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016

Get ready to spend some dollar…

Tipping is a bit of a necessary evil but to be budgeted for. Thankfully, most restaurants make it easy for you and plonk the different variants at the bottom of the bill. We went for around $50-80 a day, which was fine but when you factor in each meal plus something fun, I feel like doubling or tripling that would have made the trip more comfortable and it’s definitely something I’m going to bear in mind for my next visit.

New York - September 2016

There are quite a lot of fun, free things to see and do in New York but I do think that the CityPass is definitely worth it if you’re planning on doing at least two skyscrapers. The Top of the Rock with the tour ended up being $44 with the Empire State being $32. Add these to the $27 we spent at the Natural History Museum and you’re almost at the $116 for the CityPass, plus you get to skip queues and there are a couple of other museums and attractions you can get into that are included in that if you have more time than we did.

New York - September 2016 New York - September 2016
New York - September 2016

The coach from Toronto to New York was well worth doing. We spent most of the time sleeping and for $60 each we were able to start our trip as soon as we arrived. There were two stops and even though it took longer and wasn’t quite as comfortable as a plane, I’d definitely say if you have booked a trip to either city and you have spare time, a weekend or couple of days to either is well worth it.

Canal Boating - Gran's 80th Birthday

Birthday Brunch on a Boat

This week has been full of surprises for this of us with a birthday!

I can’t help but feel a little mean for complaining to my Gran that I had no idea what I was doing for my birthday when I had played a part in putting her in the exact same position!

For the last few months my cousins and I have been putting together plans for her birthday. It was a big one so we knew that we needed to something special.


Gran's Birthday on a Boat

We ended up deciding on a canal boat trip along the River Wey with a spot of brunch. I’m glad my cousins decided not to tell her what we were doing on the drive to Farncombe Boat House so it stayed a surprise until we got there. She wasn’t even completely sure until we told her she could hop on board the Norseman.


Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat

After being given some thorough tuition on how to drive a narrow boat and how to operate the locks, we were on our own. I actually didn’t end up doing any driving but I was happy to watch. It was thoroughly entertaining whenever it went slightly wrong. Though I must say, we’re pretty lucky that the canal wasn’t too busy while we were on it.

Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat Gran's Birthday on a Boat

With it being such a nice day, it’s easy to see why people live on canal boats and enjoy them. I’m not sure I could go on a narrow boating holiday for a week but I’d definitely like to do something like this again.

Cruising the River Wey

Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat

We were going for around an hour and a half, so around halfway to Guildford (which is 15 minutes away by car) before stopping for a brunch of scrambled eggs, guacamole, bagels and croissants. I was really surprised by the facilities offered on the boat. Farncombe Boat House actually provided us with everything we needed, including cooking utensils, a kettle and washing-up liquid.

Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat

We only ended up spending half the day on the boat because we had to get back to my uncle’s house for the rest of the festivities but it was plenty of time to enjoy the river. The main thing was that we wanted our Gran to enjoy it and I think she really did.

Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat

Aside from getting bitten by a swan – which at least was a funny story to tell – it was such a fun way to spend the morning.

Gran's Birthday on a Boat
Gran's Birthday on a Boat

Midweek Birthday Mini-Break

Margate Mini-Break

It’s been a busy few days filled with birthday celebrations and happiness. If the last couple of days are anything to go by, 27 is going to be a good age to be. 🙌

My birthday surprise was just that, a complete surprise. I must admit that I did spend a little time stressing about where we were going but it all worked out in the end. Moon rocked up to my mum’s house in the morning and then let loose that we’d be heading the Margate for an overnight stay – super exciting!

Margate Birthday Mini-Break

After seeing Margate’s Dreamland on TV and Moon actually meeting Wayne Hemingway a year or so ago, I was excited to take in a proper British seaside mini-break.

We were so lucky with the weather, you just can’t beat a bit of the English seaside when the sun is shining. ☀️

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

There’s so much to see and do in Margate that it’s understandable why it looks to be making a comeback. From Dreamland to the Turner Contemporary Gallery, as well as a ton of beautiful independent shops and its very own Shell Grotto! Margate is great for a walk along the sands or going further into the town to explore.

Dreamland with my Dreamboat 🎡

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

Dreamland reminded me so much of Secret Cinema’s Back to the Future, except better. Firstly, everything is incredibly affordable, with rides ranging from £1-5 (or unlimited rides for £15) and secondly, it’s all real! The branding of the theme park is really something special, thoughtfully putting together beautiful bold fonts with perfect pastel colours. It’s a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

Due to slightly pigging out with a picnic lunch, we were feeling a little too fragile to go on some of the wilder rides. That said, we still made it up the big wheel – which has great views as far as the eye can see of Margate and beyond. Unfortunately the Scenic Railway wasn’t running when we went but as it’s the oldest running rollercoaster in the UK, it’s certainly on my list for a return trip.

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

I couldn’t get over how pretty everything at Dreamland was, it was a bit ridiculous how well it had all been thought through. Right down to the staff t-shirts, which had us green with envy – hoping they’ll make them available in the gift shop soon!

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

We read in a guidebook in our hotel that Dreamland has brought a lot of money back to the area, and we could see why. It’s really unassuming from the outside but opens up to this great public space, I have real hopes that it’s going to work out.

My birthday meal was spent enjoying rum cocktails and eating delicious Caribbean food at Mullins Brasserie. No pictures unfortunately, but a great atmosphere and we’re ready to try Caribbean pepper pot again real soon.

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

Secret Underground Shell Grotto 🐚

Margate Birthday Mini-Break

Our second day in Margate was opened with glorious sunshine again. After finishing up breakfast at our hotel we popped everything back in the car before wandering over to The Shell Grotto.

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

Discovered by a father and son in the 1830s and believed to be some kind of smuggler’s passage, The Shell Grotto is just that, an underground tunnel covered in shells. There are lots of neat different designs, and it’s crazy to think that despite being well lit now, it would have been completely dark when it was first discovered. It didn’t take too long to get around but the gift shop was really good and it was really interesting to see the different shell designs and shell work.

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

Old Town

Shopping in Old Town is a must in Margate. There are so many good independent vintage shops and galleries. Unfortunately, a lot of Margate town centre is kind of uninspired with quite a few charity shops and pound shops, but with a little exploring there are so many hidden gems to be found.

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside 🌊 🐙

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

We rounded up our trip with a trip to the Turner Contemporary followed by a walk along the stone pier before spot of lunch at Buoy & Oyster.

Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break
Margate Birthday Mini-Break

It was such a treat to spend the middle of the week by the seaside pottering around with my favourite person. It made my birthday a very happy one indeed. 😘

Italian Adventure Header

Italian Adventure

Italy » Rome, Venice and Lake Garda by planes, trains and Wowcher deals.

It’s been almost two months since Moon and I were spending our days sightseeing and eating our way through Italy. We took a Wowcher deal for Rome, Venice and Lake Garda by train (though it turned out to be by bus a lot too) and aside from having some pretty shocking hotels, it was a really fun holiday. I’d definitely recommend seeing Italy by train as it’s such a straightforward way to go about things. I will say this though, we’re pretty lucky I added a data pack onto my phone as we’d have been stuck in either the wrong part of Venice or Lake Garda at least twice during our trip – thanks, Wowcher!

Italy Holiday - June 2016

Neither of us have ever been to Italy and it was quite hard work in terms of the amount of walking we did. That said, it was great to spend time together, meandering through new places and meander we certainly did, clocking up between 13 and 14 miles every day!

Italy Holiday - June 2016

Free drinking water is available all over Rome, I know some people are a bit sketchy about things like this but we were all good throughout the trip. In fact, it was something we really missed when we got to Lake Garda

Italy Holiday - June 2016

Viva Roma!

Starting off in Rome, we got a really early flight and managed to cover a lot of ground in our first day. Rome is an ideal city for a short weekend break, even breaking up our time there with a trip to the Vatican City, we were able to see so many sights and take in so much of the atmosphere. Most of the main attractions in Rome are fairly close together but there’s still a lot of walking to be done. We were staying about a 15 minute bus journey away from the city centre which wasn’t as big a deal as we thought it would be as the buses were so easy to use and we could buy tickets from just outside the hotel on the way to our stop.

Rome is the ideal city for a short city break.

Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016

Despite the crowds, the Trevi Fountain was easily one of the best things we saw. Photographs simply don’t do it justice and there’s no other way to describe it other than beautiful. As a city with such history there’s a lot of construction going on to repair the roads and architecture, which meant we didn’t get to sit on the Spanish Steps as our friends had when they visited a couple of years ago.

Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
The Colosseum was my least favourite tourist attraction, I think it might have been because it was the weekend but there were just too many crowds. It is amazing to look at from the outside though.
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016

There was quite a lot of street hawking going on but I don’t know why I was so worried about being pickpocketed. Obviously it happens in the same way it does in every city but just as it is everywhere else you just have to keep an eye on your stuff.

Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016

I’d definitely like to go back to Rome in the future. Even though we took in a lot in the short space of time we were there, being particularly lucky on our last day to get a full day, there are still a few things we missed off. That, and I could sit by the Trevi Fountain people watching all afternoon – I mean once you root through the streams of selfie sticks, there are quite a few characters!

Italy Holiday - Rome - June 2016

You’re not really seeing Venice unless you get lost.

Unfortunately our Wowcher deal meant that we weren’t actually staying in Venice ‘proper’ but on the mainland. This is definitely something I’d say to watch out for if you’re booking a similar deal on Wowcher, it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience as it was only a 10 minute bus ride but it wasn’t helped by the fact that the hotel was one of the worst I’ve stayed in. The air-conditioner was broken and everything was dated and itchy. That being said, we weren’t spending much time there and it did make us get up and go and stay out.

Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016

Having been told that Venice was pretty small, I was surprised how much walking we did. It’s true, the distance isn’t far but when you’re winding your way through allies, it soon takes longer than you think to get from point A to point B. We even managed to get lost on our first evening and found an equally lost Spanish man who was close to missing his train – we helped each other muddle through though.

Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016

We couldn’t go to Venice without going on a gondola and even though I was initially worried about the cost, we ended up getting a €10 discount due to supposed future bad weather (which never came) and to get a shared one out by St Marco’s Square was the same price. It really was romantic, even if our gondolier spent a lot of time shouting out his gondolier friends.

Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
I know it’s super touristy but this photo feels so unreal.
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016

Just one Cornetto…

I’ve wanted to visit Venice for a long time and the romance it conjures up was very much present when we got there. There were photo opportunities around every corner and even though the gelato didn’t have a patch on Rome’s offerings, I really enjoyed my time in the city.

Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Risotto in Venice is a must!
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Venice - June 2016

I think if I were to visit Venice again it would be to go to some of the outlying islands, like Burano or Murano. Due to only really spending one full day there simply wasn’t enough time alongside our initial exploring – of which we did plenty. Even though it was a little more touristy than I was expecting, I’m glad I finally got to see this beautiful city.

Bella Lake Garda!

By the time we got to Lake Garda we were tired but still a bit sad that we only had one day left – it was one of those places that made me understand why people go to the same places on holiday over and over again. It was easily my favourite part of the trip, it was so beautiful. To top it off, we were staying in Garda – which isn’t even the fanciest part!


Italy Holiday - Lake Garda - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Lake Garda - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Lake Garda - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Lake Garda - June 2016

I think if we’d had more time we would have made time visit a few vineyards, maybe even done a bit of cycling but one day really didn’t allow for that. I was definitely keen for a dip in the lake but sunbathing by the pool had my name on it by the afternoon of our last day. Not only that but we saw a snake swimming in the water so I knew Moon would need more than a day of convincing.

Italy Holiday - Lake Garda - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Lake Garda - June 2016

We rounded off our holiday and our time in Lake Garda with a beautiful lakeside dinner. Visiting Lake Garda made me realise how expensive it had been in Venice and even Rome comparatively. The restaurant we picked was pretty fancy and next level compared to almost everything we ate – though we never had one bad meal the whole trip – but was around €30 cheaper + it was three courses and we had wine!

Italy Holiday - Lake Garda - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Lake Garda - June 2016
Italy Holiday - Lake Garda - June 2016

Things I’d avoid if I did it again…

I’d definitely recommend travelling around Italy like this to anyone, though if I were to go through Wowcher again, I’d probably avoid Tour Center. It took us nearly 8 hours to get to Milan Bergamo Airport using public transport on our last day – when Verona airport, where we could have flown home for €35 (together), was just 40 minutes away. I do think it was something we needed to do as it was completely new to both of us and now we know how easy it is, next time will be a breeze!

I guess I was just really surprised because sometimes I feel like it’s difficult to get a bus in London so being able to navigate in a language that I can really only say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ in has me feeling pretty good.

Pro-Traveling-in-Italy-Tip: If you find yourself with a little extra time before you fly home or go on to your next destination most train stations offer storage for your luggage for around €6. This can be really useful if, like us, you were travelling with bags to carry enough stuff for a week.