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.