Travel: Summer Getaway in Brighton

Remember the “heatwave” of July? It might seem like a while ago now, but that week of rather warm whether than had everyone moaning they were too hot, rail tracks buckling, cars overheating? By some rather random (and greatly appreciated) stroke of luck, it coincided exactly with the holiday myself and W booked to Brighton.

 photo Brighton_zpsw5gnjwsu.jpgWe’d originally planned a road-trip around Scotland, but with myself not having learnt to drive, wanting to sell the car and limited funds, we decided a quick getaway to one of our favourite UK places would do the job. We hoped for good weather, we made rainy-day plans. And we lucked out! The weather was perfect right up until five minutes after we got on the train on our journey home; swelteringly hot, bright blue skies. Just right for a seaside break.

 photo Brighton July 2016 17_zpspyvrvom5.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 15_zpscnezyoee.jpg

Staying at The Kelvin (clean, comfortable, if nothing to right home about – other than it was relatively cheap for our dates!) we were virtually on the beachfront, a few minutes walk away from the Sea Life Centre. It made for an excellent base; we could trot to the beach in the mornings, we were close to a couple of decent-sized supermarkets for picking up snacky lunches. It was only a short stroll to the Pavillions and the restaurants nearby. I discovered the joy that is Franco Manca – I ate their tomato-free courgette pizza twice in four days. It’s unbelievably good! And best of all? A gorgeous Italian Gelato shop on the corner. It brought back memories of Rome, with the ice-cream being some of the best I’ve had in the UK. I had several combos (chocolate & hazelnut, chocolate & orange, blueberry & raspberry) and quite honestly wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite. The Kitkat flavour looked pretty awesome though!

 photo Brighton July 2016 19_zpsogb4ns6f.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 3_zpsedqkys3j.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 2_zpsk5wuwxcz.jpgWe spent a day lazing on the beach. I read a whole book and had a good nap. We snacked on a rotisserie chicken and tzatziki. Hired a couple of beach chairs and a parasol. Chased the parasol down the beach following a sudden gust of wind. Got a hand full of splinters from said deckchairs (me). Paddled in the sea. An highly successful beach day, all washed down with a good old Fish’n’Chips, and a rather strong Espresso Martini.

 photo Brighton July 2016 12_zpsxh0dblrb.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 11_zps6t0wezxa.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 10_zpsva20wn6o.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 9_zpsz4sbva5x.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 8_zpsumtbyjgq.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 5_zps6nabonu1.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 4_zpsvk2bgpcn.jpgAnother day was spent being a bit more active. We strolled round the Sea Life Centre in the morning (finding Nemo and Dory in the process), before getting the mini electric train up to the marina for a quieter beach picnic – we’d eaten most of it before realising we were perhaps a tad overdressed for the section of the beach we were on. Oops! We took the train back, I triumphed at mini-golf despite a shaky start, and ate ice-cream. We then perhaps overindulged with burgers, onion rings, mac’n’cheese and alcoholic milkshakes. No regrets!

Our final full day was shopping day. I spent an embarrassingly long few hours underwear shopping, getting remeasured at Bravissimo then hunting down a rather difficult new size in Debenhams, Ann Summers, Boux Avenue and every bra-selling shop I could find. Making it up to a rather grumpy W, we snacked on sausage rolls, ate more ice-cream and wandered the lanes. There were so many cute and quirky house bits I was desperate to buy, but with no flat sorted at the time I just couldn’t justify it. There’s the excuse to head back for another trip…

 photo Brighton July 2016 16_zpsajs7n4g1.jpg photo Brighton July 2016 18_zpsir446ahw.jpgWe spent our final morning squeezing in another sunbathe, another stroll down the pier, another play on the two-penny slots. Then it was back to reality with a bang, back to trying to find flats to rent, work clothes, back to adulting. Safe to say, we need another holiday already!

Where did you holiday this year? Where in the UK do you recommend for a short break?

Lifestyle: Saying Goodbye to Summer at Castle Ashby Gardens

Whilst the weather is still rather scorching, the sun is still shining, and it’s the Bank Holiday weekend, I’m slowly coming to the realisation that my summer is coming to an end. In just over a week I’ll be trading lie-ins for tube journeys, lazy days with office days, PJs with suits, bare feet with heels.

 photo Castle Ashby Gardens 16_zps0kuqj756.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 18_zpshrcd954v.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 19_zpsxk3imgkl.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 21_zpskifczuqu.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 20_zpsvrrsx5yj.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 26_zpsk1mnd7ed.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 24_zpstaqobzew.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 27_zps5jjhqmfi.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 12_zps2cfwoynh.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 22_zpsquvhfvpy.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 10_zpshhsjgk4t.jpgI mean, I’m excited to start work. If I’m honest waking up knowing I have nothing to do fills me with dread, and I’ve begun to feel like my brain is melting through lack of activity. I’ll be glad to get some kind of daily routine going, I’ll be challenging myself, learning new things and keeping busy. But it will be hard to let go of the laziness. I’ve had longer off this summer than I have since the summer of 2009. I’ve always, always worked through summers, and this one has been the exception.

To make the most of the gorgeous sunshine Northamptonshire has been basking in lately, and to make the most of the countryside whilst we still can, we headed out to Castle Ashby a few weeks ago. A teeny-tiny village, it features a rural shopping yard of galleries and delicatessens, gorgeous houses, and a stately-home with it’s gardens open to the public. The gardens were the reason for our visit, despite costing £5.50 to enter they really are an oasis of calm. Plenty of dappled shade on a hot day, lots of lawn to lay a picnic blanket down and laze about, plenty of flowers to practice setting up my camera manually.

 photo Castle Ashby Gardens 1_zpsvmyd57d1.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 5_zps4ck8jq7o.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 3_zpsw9aa5dqz.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 2_zps0aawyabo.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 4_zpso84oiqxh.jpgAnd the best bit? The meerkats! If I’m completely honest they were my main reason for suggesting a visit to Castle Ashby. I love them! So comical and mischievous, I could (and did) watch them for hours. Our visit was even more special as, wandering around the sides of their enclosure, we noticed a mummy-meerkat bring her babies out of the den for what was apparently the first time. If there’s anything cuter than a meerkat, it’s a meerkat baby!

We found a shaded bench to sit and chat, down by a small lily-pond with a view of their gorgeous terracotta bridge to our right. We watched as fish jumped out of the pond to catch flies, as swallows dived in for a drink. It was the perfect spot for a bit of peace and quiet ahead of our busy week moving our bits and bobs to London.

 photo Castle Ashby Gardens 6_zpspy7b5bnm.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 7_zpskfbiys6p.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 11_zps74ggug2h.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 14_zpsp282azp3.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 15_zpsxnzianew.jpgI tried using the opportunity of the gorgeous backgrounds to take a couple of outfit photos. This failed on several accounts. Firstly, the sun was so bright that looking towards the camera without squinting was difficult – especially in front of the very fashion-blogger-esque distressed brick walls. Secondly, I realised I was wearing a rather old dress. And by old, I mean I bought it five years ago. So some very nice photos of me, wearing a Dorothy Perkins dress you’d be lucky to find anywhere. Oops…

Fashion blogger failure aside, it was lovely to wander through the gardens, stroll through the greenhouses (including one filled with chillis – I was more apprehensive about the tomato filled one!) and learn more about the estate. I loved how well maintained the gardens were, without seeing teams of gardeners around every corner, and agree the funds raised from entry charges was clearly being well used. If only we’d had time to stop in the tea rooms!

Thank you summer’16 – it’s been glorious, but I’m glad it’s coming to an end. Until next year, though I’d welcome the warmth and sunshine for a little longer.

How has your summer been? 

Lifestyle: Hidden Corners of Canterbury

It’s really hard to believe that after four years, my time in Canterbury is over. Whilst I’m lucky in that it’s easy enough to get to over the next few years (though I’d like to think I’ve spent enough time on the High Speed line!), I can’t imagine myself visiting all too often. With that in mind, I spent some of my last days in city exploring, finding hidden gems I had no clue were there.

 photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 11_zpsoxfru9cm.jpgI’ve already written about our trip on the river, one of Canterbury’s Historic Riverboat Tours, and that was the perfect was to start finding some of the hidden gems. It introduced us to a gorgeous, completed secluded area of the city that I won’t share on here (for fear of spoiling the secret – and my camera battery ran out!), however there are some easier to find, just as lovely areas of Canterbury.

 photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 24_zpsn154drhs.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 1_zpsjn1dncd7.jpgThough of course, I couldn’t not get a few shots of my favourite view. Looking over the cathedral from the university campus was (perhaps a little shamefully!) one of the reasons why I chose Kent University – it’s a stunning view over the city. For students at UKC, the best view is from a stair window inside Rutherford College, but there are so many. It always irked me that sunset was the other side of the hill – could you imagine it behind the cathedral?!

 photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 4_zpsvv5j9xud.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 5_zpsdm3ninpg.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 2_zpsnqc3d1yd.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 3_zpsxuu5ieol.jpgAbbotts Mill in the city centre quickly became one of my favourite spots – quiet, yet just a two-minute walk away from the crammed main street. Plenty of green space to sit and listen to the crashing water, it felt like a millon miles away from the busy shopping area.

 photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 6_zpsrhasjbfj.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 8_zpsayycut4a.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 13_zpsjwoj41mp.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 11_zpswnsn02og.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 12_zps62ybqjjy.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 9_zpsxdtx5jix.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 7_zpsluzoqa3k.jpgAround the corner is a few statues and sculptures, there’s gorgeous little cottages and terraced houses. Part of me wishes I’d lived closer to the city centre in one of my later years at university; some of these houses are student lets. How lovely do they look?!

 photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 20_zpsepy31i3k.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 19_zpsyycy6snu.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 17_zpshugkt2lf.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 16_zpsi1hnpctj.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 18_zpsqpkvwudu.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 22_zpsmcbxnjku.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 15_zps9qr2osdj.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 14_zps7qgdcg7t.jpgThen there’s Westgate Gardens. Stunning flower beds, punting boats bobbing in the river, historical buildings popping up seemingly out of nowhere. Again, it’s hard to imagine you are pretty much in the middle of a (admittedly very small) city.

If I am at all honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Canterbury City in general. I hated how busy it always was, how I was always having to dodge groups of tourists. I found the shops to be a weird mix – with no Primark up until a couple of years ago, and perhaps the smallest New Look in existence. But I did love the little hidden gems I found. I loved the Cathedral adding something special. I loved the little side streets filled with independent shops. And I know that, despite its frustrating popularity, I will miss Canterbury.

Have you ever been to Canterbury? What’s your favourite UK city?

Lifestyle: Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour

When I first visited Canterbury, an unbelievable five years ago (I can’t believe my little baby sister starts going on university open days next year – where has the time gone?!), one of the first things I noticed was the river winding around the city. And the numerous boat tours along it. I remember saying how lovely it seemed, how I’d definitely make time to do one of those.

 photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 17_zpsbrdnzze5.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 16_zpsbmieaaui.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 2_zpstif4oweq.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 1_zpsvlrz3qqf.jpgAnd guys, I finally managed it. The day before I moved out of my final year house. Nothing like leaving it until the last minute.

All I can say is that I am so, so glad I made the time to do this. What I was imagining to be a rather wasteful use of money turned out to be a hugely enjoyable 45 minutes. Our guide (Rob, the guy with the beard, if you’re wondering!) was hilarious and hugely knowledable about Canterbury. He managed to tailor his talk to be entertaining to us two as students, and the slightly more mature audience making up the rest of the boat.

 photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 5_zpsqowg2ddb.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 3_zpsfyraarnt.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 6_zpsasbxirp4.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 8_zpsh4509gne.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 9_zpsjzfqqvhr.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 13_zpsafyqgxil.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 15_zpsesg2pk8x.jpg photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 18_zpskh30q1z8.jpgWe ducked under extremely low bridges, found areas of Canterbury I didn’t know existed, talked about the best pubs in the city, came too close to comfort to some nesting pigeons, said hi to some ducks. We had the most gorgeous view of the cathedral, floated adjacent to Abbott’s Mill. We passed restaurants, gardens, sculptures and many other boats. We went under the main high street. And yet it never felt as though we were in a crowded area, never felt like we were in the middle of Canterbury.

It may be a little pricey, but the Historic Riverboat tour is something I truly loved. I’d also highly recommend trying to get Rob as your guide/driver – he had us in stitches, not least when watching him try to duck under the lowest bridges of the journey. I learnt things about Canterbury I wish I’d known earlier, located places I’d have loved to have visited more.
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But most of all? This was the perfect way to round off my time in the city. It provided some of the most stunning views of Canterbury, showed off the best and most gorgeous parts of the city, and got us away from the hustle and bustle of the high street. I fell back in love with Canterbury, remembered why I’d chosen to come to university there.

Disclaimer – we were paying customers, I just loved it enough to post about it!

How do you like to explore a city?

Lifestyle: Exploring Kent

It took me a while, but I finally think I’ve gotten a bit more about the fabulous county where I went to university. Get me – past tense about university because I am now officially a graduate! Me and W decide to make a mini-break out of packing up and cleaning my final year house – so we took a few days extra and made the most of having no lectures, no coursework, no exams and a car to get around.

 photo Exploring Kent 13_zpshu2vhddu.jpg photo Exploring Kent 14_zpsujztzbpy.jpg photo Exploring Kent 11_zpslbzewduy.jpg photo Exploring Kent 10_zpsegnoxxy7.jpg photo Exploring Kent 7_zpsbxahskz8.jpgOn the first day we approached Canterbury at lunchtime, hungry, hot and a little grumpy. There was only one solution – driving straight into Whitstable, parking up, filling up with food and sitting on the beach. The day was glorious, with Whitstable being one of my favourite beachside spots. Something about the waves crashing against the stones is so soothing to the soul.

With W not being a fan of Fish’n’Chips (I know…) and our previous favourite eatery no longer in business, we set about finding food. Stumbling across a sandwich shop, we found a bit of a hidden gem. My Roast Beef & Mustard sandwich was divine. Tender and rare roast beef, just the right amount of English mustard, good seeded bread. Will was equally pleased with his Ham & Cheese choice.

 photo Exploring Kent 15_zpsrdeqocrf.jpg photo Exploring Kent 2_zps0vixvevw.jpg photo Exploring Kent 4_zps6cyaxwfw.jpg photo Exploring Kent 3_zpsaogs6qko.jpgThe next day we travelled out towards Margate. I’d heard a lot of good things about this seaside town from other bloggers, plus my Nan visits regularly and raves about it. But, honestly? I was hugely disappointed! Maybe I was missing something, but the highstreet was like any other slightly grimy highstreet in the country, the beach was quite dirty with rubbish and it was all a bit ‘meh.’ Dreamland had clearly been done up nicely on the inside, but ride prices are high and it just didn’t seem worth it. We did have a ball of a time playing the two-penny slots though!

Moving on we drove around to Broadstairs, a slight improvement being a more traditional seaside time. As we parked up there was a massive flash, a crack of thunder and the heavens opened. Que eating our picnic whilst sat in the car! Eventually we ventured out under an umbrella, watched the Armed Forces Day parade, had a mooch and a wander, then retreated rapidly when the sky blackened again. I didn’t even manage to grab an ice-cream!

The day ended with a quick trip to Westwood Cross, a shopping complex that even managed to impress W. I picked up my first maxi-dress and finally hit an NYX stand.

 photo 2016-06-26 12.39.37_zpsvpyhbgir.jpgThe next few days were spent in Canterbury, completely exploring, finding some lovely hidden gems and finally, finally going on a boat tour. It honestly was the most delightful little break, the weather treated us relatively well (look at the gorgeous blue skies!) – a nice end to my time in Kent!

Was there anywhere super-special I missed in Kent? I’d love to go back for a long weekend in a year or so, so hit me with some suggestions!

Lifestyle: A Very British Day Out At The Severn Valley Railway

I’m pretty sure that my fiance is a bit of a closet train geek. With a flatmate that worked on the heritage steam railway close(ish) to Birmingham it was probably pretty predictable that it would happen – though a bit of a shock to find train magazines in the loo on my last visit! Alongside the promise of tea and cake for me, I indulged him in a trip to the railway.

 photo Severn Valley Railway 6_zpsgnwxhufg.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 7_zpsf4ql6pld.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 20_zpstieglo3z.jpgAnd what a delightful day it was too!

A steam railway running between Kidderminster and Bridgenorth, the Severn Valley Railway is a 16-mile long track with a journey taking around an hour on a steam-powered train. Passing through some stunning countryside, including a view of the West Midlands Safari Park (I spied elephants and rhinos on this day, although unfortunately failed to have my camera ready at the crucial moment), it really is a lovely day out.

 photo Severn Valley Railway 2_zps2di1cb2m.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 1_zpskrskeupm.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 24_zps3nnb4kks.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 4_zpsqxclxesu.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 5_zpswgtyjwy1.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 22_zpsapxuanvl.jpgWe stopped off at a couple of the stations on the line – first for a spot of mid-morning tea and cake in Arley. We sat down by the river, in a very picturesque spot, and shared a slice of some of the best carrot cake I’ve eaten. The perfect amount of frosting to cake, no dried fruit and a lovely spiced flavour. All worked off with a quick dash back up the hill in time for the next train!

A good chunk of the day was spent in Bridgenorth, a lovely little Midlands town. Plenty of character and independent shops if you take a short stroll from the station – I highly recommend a wander.

 photo Severn Valley Railway 10_zpszixo23qr.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 8_zpsopsed3s2.jpgWe stopped off for lunch at The Pie Room (in BamBoo Wine Bar) – an excellent decision. Serving locally sourced pies with a variety of mash, peas and gravy, the food is my idea of heaven on a plate. Especially when you can choose your size of pie slice! The majority of us went for the Chicken, Leek and Ham Pie with the differences being in the mash. Cheesy was a popular choice (and from the forkful I got, was very tasty too!), garlic was said to be rather overpowering, and my mustard mash was a little disappointing. The wholegrain mustard interferred with the smooth creaminess of the mash, and it needed more of a kick. Maybe a combination of English and wholegrain would work better? That said, the pie was a triumph. Crisp but not dry pastry, tender meat, a creamy sauce, it was pretty much the perfect pie.

 photo Severn Valley Railway 11_zpsui5djnih.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 12_zpsbunloi77.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 15_zpszqlan8sw.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 18_zpsdljm9so3.jpg photo Severn Valley Railway 17_zps4tgtmyqp.jpgThe sensible option having devoured a massive plate of carbs would have been to walk up the hill. But with train enthusiasts in tow? We got the Cliff Railway! A little steep and rickety for my liking, we survived the journey and got set for a good old wander. I found the most charming looking bridal boutique (despite LOVING my dress choice, I’m a little sad that the experience is over), and loved the old-fashioned buildings.

 photo Severn Valley Railway 25_zpshvowo3vp.jpgAnd what should we do when the rain begins to pour? Head into a teashop for more bad things of course – this hot chocolate was one of the best I’ve had in a long while! It was here I managed to get hold of my final university marks – a First Class degree was enough, but knowing just how well I did in my final year made me cry all over again!

 photo Severn Valley Railway 19_zpswj7arpwr.jpgA lovely day with friends, and something slightly different (and not overly expensive!) to do – it definitely broke up the monotony of moving home and sorting out box after box!

What have you been up to lately? What’s the best hot chocolate you’ve ever had?!

Lifestyle: A Day in Deal

There’s nothing I love more than being by the sea. I’ve no idea where my love of the coast came from; growing up as far inland as you can get in the UK meant it was reserved to a couple of times a year, usually in the winter. Yet still nothing calms me down more than wandering along the coast listening to the waves crashing against the beach.

 photo A Day in Deal 3_zpsx6w4oiwr.jpg photo A Day in Deal 2_zpsyaqit8vi.jpg photo A Day in Deal 1_zpssrqusrrz.jpgWhen W forced me to take some time out a few weeks back, he put me in the car and we drove out of Canterbury and towards the Kentish coast. We usually head towards Whistable; 10 minutes away and lovely, but we fancied something different. Deal was somewhere I’d heard mentioned a few times, so Deal it was!

A strange little town, it was a very odd combination of absolutely delightful independent shops and bakeries, right next to discount chain stores. Disconcerting, though I can imagine in five or so years it will be the most wonderful bohemian seaside town!

We wandered along the pier, turning back to discover the loveliest view of the seafront.

 photo A Day in Deal 7_zps7oneqaxh.jpg photo A Day in Deal 4_zpss8rwzcwj.jpg photo A Day in Deal 6_zpsw8hbsf4p.jpg photo A Day in Deal 5_zps8msojubx.jpgWe sat on the beach and chattered to each other, skimming stones and enjoying the almost warm sun.

We strolled up to the castle, but decided the extortionate entry fee for not a particularly exciting castle wasn’t happening.

We gorged on burgers and many sides. Wandered some more. Sat on the beach some more. Treated ourselves to ice-cream.

We wandered around the many lanes that Deal seems to have, some of them reminding me of the posh parts of London almost.

 photo A Day in Deal 8_zpsxdrw10i2.jpg photo A Day in Deal 9_zpsjxpheaz7.jpg

Other than the fish-and-chips, it was your quintessential day out at the good ol’English seaside. And it was the perfect day. It cleared my head, it got the sun on my skin, and it made me realise how important getting some good fresh air is. It also reignited my love for the sea, and now I’m determined to visit more often…

Are you a fan of the English seaside? Have you ever been to Deal? Any recommendations in Kent?

Lifestyle: A Sunday Wander in Cambridge

A few weeks ago saw me and W attend another wedding (the second of the year – we’re taking advantage by stealing all the good ideas!), this time in Cambridge. One of my favourite cities, I couldn’t resist the chance to spend the day after having a good wander.

 photo Spring Afternoon in Cambridge 5_zpsqidup60i.jpg photo Spring Afternoon in Cambridge 4_zpszieidfu2.jpg photo Spring Afternoon in Cambridge 10_zpsm6yu1ows.jpgBy chance it was probably one of the best days of the year so far. Beautifully sunny, almost warm – pretty much perfect. We had no plan, other than to just appreciate the winding streets, impressive colleges and beautifully kept gardens.

 photo Spring Afternoon in Cambridge 22_zpsdlv0kixi.jpg photo Spring Afternoon in Cambridge 23_zps9ynp6swn.jpgI did *have* to swing by the Cambridge Satchel shop though. Whilst I’ve never really been tempted with their bags (I find the leather feels a little flimsy compared to what I’m used to) I do appreciate some of their more unusual colours. They have a beige-y mushroom-y mink that I’m particularly lusting after…

 photo Spring Afternoon in Cambridge 30_zps273jk8fa.jpg photo Spring Afternoon in Cambridge 29_zpst1dutuzf.jpgOh, and we managed to have a good catch up with an old friend over a cafe lunch – W went with a traditional cream tea, I let the side down with an indulgent combination of Coffee & Walnut Cake with a Hot Chocolate. Very nice it was too!

Having been to both Oxford and Cambridge relatively recently, I can definitely say Cambridge is my favourite of the two. I’ve really been enjoying exploring more of the UK over the last few years; I have my fingers crossed for a Scottish road trip this summer too!
 photo Spring Afternoon in Cambridge 2_zpsjugd7pzd.jpg photo Spring Afternoon in Cambridge 8_zpsflmeh4cg.jpg

Are you a fan of UK mini-breaks? Where’s your favourite UK city?

Lifestyle: A Weekend in Oxford

Having an income this year (I’m currently on full-time placement) has resulted in hugely itchy feet. I’m desperate for some European trips away, but with W a good few hours away trying to organise that has proved a logistical nightmare. Instead we’ve settled on a few UK city breaks – resulting in last weekend being spent in Oxford.

 photo 2015-02-01 15.56.39_zpsmujqiktb.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.19.12_zpsudpr1ro0.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.17.37_zpso8j0koj9.jpgA teeny city really, Oxford is so picturesque. It seems a lot more peaceful than Cambridge (we visited for a day last year), although most of the colleges were closed to visitors. We stayed at the Newton Guest House, which was perfectly located, and great value for the price. Just a few improvements and it could be a gorgeous boutique hotel – breakfast needs work, and the old fusty-smelling wardrobes need to go! But for a good £30 less per night than anywhere else I’m not going to complain…

 photo 2015-02-01 14.15.02_zpsnas3n78b.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.14.43_zpssjvntjdh.jpg photo 2015-01-31 18.24.41_zpspqkzfijn.jpgWe spent most of the weekend just enjoying each other’s company; this first time we’ve managed to be properly just the two of us since June last year. We played tourist, warming ourselves up in museums and photographing the pretty buildings. A few lovely date nights too – so night to put on glamorous make up and heels (so I can see over his shoulder!).

 photo 2015-01-31 14.02.54_zpsz3yqv3wk.jpg photo 2015-01-31 14.02.39_zpsqqwke0z2.jpg photo 2015-01-31 13.55.52_zpsritpth5y.jpg photo 2015-01-31 13.55.21_zpsufq1qjrj.jpg photo 2015-01-31 13.53.40_zpsawnzceva.jpgThe Natural History museum is well worth a visit. It’s small, but we spent a good couple of hours in there. It’s amazing how many exhibits they have crammed in there – a good amount of dinosaurs and animals, plenty of rocks and even a live bee hive. Gorgeous building too.

 photo 2015-02-01 13.27.07_zpsf15oioj9.jpg photo 2015-02-01 13.26.47_zpstyme5fff.jpgWe also enjoyed the Ashmolean, though I have to say I much prefer places like the Natural History. It’s a matter of personal taste though!

 photo 2015-02-01 15.34.41_zps6bbgq3yv.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.19.26_zpsk8fwuhae.jpg photo 2015-02-01 15.45.57_zpsqlogvdma.jpgWe also had a romantic if freezing walk along the river – I was definitely glad of the oversized scarf! We made a quick retreat when it started to snow, stretching out a pot of tea in a cafe as long as we could to stay warm!

I’d definitely recommend Oxford for a city break if you’re looking for something slow-paced and relaxing, but with plenty to see. From pricing up other options it’s also excellent value – far cheaper to get to and stay than York or Bath (my other wish-list cities at the moment).

Oh, and happy V-day people! No matter what your relationship status, today is the day to wear pretty underwear, eat chocolate and love yourself and those around you!

Have you been on a UK city break recently? Where would you recommend we visit next?

Lifestyle: Weekend in Devon

Last weekend I was lucky enough to head off to the seaside with my family for a few days. It’s actually been three years since I’ve been away with them, and almost seven years since I’ve been down in Devon despite virtually twice-annual visits as a child – so it was a lovely chance to see how things have changed and spend some quality time together!

 photo 2014-07-18131043_zps2964ceee.jpg photo 2014-07-18132844_zps4adad749.jpg photo 2014-07-18133705_zpsc3a6abd0.jpg photo 2014-07-18140238_zpscf5a27d7.jpgWe spent the Friday wandering round Babbacombe; a quiet seaside town with a scarily steep incline down to the seafront. We were a little lazy and only walked down; there’d been a huge thunderstorm at home the night before, so a four-hour drive coupled with little sleep left us all a little worse for wear! Being lazy did have its advantages though as both my sister and dad faced their fear of heights and used the Cliff Railway with us…with the bribe of fish and chips at the top! Delicious fish and chips too, from a shop that supposedly came second in the country in some kind of competition.

 photo 2014-07-18212135_zpse2324295.jpg photo DSC_0267_zps6069e774.jpg photo 2014-07-20214752_zpsf7ff75dd.jpg photo 2014-07-20211719_zps87c1db50.jpg photo 2014-07-18205749_zps6ad39741.jpgWe stayed in a chalet on Devon Valley Holiday Park – believe it or not this was actually a Daily Mail holiday, so we paid £15 each for the three nights…and then a £30 supplement to take the dog! Definitely good value, and our accommodation was much better than expected. We’d booked a minimum of a one-bedroom place, but ended up with two good sized bedrooms, a lovely living space, and a clean if bright (lime green!) bathroom. The park itself was quiet, but with just enough to keep any kids busy. Me and my sister made use of the indoor pool a few times, and also visited the two-penny slots every night! The views of the river were also pretty spectacular, as was the surround lanes.

 photo 2014-07-19123420_zps357ccb88.jpg photo 2014-07-19133908_zps9261d4c3.jpg photo 2014-07-19124219_zps70610d2d.jpgOn the Saturday we visited what is perhaps my favourite British beach. Parking in a rather secluded carpark, we proceeded through a damp and dingy tunnel in the cliff face before coming to a lovely cove. Ness Beach allows dogs all year round, but its pretty quiet compared to other beaches. A little pebbly (most Devon beaches are!) with plenty of seaweed for someone to roll in, it was picturesque and just lovely. After getting a little burnt we headed back through the tunnel and towards lunch at The Ness – I have a separate post planned for this!

 photo 2014-07-20123548_zps4cd57972.jpg photo 2014-07-20141931_zpsc4d666dc.jpg photo 2014-07-20145104_zpsbc9c7b4d.jpg photo 2014-07-20143719_zps9bef744e.jpg photo 2014-07-20143824_zps39af775e.jpgSunday was a bit of a mixture. We first headed to the dog-friendly beach in Teignmouth. We didn’t find this particularly dog friendly as it was ram-packed with families; my dog finds children quite stressful so after an unsuccessful swimming lesson (he will not, unbribed, get more than his paws wet!) we headed to Dawlish. Dawlish is a lovely little town; a little like a mini Bournemouth. A lovely lunch consisted of a slice of mustardy Chicken & Ham Pie from Gay’s Creamery, followed by an ice-cream (one scoop peanut butter, one scoop snickers) from Sticky Fingers. Pretty immature of me, but I did giggle at those neighbouring shop names! We wandered around the gardens trying to get a decent picture of the black swans, getting distracted by how photogenic my dog is, and then wandering along the sea front. More sunburn followed Sunday!

 photo 2014-07-20180811_zps6700a982.jpg photo 2014-07-20181329_zps18de20fa.jpgSunday also saw us purchasing a bargain take-away Cream Tea (from Gay’s). Four scones, four portions of jam and a tub of clotted cream for £3.50 was great value, although we did go and buy our own jam (raspberry over strawberry any day!). We found this excellent, with the scones being some of the best I’ve eaten. Yum yum!

 photo 2014-07-21110514_zps4a52e08d.jpg photo 2014-07-21110555_zps1b7abcf2.jpg photo 2014-07-21114049_zps5eca651b.jpgWhilst we had to be out of the accommodation by 10am on Monday, we decided to still make the most of our break! We travelled along the coast to Sidmouth, to pay a visit to the Donkeys. Again, I’ve not been here for many years – it was lovely to see how many donkeys have joined since my last visit, and also the new stables. We then travelled onto Seaton; not a typical tourist town, but one we know well from annual March visits due to the Grizzly! To be honest I actually didn’t recognise the area as so much has changed since I was last there; but the scampi & chips, and lemon meringue ice cream, were all pretty good!

 photo DSC_0282_zpsf5ebc4fd.jpgA chaotic journey home followed, with iced tea split all over the car (oops), driving off motorway services with the boot open, and hanging heads on the car door (double oops). But it was a lovely weekend, wonderful to spend time with my family and I hope its not as long until we head away again!

Have you been away anywhere nice?